I write historical and contemporary romance and I will soon have thirty books under my belt. In the past, I've written for Avon, Pocket, and Harlequin. I just signed a three-book deal with Berkeley and I'm so excited!
I try to strive for an emotional and satisfying read--with a dash of my own off-beat humor. I've also tried to stretch the boundaries of creative scenarios (such as in Call of the Wild where the rival for the hero's affection is a 300 lb. gorilla, and Temptation's Kiss, where a prim and proper British governess discovers her charge is a fully-grown wild-man.)
For the most part, my historicals have been based in nineteenth century America, although I have one British Victorian and one British Georgian. Because of my background in costuming, I am fanatical about my characters being clothed properly from the inside out. And weirdly enough, I often decide on a setting or era based on intriguing fashion elements.
In the series I just sold to Berkeley, I combined a few historical elements with a modern contemporary setting in Northern Utah. The first book of the Wasatch Renegades series, Desperado, will be available March 2015. And recent re-releases of six of my favorite period novels has made most of my historical backlist available.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Hero: Anson Mount (from AMC's Hell on Wheels.) Can I please be there for the casting? And the filming? I'd be happy to be the official costume dresser if that would help.
Heroine: Lucy Lawless. I love a heroine who isn't afraid of her curves.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
I have a few tricks.
First, I’ll demand a certain number of pages from myself for a week. I break that down into days. If I go over my quota per day, I allow myself to stop and reward myself with a “Yummy British Artsy Fartsy Movie” or a television episode I’ve recorded on my DVR. If I go over my quota, I either keep going because inspiration has struck, or I give myself a day off later in the week. If I’m really struggling, I stay chained to the chair until I get to my quota (which is unpleasant enough to inspire me as well!)
Second, if I’m writing in a certain era or a certain location, I’ll “binge” on a couple of “Yummy Artsy Fartsy Movies” before I start writing. I try to pick movies based in the same time period as my novel and I concentrate on little things like costumes, props, or settings. That helps me to get my creative juices going again.
Third, I pick out a novel from one of my favorite writers and put it on my Kindle. Since I don’t allow myself to read while I’m writing, it serves as a carrot to urge me to finish the manuscript.
Fourth, I get a huge Diet Coke, panic, and return to Step 1.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Good reviews are wonderful and bad ones are horrible. (Just kidding.)
In “theory”: I try to savor the good ones and learn from the bad ones. Good reviews often give me a bit of a rush and help to encourage me to continue. As for the bad ones…I worked in the theater as a costume designer, so one thing the profession taught me was how to take constructive criticism (since the director gives “notes” each night on what you need to fix.) If the criticism is “constructive” I can usually deal with the disappointment and sift through whether or not there is something to be learned from the remarks. But if the review is just plain mean, it’s harder to recover.
In “fact”: I tend to get “my feelings hurt” unless the review is a rave. I’m a ferocious mother bear when my children are maligned, and I consider my books to be my children. So I’ll sometimes be knocked off my stride. The best dose of medicine is to meet with my critique partner (Danice Allen/a.k.a Emily Dalton) for lunch, a little shopping, and a “venting” session. Chocolate is usually involved.
Relax? I don’t think I’m familiar with the word since I’m also a full-time mother, teacher, and farmer’s wife. But on those rare occasions, I read, read, read, watch my cache of British murder mysteries, dramas, and comedies, and meet with my critique partner for a “girls’ day out.”
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
I just discovered a fantastic poem written by Billy Collins called "Envoy" in which he describes a book as being a "carriage made of paper" traveling into the world. My favorite lines are:
"Go , little book,
out of the house and into the world...
...stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."
Another motto I live by is: “If you don’t do it, someone else will get to it first.
What is your favorite book?
That I've written or I've read?
With the books I've written, that's like asking for a favorite child, and I fiercely love all my children. I suppose my favorite would be whatever story I'm writing at the time, since it's like a new relationship--a period of high passion, drama and mystique as I try to discover everything I can about these characters and their motivation. I've been known to sink into the "blues" when the book is done and those characters won't come to visit and surprise me anymore.
Choosing a favorite book that I've read is equally difficult, but Jane Eyre was my first introduction to romance and the "tortured hero." I still love a tortured hero! It's probably considered sacrilegious not to give a Jane Austen book in our business, but I prefer the moody high drama of Bronte.
