I'm delighted. I've written a little of everything, from contemporary romance to medical-forensic suspense to paranormal to now working on what I like to call historical romantic adventure(nefarious spies in Regency England). My fifth book of my Drake's Rakes series is just coming out now. Entitled TWICE TEMPTED, it is the story of Fiona Ferguson and her twin sister Mairead who have been cast out by their grandfather to fend for themselves until Alex Knight, Lord Whitmore, intervenes. For anybody who's followed the Rakes, Chuffy Wilde and Lady Bea play big parts(in fact, Chuffy gets his girl).
Who was your Greatest inspiration in helping you develop your writing career?
To be perfectly honest, I'd have to say Sr. Mary Alice in 8th grade. Scariest woman who ever breathed, she caught me passing around stories I'd written. My classmates actually had a wake for me, knowing that after she read my little adventures, she'd do something horrible to me(we thought she was going to do something horrible to everybody. But then, my cousin Bobby spent his eight grade year sitting in the trashcan). The next morning she steps in front of my desk and slams my notebooks down.
“So,” she says in her gravely 1000-year-old voice. “We have an author in our midst.”
And from that day on, that nun taught me more about writing fiction than any person in my life.
Much later when I was published, the local paper did a piece on me. About a month later, I get a letter from Sparkhill, New York, which was the motherhouse of the Dominican nuns. I had to call my best friend Annie.
In fact, Sr. Mary Alice sent me the most lovely letter to say how proud she was of me, and that she always knew I'd be a successful writer. Considering the fact that I was writing fairly hot romance, I wondered whether anybody had told her what it was I wrote. I'm still inordinately proud of that letter.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I think that for Fiona(and Mairead her identical twin) Amy Adams would be perfect. As for Alex Knight, Greg Wise(who played Willoughby in Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility). I also see Chris O”Dowd in spectacles as Chuffy.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Get yourself out of the office for a day or so and focus on something else. I like gardening. Mindless playing in the dirt really helps me clear my head. Walking, baseball games, an old movie or two, playing with the grandkids. Don't stay away too long, though. I got into trouble when I forgot how to sit down at my desk, even for a few minutes a day to write something. If you can't write on the project that has you blocked, work on something else, something fun. Something just for you.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
My rule is that I put it out there, I take my chances. I have no problems with somebody who doesn't like my work. It is their privilege. I only ask that they be fair and not give away surprises. I have been known to correct and defend decisions I made, and ended up in some interesting discussions. I rarely read Amazon reviews, though. It's true that one bad review can wreck your day. I once saw Barbra Streisand on Actor's Studio. James Lipton started reading glowing reviews of her performance in Funny Girl. Her reaction was a blank face.
“You don't remember these, do you?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No.”
Then he read a bad review. She lit up like a Christmas tree. “Oh, that I remember.”
It had been almost fifty years. I can now admit that I'm as human as Barbra Streisand.
How do you relax?
Many different ways. I love gardening, walking, music, baseball(go, Cards!), reading. When we can, my husband and I love to travel, and almost my favorite part of that is the planning phase.
What is your favorite book?
Oh, that's unfair. There are so many books I love in so many different genres. I'll give you three that impacted me and my career.
The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. None of us in romantic suspense would be here without her.
The Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye. This is the book that made me fall in love with history and the exotic world around us.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is my personal favorite, to me the most perfect American coming-of-age novel.
The food you couldn’t live without?
Bread. I once got the chance to spend two weeks in a rented house on the West Coast of Ireland, and I lived on smoked salmon, apples and Irish soda bread. Perfect contentment.
The BEST thing about you?
I think it's my sense of humor, which I got from my family. After living in a big, noisy Irish family and spending almost two decades working as a trauma nurse, I've learned that almost anything is bearable if you can laugh. And there really is humor in everything, even grief and fear. In fact, that's often when we're at our funniest.
One place you’ve never been, but ALWAYS wanted to go?
Machu Picchu. It's been on my bucket list since I was a little girl. It's magic to me. I've been very, very lucky to have been able to travel around the world. But so far I haven't managed that. I will, though. You can count on it.
One thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
When I was a girl I was painfully shy. It was one of the things that attracted me to my husband. He was comfortable anywhere. When I was with him I could take chances and come out of my shell. Obviously it worked.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I guess Hugh Jackman doesn't count, does he?
