Tag Archives: guest posts

Interview with Kaki Warner – and giveaway!

Kaki WarnerKaki 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.

Welcome, Kaki!

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.

Heartbreak Creek coverI 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?

Pieces of Sky coverIt was easy.  Just cut back on the cussing and kill fewer people.

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?

Open Country coverThey’re not all that well-developed at the onset.  I know how each character wants the world to see him or her, but it takes a while even for me to get beneath the layers to the person underneath.

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?

Chasing the Sun coverI 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?

Giveaway!

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!

Don’t miss any of my Hearts and Minds interviews; make sure you subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter, or like me on Facebook.

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Interview with Ashley March: “What I learned from my first book” – and GIVEAWAY!

Ashley March, photo by Kaela Green PhotographyI’m thrilled to have my friend Ashley March here today as the first post in my Hearts and Minds giveaway, where you can win books that appeal to both your heart and mind. Giveaway details are below, but first, some words of wisdom from the lovely Ms Ashley, author of historical romance set in the Victorian era.

1. What prompted you to think, “Y’know what? I’m gonna sit down and write a novel”?

To be honest? I’ve always been motivated by the fact that I couldn’t see myself sitting at a regular day job from 9-5 for the rest of my life.

I started writing my first manuscript when I was tired of driving an hour back and forth every day to my university. I finished the book, but it was terrible and I thought maybe I just wasn’t cut out for writing. Fortunately I found a day job right out of college that I loved, but even then the writing bug bit me again in early 2008. I had just finished reading a book that made me feel all warm and gooey inside—and a little giddy (I believe it was a Julia Quinn novel; her books always have that effect on me)—and I rushed to my computer and just started writing. I had no idea what I was writing; I was just putting words on the screen and having a heck of a lot of fun.

It was then, once I realized how much FUN I had writing, that I decided that this was it. No more screwing around. If I was going to write, then I would write for publication and take myself seriously. Even though I enjoyed my job, it wasn’t enough. I wanted something more.

2. How long was there between you starting your first book and holding a publishing contract in your hands?

Ah, there’s a lot of explanation to this answer. 🙂 From starting the very first manuscript and holding a publishing contract in my hands was approximately four years and one month—from February 2006 to March 2010.

However, I quit writing in May 2006 once I finished that first manuscript because it was so terrible. Then I started writing again in February 2008, finished the second manuscript (after editing) in June 2008, started the third manuscript in July 2008 (this one is my debut), found out I was pregnant in September 2008, proceeded to write sparingly off and on for the remainder of my pregnancy and after the baby was born in June 2009. Queried agents for the third manuscript in August 2009, finished the book in a major hurry and signed with my first agent in September 2009, received and accepted an offer for a 3-book deal from NAL Penguin in December 2009, and actually held the contract in my hands in March 2010.

Is your head spinning with dates yet? 🙂

3. Were there any habits you formed as an unpublished writer—like writing daily or working with critique partners—that helped you once you became published?

I would like to say that I developed a habit of writing daily, but I didn’t. Instead, I’m working on that now so I can stay published. 😉 However, I give my two critique partners Kat Brauer and Anna Randol 100% credit for helping me to get published.

Finding critique partners was one of the first steps I made in taking my writing seriously, and I still depend on them for honest and thorough critiques. They’re so wonderful, in fact, that if they ever stopped writing or critiquing I’d probably follow them around the world (Kat lives in Japan as an ESL teacher), begging and pleading until they began again.

4. Are there other habits you didn’t pick up that you wish you had?

Seducing the DuchessWriting daily. 😉 Seriously, I’d heard it a hundred times from successful authors that the most important thing in building a successful writing career is getting your butt in the chair daily and getting the words out. I’m just now figuring that out for myself.

During the past year I let promotion kind of take over my life because I was so concerned about my debut doing well (and it did, thank goodness!), but I wish I’d split my time and energy so that I was more productive in writing in addition to promoting my debut.

5. You’re a working mother, a published novelist, and a wife. Oh yeah, and you run a blog full of fantastic resources for writers. Oh yeah again, you agree to answer a bunch of questions for my blog. How on God’s green earth do you find balance? Forget balance—how do you find time to wee??

Lol. I love that you live in England and used “wee”. 🙂 (And thank you for the wonderful compliment on my blog—I’m so glad it’s helpful!) I’ve had several people ask this question recently, and the truth is that I don’t sleep very much.

I know—this is not a good thing. But right now my motivations for staying up till 12 or 1 every morning (if not later) are very important to me. I want to be able to have a successful writing career (both in terms of more books and more money), and I want to be able to stay home with my children.

I will say, however, that I had to learn my limits the hard way recently. At the beginning of July I became very sick—and the doctors still aren’t sure exactly why. My guess is that my body finally fell apart from all the stress. (Again, I know, not a good thing.)

Fortunately I’m feeling a little better now, although still not fully recovered, and I have to say that this illness forced me to look at everything I’d put on my plate and I was required to push some stuff off. I didn’t feel good about it, but I felt it was a necessity.

