Rachel Thompson

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, January 26, 2013

#OBBigBang Orangeberry Big Bang - Much Ado About Mavericks by Jacquie Rogers


Updated on 28th December 2012

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Tell us a bit about your family. I live in Seattle with my husband and cat—not sure which will be trained first. Might be a lost cause. Currently, my daughter and her four little boys live here, too, so lots of noise and hopping going on. We made monster cookies this afternoon and the kitchen will never be the same. This is not conducive to either page production or fitting into cute jeans. LOL. But they’re fun.

What is your favorite food? I always say strawberry shortcake but I’m originally from Idaho, so the real truth is I love potatoes just about any way you can think of. Yes, I make killer hashbrowns.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I come from storytellers on both my mother’s and father’s side, so it’s only natural that I’d be one, too. Also, I grew up on a farm in Owyhee County, Idaho, where my Hearts of Owyhee series is set. That area was perfect for someone who dreamed a hundred or so years in the past, especially since the culture hadn’t changed much. People ask me all the time about researching, and the truth is, I have to research far less than some of my sister WHR authors, so I was lucky to grow up there. The vernacular, the mindset, the manners, and just how daily life was lived are all part of my childhood. Lucky me!

When and why did you begin writing? I started writing after a bout of pneumonia laid me up for a month. The only books left to read were Romances and I refused to read one. But my daughter finally convinced me and I was so hooked, I started writing my own for fun. That book is well hidden from the public, but it was a grand adventure.

When did you first know you could be a writer? Probably when the first review came in. I thought she was just being nice but then I found out this particular reviewer rarely ever gives five stars and never gives pity reviews. So I felt like I earned my badge, and I’ve been working hard to better my craft since then.

What inspires you to write and why? I don’t know for sure. Great books inspire me. Poor books don’t. I’ve never had the “I can write a better book than that” moment that I’d call inspiring. But give me a book that pulls me in so much that I become the heroine, and I can hardly wait to get back to writing my own book.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? Two genres—fantasy romance and western historical romance. Fantasy is so fun because you can make a whimsical story world and do whatever you want as long as you follow your own rules. I love faeries, dragons, unicorns, sorcerers, and the works. Western historical romance is easiest for me to write because I come from the West and it’s who I am. Plus, I have a jillion story ideas that I’m just dying to write. And more keep coming!

Who or what influenced your writing over the years? I’m in a great critique group. In the beginning, we held classes, figuring that if we had to learn something well enough to teach it, we’d get a much more solid understanding of each craft element. It’s the best thing we ever did. There have been numerous authors who have been very supportive and taught me a lot outside our group as well. Romance writers are a lot of fun and wonderfully helpful.

What made you want to be a writer? I never did want to be a writer. My first heart’s desire was to be a television baseball announcer, but I gave up that notion by the time I was about ten. My mother wanted me to be a writer so obviously that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But sometimes professions choose you, not the other way around, and that’s what happened to me.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? Actually doing the writing. I love creating characters and getting to know them. I adore plotting and plunking these people in ludicrous, dangerous, or exasperating situations. And of course, typing The End is the ultimate high. But the 90,000 words in between are a lot of hard work. You have to turn the crank every day.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? I’m currently writing the fourth book in the Hearts of Owyhee series, Much Ado About Miners. The heroine in this book is the sister of the heroine in the first book, Much Ado About Marshals. In fact, she shot the hero in that book, so you know she’s going to shoot from the hip in this book, too.

Can you tell us about your main character? In Much Ado About Mavericks, the hero is Benjamin Lawrence, a highly successful Boston attorney who has to return to Owyhee County in the Idaho Territory to settle his father’s estate. He’s hoping a week will give him enough time to take care of everything, pack up his mother and sister, go back to Boston, and marry the boss’s daughter. The last thing he wants is to lose his heart to his father’s foreman, a beautiful redhead called Jake (Janelle Kathryn, shortened to J.K., aka Jake).

Jake O’Keefe has been on her own since she was twelve years old and is regarded as the best foreman in Idaho Territory. Her goal is to build her own horse ranch and to do it, she has to get clear title to the Circle J, which she can’t do if Ben sells off his ranch and hightails it back East. There’s no room in her plans for any greenhorn lawyer, that’s for sure.

