I have to admit, it had been a few years since I’d written a western historical romance. When a friend invited me to take part in a multi-author series she was putting together, I had to stop and think about it… for all of five minutes.
Of course I was in. The thrill of having to research specific to the topic of the series drew my interest immediately. Not to mention the notion of refreshing my use of language and syntax. It was a writer’s dream to step into a brand new world in order to create vibrant characters and historically accurate storylines. The additional lure of the sweet and inspirational romance had me jumping feet-first into long-forgotten territory.
One of the first places I turned was to my attic, where boxes and boxes of family archives awaited me. My grandfather was a Methodist minister in the late 1800s through the early 1950s, just after I was born. While he spent most of his career serving three different churches in the small towns of middle Tennessee, he also ventured west on two occasions. The first time, in 1904, was on a steam locomotive and then via stagecoach to the smaller, more distant locations. Then, in 1927 he bought his first car and returned to Colorado via the very rough beginnings of the roadway system we know now.
His journals from both trips provided me with hours of insight I may never have found perusing the internet. I used his accounts of his stagecoach rides in that first sweet historical, Seth’s Secretive Bride, and made sure my heroine got a firsthand experience when traveling to meet her mail-order groom, and in the most uncomfortable way.
I continue to refer to grandpa’s journals, along with historical archives of certain events and locations, with every new historical romance that I write. I also rely on his daily notes of faith when I’m adding a touch of inspirational affirmation to my stories.
Earlier this year, I wrote my first Oregon Trail/wagon train romance. That truly took some research, as well as a smidge of imagination. However, it wasn’t until I began writing my most recent release, Lily’s Luck, that I found myself in totally unfamiliar territory.
Based on the Oklahoma Land Runs of the early 1890s, I found the subject of reassigning land on a first-come, first-served basis fascinating. I devoured everything I could find, and even downloaded a map where I plotted out my hero and heroine’s journey to claim their homestead in the land run of spring, 1892.
My next historical western project, Millicent’s Miracle, is a Thanksgiving Bride book and it brings me back to the Midwest. The characters I’m writing about have already made an appearance in my earlier Oregon Trail book, Ella (Prairie Roses Collection). Now it’s time for them to get their story.
I hope you’ll consider coming along on my western romance journey with me. So far, it’s been a fun ride and I can only imagine it getting better by the book.
Like a lot of people in my generation, I grew up watching old westerns on TV. That included the classic shows like Bonanza and Big Valley. But I loved movies the best and have seen probably all of them at least once. Some many, many times.
No question, my all-time favorite is Westward the Women. Why? Because at its heart, it’s a romance. Crusty and skeptical wagon master Buck Wyatt is hired to bring a wagon train of respectable women across the country to a small California town populated entirely by men. Fifi Danon and her friend are showgirls trying to escape their current circumstances for a better life. Because “their kind” are being rejected as potential wives, the pair change clothes and masquerade as respectable women in order to join the wagon train.
From the moment the group starts out, the journey is beset with problems. Some of them are external. There’s a flood, an attack, a treacherous descent through the mountains, and a stampede. Then there are the emotional conflicts. A woman is raped. A young man is accidentally killed. A pregnant woman goes into labor. A group of men and women and abandon the wagon train, leaving the rest short-handed and defenseless. And all through their many trials, the completely inexperienced and struggling to survive women hold onto the hope that there’s a man waiting for them at the end of their destination.
Buck and Fifi constantly bicker. Why? Well, they’re fighting their mutual attraction. Buck is moving on to the next wagon train after this. He isn’t about to settle down, much less with a soiled dove. Fifi isn’t interested in a man who can’t see beyond her showgirl past and love her for the good person she is at heart. But, of course, they surprise each other, fall in love, and the journey teaches them both what’s really important in life.
My absolute favorite part of the movie is when the women finally arrive in town. They refuse to go any further until Buck brings them materials so that they can fashion decent clothing. They won’t meet their future husbands in torn, filthy clothes. Turns out, there’s no women’s garments in a town full of men. So, Buck returns with tablecloths and curtains and blankets and whatever else can be found, which the women then make into outfits that manage to be utterly charming.
If you’re a fan of old Western movies and haven’t seen Westward the Women, check out this gem. And then let me know what you think!
Opportunity…a situation or condition favorable for attaining a goal.
Back in early March, an opportunity presented itself and I was quick to jump in. I saw FB posts talking about a new multi-author series called the Love Train that Charlene Raddon and Pam Crooks were heading up. They already had nine authors and I didn’t know if they had room for one more or not. But I asked and they graciously asked me to join them. So I did.
I’d always wanted to take part in one of these and Charlene had been after me for years but the timing was never right. Then I found myself without a contract and I’m not a good thumb-twiddler.
I’m so glad I took the leap. FANCY was born. Fancy Dalton struggled all her life for just the basics. She lives with her mother and both work hard yet never seem to get ahead. Fancy worked waiting tables in a café, dodging young men who thought her name suggested she could be bought. They find out differently.
When I began to think about this story, I kept seeing a seven-year-old sitting on a coffin in a train baggage car. The girl, Piper O’Connor, needed help and she turned out to be a major character in this story.
But back to Fancy…she was attacked one night and nine months later had a child. The midwife told her the baby didn’t survive and for two years Fancy grieved for her son. Then, during a stormy night, a shadowy figure drops a bombshell—her baby is alive!
