Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Q&A with Kaki Warner and a book giveaway!

Welcome Kaki Warner to the Romance Reviews Today blog!! Plus, we'll have a giveaway for a copy of Pieces of Sky!

1. Tell us about your newest release.

My newest release is also my first release, which is a dream come true. Pieces of Sky, Book 1 of the Blood Rose Trilogy, is Brady’s story. As the eldest of the three Wilkins brothers, he’s the man in charge of their sprawling ranch in the mountains of New Mexico Territory of 1869. Already haunted by the violence of the past and desperate to protect what family he has left from a madman bent on revenge, the last thing he needs in his life is a prim, proper, rule-spouting English spinster, who also happens to be five months pregnant and on the run from her rapist. But that’s exactly what happens when their stagecoach slides over a cliff. Forced to recover in the male-dominated household at the Wilkins ranch, Jessica Thornton begins to reevaluate all her carefully penned rules of deportment as antipathy slowly becomes attraction and she learns that what’s “proper” might not always be what’s “right”. Against a backdrop of violence, vengeance, and unspeakable loss, these two wounded souls learn to trust again, and through laughter and courage find redemption, forgiveness and ultimately, love.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Twenty-five years ago, after my husband and I moved from the sunny Southwest to the rainy Northwest and I tried to combat the gloom by reading, reading, reading. After wasting five hours on a truly awful book, I thought, hey, I can do that. So I wrote the first draft of what has evolved into Pieces of Sky. It was pretty awful, too, I have to say. So I put it aside and went back to living life. Then four years ago, I came across the manuscript in storage and before throwing it out, decided to give it another read. Still pretty awful, but not terrible awful. So I did another rewrite, entered it into several contests for feedback, made some changes, and then sent it out. Four months later I had an agent and a publisher, and now here I am, a twenty-five year overnight success. Better late than never, I guess.

3. Where do you get your information or ideas for your stories?

A lot of it comes from personal experience. I grew up in the Southwest (although I didn‘t live in mountains until we moved to Washington state), so I’m familiar with the climate, the geography, and the mindset of people who live close to nature and have a deep commitment to the land. I’ve also raised horses, and herded cattle, and I stayed in a Best Western once, which is almost like a Holiday Inn, only farther west.


4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I read every word aloud. It earns funny looks from the dog and my husband, but hearing what I’ve written really helps me pinpoint redundancies, awkward transitions and overly wordy dialogue. I also talk to my characters. Mostly, I fuss at them for doing things that will get them in trouble, or I laugh at them when they do something ridiculous. So far, they haven’t talked back, so I guess I’m still sane. Sorta.

5. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That people liked it. Let me explain that. I didn’t write Pieces of Sky to match any genre guidelines, or to target a specific market, or to fit any pre-conceived molds of what would sell and what wouldn’t. I just wrote about a place I loved, peopled it with characters I would liked to have known, and set before them obstacles that aren’t that much different from what people might face today. Grief, loss, guilt, redemption. I was told it would never sell because it wasn’t a “traditional” romance, nor was it a “regular” western or “historical” enough for a true historical, and too violent for the women’s market. I sent it out anyway, because I believed in the story and I loved the characters, and because I promised them I would try to get their story out there. (Maybe I’m a little insane, after all). Luckily, I found an agent willing to take me on, and a publisher courageous enough to buck the market. To my delight, the book has been well received.

6. What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?

The author of that terrible book all those years ago was my biggest influence, because he/she gave me the courage to try to write a better one. I also had a wonderful friend who badgered me to go back to writing, even as we rode through the hills singing off-key cowboy ballads and herding cows (which were already stampeding away from us because of our singing, so it wasn’t that hard.) After her death five years ago, I thought a lot about what she said. Now she’s listed in the dedication. I think she’d be proud.

7. What does your family think about your career as a published author?

They think any minute now we’re going to be rich and famous. Just kidding. Maybe. Actually, they’ve been incredibly supportive. And maybe only a little surprised. They’ve also been hugely helpful regarding railroads (my husband’s a train geek), and weaponry (my son’s a weapons geek) and marketing (my daughter devised my web page and has spent endless frustrating hours trying to teach me about blogs, Facebook vs. Fanpage, e-newsletters, cyber-speak and how to navigate various social networking media.) I just smile and nod while plotting the next book in my head.