And in the coming year, I plan to let go of more and more things so that I can treat myself better and have more time and energy to focus on actual writing than all the other writing business stuff I’ve enthusiastically allowed myself to get sucked into. (And, um, hopefully this means I’ll more time to play on Twitter…)

6. What’s the most pleasant surprise you’ve had since being published?

Oh, wow. This is a tough one. The past year has been so great!  Can I list more than one? (Yup, I’m  a rule-breaker.)

Ashley’s List of Pleasant Surprises since Becoming Published on October 5, 2010
1.    People bought my book. Yay!
2.    People liked my book. Yay!
3.    People bought my book, liked my book, and actually emailed me, tweeted me, or put a note on Facebook to tell me. Double yay!
4.    The romance community (readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, industry professionals) is comprised of some of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever known. And even better—I now feel like I belong here.
5.    People listen to my ideas and sometimes like them. 🙂
6.    My publisher sent me a TON of bookmarks and has been extremely supportive of helping me follow through on my promotional ideas.
7.    More of a pleasant realization than a surprise—I’ve finally accepted the fact that I’m living my dream. And it’s amazing. 🙂

7. What’s been the most difficult lesson to learn?

You have to put in the work to see your goals achieved. I’m very good at making spreadsheets and creating goals. I have tons of ideas and it’s easy sometimes to get enthusiastic about every one of them.

But the most important thing, and the most difficult lesson for me that I had to learn in the past year, is that writing comes first, and the only way I can achieve my goals is by putting in the work to write. Period.

8. How did you celebrate the release of your debut novel, Seducing the Duchess? How do you plan to celebrate the release of Romancing the Countess?

Lol. This answer might give you a clue as to why I’m currently the coordinator of the Romance Biggest Winner competition…We celebrated the release of SEDUCING THE DUCHESS by going out to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant here in Colorado. 😉

Romancing the Countess coverI haven’t really thought about how I plan to celebrate the release of ROMANCING THE COUNTESS. I can tell you what I’d like to do. I’d like to go on a vacation to the Caribbean. 🙂 But I’ll probably celebrate by writing more instead. And maybe taking another trip to Hacienda Colorado.

9. What’s the biggest compliment a reader could give you?

Hands down, emailing me to tell me what they thought of my book. They don’t even have to like it (although that’s a bonus!)—knowing that they took the time and that they cared enough to write to me makes my day and gives me all these warm fuzzy tinglings inside. I treasure those emails, and I keep every single one.

Hmm. I wrote that response and then I thought that maybe you meant what they could actually say…

Probably “I couldn’t put your book down.” That also gives me warm fuzzy tinglings. 🙂

10. Tell us about your novella—I’m itching to read it and can’t wait any longer!

🙂 Yes, ma’am! First, here’s the official copy:

“A brand-new Victorian romance novella from the author of Seducing the Duchess!

Follow acclaimed author Ashley March, praised by Booklist for her “elegant writing [and] sizzling sexual chemistry,” into the world of Victorian romance, where Lady Cecily Bishop—promised by her parents to a stranger—must fend off the seductive games and heady caresses of Baron Sedgwick….a task that becomes more difficult with each soul-searing kiss…”

ROMANCING LADY CECILY is the title of the novella (actually it should be called a short story, as it’s about 15,000 words), and it’s a stand-alone tie-in to my September 6th release, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS. Please note that it is a digital novella, and should be available on August 2nd at the typical places where e-books are sold.

This was my first experience in writing something shorter than a full-length novel, and I have to admit it took more plotting that I usually do because I had to know exactly what was going to happen—I didn’t have 300+ pages to figure that out. I’m excited about it and really looking forward to what readers think (so tell me!), but just a fair warning—it is a bit spicier than my usual writing. 😉

Bonus: Is there anything else you think those of us still working toward publication should know? You can tell us—published writers have a secret clubhouse and handshake, don’t they?

Absolutely! And the password to get in is “write”. 😉

Seriously. I know you’ve heard it before and maybe you have good intentions like I did. But good intentions don’t cut it. Write write write, and then write some more.

You’ll become faster as you write, and you’ll learn how to be a better writer as you write. (Make sure to get critique partners who are able and willing to give you helpful, honest feedback, too!)

Then, once you’re published, keep writing. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from both successful authors who are traditionally published and successful authors who are now self-publishing, it’s that those who write well and produce frequently win. And that’s what I plan to do. (Now, off you go. Start writing! :))

Giveaway!

Ashley’s giving away a copy of one of her novels. The winner can choose from her debut, Seducing the Duchess, or her September release Romancing the Countess (if you choose Countess, she’ll mail it to you when she gets her copies).

And since this party is to celebrate my husband finishing (and passing!) his PhD in American literature, I’ll give the same winner one of the books my husband wrote about: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (one of my all-time favorite books).

Leave a comment below, and I’ll choose the winner on Monday, August 8, when my next guest – Kaki Warner – will be joining me!