A stolen child…A desperate mother
Armed with a Denver address, Fancy boards the train. She’s willing to risk everything—even her life—to find her child. She doesn’t know how she’ll get her son from the people who stole him, but she won’t give up.
Luckily, a cowboy boards at the same time and sits next to her. Jack Coltrain is on a mission of his own but her plight draws him. He makes a deal with her—his help for hers.
I don’t know why orphaned children always end up in my stories. I don’t plan it. It just happens. Before, I could turn around, Fancy and Jack had taken Piper under their wing like true mother hens. 🙂
What emerged was a heart-warming story of love and sacrifice and the true meaning of family. This is a sweet romance and is up for preorder now. It releases August 15th and wraps up the Love Train series. This short read will be available in both ebook and print.
Click HERE to preorder. The ebook will be $2.99. I’ll have some giveaways next month.
The more research I do, the more I am filled with admiration for early settlers who packed up and left everything familiar in hopes of a better life. Especially the women. I like to think many of them had more freedom in their new homes—at least I write uplifting stories that express that sentiment. My heroines are independent and forward-thinking, focused on making a better life not only for themselves but for others. Historian Elizabeth Jameson noted western women “understood that they performed valuable work for their families and their communities”.
Several of my heroines became business owners and community activists, responsible for the building of churches, school, libraries and hospitals. I even have a heroine who is a physician. All these women were focused on improved quality of life for men, men, and children. Their contributions, large or small, helped settle all areas of the American West.
Romanticized as my view may be, I see the settling of the West as a time of possibilities like never before. Women in the West gained political power ahead of their sisters in the East, and by and large put that power to good use. Women in the West also paid less heed to boundaries than their sisters in the East. I have one rebellious heroine who eschewed fashion dictates and designed her own version of breeches which were better for her work than a skirt.
There were definitely more men than women in the West, hence this photo. If you were a lady looking to get married, which one of these gents would spark your interest? Comment below and one lucky winner will receive a copy of my recent release, Chelsea’s Choice, where my heroine has no idea what she is getting into when she follows a much-admired older cousin to Arizona.
Chelsea means well, but is basically clueless. Totally belittled by her patriarchal family back home, all she knows is she wants to do something meaningful and help others. Things in her new home get off to a rocky start when she bumbles into the life of a reclusive man who simply wants to be left alone. The more she tries to help, the more of a mess she makes in poor, reclusive Reece’s life.
Here’s a teaser from Chelsea’s choice, copyright 2022 Kathleen Lawless
Reece’s house must be set far back from the road, because the driveway went on forever until finally she rounded a curve where the narrow drive opened up to a long, narrow strip of land, home to a small cottage and several outbuildings. On the cabin’s opposite side stood a large hothouse, the roof crisscrossed with an interesting pattern of ridges. A stone’s throw from the first hothouse, she saw the skeletal outline of what looked like a second structure.
She was so busy taking it in, the peaceful scene backdropped by a blue sky stretching as far as the eye could see before it dipped out of sight, that she didn’t see the large, furry animal running frantically toward her until almost too late. As she swerved to miss it, her feet flew off the pedals and she lost control of her bicycle. It careened wildly toward the hothouse, the mangy mutt nipping at the vehicle’s back tire and growling.
Oh no! As she neared the structure, the ground started to slope and she picked up speed at an alarming rate, the pedals spinning far too fast for her to get her feet back into position.
Straight ahead loomed the hothouse and she started to close her eyes, anticipating she and the bicycle would crash right through the glass structure. Suddenly a man stepped directly into her path, grabbed hold of the handlebars and brought the bicycle to an abrupt stop that sent her tumbling from the seat to land at his feet.
Reece Rawlings glared at her from an intimidating height. She hadn’t realized the other day quite how large he was. Large enough to dwarf most men. Without a word he patted his leg and the dog ran to his side, sat at Reece’s feet and eyed Chelsea with curiosity.
“You’re dangerous,” Reece said finally before he turned and started to walk away, the dog following.
“It was all your dog’s fault,” Chelsea said, stung, as she picked up the discarded bicycle, relieved it was none the worse for the encounter, and rushed to catch up to him. “He came out of nowhere with no warning bark or anything.”
“He can’t bark.”
“What’s with a dog that can’t bark?”
Reece turned then, and eyed her. “What’s with all the questions?”
USA Today Bestselling Author Kathleen Lawless blames a misspent youth watching Rawhide, Maverick and Bonanza for her fascination with cowboys, which doesn’t stop her from creating a wide variety of interests and occupations for her many alpha male heroes.
With nearly 50 published novels to her credit, she enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional romance into historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense and women’s fiction.
Many of my books deal with the theme of family of choice. There are a couple reasons why. I’ve always been geographically separated from family and then later, I became estranged from my parents. This changed my writing and my definition of family.
Another reason I turned to this theme is because having parents–ones who have a solid relationship with their children, offer advice when asked without dictating, forgive their children, are mentally healthy, and set good examples–is tough. At least for me, they muck up a story. They often keep their children from making bonehead mistakes that drive a story and create conflict. Why? Partly because they’ve raised children to consider options before acting, gave them a solid moral base, and are present during rough times.
That’s why either my hero or heroine often have past issues from with one or both parents. Let’s face it. Anyone who’s a parent has worried about screwing up their kid. I often joked I hoped I wouldn’t botch parenting so bad my kids spent spent in a therapist’s office. But in romance novels, emotionally damaged characters make for create conflict and character growth. How we’re raised, our emotional baggage and wounds, taint how we see the world and influence our every relationship. For example, Zane in To Marry a Texas Cowboy has major family baggage. Like two large suitcases and a trunk’s worth.