If you weren’t an author what would be your next choice of career?
Truly? Musical theater star(the star part is important). I wanted to go into theater for college until my mother said get a real job and be a nurse.
What is the most interesting trip you have ever taken?
Ooh, now that's a hard one. As I said, I've been extraordinarily lucky. But I'd have to say that the most interesting trip we took was to India. My husband travels there for work, and we've become friends with several of his associates there, leading to an invitation to a Hindu wedding. We used the time to take a three week trip that included the three days of the wedding(yes, I do have a sari and painted my hands with henna). It was spectacular. As for India, just like so many other people, I ended up falling in love with it. It is every cliché you've ever heard about it, exotic, poor, rich, noisy, luscious with scent and sight and sound. The people are amazingly hospitable, incredibly hard-working and the women the most beautiful in the world. We got to walk through morning markets, flower markets and street markets, where brightly colored vegetables sat in piles on lengths of fabric in the dirt. We joined the celebration of the anniversary of the writing of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, which involved food and fireworks and music and sabres. I was blessed by a Hindu holy man, watched gemstones being cut in Jaipur., and slept in tents in the Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary. And I got to surprise our driver, Bankaj, when I knew more about the city of Bharatpur than he did(there happens to be an immense fort there he knew nothing about. The fort ended up in my book Never a Gentleman). And I'd love to go back. We saw only a bit of the country. I'm dying to see the Himalayas and the south. Maybe some day.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Alphabetically or chronologically? I refuse to be embarrassed. Although I came close once when I was writing for Harlequin as Kathleen Korbel. They used to have these great reader parties where they'd have a couple of authors come in and speak and share a meal. I attended one in Indianapolis at the Indiana Roof Ballroom(where, it just so happens, my daddy used to sing with a big band in the 1940s). Well, nobody bothered to tell me that there was a step down into the main dance floor, and I went right down on both knees onto the hardwood that echoed for about a half an hour, tearing my hose and making the poor organizers have heart attacks. And I couldn't stop laughing. Because it was just the kind of thing I would do.
White wine or red? Yes, thank you.
Coffee or tea? Whatever's handy.
Cook dinner or order take-out/delivery? Don't be silly. Take-out.(unless my children are cooking. They're fabulous)
Outdoorsman or homebody? Well, I don't go camping(my husband is massively allergic to all the poison plants), but I love being outside. I'm a gardener, after all. But I also like my little nest in my office(yeah, I'm depressingly easy-going. I adapt just about anywhere) (except a desert) (I should say an American desert. We just went to the Atacama in Chile and I loved it)
City Life or Country Life? I've never had much of a chance to choose. I've lived my whole life in St. Louis where all my family still lives within about fifteen miles of each other, and the St. Louis metropolitan area is a massive sprawl. So it would be to inconvenient to live out in the country and make it into work. I do need my time isolated in the middle of nowhere, though. Fortunately there are a couple of places I can run away to if I need it.
Do you prefer to live in hot weather or cold weather? You're asking when it's been 100 degrees and we just got a forecast of a bitter cold winter. I wish for neither. My blood is Irish, which is a moderate climate. Think Seattle. I'm still trying to figure out how my ancestors so betrayed me by stopping in St. Louis, where we get this kind of weather every year. Give me spring or fall, but mostly spring. Or Ireland. If my family weren't all in St. Louis, I'd live there in a minute.
Dog Lover or Cat Fan? Again, I'm a disappointment. I love both, have had both. I have cats now because we travel too much for dogs. Dogs need their people. Cats will punish you when you leave, but it's just the principle of the thing. They really don't care as long as somebody feeds them. But I have to have at least one animal in my house.
Pancakes or eggs? Eggs, only because the way my energy works with my rampant ADD that all the carbs from pancakes send me into an awful sugar crash about an hour later.
Sleep in or get up early? I've been a night person since birth. I used to sneak downstairs after my parents went to bed. I was happiest on evening and night shift. My feeling is that people are shot at sunrise, because who wants to live then anyway?
Laptop or desktop for writing Depends on what kind of mood I'm in. I tend to move around when I write. But since I do a lot of writing at night(it is currently 1AM), I do enjoy my desk. But there are just times I need to be not home.