How did you develop your plot and characters? First a situation and one character happens. I don’t know how, it just does. Then I ask who would antagonize both the character and the situation the most, and that’s how I get the love interest. Once I settle on the two main characters, I start filling out forms that I designed through the years, borrowing questions from just about every writer that ever gave me advice. After that, the characters marinate for a while, and then I channel them and write an autobiography. Here’s an example from the first book in the Hearts of Owyhee series, Much Ado About Marshals: http://www.jacquierogers.com/maam_cole.html.

When the characters are solid and I know them as well as I know myself, then the plotting starts. I use a form to plot out the bones. Not one word gets written until I know my characters through and through, and I have a destination. The actual story rarely ever follows my plot, but that’s okay. The destination is what’s important.

Why did you choose to write this particular book? Much Ado About Mavericks came about because I was daydreaming about the fun my sister and I used to have playing cowboys when we were kids. We had horses and thought ourselves quite accomplished riders. Truth is, I always wanted to be better—better at roping, for sure (never did get the hang of it), and much better looking. I was a good rider and an excellent shot, but of course you can always improve. Jake O’Keefe is what my ten-year-old self wanted to be like and I thought it would be fun to bring her to life.

Will you write others in this same genre? Besides the Hearts of Owyhee series, I have a Soiled Dove mini-series planned (a spin-off of Much Ado About Madams) and another book started, set in 1883 on the railways of Colorado, which could be the beginning of a new series. So yes, I plan to continue to write western historical romance. But I also intend to write both fantasy romance and traditional westerns as well, and I even have a YA fantasy started.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? No, other than an optimistic outlook. I write to give readers a little vacation from their daily stress. I want them to have fun right along with me, and be able to rest their brains. Yes, braincandy. I love that word. I love to read it and I love to write it. Enough people are dealing with serious issues that I feel absolutely no compulsion at all to add to the pile.

How much of the book is realistic? Much Ado About Mavericks, and all the Hearts of Owyhee books, are very realistic in terms of setting, social values, jargon, and life style. I grew up in Idaho with little outside communication—the Old West lives and breathes in Owyhee County to this day. Also, the women in Owyhee County weren’t shrinking violets. You can read more about the two strong women, Kitty Wilkins and Joe Monaghan, who influenced Jake’s character development. http://tinyurl.com/cvn654z

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? Oh yes. Bwahahaha. Some of my friends haven’t found out yet, either. I’ve used my childhood neighbors who played music for the Grange dances in most of the books, and my sister is in Much Ado About Mavericks. She owns the general store. My publisher and his wife are in Mavericks, too. (That was especially fun!) My heroes are all based on various aspects of the men in my life—my husband, my brother, and my dad. I have a notion of what a real hero should be like because I’ve always had good men around, and some not-so-good ones for comparison.

How important do you think villains are in a story? The villain makes or breaks a story, in my opinion. A hero can’t show any more strength than what it requires to overcome the villain, so in a way, the villain is the very most important character. I spend just as much time developing villains as I do the hero and heroine. Sometimes more, because it’s a lot harder for me. The villain I’m most proud of is Hannibal Hank Turell in Much Ado About Madams, but the villain in Much Ado About Mavericks was very challenging just because of the circumstances, and I was happy how he shaped up.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? I no longer live in Owyhee County, Idaho, so I have traveled back several times to research and to smell the sagebrush. The alkali dirt and the hot desert air always inspire more stories. I’ve also gone to Colorado to ride on the steam train from Durango to Silverton in preparation for a manuscript in progress that I set there. But no, not much travel, unfortunately. I love to go museum-hopping in small towns but there’s not enough time to do everything I want to do, that’s for sure.

Who is your favorite author and why? I’ve never read by author, probably because I’m name-challenged and have a hard time remembering anyone I haven’t met. In fact, when I joined the writers’ world, I was shocked that others had autobuy authors. It’s something I’d never heard of. But if I had to pick an author, let’s go back to my college days and visit my Comparative Mythology class. We read Mary Renault’s A King Must Die and that book fascinated me so much that I read all of her other books except the last one. Mary Renault passed on and now I just can’t bring myself to read the last one because I know there won’t be any more.