Here’s an excerpt that shows how two relationships shaped Zane’s life.
“Why isn’t your old man helping out?”
“He’s in Europe trying to patch up marriage number three. Good thing, too, because he’d be a worse choice than her assistant.” How could folks as wonderful as his grandparents have raised such a shit for a son? Someone who would lead two completely separate lives with two families?
“I’m thinking a man who breaks out in hives when he hears the word wedding has no business managing a wedding planning company,” Cooper said. “If you ask me, that’s looking for trouble.”
Zane wouldn’t let Grandma Ginny, the one person who’d been there for him his entire life, loving him unconditionally and acting as a guiding force, put her future at risk. He’d do anything this side of legal for her.
Even run Lucky Stars Weddings.
Another thing I like about parental absence in my stories is it allows friends to occupy a prominent role. I love creating banter between good friends, who as Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” That kind of friend will also tell you when you’re being an ass, and often do in my books.
Here’s an example of the heroes in To Tame a Texas Cowboy, who view themselves as family.
“What did this one do? Is she another one with a hyena in heat laugh?” Ty asked, pulling Cooper back to the conversation.
AJ dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “Nah, can’t be that. Not even Coop could find two of those. Ten bucks says this one talked too much.”
“I’m still here, guys, and I’d rather skip the psychoanalyzing session. If you’re interested, I think I can scrounge tickets to the Alabama game. If we can beat them, we’ve got a real shot at the national title,” Cooper said, hoping to channel the conversation onto football and off his love life, or lack thereof.
“I say Coop connected with this one on Facebook, and she posts pictures of her food all the time.” Ty tossed a ten on top of AJ’s, completely ignoring Cooper’s change of subject.
Damn. He was in trouble if tickets to the A&M Alabama game failed to divert his buddies.
Zane tossed a bill on the stack and rubbed his chin while he flashed a perfect white smile at the women two tables over who’d been giving him the eye.
When he glanced back at his friends, he said, “I peg her as the strong, assertive type who’s recently divorced and is still in her angry phase. I say she complained about her ex.”
His friends stared, waiting for him to declare the winner. Betting wasn’t much fun when he was the topic. While AJ and Ty weren’t correct now, in the past, he’d lost interest in women for both the reasons they predicted. Tonight, Zane came damn close. Too close.
“Zane, sometimes you’re damn scary when it comes to women. How do you do it?”
“Years of extensive research.” Zane grinned as he scooped up the cash.
So, that’s why I often don’t include a parent or parents in my stories. Another time I’ll chat about the couple times I have had a parent be a prominent character.
To be entered in my random giveaway for the cactus T-shirt, coozie, and a signed copy of FamilyTies, leave a comment telling me what you think about having the hero or heroine’s parent(s) as main characters in a story.
Today I’m giving you an insight on how music occasionally influences my writing. But it’s not how you might expect. I don’t write with music on because if I like a song, then I start singing along. Then my train of thought is shattered. Like now. I’m sitting in Starbucks writing and “Defy Gravity” from the musical Wicked has come on. Excuse me while I sing under my breath…
Okay, I’m back. However, occasionally songs play a big part in my stories. In To Marry A Texas Cowboy, George Strait’s “Here For A Good Time” became my hero’s theme song. Despite knowing Zane’s backstory and him almost taking over a couple books in the series, when I started his story, I couldn’t grasp him. He put up a good front, even from me. But when I heard “Here For A Good Time” Zane’s personality and fears fell into place.
Zane had a rough past. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read To Marry A Texas Cowboy, but Zane’s dad was a piece of work and his mom wasn’t a winner either. To cope or survive really, he lived in the moment. Everything was about having a good time. That drove his actions and his life.
Here For A Good Time
Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Bubba Straight / Dillon Dean / George H Strait
I’m not gonna lay around
And whine and moan for somebody that done me wrong
Don’t think for a minute
That I’m gonna sit around and sing some old sad song
I believe it’s half-full not a half-empty glass
Every day I wake up knowing it could be my last
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moonshine
When I’m gone, put it in stone “He left nothing behind”
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
Folks are always dreaming about what they like to do
But I like to do just what I like
I’ll take the chance, dance the dance
It might be wrong but then again it might be right
There’s no way of knowing what tomorrow brings
Life’s too short to waste it, I say bring on anything
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moonshine
When I’m gone, put it in stone “He left nothing behind”
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
And speaking of Wicked, when attending that musical, the solution to the same problem with my heroine, Maggie in Bet On A Cowboy hit me. When Elphaba sang “I’m Not That Girl” I instantly knew everything about Maggie. I even whispered, “she’s Elphaba” right there in my Broadway seat.
Maggie believed love wasn’t in her future. She was just too plain, too average in every way to attract a man’s notice. As the director of a Bachelor type reality show, she’s surrounded by beautiful, outgoing, extraordinary women and is constantly reminded she doesn’t measure up. The mindset Elphaba shows in “I’m Not That Girl” guided Maggie’s actions and interactions in life.