8. Can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you writing wise?

Not only can I tell you, I can bore you to tears about it. Book 2 of this trilogy, Open Country, will be out on June 1st. This story is about Hank, the tinkerer, the quiet one, the smart middle brother. After suffering near-fatal injuries in a train derailment, he awakens to find himself with a wife and two kids, none of whom he remembers. Not surprising, since his wife, Molly, desperate to protect her niece and nephew from their vicious stepfather, married him while he was in a coma, thinking when he died she would get the railroad settlement. Of course, he doesn’t die, and the vicious stepfather sends a tracker to the ranch, and Hank’s memory returns and he realizes his marriage is a sham and the woman he’s grown to love has deceived him and…well, things get really complicated then.
Book 3, which is Jack’s story, will be out in 2011. He’s the restless one, the wanderer and dreamer. After a three-year absence, he returns to the ranch, hoping to win his childhood sweetheart, only to have a woman from his past show up with a baby who has eyes just like his. In addition to that, horses are getting sick, the ranch is in trouble, and old enemies are threatening financial ruin. Then things get worse; his old love chooses the church over him, his new love has dreams of her own that don’t include a womanizing, gambling, wanderer, and a deadly spring storm almost kills them all. Luckily, none of the horses die. But as for the rest… you’ll have to buy the book!


Kaki Warner is the award-winning author of the Blood Rose Trilogy (Berkley Trade, Pieces of Sky, January 2010, Open Country,June 2010, Chasing the Wind, 2011), a historical series about the unpredictable West and the men and women who brought it to life against all odds. Although Kaki now lives on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, she actually grew up in the Southwest. Her years spent riding horses and enjoying the expansive views of Texas became the inspiration for the backdrop of her novels – the wide open spaces of historic New Mexico Territory. Kaki spends her time gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and soaking in the view from the deck of her hilltop cabin with her husband and floppy-eared hound dog. For more information, please visit Kaki's website at http://www.kakiwarner.com/.

Now, for the contest....Have a question for Kaki or want to comment on her books or this interview? Post away and I'll pick and announce the winner on Friday night (Feb. 19th).

Good luck!

25 comments:

CrystalGB said...

Hi Kaki. Great interview. Congratulations on your debut release. Your books sounds wonderful.

Sue (okibi_insanity) said...

Hi Kaki! Congrats on the new release! I already am intrigue with you novel just by giving us an intro to it. I am curious how Jessica and Brady meet. I would love to win a copy. Thanks for stopping by and introducing us to your novel.

Sue
okibi_insanity[at]yahoo[dot]com

Memmaker said...

Can't wait for Open Country, but I'm already crying from the emotion Hank will have because of this huge betrayal!! The emotion you bring to your books are so vivid! Can't wait to find out how it works out. It will work out right?

Kaki Warner said...

Thanks for the kind welcome ladies, And yes, Memmaker, it all works out. This is a romance, after all, and happy endings are required, even though there may be some rough spots along the way. I hope you enjoy.

tetewa said...

I've been hearing alot about this one, sounds good. Congrats on the release!

cyndi said...

(Since I have a copy of this book, no need to add my name to the giveaway list). I just wanted to say that after hearing all the buzz and reading the great reviews, I took a chance on this western romance (which I don't normally read). And now I want to say thank you Kaki Warner! Your book surpassed my expectations, it was wonderful and now I'm recommending it to every reader I know. The characters were great; intelligent, witty, and passionate, and the plot was a real page turner, I actually read it twice and I can't wait for the next book to come out. Congrats on a terrific debut novel!!

sherry said...

Congratulations on your new release your books sound really good.

chey said...

Hi Kaki!
I've heard good things about your book!

chey127 at hotmail dot com

CallMeKayla said...

Congrats on the book release Kaki! Always exciting to hear about new books.

Estella said...

I have been seeing this around the net. It sounds wonderful.

flchen1 said...

Hi, Kaki! Congrats on your 25-year overnight success! ;) Your books sound lovely, and very real. I do enjoy stories about redemption and forgiveness--I'm adding your books to my TBB.

Congratulations on your successes! How have you celebrated? And can you share your call story (when you made your first sale?)?

