Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
I thought my dreams of writing horse stories for girls started in High School but going through my mother’s things, I found a brown notebook, pre wire binding with a story in it, divided into chapters. Must have been 5th or 6th grade. I was really surprised. So I guess I was a writer before I thought I wanted to be. I did dream of being a veterinarian for a while, then knew that I would major in education and teach, planning on High School English and drama, probably public speaking and writing too. I still love teaching, now at writing conferences.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
About a year and a half. I started out at a writer’s conference and decided to learn all I could about all phases of writing so I tried magazine articles, newspaper articles, devotionals, short stories, anything that caught my attention, but when Mt. St. Helens erupted I started my first horse story which became Tragedy on the Toutle. On the advice of my teacher at that same conference again, Warner Pacific, Colleen Reece is her name, I sent a query to Baker Publishing. They asked for a proposal, then the complete ms and then bought it. The second book took longer to sell. I think God knew I needed the reinforcement. Tragedy has been re-released, now titled, What About Cimmaron?
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard or pencil. Don’t give up.
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
My husband and I live in the mountains of So California, where the sun shines a lot. I love to garden, flowers not so much vegetables, I would rather read than about anything, I always have books close at hand, we are bird enthusiasts, Humming birds my favorites. We travel quite a bit, a long time dream of ours, we have a 42’ coach, our home away from home. I had always dreamed of water color painting someday and a few years ago, I got to paint and fell in love with it. But everything revolves around my writing deadlines, as to how much I get to enjoy all my side past times. We have a basset hound named Sir Winston ob de Mountains. I have interesting characters in my life and add to that wonderful realm on Facebook.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
Back in the beginning I set a goal of so many query letters out a week. I have a log of all my writing, queries sent, responses, articles, books etc. It is interesting to look back in those early years and see the red circles, meaning sold, gaining in numbers. Like other writers, I could have papered a wall with them. Now rejections come more in the idea stage as I run ideas past my editors or agents. A friend, Kathleen Wright and I proposed a children’s series four years ago and it was finally sold. Agent tried and tried but no one could see it. Someone finally did. Persistence pays off. I am still not real patient in the waiting game. The four book series for middle readers is SAVE Squad, book one is titled, Dog Daze which will be released in March. Fun and funny, four girls who get involved in animal rescues. Would you believe a basset puppy stars in the first one?
Tell us a little about your latest release:
My latest release, Valley of Dreams came out in October from Bethany House, my long, long time publishing home. This is a new series with Cassie Lockwood, a trick rider, shooter in a wild west show circa 1906. When the show goes belly up, she and a select group of misfits heads south from Dickinson ND to find her father’s dream valley in the Black Hills of SD. I love writing city mouse comes to the country tales, as Cassie learns what life can be like outside her experiences.
If you could only share one line from Valley of Dreams, which one would you choose and why?
I always try to come up with one liners to start a book, well and most chapters. One of my favorites was from an early Blessing book, I think it was Reaper’s Song. The line “he’s dead,” created many questions in the reader, that’s the goal of an opening line. Get that reader hooked from the first line.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in Valley of Dreams that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
Readers comment that they know a lot about me from reading my books. A writer has to weave parts of herself into every book. We draw upon our life experiences to build our characters and create our stories. Some books more than others are based on major happenings in our lives. I am no exception. Readers realize my love for gardening, animals, birds, because I include them in my novels. The Healing Quilt is really based on the death of our daughter from cancer before she turned twenty-one. I think it was sixteen years after she died, that God said it was time to write that story.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
In The Way of Women, Mt. St. Helen’s was the villian but so often, the villian that is so hard to overcome is the one within us and that is often a major part of my stories. In the Blessing books, Ingeborg’s arch rival is Mrs. Valders. She is a good woman but really critical and wants to run everything. If I wrote mysteries, I would have to work harder at building villians.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
I always go to the places I write about so we have spent time in the Black Hills, a truly beautiful part of creation. I read all the books I could find about Wild West Shows, others of the flora and fauna of the region, early South Dakota history. I always look for books by local authors when I go to a region. This time I couldn’t find enough info about the Rosebud reservation so I posted my questions on Facebook and got all the info and the resources that I needed. Come to find out, I was calling the reservation by the wrong name. Well, duh! My favorite research is always talking with people. One of my favorite places in the research was the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. What a treasure trove for historical writers.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I just finished the rewrite of the rewrite on Reunion, a contemporary of a family in trouble, and now I am writing Whispers on the Wind, book two in the Wild, West Wind series. Valley of Dreams was number one, so I am getting to know Cassie and crew better all the time. She’s a pretty spunky heroine who is about to have another big fall.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
“No, I am not really interested in telling your story.” (I hear that a lot. “Boy do I have a story for you.”) But if you will start getting it down on paper or the computer, and keep working at it, learn to write for publication, I can tell you that this is a mighty rewarding calling. If God is calling you to write, you better get on it. People don’t realize how hard our work is, until they try it. But isn’t that the case in everything? Those who are good at something make it look easy. I never dreamed of being an Olympic athlete. I think God gives us dreams to go along with the talents he has given us.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
This question stumped me. I never gave it any thought. I just answer the questions to the best of my ability. I try to keep my life as an open book, not really hoarding secrets. Guess that is why I like writing about people who get hung out to dry by their secrets. Hmmm. This bears pondering.