Kaki Warner may have debuted last year, but she swiftly became one of my all-time favorite novelists. Her RITA-award-winning historical Western novels are chock-full of quips, spine-tingling tension, and fascinating detail.
I’m so happy to have her here today as part of my Hearts and Minds giveaway, where you can win books that appeal to your heart and mind. Giveaway details are at the end of the post, after the interview.
Hi, Kat. Thanks for inviting me to cross the pond today. I hope you had fun back on my side when you were at RWA Nationals. Wish I could have been there, too.
Now on to the questions—and what fun ones they are!
1. Thanks! First off, how on earth do you get such gorgeous covers? Please tell me they’re paintings of actual places so I can put them on my travel list.
I have been lucky with my covers. But HEARTBREAK CREEK is the last one in this style. With the next book in this series (COLORADO DAWN), we’re going with people. Fully clothed, of course, and in a pose that might remind you a bit of Rhett and Scarlet on a GWTW poster. (If only).
And starting in Oct/Nov/Dec, the Blood Rose Trilogy will be re-released in mass market with a brother on each cover. And no, they don’t look much like how I envisioned them.
In fact, poor Brady was minus the mustache he was so proud of, so my husband photo-shopped one on for me. Problem is, when I sent cover copies to various websites, I sent the wrong one. (Fun trying to explain that to my editor. But she was very gracious about it, thank goodness).
They’re nice covers, too, but the one of Hank (OPEN COUNTRY)… whew. He’s exactly right.
2. The time and place you write about—the American West after the Civil War—is one that seemed to be skirted over in my high school history classes, and you make me so curious about it. What’s the strangest fact you’ve learned about American history from your research?
The period after the Civil War was a time of shocking and rapid change. After so many years of destruction, the country seemed to explode with new ideas, innovations, and an urgent desire to escape the war-ravaged east and head west.
For five years ranches had gone untended, and when men returned home, they found unbranded cattle running wild all over the southwest. Enterprising fellows gathered them up by the tens of thousands to stock newly formed ranches totaling hundreds of thousands of acres each.
Railroad expansion, the discovery of gold and silver, the curtailment of the Indian tribes, and the promise of free land, all drew people west by the droves. But probably the most enduring legacy of those short years between the war and completion of the transcontinental railroad was the birth of the myth of the American cowboy. And it’s still alive today.
3. Your first series, the Blood Rose trilogy, centers around three brothers struggling with their ranch in New Mexico Territory. Your latest focuses on women who are starting new lives in a Colorado mining town, and your humor shines through more. After having the Wilkins family in your head for decades, how difficult was it to come up with a new community of characters, a different setting, and a lighter tone?
Actually the Wilkins brothers were pretty intense. There was a lot of family history to deal with, which made those books a little darker. With the brides trilogy I just tried to come up with some ladies I’d like to hang out with.
I think when you get a bunch of girlfriends together, there may be a few tears, but there’s also a lot of laughter. That’s what I wanted to capture. Even during the hard moments, these ladies find a way to lighten the mood with laughter.
4. Your characters are always so intricately drawn and realistic that I can still hear their conversations in my head months after I’ve read one of your novels. Now, that might say just as much about my mental state as it does about your skill as an author, but pushing that aside for a moment: how developed are your characters when you start writing a new story, and how much better do you get to know them as you write?
I joke about it, but I’m still learning about them when I get to the end of the book. For instance, I didn’t know Declan was afraid of heights until page 300. It made sense, but also made for some interesting re-writes.
But by the time I finish a book, I know the characters as well as I know anybody. And not to worry—I still hear them in my head, too. And probably always will. It keeps them alive in my imagination.
5. I love the way you write male characters. They’re exactly how I imagine frontiersmen would’ve been: tough, quietly funny and mystified by women. Unlike some romance heroes, they don’t seem like a woman’s idealized version of men. Do you find men easy to write? Or do you have some special insight into their brains?
I think most men are pretty basic. That’s not to say they’re simple or lack depth. But most of the time they’re fairly up front with what going on with them, and aren’t compelled to drag everything out and think it to death.
There’s that old joke: Ask a man how he feels and he’ll say, “Well, I’m not hungry, or thirsty, or sleepy, or cold, or hot, or horny…so I guess I’m OK.” So when I’m writing male characters, I try to keep it simple. In dialogue they use fewer words—especially modifiers, or words that describe emotion. They speak in shorter sentences and give briefer answers.
They often don’t speak at all, or rely on looks and/or monosyllabic or non-verbal responses. I think they do this because they’re not really interested in the conversation, and are just trying to say as little as possible to stay out of trouble. But that might just be at my house.
6. Every mother says she doesn’t have a favorite child, but all children know it’s a lie. I suspect every author has a favorite character, even if they won’t admit it. Go on—who’s your favorite character of the Runaway Brides series?
It changes with every book. In HEARTBREAK CREEK, I really liked Declan—I liked his honesty, sense of honor, his bewilderment, and the fact that he always tried to do the right thing.
Then I wrote COLORADO DAWN, and suddenly Ash (Angus Wallace) captured my imagination. Probably because he’s Scottish—my grandfather was Scottish—or because he’s a little lost and at a confused point in his life, and that’s hard for anybody—especially an ex-military officer. But mostly I loved his sense of humor. Humor is a big deal with me. A failing, almost. I’m a lot of fun at funerals.
As for the ladies of the brides trilogy—they’re like my friends—and I really do love them equally, but for entirely different reasons. They’re all smart, loving, gentle-hearted warriors. What’s not to love?
Kaki’s not just smart and funny – she’s also generous. She’s giving away three copies of her latest release, Heartbreak Creek.
That means three winners!
And, since this giveaway is to celebrate my husband finishing his PhD, I’m also giving away one of the books that he wrote about in this thesis – one of our winners will receive Paul Auster’s The Invention of Solitude, a memoir exploring Auster’s relationships with his father and son (I figured this one is only fitting to give away with Kaki’s novels, since they’re full of strong, silent, difficult-to-get-to-know men).
Just leave a comment below to be entered. I’ll choose the winners on Monday, August 15, when my next guest – Beverley Kendall – will be joining me!