About Me

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Welcome to Heartstrings.Thanks for stopping by. I am a mother, a grandmother, and an author of historical western romance and contemporary romantic fiction. Ethan's Heart, book one of The Blackwood Brothers' series won the 2017 Maggie Award for Excellence. Book two, Escorting Darby Bloom, features Blackwood brother Isaac and will be released in December 2017. Stay tuned for more books in this series. If contemporaries are more your thing, check out Carly's Rule and Dusty's Fate. They are both Amazon Best-Sellers.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Interview with Kathryn J. Bain
The author who writes clean fiction with an edge.

Catch Your Breath
1.  What inspired you to write your first book?

When I first started writing, I was going to do screenplays.  I even wrote one about a hermaphrodite male who had a baby.  It didn't come out too good.  I also found out that you really needed to live in Hollywood or New York so you could easily make changes during filming.  I like Florida, so I ditched that idea.

Then I was going to write a children's book.  After all, it's only 30 pages, how hard could that be?  Boy was I dumb.  I actually did get published for a short story I wrote for children and a non-fiction piece on the web.  But in the end, everything I read said to write what you read.  Since my kids were all grown, I didn't read children's books anymore, so I started writing suspense.  And lo and behold, I was discovered.

2.  What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why? 

I actually have to say there has not been one person who stands out that has helped me.  I've had help from a lot of people.  My writing groups have been very supportive.  My critique group has kicked my backside to become a better writer, and my family and friends kept telling me to go for it.

3.  As an author of Christian Romance, do you come up with the spiritual problem for the hero and heroine first and then build their story around that?

This is terrible to say, but I usually come up with the crime first.  Then I figure out what's the big problem going to stop them, and how will God get them through. 

4.  How do you come up with your story ideas? 

I get story ideas from songs, commercials, people talking, basically anywhere and everywhere.  The concept for Breathless came from the Toby Keith song, God Love Her.  I loved the idea of the Bible on the motorcycle, so I started there, then added a stalker, a tattooed, long hair, motorcycle riding preacher, and a beautiful woman.

5.  What is the most difficult or challenging part of the writing process for you?

I hate setting my scenes.  I'm not very good at it.  I know where they're at, why can't my readers read my mind?

6.  What is your writing schedule like?  Do you write for a set amount of hours or pages?  Do you prefer to write in the morning or evening?

I get up at 5:30 in the morning, exercise for about twenty minutes, shower, then I write until 7:20 when I need to eat and get dressed for work.  In the evening, I might revise a manuscript if I have one finished.  But my best work is done in the morning.

7.What is your current work-in-progress, and can you describe it in a few lines.

I actually have two.  One I've finished writing, and it's at my critique group.  It's a suspense (non-inspirational, but clean) titled Repent.  My heroine is an executioner for the government.  I'm also working on an inspirational book titled The Aftermath.  It's individual stories about how the murder of a child affects people ten years after.

8.  Describe your writing space.  That one corner of the house that is all yours.

It's nothing fancy.  Just a desk with a 27" monitor.  I use my monitor for my television also, so I can't be distracted by TV when I write.  I keep it fairly clean.  I can't work in a mess.

9.  Do you have a personal writing goal?  

To win a Pulitzer.  Ha, ha, ha.  Really, I'll never be disappointed if my name is never called.  I'm not that deep, so I'll never get one.  If you do hear my name announced, it's because I bribed someone on the committee.  My ultimate goal is to earn enough money writing so I can do it full-time.  Right now, I work as a paralegal part-time.

10.  What are you most proud of accomplishing in your life?

I've raised two wonderful daughters.  They're both good to other people.  I'd like to think I instilled that in them.

11.  What is the strangest thing that ever happen to you at a conference, workshop booksigning or presentation?  What is the funniest?

I hear all types of weird stories, yet none of them happen to me.  Could it be that I'm the weird story, and I just don't know it?

12.  Do you ever experience writer's block?  If so, how do you cope?  

I've never experienced writer's block  If I get stuck on dialogue or where I want to go, I get up and walk around and play the story out, talking to myself as one of the characters.  I usually have an answer in five to ten minutes.  Of course, my dog thinks I'm nuts, but as long as I feed her, she doesn't really care.

13.  Do you plot out your books, or do you write by the seat of your pants?  Do you have any writing tips you'd like to share?

I do a bit of both plotting and by the seat of my pants.  What I do is come up with several ideas or scenes and write them out in paragraph form.  Then I start to work around them.  And I do write from chapter 1 until the end.

