Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Q&A with Kaki Warner and a book giveaway!
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.
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).