1. What process do you use to develop your characters?
I think about my characters a long time before writing about them, so I have an idea of what they look like and what their primary motivations are and what their role is in the story. I don’t do a written character study, because it seems restrictive to me. I simply build enough of a bio in my head to know their lives, nearly from birth, and understand how they view their world, what they want from it. At that point, they become alive and I become the scribe. Then I turn their worlds upside down. By that time, we know each other so well, I simply listen to them, let them react to their changed circumstances, watch them make mistakes and grow into the people I’ve envisioned for them to be at the end of the book.
2. Describe my perfect day.
Every day has perfect moments, but as person who has worked more than one job most of my life, they’re sometimes fleeting—and I may have slept through some of them. Still, there are days that come into in my mind like favorite photos. A Labor Day picnic with four generations of the family; my daughter’s first day of school; a day spent strolling through antique stores; a ride through the mountains with an exceptionally blue sky and perfect white clouds floating in a humidity-free sky. And then there’s walking through a pile of newly fallen fall leaves. But to pick a whole perfect day, I’m going to base it on a vacation at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. To be able to get up without an alarm, walk on a beach as yet unmarred by others’ footprints (before I shower), spend the morning looking for sea glass or just walking, followed by an afternoon of writing and maybe a nap, would indeed be the perfect day for me—especially if I’m sharing it with my husband of 42 years.
3. My bucket list. What I have done and what’s left to do.
Like my characters, my life has had its plot twists and turns. When I was young, I didn’t think much about what I wanted to DO. I simply DID what needed to be done. Then toward the middle, I began to dream of something more. I’m pleased to say that I’ve done things I never imagined doing. I owned my own business, sold real estate, wrote four books and published two—so far. I earned a BA and an MSA degree while flat broke after my business failed, started a new career at 50 and rose to Vice President in the business world. Now, I’ve put together a series of 5-year plans that take me to 100. Those plans include becoming a fabulous grandmother, author, teacher, speaker and artist. Sound like work? Loving what you do is the best play EVER.
4. The hardest lesson I learned as an author
Never give up. The business end is very difficult to grasp. It can take years to capture the attention of that “right” publisher or agent. Passion’s Secret took 15 years to write and publish, between my own life-changing events. Passion’s Spirit was also in my head for years, and earned a pile of rejections, including the “Western Historicals are dead” phrase. It’s so very easy to put that manuscript on a shelf—but we write to be read, and publishing is a business. As Edison said, “life is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”. Understanding that writing is marathon, and not a sprint is a tough lesson to learn.
5. What is your most embarrassing moment?
Our business failure was a humiliating and humbling experience for me. We had followed the advice of the business “gurus” of the 80’s, over-financing the purchase of a little mom-and-pop grocery store in rural Northern Michigan (where I intended to write “The Great American Novel”). Eight years later, we filed for bankruptcy and I became the Loser of the family. It’s been a long time since then, with many successes and not-so-successes. One thing I learned from the experience is that embarrassment is really a state of our own mind. Now my most embarrassing moment has simply become an interesting anecdote in the ever-unfolding story of my life.
Not even Georgia’s founding family can keep its secrets hidden forever.
From the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans, to New Mexico’s sacred Taos Pueblos, and the jungles of Cuba, meet the people who demanded their stories be told, baring their secrets—and sins to the world:
Book One - Passion's Secret
She’d never give in…Camilla Langesford has no intention of letting her ailing father’s Yankee partner steal their plantation. But Patrick O’Grady isn’t like other carpetbaggers. Claiming to be a soft Northern businessman, his powerful body, brooding Irish temper and pewter-gray eyes speak of a dangerous past. And his soul-searing kisses melt her frozen heart—until a deadly secret shatters it.
He’d never give up…Langesford Plantation is the former Pinkerton agent’s last chance to solve a mystery that’s haunted him for four years. But he didn’t plan on the chestnut-haired virgin with smoldering, green eyes and a fiery temper, dogging his every step. And after a secret tryst in a hot-spring grotto, he discovers a treasure worth more than a cache of gold bars—until one night changes everything.
Patrick talked to her from the other end of the pool as he washed, his deep voice young and carefree. “I've heard of hot spring pools, but never thought I’d enjoy one in private with a beautiful woman washing my clothes,” he chuckled.
