Lots of stuff happening today! First, I’ve joined a group of authors and we’ve formed a site for readers: Booklover’s Bench. It launches today with a contest. The prize? A Nook Simple Touch plus a Nook Book from each of the five participating authors: myself, Terry Ambrose, Nancy J. Cohen, Karla Darcy, and Maggie Toussaint. Please visit our new site and enter our first contest.
A number of readers said they liked reading interviews, so I’ll be offering this as a guest option for all my guests beginning in March. But a special author friend, Kathleen O’Brien has volunteered to give the process a ‘test run.’ Not only that, but she’s giving away a copy of her book, Wild for the Sheriff AND a $10 Amazon gift card to one commenter. You have until Friday to enter. Here’s a look at her answers to some of my questions. And if you’d like to be a guest, let me know using the contact form. Welcome, Kathleen!
What triggered the story behind your latest release? Last year, a friend recommended “The Staircase,” an enthralling documentary series about a man put on trial for killing his wife—although he contends she simply fell down the staircase. The courtroom drama was intriguing, but what really mystified me was how the woman’s children stood by their stepfather, no matter how damning the evidence became. Why? How? They even continued to live with him, in the house where their mother had died. I was fascinated by the whole dynamic, and I knew there was a story in there somewhere. I began to research what happens to children when one parent kills the other…and The Sisters of Bell River Ranch was born. In Wild for the Sheriff, the heroine, Rowena Wright, is one of the most prickly, defensive heroines I’ve ever written. Inexplicably but constantly rejected by her foul-tempered father, she openly rebelled and got quite a reputation in Silverdell, Colorado, as a big-time troublemaker. Then, when she was only 16, her father killed her mother, and any hope of a normal life was shattered. Now she has come home, to the beloved Bell River Ranch from which she was exiled 15 years ago, and to Dallas Garwood, the good boy she “ruined” but never forgot. Dallas is all grown up now. He’s a divorced father, Silverdell’s sheriff, and more than capable of saving even the worst “bad girl” in town. But if he’s going to save this one, she’s got to let go of the past—and Rowena has no idea whether, in her case, such a miracle is possible. I’m writing the third sister’s story right now, and I have to say this has become one of my absolute favorite series ever. It’s emotionally grueling, of course. But it’s so rewarding to take these brave, wounded women, so unfairly cheated of home and family, love and security—everything little girls ought to be able to take for granted—and give them the happy endings they richly deserve and desperately need.
Plotter or Pantser? Plotter. Have been for years. The first few books I wrote, way back when, were pantsed. (Pants-ied? Well, anyway, not plotted.) Writing them took forever. Lots of going back and rewriting, because I’d raced ahead, 100 mph on the keyboard…toward a brick wall. Now that I have regular deadlines, pub dates and daily quotas, I’d rather put the time in at the front end, making sure my story map is going to get me to my destination in the word-count allowed. From there, my characters may take scenic side trips, and make a few unscheduled stops when the mood hits, but I always get where I’m going. Feels great.
What’s on your desk? What should be on my desk: The laptop, monitor, keyboard and printer.
My “Moulin Rouge” mouse pad from my dearest writing buddy, Ann Evans, who died recently.
A sticky note from my daughter that says “I love you xoxoxoxo 11 a.m. lunch tomorrow?”
A cartoon from my son of a little boy waving at me.
A sticky note from my husband that says “Things to remember” on which he’s written “Smooch!”
Coffee, in one of the mugs I painted at the do-it-yourself pottery place, with a quote from one of my favorite poems for inspiration. I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way…
What really is on my desk: All that stuff, and a monster stack of papers I swore I’d file last weekend.
The granola bar wrapper from my midnight snack.
A washcloth (I have no idea).
A bottle of Jo Malone perfume that smells like chocolate (I’m fixated on perfume these days…no idea).
The book The Emotion Thesaurus, which is awesome.
Sarah Addison Allen’s book Garden Spells, loaned to me and next up for reading.
My Kindle, which needs charging.
Cell phone and house phone and last plumbing receipt, because I needed their number this morning for the latest plumbing problem (Glam life of a writer!)
A deck of Tarot cards (don’t ask).
The box and pad of paper I’m using to keep a “Happiness” record of 2013. Remember how that suggestion went around Facebook right before Christmas? I loved it! So at our family New Year’s Eve party, each person got a box in which to record all the happy events of the year, so that we can go over them next New Year’s Eve. I’m already filling mine like crazy. Funny how many happy things you notice when you decide to be on the lookout.