What are your current writing projects now? Current projects are:

Much Ado About Miners (Hearts of Owyhee #4), April 2013
An untitled (and unsold) western romance set in 1883 Colorado
Faery Hot Dragon, a fantasy romance novella
A YA fantasy
A traditional western short story for a Wolf Creek anthology
A mini-series, Soiled Doves, a spin-off of Much Ado About Madams
And a western fantasy romance serial—yes, faeries in the Old West

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I’m reading The Last Honest Seamstress by Gina Robinson. Great book. Before that, I read a biography of Louis L’Amour, and before that, The Handsomest Man in the Country by Nancy Radke, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? I’m excited that some excellent authors are now published. I’ve been reading their works for years and scratching my head, wondering why no one had picked them up yet. Some outstanding authors are Eilis Flynn, Gerri Russell, Ann Charles, Nancy Radke, Heather Hiestand, Joleen James, Judith Laik—all who have titles available now. Wendy Delaney will be published by next summer so if you like mystery, give her book a try. Some western authors whose books I enjoyed and are new to me are Troy D. Smith and Matthew Pizzolato.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? Get an ergonomic keyboard and make sure your workstation promotes good posture. Every author I know either has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or is gonna get it unless they take measures to prevent it.

Read voraciously in several genres. Learn point of view, not only the easy stuff—the advanced techniques. Reading is by far the best learning tool there is. Just about every article on writing emphasizes it and for good reason. I’ve read and re-read books—the good ones to see how they did it, and the bad ones to see what didn’t work. It’s important to read work that is poorly written as well, because you learn as you go. Contest judging is an enlightening experience for a relatively new writer. If you’ve finished and polished one manuscript, give judging a try.

What do you do to unwind and relax? I like to watch movies with my husband (if I get to pick them), go to baseball games, the rodeo, or drive on the ferry and go island hopping. I also love to travel to small towns and visit the local museums—the very best information is at places like that. At home, I like to bake and I like to watch other people do yard work.

Final thoughts:
Thanks to the blog host and Orangeberry Tours for interviewing me today. I appreciate the time and effort a good blog requires. I’d also like to thank all those who took a chance on the Hearts of Owyhee series, and I hope you enjoy the next book as well.

For readers: if you post your sincere opinion in a review, send me the URL and I’ll send you the first chapter of Much Ado About Miners (unedited). You can contact me at jacquierogers@gmail.com. I love hearing your opinions and always strive to make my stories better. My hope is that I’ve given you a few hours of respite from the daily grind. There’s nothing like a smile to lift a person’s spirits. 

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Genre – Western Historical Romance

(PG17 – one love scene, not graphic but onscreen)

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#OBBigBang Orangeberry Big Bang - The Fisher's Paradise by Rachael Preston




Updated on 28th December 2012

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What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? Turning people onto or back onto reading. I taught creative writing for years and had a book review a part of every course outline. Often people thanked me at the end of the course for renewing their passion for reading. Yesterday I received an email from a reader who had just finished The Fishers of Paradise. Since a car accident last winter that almost claimed her life, she has been unable to sit long enough to concentrate to read.Fishers was the first book she’d read since the accident, and she was so moved by it she now has a list of others.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I tend to write about marginalized people, people who are somehow displaced, or about to be displaced, probably because once you emigrate to another country, even from one English-speaking country to another, as I did, you are forever stuck between the two places and never fully reconciled to one. You are displaced. A sense of belonging (or not) is a common theme in my work.

When and why did you begin writing? I wrote my first story when I was 11. There were a lot of gypsies living near us. They had ponies that to my child’s eye weren’t treated well. I wrote “Three Steps to Victory” about a girl who rescues a pony from gypsies, nurses it back to health and then wins a ribbon in a jumping competition at a local gymkhana. I read the nursing of the sick horse section to my brother and looked up to find him crying.

What inspires you to write and why? Reading. I’m moved by other books and the places they take me to.