I’m Not That Girl
Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Schwartz Stephen Laurence / Sandford Steve
Hands touch, eyes meet
Sudden silence, sudden heat
Hearts leap in a giddy whirl
He could be that boy
But I’m not that girl
Don’t dream too far
Don’t lose sight of who you are
Don’t remember that rush of joy
He could be that boy
I’m not that girl
Every so often we long to steal
To the land of what-might-have-been
But that doesn’t soften the ache we feel
When reality sets back in
Blithe smile, lithe limb
She who’s winsome, she wins him
Gold hair with a gentle curl
That’s the girl he chose
And Heaven knows
I’m not that girl
Don’t wish, don’t start
Wishing only wounds the heart
I wasn’t born for the rose and the pearl
There’s a girl I know
He loves her so
I’m not that girl
I shouldn’t be surprised songs have helped me grasp my characters and their relationships. Songs have always spoken to me and helped me make sense out of life. Why shouldn’t they do the same with my writing?
To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the car coasters, air freshener, and signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment on what song has or could serve as a theme for you?
It’s an exciting week for me – the release of my first Love Inspired Suspense – WILDFIRE THREAT was the 24th. Whoo, hoo! I loved every moment of writing this book, and I realized why when I recently gave an interview. So many things about Wildfire Threat are very personal and special for me, and not just because it’s my first Love Inspired Suspense.
I’ve been writing for Harlequin a long time. I admit it, I sometimes don’t have to work as hard as other authors to land a new contract. My editor knows me and can depend on me to deliver a book in good shape and on time. But when this opportunity came around, I had to work hard for it and go up against a lot of other authors. There was no golden ticket or cutting to the head of the line. When I got the call, I felt really good. My hard work paid off.
As you can guess from the title, the story is about a wildfire. In this case, it’s headed straight for the fictional Arizona small town of Happenstance. For many, many years, we owned a small vacation home in Young, Arizona, a place that’s considered the most remote town in the state. One year, a wildfire came close enough we could watch it from our front porch. That inspired the book that became my first Harlequin sale about a Hotshot. About ten years ago, the Young fire came “this” close to destroying the town. Yes, it was the inspiration for Wildfire Threat.
My son, an avid outdoor enthusiast, helped me brainstorm the book. We had several long sessions where we tossed ideas back and forth. Okay, I tossed ideas out there, and he told me why they wouldn’t work. He is the source for much of my information about herding cattle and driving trucks and ATV through the burning wilderness.
Lastly, the heroine’s grandfather suffers from dementia. My own sweet mother, who I lost last year, suffered greatly from this terrible disease. It did my heart good to write about the love and devotion my heroine has for her grandfather, the tender, kind and respectful way my hero treats the older man, and how the family copes — which isn’t always easily. Writing the grandfather allowed me to honor my mother in a small but meaningful way.
To celebrate the release, I’m having a giveaway — one of my coffee mugs, a Starbucks gift card, some author bling and couple of previous books. To enter, you just have to make a comment. That’s all.
For anyone interested joining my newsletter, you can email me at: email@example.com It’s not necessary for entering this giveaway. Just if you’d like to keep up on the latest news about me.
Thank you for letting me share my good news with you and tell you about my newest book.
Welcome! Welcome to a terrifically beautiful Tuesday!
Recently, I was interviewed by Tory Richards at Coffee Time Romance concerning the book, SHE STEALS MY BREATH. She asked me some interesting questions and so I thought I’d share the interview with you. Tory is the author of many erotica romances. So, without further ado, here is the interview:
Interview for Coffee Time Romance and More
Welcome, today we are talking with Karen Kay! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.
**Can you share a little something about Karen Kay that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?
This question got me to thinking a bit, because, on my website, I really do tend to share my life with my readers. But, here’s something I don’t usually share: I’m pretty much a food purist, so to speak. I don’t eat anything that comes in a box and nothing processed by another. I make all my own catsup, mustard, sauces, sweets, etc. Takes a bit more kitchen time and tends to make my life constantly busy. It has taken me a bit of time, a lot of research and a couple of illnesses to reach this point, because I have loved fast food as much as anyone else. But, not any more.
**How long have you been writing?
Twenty-six years round about.
**What have you found most challenging about it?
Golly, what don’t I find challenging about it? I’m not a slow writer, but I’m also not a fast writer. I ache and struggle over sentences and descriptions that really matter. Promotion also tends to make me a little high strung when a new release comes out.
But, the things I do love, which keeps me going, is the research about the American Indian long-ago way of life — I’m always learning…taking on new things, i.e. recently I’ve become very interested in really learning to “speak” the gesture/sign language in common use all over America before English came in and replaced it. And, love. I truly believe that the love and love-making between a man and a woman who are truly committed to each other are probably one of the most beautiful creations on earth, their love, of course, creating a whole new generation.
There are factions at work, in my opinion, who work to make us think that this (love-making) is filthy or dirty and they go out of their way to make it appear this is true.
But, love and love-making between two people committed to one another is God’s plan, and, being God’s plan, is naturally one of the most beautiful things still found on this earth. I do believe this to be true, and so in my stories, I try my best to make the love scenes as beautiful as I possibly can.
**What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional?
Great question — I had to go and look up the word, cathartic, to make sure I understood it…and it means using some sort of medium to purge or cleanse some emotional aspect about something. Okay, so I admit that sometimes when it comes to the bad guys in my story, I sometimes am writing real dialogue and real happenings — not always — but I’ve noticed when it comes to the bad guys in the story, I generally am working from real life, unfortunately.
A story where I specifically remember doing this is PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN — and even then, I went back and edited out much of the bad parts because I thought no one would ever belief a man could say such things to a woman.
