Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to pursue your dream?
The defining year for me was the year my youngest daughter went to first grade. I had been at home raising four children spread out over several years and felt the void of sending the youngest to school all day. Until then I’d been playing at writing, keeping handwritten notebooks and dallying with the stories like a hobby. Then and there I decided that I was going to actually do what I’d always dreamed of doing and write an entire book. I started it in October and finished it during that school year. I had the time of my life. I had no idea what I was doing, so it had no plot or conflict and the villain was wishy washy, but the characters were fun and I enjoyed creating a romance. I even submitted the manuscript to every publisher and agent I could find. Only years later did I understand how embarrassing that was. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. Who knew the time period was unmarketable? Who knew you weren’t supposed to bind your submission in a pretty folder? The story is as yet unpublished, though some day I’d like to rework it.
How long after you first started submitting did it take for you to have your first book accepted? A lo-o-o-ong time. As I said, I started submitting before I was ready, before I’d discovered a writing group or Dwight Swain. I was writing for about four years before I found a local writers group. I was fortunate. I generous lady and talented Avon author named Diane Wicker Davis started my local chapter. She read my stuff and showed me how to make the stories better and the writing stronger. I lucked into a critique group with another published author, Barbara Andrews (who now writes with her daughter as Pam Rock) and she and the group encouraged me. Once I learned the techniques to write to sell, it took about another three years.
What attracts you to your time period?
For me the appeal of Americana and westerns is the simplicity of the time and the durability of the men and women. Life was difficult. People were determined and resilient. I watched westerns from the time I was a kid and learned to appreciate the charm and strength of a cowboy. The ever-present themes of good verses evil are the foundations of those universally appealing types of stories. Who doesn’t love to root for an underdog? Who doesn’t want to see the bad guy get his comeuppance? The rancher/farmer’s sweat and blood are imbedded in his land–as deeply as the riverbeds and the roots of the ancient trees. It may have been his father’s before him, or he could have broken his back to earn it. In any case he will die to keep it. Solidarity. And any man who would pour this much passion into his land, will love his woman even more ardently.
To nearly all women I’ve spoken to on the subject of cowboys, physical appearance plays a major part in the attraction. The reality was that dungarees or Levis were not exactly ‘slim cut’ or sexy; they were stiff and probably dirty, and few real cowboys fit the image of the Marlboro man, but our fantasy cowboy has a lean backside in a pair of tight-fitting jeans, long legs, and that ever-present Stetson pulled low over his eyes. Ever notice how a pair of chaps invariably draws the eyes to the uncovered sections of denim? Our man wears his Colt strapped to his thigh, the holster rides his lean hips, his spurs jangle–this dangerous guy exudes sex appeal. The western hero is a hard body due to demanding work on the range, riding and roping, chasing outlaws, stopping the runaway stage, and sleeping on the ground. He’s untamed, a little wild, and a lot sexy. He doesn’t need a gym membership or a treadmill.
What does your writing cave look like?
Messy. Papers everywhere. Books all over. I’m known far and wide as a collector and my office reflects that particular gene as much as any room in my house. In my office have a curio full of old and new dolls: Barbies, My Scene, Ginnys, Disneys, Madame Alexanders, and any others I can’t resist. There are framed writing awards on the few visible walls—most of the wall space is taken up by bookcases. The color of the walls is called Strawberry Pot, it’s a soothing and inspiring teal, my favorite color. I have a comfy rocking chair piled with pillows, a TV on an upper shelf, a counter full of office machines like copiers and printers and two computers.
My book covers are thumb tacked to the bulletin boards that back my desk area on three walls, along with pics that readers have sent. I have half a dozen oil lamps, a row of Angel Cheeks, framed photographs of the cutest kids ever, a jeweled tiara and paperweights. A vintage globe that belonged to my grandmothers sits atop one of my cabinets. There are many things I love about my space, and one of them is that it’s sound proof. You can actually hear the difference when you come into the room—the effect created by four walls of books.
When you are not writing what do you do?
Probably not sleeping, LOL My husband and I like to garden together, so many of our weekends are spent creating arbors and gardens and soon ponds. We love to shop flea markets and browse antique malls. More often than not you could find me selecting paint, then watching him roll it on or arranging a spot in the house just so. I like to make interesting displays of vintage collections and have so many I have to change them out to enjoy them. I’m a movie junkie, so late night I watch movies (and take plotting notes—it makes me feel like I’m working).