- You have a passion for horses and horseback riding. How did that influence the themes and settings around your books?
Pictures of horses adorned my bedroom walls from the time I was five, when I was a little city girl in Minneapolis. I collected all the stories about horses I could and had my first book boyfriend crush on Alec Ramsay in The Black Stallion series. I got my first horse as a graduation from college present from my husband, and I was hooked for life, even getting my daughter her her first pony when she was six years old so we could ride together. She went on to become an equine veterinarian, and I still help her care for all the horses she’s collected since that first pony! I still have a horse of my own, so you can see I’m obsessed and have a hard time imagining a world without horses in it!
All my books have included horses to some extent. I’m not even stuck on one type of horse, or riding or rider—my first series of books revolved around English riding, dressage and eventing. My current series “Seven Brides for Seven Cowboys” takes place on a Wyoming ranch so I get to spend a lot of time with horses in these books. In my stories, I’ve used horses as therapy animals, as challenges for my characters, and as comforting best friends. I love sharing the beauty and versatility and healing power of horses with my readers.
2. What is it about your two main characters, Alec and Joely, that have made them so strong after going through such traumatic experiences?
I think what’s amazing about Alec and Joely is that neither of them has any idea when their story starts just where their real strengths lie. Joely was a beauty queen several times, and even though she isn’t vain she has always believed that what she has to offer the world revolves around her physical looks. What she discovers after her physical body is broken and scarred is that she doesn’t need to trade on outer beauty—her talents of kindness, understanding, and the ability to love despite peoples’ flaws are her truest assets—and they (along with Alec’s help) are what make her strong in the end.
Alec completely believes what makes him strong is the ability to bury things that remind him of pain and could make him bitter. He has a major physical disability, but he ignores it and gets on with life—and he even has the sunny disposition to go along with it. But what he doesn’t know is that burying his past and his anger really is a weakness. When he learns (with Joely’s help) to embrace what he sees as weaknesses and truly face his fears—he grows into the truly strong and resilient man he wants to be.
3. How long have you been writing and who influenced you?
I started making up stories and telling them to myself at night in bed as far back as when I was four and five years old. Later, when other kids were reading themselves to sleep, I started writing down these stories. I guess it was what would now be called fan fiction—I had lots of fun affairs and adventures with my favorite pop stars from Paul McCartney to Bobby Sherman! Eventually I started writing “real” short stories and then novels. In the 80s and 90s I fell in love with the romances of LaVyrle Spencer. To this day she’s my ideal when it comes to telling a love story and I don’t try to copy her, but I do try to live up to her example.
I mentioned LaVyrle Spencer, and whenever I’m asked this question I have to go back to her. Sadly, most younger romance readers today don’t know her work, but she was known for her beautiful lyrical writing and her warm, identifiable characters. My favorite romance is a book by her called “Hummingbird.” It’s an American historical about a “spinster” who takes in a wounded train robber. Their love affair was so tender, and LaVyrle wrote such a memorable first-attempt at sex scene that I’ll never forget it. Suffice it to say the first try at lovemaking was awkward at best—but so realistic. Naturally, she made up for it later—and it was totally worth the wait!
5. Where is your favorite place to write?
I mostly write in my office at home. Lest you think that sounds hoity toity, however, it’s also my sewing room and storage for my granddaughter’s “grandma’s house toys,” so it’s very far from tidy and it’s not all that private. Still, it’s my clutter and filled with things I love, and during the day it’s very quiet. I have two windows so I can always see outside—perfect for daydreaming-ah, brainstorming!
6. What’s on your bucket list for this year?
I’m already planning to attend Romance Writers of America’s annual meeting in San Diego as well as the Romantic Times Reader Convention in Las Vegas. My “bucket list” addition is that I want my hubby to come meet me at both of them since I’ve never been to either city. I’d like to see Cirque du Soleil’s “Beatles Love” performance in Vegas, and I want to visit the zoo in San Diego because I love zoos. I’d also love to go back to Alaska and visit my dear friends—those I made when I lived in Anchorage from 2006-2009!
Oh my goodness, I look back on that and I still can’t believe it happened! I was so flattered and honored because it’s a peer award, and to have made the cut with some of my absolute idols (Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis) was a dream come true. I swear it’s also true that it was an honor just to be a finalist. I mean, with all the stellar fellow finalists—it didn’t matter in the least that I didn’t win. It was extremely special to be wined and dined and treated like a queen for a week at the convention—a very meaningful sure wouldn’t mind bringing home one of those gorgeous, golden RITA ladies!
8. Can you tell us anything about your upcoming works?
I’m super excited about the last four books of the “Seven Brides for Seven Cowboys” series. The next three books will belong to the triplets, Grace, Kelly, and Raquel who were named for their father’s favorite two movie stars! Grace comes next and she meets the small-time poker player who thinks he has a generation’s-old claim to Paradise Ranch (and a very precocious five-year-old daughter). Kelly falls in love with a secondary character from “The Bride Wore Red Boots” – one of the veterans suffering from PTSD who has become a hotshot firefighter. It may or may not be the best choice for either of them. Raquel falls for a doctor who is a total science geek to her active tomboy personality. It’s hard to see how sparks can fly when one’s never seen Star Wars and the other won’t go out if it means missing Dr. Who. The last book of the series will introduce a surprise character: Cami Colarusso—a cousin to the Crockett sisters whom nobody knew existed. To end the series we need a little fun: how about dinosaurs on the ranch?!
In addition to the Brides books, I’m working on a proposal for a completely new book in a slightly different genre—women’s fiction. More on that to come! And I have a cross-over story coming out in May as part of a Kindle Worlds series set in Sapphire Falls—the world created by bestselling author Erin Nicholas. One of the characters from the Brides series is going to make his way to Sapphire Falls. I’m so excited, so watch for that, too!