Kaki Warner said...

Thanks, tetewa, Cyndi, Sherry, Chey, Kayla and Estella. Ya'll have been so welcoming.

Flchen1, as to celebrating--I've been so busy since PoS came out last month, I haven't had much chance to even catch my breath. But trust me, I will celebrate. As to my "call story"...it wasn't as dramatic as I expected. Probably because it was 25 years coming. I remember holding the phone to my ear, thinking, "Well, about freaking time." Very calm. But that night I awoke with the paranoid thought that maybe it wasn't real and I had dreamed it all. It wasn't until I held that first finished store-ready copy in my hands that I really, truly believed. It was a great feeling.

denise said...

Great post!! I've been reading a lot of good things about you. I can't wait to read your book. Best of luck!!

Martha Lawson said...

Hi!! This sounds so good - I can't wait to read it.. Best of luck.

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Lady_Graeye said...

Hi Kaki! Congrats on it's release. I hear great reviews about this book. I am anxious to get your next one as well when it comes out in June.

Cybercliper said...

Hi Kaki - congrats on your recent release. The blog world has had great things to say about Pieces of Sky and I look forward to adding it to my TBB list!

Syeda Nessa said...

How does it feel to write your first novel? Did you always know that you wanted to be an author? Did you always know that you wanted to write romance books?
Also i cant wait for to read your new book. It sounds wonderful!

Kaki Warner said...

Thanks, Cybercliper, Lady Graeye, Martha and Denise. I've been lucky that so many reviewers have taken a look at a debut novel.

Syeda, I didn't set out to write a romance. I just wanted to tell an interesting story, set in a time and a place I loved, involving mostly believable characters. My editor put the "romance" label on it, which is a good thing since romances account for almost half of the books sold. Even though the cover and the opening scene aren't the usual "traditional romance" fare, I feel the love story in PoS is very traditional, and of course, it has its happy ending.

flchen1 said...

Oh, Kaki! I can only imagine how amazing a feeling it is to be holding your first printed copies! Congratulations!! And LOL on your reaction to "the call"!

Are you going to reserve a big shelf in your office to showcase your print copies? Maybe with a framed cover flat nearby? :)

In any event, hope you'll have time to celebrate in your own way soon! In the meantime, enjoy the hubbub!

Kaki Warner said...

flchen1, I already have framed copies of covers for Books 1 and 2 over my desk--very inspirational--and a little shocking to see my name up there. Everything about this "hubbub is surprising, including being asked to visit all these blogs. Remarkable how much smarter and more interesting I seem to have become since the book came out. Odd, that. (LOL)

catslady said...

I love that you write what you want to and not what is hot at the moment or fits into a certain category. Truly those are the best books. I find it interesting that you read your books out loud - seems like a great idea!!

Kaki Warner said...

It really helps, Catslady. I can read a paragraph five times and think it's perfect. But when I read it aloud, I realize I've used the same word twice, or there are words I don't need, even words left out, or the pacing is all wrong. It really helps in tightening dialogue, too. Whatever works, I guess.

Maureen said...

Congratulations on your debut release. It's great that you were able to write exactly what you wanted to.

Laurie said...

Kaki,

What perseverance! I'm amazed at your dedication. 4 years of entering contests and getting feedback. Congrats on your success!

I like the synopsis of each of the stories in your "Blood Red" trilogy.

You're lucky to have such a supportive family!

Now that you've sold this series, do you feel more stressed out trying to come up with future ideas for books?

Did you choose the titles for your books?

Best Wishes!

Kaki Warner said...

Hi Laurie. It was only a little over two years of entering contests--it's taken about a year and a half to get the book to market. It's a slow business. As for a new series, I already have one on proposal with my editor, about four women who meet on a train and become stranded in a dying Colorado mining town.

And funny you should ask about titles--I just this week went back and forth with my editor about the title of Jack's book. PoS was an original title, Open Country was chosen by consensus, and Jack's, is half mine, meaning it changed from Chasing the Wind to Chasing the Sun. That fits him better, since as a traveling man, he's always chasing the sun west. But no matter what I have as a working title, it's ultimately up to the publisher to approve it. I've been lucky, both in that, and the beautiful covers they've come up with. Berkley has taken great care of me.