Actually, I get very emotional about the stories and try to make them as light-hearted as possible, given the subject and the fact that one is writing a novel which must contain conflict. In Native America, there is so much real trauma from the past, and even today, that I like to make my stories somewhat light-hearted, even when dealing with subjects that are not light-hearted.
And, of course, they must always end well.
**Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood?
I’m pretty disciplined. I’d had to be when I wrote for two major publishing houses in New York.
No, I don’t have to be in the mood. But, I do like to look at pictures of what I’m writing about or pictures of a possible hero before I sit down to write. I’ve tried to get rid of that habit, but I still do it, nonetheless.
**Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job?
Actually, no to both. When I was growing up, my life was filled with music — I play piano and clarinet. I practiced everyday and I loved it. It filled a creative need. When I had young children and my ex-husband was often gone (out-of-town), I began to feel the need to bring a creative influence back into my life.
I began to read love stories to fill that gap, but even this wasn’t enough. I began to yearn for a piano or clarinet to play. We were mighty poor and the thought of getting a piano was out of the question. But, I discovered that it didn’t take much cash to buy paper and pen. That’s when I started to write.
**What inspires you?
Golly, a lot. My husband is number one inspiration. Native America and doing my best to “set the record straight” on what happened here in America also inspires me. It makes me hunger for doing the research and so I have my nose in some sort of book almost constantly — history books or another Indian book. And, I love to tell stories. When I pick my grand kids up at school, I often tell them stories I’ve heard, but sometimes I make them up.
**Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.
** What are your pet peeves?
Many of the old movies tend to irritate me. They tell bad history, tell lies about Native Americans, usually have non-Indian people playing the major roles and don’t show the facts as they were. Rarely, do they present the truth of the people who were first here. And, almost always those old movies end in a bad way for the Indians.
The truth is that the Native American of old was honest almost to a fault, deeply spiritual and religious, trained his body so that he could run miles in order to save his people if the need ever arose. He respected (as a rule) women and their voices and their roles in the Indian culture. He was often wise, could track better than anything we’ve ever known, and if he were a true medicine man, his ethics had to be without fault. He did not deal in magic, as the movies depict — this is the true medicine man I’m talking about — he healed by being completely ethical in his life so that God could work through him to heal others.
Yes, some men pretending to be medicine men who were yet not true medicine men, went astray and often, when they let hate fill their spirit, ended up on the black side of magic and sometimes were cruel or used their “medicine” against others. But, these were not the men whom God chose to work through. History tells us that the God of Creation abandoned them.
I’m only learning this now because of the series I’m writing about the medicine man.
** Who is your hero?
**Give us one thing on your bucket list.
Okay, back to the dictionary…I didn’t know what a bucket list is. Am I showing my age? I’d say the one thing on my bucket list is what I try to do in my writing is to depict the American Indian of the past in as true a picture as I can paint him, given that I am writing some 150 years after the fact. I try to do this by reading and learning the writings of George Catlin, James Willard Schultz and others, who lived with the Indians and saw them with a contemporary view.
**What would readers find surprising about you?
Perhaps that I love reading and learning about law and common law, as well as our Founding Fathers. Often, I search for and read their own documents, not what others say about them. There’s a book entitled, the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers. Although I haven’t read it cover to cover, it certainly is interesting.
**If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?
Many people. My parents, my sister, many of my friends, and people I admire, including but not inclusive of: John Trudell, Russell Means, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Thomas Jefferson and L. Ron Hubbard. The first five I didn’t know personally in this life, but the last I did, and he was always one of my best friends.
**Just for fun. What is your least favorite:
Least favorite Hero type – Probably men who murder for a living.
Body part – Hmmmm. Not sure on this one.
Overused word in a title – Hmmmm. Again, not sure.
Least favorite Genre – I tend to read in many different genres, but I’d say any genre that makes fun of being human and/or being humane.
Least favorite Dirty word – I’d say it would be any word that takes the name of the Lord in vain.
**Now that our readers know who Karen Kay is let’s get down to the business of your book, She Steals My Breath, The Medicine Man Book 1, which just came out in March of this year.
Please tell us a little bit about, She Steals My Breath.
This book was inspired by being in a point in my life when I truly desired to have a tough, rugged hero who was also very kind. The story was one I began to tell to my grandchildren, but was also inspired by several different things, one of them being that in Montana there is a lot of snow and many blizzards that can kill a man in minutes. I’d never written a story set in the snow. While visiting on the Blackfeet reservation a few years ago, I became aware that they’d had 8 feet of snow that winter. Eight feet! Wow! This added to wanting to write a story set in the snow.
At this time period in history, there were supposed to be no white women in the West, but this wasn’t quite true…although almost true. There were women married to traders and those women and their daughters sometimes made the journey upriver. While they may not have gone completely up to Fort Union, why not? They often traveled on the steamships and went north and this was considered acceptable at this time.
So the heroine is the daughter of a trader and the hero is a Blackfoot medicine man, who has come to the fort to find his missing brother. When the hero first sees the white woman, she is so beautiful that she takes his breath away, thus the title of the book.
She is caught out in a roaring blizzard, and, when the hero discovers this and that she is out there alone, he leaves the fort to go and find her and save her if he can.
**What was your hardest challenge writing this book?
The ending of the story. All the while I was writing the book, I had no idea how to end the story. Yes, I knew how things had to be at the end, but how to get there. I brainstormed with some of my readers and a good friend, as well as my husband and it was their imput — especially my husband’s– that showed me how I might get from where I was to where I needed to be to end the story. Those readers who were corresponding with me at the time often heard me mention that I had no idea how to end the story. Finally, I had to sit down, and, using the ideas from my husband, I just wrote it and then went back through it several — many, many times — to get it “right.” I hope I accomplished it.