“Just your shirt, Mr. O’Grady, and this is an emergency situation.” But Camilla couldn't forget the sight of his bare chest, the corded muscles defining his strong arms, or his soft voice when he’d called her beautiful. Suddenly, she ached to reach out to something, or someone.
But certainly not a Yankee! She shouldn’t have brought him to her secret haven where she could lay on the fresh grass and dream of far-away places. Now, the position of the sun told her it was well past luncheon.
“You better hurry,” she called. “Or we'll be late and my honor will be severely compromised.”
“We wouldn't want to do that, would we Camilla?” warmed her ear, and her neck tingled from the caress of his breath.
She turned to meet his smoldering gray gaze and wide smile. A heartbeat later, she was in his arms, her palms resting against the still-damp, curling hairs on his chest.
Her heartbeat quickened at the feel of his warm, moist skin against her fingers, his strong thighs pressing against hers through the thin, cotton dress. And when he kissed her, his lips suckled hers, top lip first, then the bottom, while his tongue tickled them into a smile.
She knew she should stop him, but the heat that spread though her body wouldn’t be denied. She’d never felt anything so...right. With her eyes closed, the curves of her body molding against the sharp angles of his, her hands slid up the rugged landscape of his chest and her arms wrapped around his broad, sinewy shoulders. Then her lips parted to taste him.
Untamed Hearts, Worlds Apart
Raised by Santa Fe missionaries, half-Apache orphan Elena Santiago has vowed to avenge their murders the Apache way. But first, she must masquerade as a white woman to deliver a dangerous message across the country, into the land of her enemies. But more dangerous than the warning she carries, is her heart’s response to the untamed spirit behind Sean O'Grady's smoky grey eyes in a body that reminds her more of an Apache warrior than a soft, white “gentleman”.
Sean O’Grady has always dreamed of exploring the Wild West, but at twenty-five, he’s put aside his dreams to run his family’s Georgia plantation and wed his neighbor. When Elena arrives looking and speaking more like a Spanish lady than an Indian mission girl, he wonders if she's really who she say she is. Is she a virgin or a vixen? The question taunts him as he struggles with feelings he’s never felt for a woman before.
When Sean pulled away, Elena looked into his eyes wondering, is this what love feels like, or is it only lust? She decided that nothing as beautiful as the moment they’d just shared could be evil. But it could never be love, either. She had felt his passion press against her and ached for him to fill her. Now she was grateful that he hadn’t. They were from different worlds that still warred against with each other. He could never survive in her world and she refused to live in his.
As if he read her thoughts, he leaned into her, whispering so close to her ear that it could have been a kiss, "Why can’t you be Mary Louise? And I the Apache brave who will eventually claim you?” Then he turned to stare at the stream that patiently followed the course nature had carved out for it.
The question echoed in Elena's mind. For a moment, his heart had matched the rhythm of hers. The curves of her body had melted into the angles of his as they breathed the same breath and tasted each other’s souls. For a moment, they had truly been one body and one soul.
Now separated, the chilly breeze that stirred the pine needles at their feet told her that when she was with him, even angry, she was whole. And though he changed his moods faster than the mountain gods and was promised to marry a weak and silly white woman, part of her would always belong to this loco Gringo.
She also turned her gaze toward the river. "We can only be who we are."
The more I write about this family the more there is to tell. I’m currently working on two additional books about the Langesford/O’Grady clans:
Passion’s Seed – Flora DeBoucher, the beloved quadroon servant from New Orleans whose secret enslaves her.
Passion’s Promise - Lily O’Grady, the musical prodigy with dreams of becoming the next Lily Langtry, but must help free a nation first.
How long will the O’Gradys demand their stories be told? I hope they never stop.
I'm a Michigan native now happily residing with my retired husband in sunny Southwest Florida where I'm a proud member of RWA, Mid-Michigan Writers and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. I've been in love with historical romance since I first read Gone with the Wind, and with the Wild West even longer. Passion's Secret, Passion's Spirit and the Passion's Legacy Series are the fulfillment of a dream that waited patiently through years of stops, starts, heartbreak, happiness--and several careers--to come true.