Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Author Chat: An Interview with Kaki Warner (with a Giveaway!)

Today, I'm happy to welcome the lovely Kaki Warner to Bloggin' 'bout Books. Kaki's the author of The Blood Rose Trilogy, the first novel of which I reviewed above. The second, Open Country, will be available in June and the final volume, Chasing the Wind, comes out in January 2011.

Me: Welcome, Kaki!

KW: Thanks for inviting me to visit today, Susan. (And thanks for being such a good sport about the Mormon comment—yikes!—busted!)

Me: I'm glad to have you. And, for the millionth time, it's totally find! I thought the Mormon Mention was hilarious. Not offensive. Really!

Me: Tell me about The Blood Rose Trilogy. I just finished the first book, PIECES OF SKY, and I HAVE to know what's going to happen next!

KW: Book 2, OPEN COUNTRY comes out June 1st and I’m very excited about it because even though it centers on a different brother, the characters from Book 1, Brady and Jessica, are still very much on scene. In fact, I couldn’t shut Brady up, bless his heart. This second book is about Hank—the middle brother, the quiet one, the tinkerer, and the family peacemaker when necessary—and Molly, a gifted Civil War nurse on the run with her late sister’s children. After a train derailment, Molly, out of money and desperate to evade the children’s vicious stepfather, marries a severely injured passenger, hoping to get the railroad settlement when he dies. Except the stranger doesn’t die, and when Hank awakens with no memory and a wife and two kids he knows nothing about, things get really complicated. As his memory slowly returns and their sham marriage flounders in a tempest of distrust and betrayal, a killer tracks Molly to the Wilkins ranch, forcing her to decide about how far she will go to protect the man and children she loves.

Book 3, CHASING THE SUN, is Jack’s story. Jack, the adventurer, the wanderer, the one who left, and who now returns to find the ranch in jeopardy and old resentments still unresolved. Trapped between his duty to his brothers, his childhood sweetheart, and a woman from his past, he has to battle his own demons and confront choices about what he owes to his family, himself, and the woman he loves. Oh, yeah. And a bear.

Me: Sounds fun. Why did you choose to write about this place and time (The American Southwest - 1860s)? Why do you think this time period lends itself so easily to romance, especially considering that all those people out on the rancho had to be a dusty, sweaty, stinky bunch?

KW: Stinky? There’s no stink in romance, Susan. Sweat, OK. But no stink.

I think the late 1860s through the 1880s is a very romantic period in our history. Wide open spaces, unlimited possibilities, cheap land, the myth of the cowboy, the Code of the West. Check out Zane Grey’s 1934 book by that title, and you’ll find simple rules of honorable behavior that focused on accountability (sometimes sudden and harsh), hospitality (even to your enemies), respect for women (and your horse), where the bad guys were really bad, and the good guys were only marginally bad, and what you did today was more important than what you did in the past. It was a glorious, violent, lawless time in our history, and for those with the courage to prevail against an unforgiving land and hostile climate, the rewards could be great. And then, of course, what could be more romantic than a handsome man on a fine-looking horse riding off into the sunset?

Me: Agreed. One of the big themes in PIECES OF SKY is the importance of the land. Why do you think land was so important to the early settlers? As a desert dweller who lives in a dry, dusty place filled with lizards, scorpions, cactus, coyotes, etc., I sometimes wonder exactly what Jessica does in the book - How can anyone love a place as brown and untamed as this? What do you think? Just like me, you've lived in both the desert and the Pacific Northwest - which suits you more?

KW: Land is forever. It was here before we came and it’ll cradle us when we die. That continuity is what gives us our sense of history, of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. As dramatic as it sounds, I feel that open land is the best of the human spirit put in tangible form, and how we take care of it, now and back then, decides whether we survive or not. I think Jessica comes to realize that—and grows to love it for its durability and uncompromising honesty, even though it isn’t always beautiful, or kind, or gentle—sort of like Brady. Land is life.