**What kind of research did you have to do?
Lots of research on the medicine man including a book on an Apache medicine man, two medicine men of the Lakota, Fools Crow and Black Elk. Also, the writings of James Willard Schultz and his observations of the medicine men and women. Also, I had to research snow storms and blizzards and shelters and gullies and Fort Union and the surrounding landscape, as well as a little about steamboats.
**What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
For me, I think they have to really be in love with each other, though it’s not acknowledged, and they each one have to have solid, hard and firm reasons or beliefs why a union between them is not possible now or ever. Their beliefs can be completely 180 degrees different. The American Indian culture makes this a little easier than other sub-genres in romance, I think.
**How many books do you plan in the series?
Right now I plan four books in this series.
**Any other works in progress?
The book I’m writing now is about half done and is the next book in The Medicine Man series and right now is called, SHE CAPTURES MY HEART.
**Any advice for aspiring authors?
It’s my belief that storytelling is the most important thing in writing a fictionalized novel. I would say to forget about grammar, spelling, punctuation and other things if you don’t think them helpful or if knowing about them keep you from writing what is in your heart. You can go in later and fix them.
Set a time each day and write. Don’t worry about page count, just write as much as you can and don’t beat yourself up if you sit for 4-5 hours staring at a blank screen. Get in there the next day, same time, and write. Tell your story.
This is what I would suggest.
Although my heritage is mostly European, I figure I am about 1/8 or thereabouts, Choctaw Indian. My grandmother used to talk to her best friend about her Indian heritage and I learned that she was proud of it. When I was growing up, I was sure that I must have had some kind of Indian heritage. One has only to look at my features to see it is there. But, my mother insisted there was none in our family tree and I know she did this to protect me because we lived in a small, southern town. But, when I finally discovered the history passed down verbally from my grandmother, I, at last, knew why I had always felt I had so much in common with the American Indian. And, so I did.
NOTE: To enter into the drawing for the free e-book giveaway, please look at the give-away rules over to the right here and just leave a comment. Be sure to check back in a couple of days to see if you are the winner.
My newest book A MAN OF LEGEND is now available everywhere. This is Book 3 of the Lone Star Legends series and brings it to a gripping conclusion.
Quite a bit of research was necessary, some because I wasn’t sure about the early 1900s as I’d never set a book during that time period. It was really an interesting time with thousands of inventions and improvements in just about every part of life. Automobiles were just beginning to be driven and phones used.
One thing I wanted to add that I had questions about were screen doors and windows. In the 1880s, when diseases caused by mosquitoes and flies began to reach the public, folks started paying attention and installing screens. Then by the 1890s, companies began to mass produce and make them rust-poof and they really took off.
Since my story is set in 1908, I put them on the doors and windows at ranch headquarters of the Lone Star. I mention them quite a bit since Stoker Legend refused to have very much to do with innovations. Up in years at 83, he preferred the old ways.
A lot of people, including Charles Goodnight, slept on screen-in porches. A lot of folks did.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have air-conditioning and always slept with the windows up and doors open in the summer. I can still smell the fragrant night air coming in. I loved that smell. That was some good sleeping. It’s too bad those days are gone now, replaced by manufactured air.
Do you have any favorite memories of a screened porch or open windows? And sometimes we could overhear things we weren’t supposed to. I’m giving away three more copies of A MAN OF LEGEND so leave a comment.
About the book
Crockett Legend has always loved Paisley Mahone, but a family feud sure can ruin a romance. When her father turned against the powerful Legend clan, she took her family’s side and broke Crockett’s heart into pieces. Now her father’s dead and Paisley and her last remaining brother are convinced the Legends are to blame.
If only he can find a way to prove their innocence…
A chance meeting throws the couple together, and when their train is held up by outlaws, Crockett and Paisley have to team up to save a young boy from dying. A tenuous truce is born. Together they may have a chance of bringing the truth to light…if they can get to the bottom of who’s been trying to turn the two powerful families against each other. With so many secrets to unbury, it isn’t long before Paisley finds herself in the crosshairs, but Crockett vows there’ll be hell to pay if anyone hurts the woman he loves…or stands in the way of a Legend in the making.
This is one of our fun days here at the P & P Blog, where we get to talk about things we don’t usually blog about. Now, interestingly,, Linda Broday asked me recently (when we were talking about the blog) how I decide on the places I write about — the locations.
It was a question I’d never given much thought to until she suggested it and then decided it would be great to talk about it. Particularly this most recent story.
Usually, the story itself sets the location, as well as the tribe I’m writing about. The Wild West Series was a fun series to write because it was a Western set in both England and New York, which I found to be exciting.
This new story, She Steals My Breath, was inspired by the passing of a good friend of mine and my husband’s — Native American Actor, Steve Reevis. Because he is Blackfeet, this took my story line to Montana, of course. But, a couple of years ago, I had visited my Blackfeet sister on the reservation and she mentioned they’d had eight feet of snow that winter.
Eight feet! Wow!