Don’t miss any of my Hearts and Minds interviews; make sure you subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter, or like me on Facebook.

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My husband is a doctor – and I’m throwing a blog party to celebrate!

FireworksMy husband finished his PhD! And he passed without having to make any corrections!

I’m clearly married to a genius, and that puts me in a celebratory mood. I’ve asked several friends to stop by over the coming month and help me celebrate by giving away books.

After four looong years of hard work and hours (hours HOURS) at the British Library, my husband can finally put Dr in front of his name.

Four years might not seem that long, but think about what the world was like in 2007:

  • Twitter (aka my best friend in the whole wide world) was only a year old.
  • The first Kindle was released on November 19, 2007 (yes – everyone read paper books).
  • There was still a chance Dennis Kunisich could be president (okay, admittedly it was a small chance).

Details: the Hearts and Minds giveaway

This party will appeal to your hearts and your minds.

Every week in August, I’ll have an interview with a brilliant romance novelist who debuted in the last four years. We’ll be giving away some of their books, and I’ll also be giving winners one of the novels my husband wrote about in his PhD – some of the best American literary fiction of the 1980s (yes, there was good litfic in the 80s. Promise.)

You don’t want to miss interviews with these amazing authors:

Ashley March

Louisa Edwards

Kaki Warner

Beverley Kendall

Rose Lerner

So make sure you subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter, or like me on Facebook.

And thanks for helping me celebrate! I’ll see you back here on Monday, August 1st!

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Guest post by Sara Megibow: being a feminist romance reader

Late one evening, when I’d just finished writing my post on being a feminist romance novelist, I was chatting with friends on Twitter when a tweet by agent Sara Megibow from the Nelson Agency popped up. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but she emphatically said that a woman can be a feminist and still love to read romance novels.

Since it was a subject that had been on my mind, I replied and soon we had a little conversation going. She’s very kindly agreed to share her thoughts here.

Sara MegibowIn my experience, here’s what happens:

Me, “I represent literary fiction” (true.)
Person, “OH, anyone I’ve read?”

Me, “I represent science fiction and fantasy novels” (true)
Person, “Hmmm…like the Hobbit?

Me, “I represent romance novels” (true)
Person, “Good grief, WHY? Aren’t they all just smut or porn?”

This conversation is about the same if I tell someone, “I read literary fiction”, “I read science fiction” and “I read romance.” My immediate reaction is always to feel hurt when someone says “WHY” – I mean whether I’m talking about my career or what I enjoy reading for pleasure, I say “romance” and someone says “blech.” I feel hurt. And mad. And then…defensive.

Over the years, I’ve come up with any number of responses to people when they give me heck. By now, I’ve narrowed my response down to one sentence, “I love romance novels because as a feminist with a women’s studies degree, I find the genre to be inherently pro-woman.” Now, THAT generates a great conversation! And, it’s true. The basic tenants of the genre – happy endings, healthy relationships and great sex are all pro-woman.

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Interview with novelist Kaki Warner …and GIVEAWAY!

This giveaway is now closed but I’ve left the comments open for anyone who’d like to comment on the interview. Congratulations to Suzanne for winning Pieces of Sky! Enjoy!

I won Kaki Warner’s debut novel, a historical Western romance novel called Pieces of Sky, just over a year ago and was so blown away by it that I did something I’d never done before: I contacted an author and gushed about her book.

Kaki WarnerKaki’s response amazed me. She was encouraging and funny (as you’ll see in her interview below), and became the very first follower of this blog. Since then I’ve read and reviewed all of her books. Each time I cracked open a new one, I got a little nervous. What if it sucked? What would I say?

Kaki saved me from that awkwardness by writing three stunning books. Seriously, I can’t say enough about the Blood Rose Trilogy.

The final book in the trilogy, Chasing the Sun, was released last week.

Kaki’s generously giving away one of her novels to someone who comments on this post. She’s also taken the time to answer my nosy questions about her first year as a published author.

The interview

How long were you working on your debut novel before you got an agent? And how long between signing with your agent and selling your novel?

(Gads.  I get this question all the time and I hate it because my answer makes me look like such a loser.)

Twenty-five years.  There, I said it.  (I think there’s a medical condition for that kind of fixation.  If not, there should be).  Years ago I read a truly awful book.  Naturally I thought I could do better (any sentient being could have).  So I wrote the first draft of what was later named PIECES OF SKY.  But it wasn’t right, so I wrote it again.  And again, and again, etc.  Then life interfered so I put the ms in storage.  About fifteen years later I dug it out, read it over, and realized it had some potential.  After making changes, I sent it to contests for feedback, made more changes, then got off the pot (so to speak), and mass-queried the thirty-five most-likely-to-respond agents listed in my 2008 Guide to Literary Agents.  While I was preparing my next massive mail-out, Nancy Coffey requested the full ms.  A week after I shipped it out, she called.  Within six-weeks, she had it sold (as a trilogy) to Berkley, and I was suddenly a twenty-five year overnight success.  HA!

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