1. One of your novels won the Emerald City Opener which is quite an honor-that speaks volumes about your talent. You write both young adult novels and westerns. Why those two genres?
As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm and frequently read books in the branches.
When we visited my grandparents in Seattle, my grandfather introduced me to Louis L’Amour westerns and I absolutely adored the cowboys who rode through those pages.
They fascinated me nearly as much as John Wayne did in his movies. So, when I began writing, it seemed like horses would gallop, trot and walk into my books.
Today, those books are considered “westerns” and I still like my cowboys and the women who love them. Oh, and you can’t go wrong with a great horse!
As for writing young adult novels, I spend a lot of time with teens both at the family riding stable and as a substitute middle/high school teacher. I love hearing what they think and say – the books seemed to come about naturally out of both those venues.
And of course, it’s always easy to find “beta” readers at the barn or the schools who are happy to tell me when I make a mistake and need to rewrite, sort of a “turnabout is fair play” time.
2. You’re an expert riding instructor, tell us about that and people’s biggest misconceptions about horses?
Okay, well I wouldn’t call myself an expert even after 40+ years – I’m still learning about the critters. I believe the biggest misconception people have is the idea that horses actually think the way we do – they don’t.
As I tell folks, they’re dealing with animals who can get up to speeds of 40 miles per hour in less than a minute, leap like a cat after a mouse at the same time, and just know that everything wants to eat them.
In times of trouble, horses want to run first, look second and think last. In that situation, people need to think all the time.
3. What do you feel is the biggest misconception about writing?
That writing is easy and anyone can do it! It takes a lot of hard work, time and dedication to create a book. And then to rewrite it, submit it to friends, colleagues and finally professionals – that is a scary adventure, rather like riding a roller-coaster.
4. Living on a busy ranch, what are some time saving tricks you’ve learned so that you have time to write your wonderful stories?
I think about the books or scenes or chapters – whatever the night’s work will be when I’m mucking stalls, feeding, building fences, painting signs and whatever other daily chores I’m doing that don’t require 100% of my attention. But, when I’m riding, training or teaching, I have to stay focused on that.
Then at night, I head for the computer unless there’s a favorite show on t.v. like Bones. I usually write from 8 p.m. to midnight – most nights. I absolutely love it when I’m caught up with the outside work and can write in the daylight! Whoo-hoo!
5. What life lesson were you able to put into writing your westerns?
Never give up! And a woman shouldn’t wait for anyone to bring her flowers – she should plant her own garden – regardless of what form that garden takes. It can be a rose bush or operating a pony farm – like my heroine did in The Daddy Spell.
Or what lesson did writing westerns teach you?
Don’t judge by appearances – one of the most famous stagecoach drivers in the old West was One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst who drove through the Sierra Nevadas for years.
A crazed, half-trained horse struck Charley in the face and the driver lost an eye, but didn’t stop “driving six-horse coaches up and down the twisting mountain trails with skill and nerve that few western whips matched.”
In 1880, when Charley died, it made national news – One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst was a woman! And she’d successfully hidden her gender for more than 40 years.
The first book I sold in (20 years) was ‘A Man’s World’ – my heroine hid her gender too – and it was a fun romance to write. A gunfighter, Trace doesn’t appeal to everyone – she has too much spunk and when someone shoots at her, she shoots back. And she doesn’t miss!
6. Some writers, when faced with hurdles give up writing. Did you ever reach the point where you wanted to give up?
Of course – who doesn’t get depressed in this crazy business? How did you overcome it? By learning, then remembering that everyone should have a passion, something he or she can’t live without.
I write for myself and I have boxes of manuscripts – 20 years worth of stories that I felt needed to be told. And I’ll keep writing until I get that proverbial shovel of dirt in my face.
7. What do you love most about being a writer?
Creating stories that people want to read, that I want to tell, that I have to tell.
8. How do you define success as a writer?
Writing every day. And if I’m busy away from the computer, then “success” means thinking about what I want to write next.
When I visited my uncle in the hospital last week, he pointed out that I hadn’t yet written a story about my grandmother’s business. That will take some brainstorming so it’s probably two or three years away. And I just came up with an idea for a new ya series – again two or three years away.
9. I know it’s tough to pick a favorite, but which of your books is your favorite and why?
I loved ‘A Man’s World’ – it was so much fun to tweak the western cowboy myth and have a woman save the day. I got to revisit that world with the book coming out from BookStrand in April, ‘A Woman’s Place’.
But, I just sold the first two books in what I call my “cheerleader” series, stories about a cheer squad at a private high school, because “Sometimes, you have to be your own cheerleader.”
And these books have a special place in my heart – I think I have a new “fave.” In the series, selected girls overcome problems that life hurls at them.
‘Throw Away Teen’ is the story of one of those girls. She grew up in foster care, bouncing from home to home since she was a toddler and now she’s in my fictional town of Stewart Falls, Washington.
No matter what anyone tells her, she knows she’s passing through and will soon be back in the group home or on the streets of Seattle.
The second book, ‘Asking For It’ is about dating violence. The flyer of the squad thinks she’s found the boy of her dreams only to discover she’s living in a nightmare.
10. What writing project is next for you?
Right now, I’m in edit mode for the book coming out in April, ‘A Woman’s Place’ – and I’m also starting the first round of edits for ‘Throw Away Teen’ which is tentatively scheduled for a September 2012 release.
Of course, there are times when I just have to be creative – so then I work on my next Western mainstream romance, ‘The Hero Spell’ and the third book in the cheerleader series, ‘Because I’m Brown’.
10. Anything else you’d like to share?
Keep writing and reading.