And then I realized that, although I’ve written books about the Blackfeet before, they were always set in the summer, and yet where the Blackfeet are in Montana, they have long winters and often there are blizzards and squalls, much snow and below zero temperatures. There is a book I was reading recently entitled, “Yellow Wolf, His Own Story,” by L. V. McWhorter and in that story Yellow Wolf makes the point that even hardy men, used to the weather changes in the northern regions could freeze in a matter of minutes if they weren’t prepared for it.
And so, I decided to set a Blackfeet tale in the winter months in Montana. By the way, the picture here to the left is Steve Reevis in the Movie, The Last of the Dogmen.
This recent book, She Steals my Breath, is book #1 in the Medicine Man series. This is a bit of a different kind of story for me since this series lends itself into going a little deeper into the customs and mores of the Blackfeet and in particular the medicine men. I have to admit that I have a lot to learn about these men, who were trusted by their people to help them through hard times. And, one of the things I found that has fascinated me is that they realized their ethics had to be without fault, because if they were to go down the path of darkness even a little or black magic (so to speak), they would lose their ability to help and perhaps to heal the people who came to them for help. Their code of ethics was strict. It had to be and they felt such an obligation to their people, few ever stepped off this moral and ethical high ground.
Here is a fact I had little knowledge of prior to my study: The Medicine Men had many rituals that weren’t really about magic, but were rituals to enable them to become like a “hollow bone,” so the Creator (God) could work through them. This comes to me from the book, Fools Crow by Thomas E. Mails. In writing about the medicine men, I am realizing more and more that I’ve had a rather false idea of them due to Hollywood movies. I have always realized Hollywood’s depiction of the Indian warrior was not a true image, but I hadn’t taken into account that their depiction of the medicine man might also be one which is very far from the truth. I am still learning.
I’m going to leave you with an interview recently done with me about this book, SHE STEALS MY BREATH, and then I thought I’d share an excerpt of the book with you. Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this, about the interview, the medicine men or the excerpt or anything else you’d like to say or ask. So, without further ado, here at the start is this short interview:
Lately, I’ve been at a point in my life where I really wanted a story where the hero was, indeed, a very muscular and handsome hero, but also a very kind hero. The Native American Medicine Man could be such a person. If the man were to be a true medicine man, he understood his power came from God, or whatever it was in his own language that he called God. Because of this, they had to adhere to a very strict code of ethics, and part of that code was kindness.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
Romance to both questions. I enjoy all sub-genres of Romance. But, my heart is particularly drawn to Historical, Native American, Romance.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
Adolf Hungry Wolf; and “Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park,” by James Willard Schultz
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
I think the very beginning scene in chapter one, where the hero and heroine first meet each other and speak to each other in sign language.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
Not really, although I might take this as a suggestion and try to adopt some training pattern of one kind or another.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Upon thinking about this, perhaps it might be that the real path to spiritual enlightenment is a very narrow path. One would do well to read about the philosophy of the Lakota Medicine Man, Fools Crow, and that one has to be strong to resist the temptation to commit an evil act.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
Again, I had to ponder this for a bit. And I think it might be this: that there was, and still is, a lot to be learned about these ways of life that might be passing away under the thrust of “civilization.”
And now, I’d like to leave this post with an excerpt from the book:
SHE STEALS MY BREATH, by Karen Kay
Eagle Heart was honestly worried, and, to counter this, he reached out into the environment, looking for She-steals-my-breath in the age-old manner of communication known and practiced by and between medicine men, as well as the Indian scout. Was she still alive?
He could no longer check his path for accuracy. The snow was too thick and spinning about the ground, and he could not see even a few hand lengths in front of him. There was now danger of losing his direction, as well. But, he wouldn’t be turned away. No woman as beautiful as she should be made to die because her man did not understand the dangers of this land.
He reached out to her with his mind until he thought he’d found her, then said to her in the ancient way of medicine men, “I am coming for you. You must talk back to me with your mind so I can locate where you are. The snow is too dense, and I could lose my way. Can you speak to me with your mind so I can find you?”
“Yes,” came her response.
With relief, he let out a deep breath. She had heard him and had even spoken back. He reached out again with his mind and said, “It is I, Eagle Heart, from the Pikuni tribe. Are you cold?”
“Yes. My fingers are frozen, I fear.”
“Are you hurt?”
“Yes,” she answered with her mind. “I can’t move my right leg and my right arm. I fell upon them. My spine is hurt, too, I think. Maybe it’s broken, for the agony in my spine when I try to move is very painful.”
“I understand. You must remain warm, for the blizzard is coming upon us fast. I am going to see if there are wolves close to you who might come and surround you to keep you warm until I can get to you.”
“Wolves? I’m afraid of wolves.”
“You will not be afraid of these. I will try to find them and speak to them so they can come to you. If I locate them, they will help you and keep you from freezing. Do not be afraid of them.”
“But, how can you do this?” she asked. “Talk to wolves?”
“I am speaking to you this way. I can also speak thusly to the wolves. I will send them to you. Do not be afraid of them.”
The communication between them stopped, and, quickly, he reached out to her again and said, using the same ancient manner of communication, “You must keep talking to me with your mind even if I do not answer, for I am also seeking to find the wolves. Wait! I have found them. They are close and will come to help you. Let them keep you warm.”
“I will try,” she silently spoke back to him. “If I am to continue talking to you, as you say, what shall I tell you? I know not how to help you find me, and I am afraid for my life because I am so cold. Is there something else I could talk to you about to keep my mind off my fear?”
“Tell me about yourself. Why are you here? Are you in love with the man you are to marry?”
He sensed she might have found a little humor in his question. This was good. If she could laugh—even a little—perhaps she wouldn’t center all her attention on her fear.
