What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Wild Valley by Charlotte Paul, Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart, Annie Jordan by Mary Brinker Post, A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (and the rest of the Kate Shugak series too), Born In Fire, Born in Ice & Born in Shame by Nora Roberts, the Three Sisters Island series (trilogy) by Nora Roberts. I also love Jayne Ann Krentz’s books regardless of what name she uses and Patricia Briggs.
What book do you think everyone should read?
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. This is a fun book whether you’re a writer or not.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
How long have you been writing?
Since I was 17. Forever! And I don’t plan to stop as long as I’m breathing.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Both. However, when I’m writing the Baker City Hearts and Haunts series, I always remember the seven Irish boys who met on a ship bound for America and eventually established the town of Baker City. Most of the people who still live there are descendants of the O’Learys, the McElroys, the Sweeneys, the O’Connells, the Garveys, the O’Neills, and the O’Sullivans. In 1910, avalanches almost obliterated the town and sixty people died. It took months to dig out the bodies and the last funeral was for the teacher who still haunts the school.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I re-read the books that came earlier in the series, so I remember the details. I’m incredibly lucky that I have a wonderful editor who knows my books almost as well as I do, and she keeps the facts straight too. If I’m writing a Liberty Valley Love book, I’ll research whatever magical elements that may appear, i.e., witchcraft, shapeshifters, time-travel etc that I plan to include in the world. If it’s a Baker City book, then I know the inhabitants of Baker City remember their history. They can’t help it since many of the old-timers are still there even if they aren’t ‘alive and kicking’ anymore. Love is real and so are the ghosts although most people can’t communicate with them. If someone does want to know what upsets the local spirits, they’ll visit the new O’Leary in hopes she’ll be able to tell them why they have a problem and how to resolve it.
When I began the Liberty Valley Love series, I returned to my long-time love of western novels. Riding West and looking for a chance to start a new life wasn’t limited to something that men did. There were women who wanted new adventures. The basic theme of the Western continues to attract readers. Redemption, second chances, adventures – none of these are limited to one gender. Today’s western romances continue to revolve around those ideals. Western fiction is truly an American art-form and most of us know the mythos if not the reality.
For example, many women disguised themselves as men when they headed West to new lives. Detailed in The Mayflower Murderer & Other Forgotten Firsts in American History by Peter Stevens, Charley Parkhurst successfully hid her sex for more than 40 years until her death in 1879. Known as the “Boss of the Road,” she drove a stagecoach through the Sierra Nevadas in California. In 1868, Charley registered to vote and cast ballots in elections, something she could do as a “man,” but a right no woman was allowed in 19th century America.
Once I learned about Charley, I continued more research on the topic. I learned about women who served honorably in the Civil War. Little Jo Monaghan is famous in Idaho as a miner and “cowboy.” Who knew that “he” was a woman? From there, it was a short step to the “What-If” game that authors play. What if I wrote a book about a woman who disguised her gender and set it in Washington Territory? Just the idea meant more research and in pre-Covid days, I read everything I could find about life in Western Washington, collecting oral histories, textbooks, and memoirs. I visited museums and historical societies and listened to the stories that older residents told of their lives.
History can be much more fascinating than you think. And it seemed natural for one of the first books I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again to be a traditional Western. In A Man’s World, a historical western romance, Trace Burdette masqueraded as a man, fooling everyone but new neighbor, ruggedly handsome Zebadiah Prescott. With their love on the line, they had to deal with the past and the outlaw who killed her grandfather and stalked her.
Do you see writing as a career?
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I need to do more research about what is happening. Currently, I’m on deadline so I’m not that focused on what’s going on in the business. My focus is on writing the best books I can.
Do you read yourself and if so, what is your favorite genre?
Romance, followed by Young Adult stores. I love Pintip Dunn’s books.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I love ABBA and played the Greatest Hits CD when I wrote Family Skeletons. Yes, it’s the same songs popularized in the movie, MAMMA MIA. If I’m not listening to music, I’ll turn on the news and listen to Don Lemon report on what’s happening in the world.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
As Cherry Adair said in one of the classes I attended, professional writers will be plotting, writing, editing, and promoting all at the same time. Currently, I’m working on the Ghost of the Past while I plot Kitchen Witch. When I get stuck, I jump to the next book in my Shamrock Stable series – a Young Adult story about girls and horses.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
I’m happy writing my own stories.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
I’ve written with all three, but I prefer my computer.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
I write about girls and women who do things. In My Sweet Haunt, the first book in the Baker City Hearts and Haunts series, Cat McTavish doesn’t wait to be rescued from a bad marriage. She saves herself and her twin daughters when she moves to a dilapidated guest or dude ranch. Granted, she doesn’t expect to find a ghost, much less be able to talk to him, but Rob Williams was so much fun. How could I resist him?