Granted, some parts of that life are less loveable than others, which is why I picked a setting that covers both the starkness of the desert and the lushness of a high mountain ranch. It’s a lot like the country I live in now—almost mountains and almost desert—where we still have cougars, rattlers, coyotes, bears, deer, and now re-located wolves (not sure about that one), and we also endure snow and sub-zero temps in the winter, and more sun than we want in summer. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Me: I know you grew up in Texas riding horses and such, but how would you have survived in one of your stories? You know, no regular bathing, living in isolation on a rancho, birthing babies without epidurals, fending off sexy cowboys, etc.?

KW: Epidurals? Is that some new fangled name for that leather strip you’re supposed to bite on? Hmmm. After the first birth—being a quick learner and not that fond of pain—I probably would have put a stop to that foolishness by sending off for a box of those rubber sheaths Charles Goodyear invented in 1853. Isolation? My husband and I, along with our stinky coon dog and a whiny cat live eighty miles from a mall or the nearest COSTCO, which to some might be “living in isolation.” Suits us fine. As to regular bathing, if you have a rain barrel, a crick, a river, a water trough, a well, or a pond (which we would call a “tank” in Texas), you can bathe. Did they back then? Maybe in summer. In a romance? Daily. As for fending off sexy cowboys—I would endeavor to persevere. But not very hard.

Me: 1853? I did NOT know that. LOL.

What would you say to readers who (like me) may be a tiny bit reluctant to pick up a book that is not only a western, but also a romance? Why should they read your trilogy?

KW: Because they want people to see how smart and discerning they are. Or because they want to broaden their horizons. Or because it has a beautiful cover. Or because I dare you NOT to like the characters. It’s a good story. Try it. You might like it.

Me: Are there any other genres that appeal to you or do you think you'll stick with westerns/historical romance?

KW: I like most everything. I read most everything, as long as it has strong characters and a compelling story. For now I’ll stick to this genre since I’ve already done all the research.

Me: Tell me about your path to becoming a published writer. Did you enjoy writing as a child? Did you dream about growing up to be a writer? How has your life changed now that you're an "almost semi-famous author?"

KW: My path to publications was long and full of detours. I started Pieces of Sky over twenty-five years ago after reading a ghastly book and thinking surely I could do better. The first draft wasn’t. So I set it aside and went back to life, and family, and kids. But every now and then I’d drag the manuscript back out and re-do this and revise that before some other detour pulled me away again. Then about four years ago I found the manuscript in storage, and before throwing it out, decided to give it another read. It wasn’t that bad. Or that good. So I did another re-write and entered it in several contests for feedback. After making suggested changes, I tightened my cinch (so to speak) and started sending out queries. Four months later, I was happily tucked under the wing of a great agent (Nancy Coffey), and contracted to a great editor at Berkley (Wendy McCurdy) and had the distinction of becoming the oldest living instant twenty-five year overnight semi-success. The only thing that has changed since then is that complete strangers, who are brilliant and discerning (much like yourself) send me questions to ponder, as if my answers actually have meaning. Amazing. But no paparazzi yet. Or calls from Oprah. So far.

Me: Did you read as a child? What were your favorite books? How about now?

KW: Of course I read as a child. I may have grown up in Texas, but I wasn’t raised by badgers. Not really. Favorite picture book? Petunia the Silly Goose. Favorite I-can-read-it-myself book? White Fang. Favorite book now? Pieces of Sky, of course. Or maybe Open Country. Or Chasing the Sun. Hmmm. Such wonderful choices. (Does that sound too self-promoting?)

In truth, I have tons of authors I love, in all different genres. Dean Koontz, Bernard Cornwell, Sara Donati, Jodi Thomas, Eloise James, Jane Austen, Nelson DeMille, Larry McMurtry, Michael Crichton, Ken Follett, Dan Brown, Robert Parker…getting bored, yet?

Me: Badgers? LOL. I wasn't trying to "mess with Texas" - I'm just amazed how many writers discovered reading later in life. Apparently, you're not one of them :)

Is it really a secret, or can you tell me what you're working on now?

KW: I’m currently working on a proposal for a trilogy about four women who get stranded in a dying mining town in Colorado in 1870. That, and convincing my husband to enlarge our kitchen.