What inspired you to write your first book? The inspiration for my first published novel, Tent of Blue, came from a situation where we living in an apartment in a converted house and in the apartment across the tiny hall lived a daughter and her mother, who was in a wheelchair. Emotionally, they were both trapped, the old lady was physically trapped too, as the house had no ramp. I listened to the woman scream at her mother day and night and tried to devise a plan to rescue her. In the end I could only do it in fiction. I made her a grumpy former WWI pilot and her rescuer a young naive boy with a clubfoot.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years? Reading. Always reading. Other writers and other books, well-written, moving and gripping books are my key influences.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The plot. Definitely the plot. I wrote my first novel knowing where I was going but with no idea how to get there. However, I wrote The Wind Seller and The Fishers of Paradise without any outline and found I had to undo a lot of plotting and throw away a considerable numbers of chapters in order to get the story to line up. Pulling elements from real life and transposing them straight to the page doesn’t always work, either. What is believable in real life isn’t necessarily believable in fiction. It has to work on the page.

Do you intend to make writing a career? It’s the only career I’ve ever wanted.

Have you developed a specific writing style? My dad used to say that he could easily pick my writing from a pile of papers. I never felt conscious of developing a style, but I do write my sentences based on euphony. I choose their length and rhythm based on how they sound to me, and to achieve this I read all my work aloud.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? I’ve been told it’s my ability to convey drama in description.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? Writer’s block is debilitating.  I employ many tricks. I write around the subject, write a letter from one of the characters to another character, rewrite a scene from a different point of view. Give myself permission to write garbage. Free write. Read a good book. Read a novel on a similar subject or set in the same era. Set small achievable goals–a paragraph a day, say. Big word counts can be overwhelming and I set myself up for constant failure when I can’t achieve them. I tell myself that it will pass.

Who designed the cover? Mark Timmings, an award-winning designer of art books and catalogues for art galleries and museums. He happens to live on the small island where I live (population 325), and graciously agreed to work on the cover for me.

Why did you choose to write this particular book? I was walking around the recently completed waterfront trail in Hamilton when I came upon an information plaque that featured a photograph of a group of carefree young boys standing on the decks of a straggle of boathouses in Cootes Paradise, ready to jump in the water. It seemed an idyllic childhood. When I learned that the city tried to drive the community out in the middle of the Great Depression I felt compelled to write about the area and the people whose lives were disrupted.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? Trying to let go of the facts and let the fictional characters and their lives shape the story. I felt strangled at several stages by the timeline of real events and trying to tie it to the lives of my fictional characters. Also I was too hung up on the facts behind certain events and the real reasons behind such as the city’s expropriations.

Will you write others in this same genre? Yes. That is I’ll set other books in the same time period. I keep thinking I’ll write a book set in present day, but then another idea presents itself and invariably it takes place sometime in the first half of the twentieth century. I’m drawn to the era, to the wars, the depression, the change, the struggle, the loss, the upheaval in people’s lives. But I would like to reach beyond the family drama this next time and write on a larger canvas.

How much of the book is realistic? The boathouse colony was real. Probably sometime around WWI the community sprang up on the shores of Cootes Paradise at the head of Lake Ontario, and families lived there until the late 1930s when the city managed to throw all but a few stalwarts from the property. I conflated two real fires in the community, one in which two children died, into one fictional fire. A fireman did live in the community. I changed his name. Thomas B. McQuesten, or Mr. McQuestion as he was known to the area locals, was a civic-minded politician who was obsessed with making Hamilton a part of the City Beautiful Movement. The King of the rum-runners body was dragged from the lake. The Model and Normal Schools, Dundurn Castle and Leo the Lion, the market and McNab Prebyterian church are, or were,  all real. The last of the boathouses was torn down in the mid 1940s.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? I wrote closer to the bone in Fishers than I have in my other books. The experiences are transmuted, but they are based on circumstances and events in my life. My father was a gambler; he left suddenly when I was a kid. In dire straits we had to live with my grandparents.

How important do you think villains are in a story? Villains are good as foils for the protagonists to show off their better qualities. And villains often make for more interesting reading. There is nothing more boring that a story where everyone is good and decent. That said, there is a real danger in making villains two-dimensional and predictable. The challenge is to make the reader care about them too.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? A fascinating novel by Robert Hough called The Final Confession of Mable Stark, a fictional biography of a diminutive female tiger trainer from Kentucky, who was a centre-ring attraction for the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in the 1910s and 1920s.

What contributes to making a writer successful? The ability to tell a good story and tell it well; the sensibility to choose the right story to tell. And luck. Buckets and buckets of luck.

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Genre – Historical Fiction (PG13)

Connect with Rachael Preston on her website


Blog http://www.rachaelpreston.com/blog/