She silently spoke again in the mind-to-mind speak and said, “My name is Laylah McIntosh, and I have come here to help my father and also to marry the man I am engaged to.”
“Do you love him?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Then I will tell you honestly,” she told him, “that I don’t know if I love him or not. I have believed I am in love with him, but recently I am beginning to experience doubts.”
“How old are you?”
“I am eighteen years old. How old are you?”
“I am twenty and four snows.”
“Snows? Do you mean years?”
“Mr. Eagle Heart, the wolves are here. I am afraid of them.”
“Do not be. Let them lie next to you. They have answered my plea and are there to help you. You are close to me now. I have found the coulee, for I almost fell into it when I dismounted from my horse.”
“Are you certain it is the coulee I am in?”
“Yes. The snow here is already deep. I do not wish my horses to lose their footing, so they and I must climb down to you slowly, one step after another.”
“I understand. Should I keep talking to you with my mind?”
It was a slow, tortuous climb down the incline. But, at last, he and his ponies managed to step onto a more level ground and he found her lying there before him. Indeed, he almost stepped on one of the wolves who had come to surround her. He then said to her with his mind only, “I am here, but you must continue to speak to me silently and with your mind, for I must construct a shelter for us. Do not let yourself sleep. Stay awake.”
“Very well. Should I continue to talk, then?”
“Yes. Can you see me?”
“No. The swirling of the snow is too thick.”
“I am going to bend down toward you. Do not fear me. I am going to feel your body for injury. I shall try to touch your arm, your leg and your spine.”
So saying, he bent toward her while the wind blew the snow around them. Reaching out to her, he felt underneath the blankets placed over her and ran his hands along her right arm and right leg. He said in Blackfeet, “I believe both your arm and your leg might be broken. I cannot feel your spine at this moment. I will need to move you carefully into a shelter, where I can determine if you have broken bones or if your muscles are merely strained.”
“I don’t understand you,” she said in English, but he was aware of the concept of what she said anyway.
He nodded, then realized the snow was so thick, she couldn’t see the movement. He repeated his words, but with the mind-to-mind talk only. Then he told her, “I must make us a shelter and a travois so I can move you without further injury. Do you understand?”
“I have a warm buffalo robe to place over you to keep you as warm as possible. Stay close to the wolves and allow them to share the robe while I make a shelter and a travois to carry you. You have only to reach out to me with your mind if you need me. Thank you, my friends. My family. Please stay with her a little while longer. And, even when the storm passes, please stay close to me if you can. I might need your help again.”
Only then did he rise to his feet, and he soon left to build a shelter that might keep them warm against the storm. And, it had to be quickly done.
Laylah felt a little warmer, but she was still very cold. It seemed as if the temperature had dipped even further, causing her to wonder if the air in the canyon was well below freezing. She couldn’t feel her fingers anymore and her toes were now following the same pattern as her fingers.
With her mind, she reached out to Eagle Heart and said, “I believe I am freezing to death.”
He didn’t answer. Was he still there? She panicked. “Eagle Heart, are you still here?” she yelled out in English.
“I have not left you,” he answered without words. “I must secure a shelter. Keep awake. Do not freeze. It will be ready soon. Instead of the cold and snow, think of a fire and how warm you are as you sit beside it.”
“I will try.”
The communication dropped then between them, and she felt so sleepy of a sudden, she could barely keep her eyes open. But, she tried to envision a fire and its warmth.
She wasn’t aware how long it was before she felt him beside her again. Carefully, and yet with manly strength, she could feel him lifting her onto some contraption that she thought must be made out of wood, for she could feel some of its branches beneath her. Then, she was aware they were moving through the spinning, heavily-falling snow.
But soon, a particular kind of tiredness closed in upon her.
“Do not sleep,” he said, using his mind only.
“No, do not do it. We are almost at the shelter. Keep awake. Speak to me, either with your mind or words.”
“Yes, you can.”
“I tried thinking of the fire. But, I was so cold, I couldn’t do it any longer.”
“Then, tell me of things you find joy in.”
“Christmas, new clothes. Fashion. Strips of cloth I use to curl my hair. And you. I am suddenly thinking you bring me joy.”
“You flatter me. We are here at the shelter at last. Do not leave me.”
“It’s so hard to keep from sleeping.”
Suddenly, his arms were around her, and she was so cold she didn’t feel the pain when he picked her up. Soon, he was carrying her into a place of warmth.
He deposited her onto something soft, and, without pausing a moment, he began to rub her hands and then her feet. It went on and on. She felt his hands all over her.
Suddenly he was speaking to her in concepts only again. “Do not be alarmed. I must remove your clothing, for it is wet and frozen. I have a warm robe that is not wet, and I will wrap you in it. I will have to move you a little to remove the clothing from you. I might have to cut some of your clothing from you.”
She didn’t answer. It was beyond her.
Again, with his mind alone, he said, “Talk to me.” When she didn’t answer, she heard him speak to her in his own language. She tried to communicate back to him, but found she couldn’t and so remained silent.
However, she held on to the sound of his voice, afraid to sleep for fear she might not wake up. There was a quality about his words she found beautiful, and she responded to his voice and to him, refusing to give in to the darkness. Indeed, it was as though with his touch and his voice alone, he was keeping her alive and conscious.
She felt him pick her up and wrap her in something very warm, and, as she settled back into its heat and against her bed, sleep claimed her at last.