Do you read books more than once? If so, name one. What’s special about it? Yes! Lots of them. But to pick just one…I’ve loved the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe mysteries since I was a pre-teen. The two main characters are Nero, the brilliant fat man who can’t be bothered to learn how a golf club works until he needs to find out how it killed a man, and his young, athletic, sexy “leg man” employee Archie, who loves to dance and play poker. They are so real, so likeable, so smart and sassy and just plain fun, that they have become true friends. I re-read the books when I’m sad. Or lonely. Or happy. Or anywhere in between. I even named our dog Lily, after Archie’s adorable dancing-millionaire girlfriend, Lily Rowan.
What do you read? Do you read different genres when you’re writing vs. not writing? Oh, absolutely! When I’m writing, I can’t get near a romance, for fear I’ll let the writer’s voice infect mine. If the writer is great, I’m afraid I’ll subconsciously imitate her. If the writer is terrible…same fear! Mystery, horror, history, courtroom dramas, young adult—I love good books in every genre! Here’s a weird but entirely wonderful list of some of my recent non-romance reads:
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale.
Drood, Dan Simmons
Sister, Rosamund Lupton
The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
The Magus, John Fowles
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Defending Jacob, William Landay
When not writing, I gobble up the books written by some of my favorite romance-writer friends. I never have enough time to read all I’d like of Nancy Robards Thompson, Katherine Garbera, Cindy Kirk, Ellen Hartman, Deb Salonen, Linda Warren, Tara Taylor Quinn, Kay Stockham…the list is nearly endless. I only wish my free time were, too!
Do your characters have sex on the page? On which page do they have their first sexual encounter? Definitely! Sex is one of the most blissful parts of falling in love—and one of the most complicated. The story wouldn’t seem fully told if I didn’t explore how (and if) they’re able to communicate physically. I have, rarely, written romances in which the characters didn’t have sex during the book, but only when the situation makes that choice realistic for today’s passionate, adult couple. In one book, the heroine had an infant, recently born out of wedlock, and no matter how fabulous the hero was I just couldn’t see her taking any chances on pre-marital sex at the moment. On which page? On the perfect page, of course! The love scene can take place practically right away, or nearly at the end of the book. These people are very real to me as I’m writing, and their personalities and situations dictate their choices. I honestly don’t know for sure until I watch them interact, and listen to their inner thoughts and fears.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research? Oh, no contest on this one—I had one research experience that was just awful!!! Some years ago, I wrote a very dark romantic suspense (Quiet as the Grave, for the Harlequin Signature Select line), in which my hero and heroine had to solve a sadistic murder committed by a very sick bunch of whackos who called themselves “The Mulligan Club.” I am a pretty sheltered female, so I knew I’d have to spend hours researching what sexual whackos actually do. And oh, wow, there is some disgusting stuff going on out there! I saw pictures that made my inner convent-school girl faint dead away. And I got on some spam lists that still turn my inbox purple, even now. But my readers seemed to think the book was powerful, and it was one of my RITA finalists, so I guess it was worth it. I guess…
What kitchen utensil would you be? Why? Let’s see…I’m not much of a cook, unfortunately, so most of that stuff is very mysterious to me. No, wait! I know! I’d be the spatula! I’d be the one reserved for scraping the brownie batter out of the big silver bowl. Yum.
What makes you happy? So many things. In my family, I’m kind of a joke that way. Whenever a song comes on the radio, they insist that I always say, “That’s my favorite song in the world!” But I was brought up to believe that the person who enjoys the most stuff is the winner. Being haughty or judgmental was considered kind of dumb. It meant you couldn’t find the beauty or joy in things. In no particular order, I love—reading, corny fifties music, swinging on playground swing sets, anything that puts the wind in my face, my kids, BBC costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey, Doctor Who (David Tennant style), Ewan McGregor and Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Day Lewis, going to the movies, food that I don’t have to cook, playing with colored pencils, Ireland, Indian Rocks Beach, my kids, my adorable husband, colored cut glass, antique postcards, Mozart, the Beatles, Castle, rain, board games, my kids, walking, bike riding, poetry… See what I mean? It might be easier to list what doesn’t make me happy. Other than the usual universal suspects, like war and injustice and zombies, I can think of three things. Cooking. Cleaning. Having a cold. That’s about it.
Email/social media before or after you start writing? Aw, come on. You know I’m going to have to lie, or else I’ll get in trouble with my editor…my boss…my family…my convent-school-girl conscience…
(Before. After. During.)
Thanks so much, Kathleen, for being my first captive visitor in my Interview Room. You can learn more about Kathleen at her website.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society