Who is your favorite author?
Shakespeare. Sounds hoity-toity, but I was the head of a costume crew for Hamlet my freshman year in college. After the first night, I was hooked on anything Shakespeare. (It didn't hurt that I was in charge of the male dressing room and Hamlet was a “hottie.”) I continue to marvel at Bill's characterization, his poetic language, and his plotting. How can you go wrong with madness, unrequited love, ghosts, evil villains, fools, and mistaken identities? I've seen and taught Hamlet more than 200 times and I still get sucked into the writing and find something new to explore. And the British version of Richard III with allusions to Nazi Germany... wow! I love a villainy-villain as well!
What is your favorite movie?
This is a difficult question since there are so many. But one movie I can watch over and over is The Great Race with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Natalie Wood. I love the zaniness of the humor and the sixties interpretation of Edwardian fashions. It just makes me happy. (You thought I'd give something high-brow, didn't you?)
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
John Malkovich. I think he would be a fascinating conversationalist. I first saw him in Dangerous Liaisons (still one of the best and most beautifully costumed films of all time). In that movie, he was a villainy-villain turned tortured hero (my favorite themes mashed together!) While I was in London, I saw him on the stage in Burn This! (where he was male sexuality incarnate.) And now I love him as Marvin in Reds and Reds II. Some days I need a hippo like Marvin's. I think an evening with Malkovich would be unpredictable, fascinating--and a little twisted. If I could pick his brain for an hour, I'd probably have story ideas for a lifetime.
What is the most interesting trip you have ever taken?
Years ago, I took an eight week, eight country tour of Europe and Great Britain. I have literally "been there, done that, have great T-shirts! I saw unbelievable art in Rome and Florence, the "Van Trapp" home in Austria, crazy Ludwig's castle, and Richard Harris, John Malkovich, and Jonathan Price onstage in London. Then, to top it off, while we were walking out of an ice cream shop one night, Princess Diana (in her tiara and evening attire) drove past us in her limo and waved to us. It was a fantastic trip! Less than 24 hours after returning, I was on my way to an RWA convention. Best summer ever!
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I once got up early to finish writing a chapter. Because it was cold, I threw on an over-sized sweater. When I looked up to see I was nearly late for school, I hurried into a pair of pants and made it to my job in the nick of time. It was only then that I realized I wasn’t wearing a bra. Thank heavens it was a loose sweater and my students didn’t notice. I was forced to teach en deshabille until lunchtime when I could run home and change. Now, if I get up early to write, I dress completely before heading into my office.
White wine or red? Neither. Diet Coke with two freshly squeezed limes. (I’m not picky or anything.)
Coffee or tea? Neither. Diet Coke with two freshly squeezed limes. (Manna of the gods!)
Cook dinner or order take-out/delivery? Take-out or dine in. Preferably dine-in since I don’t want to cook or clean dishes and I’m not that fond of fast food. Alas, I live in an area where “delivery” means I send one of my daughters out to pick up food and bring it home. When I go to RWA conferences, I have to order room service at least once so I can experience the true delight of food delivered to my door.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? Chocolate. Haggen Daaz. Or Haggen Daaz Chocolate Peanut Butter. (If I’m going to waste the calories, I’m going big.)
Pancakes or eggs? Neither. Pancakes are too sweet and I hate to clean the pans after cooking eggs. I’m a weird old soul with Scottish roots, so I love bacon (who doesn’t) or oatmeal (with honey and raisins) for breakfast. Unfortunately, I can't remember the last time I had either. Probably my last RWA conference when I ordered room service. J
Sleep in or get up early? Yes. I will take my sleep any way I can get it. An afternoon nap is also divine.
Laptop or desktop for writing? As I mentioned, I’m a full-time mother, teacher, and wife, so I use whatever I can get—laptop, a netbook loaded with my word processing, tablet, or desktop. I prefer anything "mobile", and I take my devices everywhere—little league football practice, school, car, couch, bed, grain semi, combine…and on, and on, and on… My favorite place to write is outside under a tree while waiting for my daughter to finish her clogging lessons. No one can find me there.