Me: Finally, I ask this of every author I interview simply because I found the answers fascinating in their variety: How do you write? Do you outline or just let the words come? Do you write on a set schedule or wait for the muse to strike? Where do you write? Is there anything you HAVE to have by your side when you write (food/beverage/lucky object, etc.). What sets you apart from other authors?

KW: Good question. For this trilogy, since the ranch is the home for all three books, I came up with the setting first. Then the brothers. Once I had them in my mind, their individual personalities dictated the tone of each book, and their motivations determined the plot points. Then I wrote scenes, discarded half of them, and heavily edited what was left. And finally, I read every page aloud to find faulty transitions and redundant words, and to entertain the dog.

I try to write twenty polished, edited pages a week, my final goal being to submit manuscripts that don’t have to be returned for re-writes and can go straight to copyediting. So far I’m two out of three. (I hate revising).

I write in a lovely office my husband built for me with wraparound windows and a wonderful view of the Sawtooth Mountains, except for that tree he planted just outside the window, but we won’t get into that.

What sets me apart from other authors? My late start. That, and my astonishing luck that it even happened at all. There are a lot of great writers out there still waiting for their chance.

So there you have it. The life story of an almost semi-famous twenty-five-year overnight success. Have I inspired you to write? Maybe. Have I convinced you NEVER to give up? I hope so.

Me: Thanks so much, Kaki!

KW: Thanks, Susan, for letting me spout off today. It’s been grand.

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Isn't she fun? Even if I hated her book, I think I'd still love Kaki. As it is, love the book, love the author.

Thanks to Kaki's publicist, I have one copy of Pieces of Sky to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post answering this question: What's the best western and/or romance you've ever read? Be sure to leave me an email address if you don't have a public blog that you check regularly. Spread the word about the giveaway (post on your blog/sidebar, Tweet, Facebook, whatever) and I'll give you extra entries (1 extra entry per method of spreading the word). Deadline to enter is April 15. Open to readers in the U.S. only.

Good luck!

9 comments:

  1. Great interview; I love it when authors mention their favorite authors. So many of Kaki's favorites are favorites of mine. And I do like romance, and I do like Westerns, Lonesome Dove being my favorite in this genre. Thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

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  2. Well...I love Historical romance novels and Westerns! (does Louis Lamour count?)
    Thanks for the intro to a new author!
    One of my favorite romance novels is an older book, "The Rosary" by Florence L. Barclay, but I haven't read it in ages!

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  3. Linda Lael Miller is probably the one I'd pick for greatest writer of western/romances. As I went to Amazon to put Kaki's books on my wishlist, I was tickled to note that Amazon has
    Warner's & Miller's books connected as "Frequently Bought Together". I love historicals too so with Warner, I get western historical, romance and a thriller rolled up in one. Like I said, definitely on my wishlist.(I got Mother's Day & my Birthday coming soon)

    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com
    http://lisaslovesbooksofcourse.blogspot.com/
    (\___/)
    (='.'=) Happy Easter from Bun!
    (")_(")

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  4. Oh... best romance ever??? I read a book when I was in high school... one of those 80s teen novels. It was called P.S. I Love You. Freaky that I still remember it. The P.S. stood for Palm Springs, where the main character was vacationing and then fell in love with a guy named Paul S____. I can't remember the name... but weird that I remember that much. I'm going to look for the book on Amazon... see if any of my daughters want to read it.

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  5. I love the old Louis L'Amours. I've been rereading the Kilkenny series recently, just soaking up the atmosphere.

    Great interview! Thanks!

    message@sarahmanderson.com

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  6. These is my Words was pretty western-y. I loved that book! Thank you for the giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

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  7. I echo what Sue said...These Is My Words by Nancy Turner.

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  8. Oops...email
    melmccurdyATsbcglobalDOTcom

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  9. I haven't read too many westerns yet, but a couple western romances that stand out in my mind are "The heavenly Surrender" and "Dusty Britches" by Marcia McClure. She is the master of romance who can spend two pages describing one kiss. (I know you don't love romances, but hers make you giggle and sigh) :) Thanks for the giveaway!
    bchild5@aol.com

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