The best writing tip I can give is know who you're learning from.  There are a lot of con people out there who have written books on getting published in fiction that have never been published in fiction.  Also get in some writing groups, especially those that have published authors.  You always want to hang with people who are where you want to be or that are higher in position than you.  Unfortunately, I'm no longer allowed at the Ponte Vedra Inn or the doctor's lounge at St. Lukes Hospital.

14.  Kathy, as a teenager, I loved The Girl of the Limberlost.  It was my favorite book then, and I still love it today.  Do you have a favorite book?

I never really had a favorite book.  As a kid, I loved reading mysteries.  I couldn't get enough of the Hardy Boys.  Loved them.

15.  On a person note, name three things you cannot live without.

My daughters, my dog, and dessert.  (See how I did that.  It encompasses chocolate, pie, cake, everything I love without having to choose one.) 

16.  What advice would you like to pass along to other writers?

Sit in the chair and write.  It doesn't have to be good.  It doesn't have to make sense, just do it.  And turn off your phone, television and social networking sites.  You can't get work done if you're responding on Facebook every hour.

Kathryn, thanks for a terrific interview!


Kathryn J. Bain has been writing for over ten years now. Her first release Breathless came out January 13, 2012. Her novella Game of Hearts was released on March 1, 2012. Her third book Catch Your Breath will be released later this year. She has two daughters, and is the former President of Florida Sisters in Crime. Currently, she is the Public Relations Director and Membership Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. To survive and pay bills, she has been a paralegal for over twenty years and works for an attorney who specializes in elder law. She moved from Idaho to Jacksonville, Florida in 1983 and has lived in the sunshine since.

Please visit Kathryn at her website KathrynJBain.com

Or on Facebook  KathrynJBainAuthor

Monday, April 9, 2012

Interview with USA Today Bestselling Author
Kathie DeNosky

 1.  What inspired you to write your first book?

I think the inspiration to write my first book was a combination of events that came together at the same time.  My youngest child had just started kindergarten, and I had some spare time on my hands.  I read a book that I decided I would have ended differently if I had been the author, and we had just bought our first computer.  Since I have always loved writing--I was probably the only kid in my high school who actually loved writing term papers--I sat down at the new computer with an idea for my story.  Six months later as I typed The End to that book, another set of characters started whispering in my ear for me to tell their story.  That was over 30 books and several computers ago, and I'm still having just as much fun now as I was back then.

2.  What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I think the biggest influence in my writing career would have to be my best friends and sister authors, Kristi Gold and Roxann Delaney.  Their encouragement and support have been invaluable.  We brainstorm our plots together, lend a sympathetic ear when times are tough and keep each other motivated.

3.  What is your writing schedule like?  For example, do you write anytime of the day, or do you prefer a specific time?  Do you write for a specific number of hours or pages?

My writing schedule is all over the place.  I've been known to sit at the computer for twelve to sixteen hours straight when I'm working on a tight deadline.  I'm also notorious for staying up all night writing, then sleeping a few hours during the day, only to get up and do it all over again.  I do try to write a specific number of pages a day, and I've found my most creative time to write is in the wee hours of the morning.  But as I said, when the deadline is tight, I'll write as much as needed and for as long as needed in order to get the book finished.

4.  What is the most difficult or challenging part of the writing process for you?

For me, the biggest challenge of the writing process is finding myself at the end of a book and not wanting to let go.  By the time I reach the final pages, the characters have become so real to me that I want to keep writing about them.

5.  Do you ever experience writer's block?  If so, how do you cope with it?

Fortunately, I've never really experienced writer's block.  I do have times when I come to a scene that isn't working, and I need to figure out why it isn't working.  When that happens, I usually take a walk, do laundry, wash dishes--anything to take my mind off the book.  Then when I go back to the computer, I look at the scene with a fresh eye and know almost immediately what I need to do to "fix" the problem.

6.  How long does it take you to finish a book?

I'm quite comfortable writing a book in two to three months.  That gives me a chance to have a life outside of my writing life.  Unfortunately, I don't always have that luxury.  I've written a book in as little as three weeks, and a few years ago, I wrote five books and a novella in 11 months.  It was hard to keep that pace, and I wouldn't want to do it again, but it can be done if the deadlines demand it.

7.  What is your personal writing goal?

My personal writing goal is to continue to write the best book I possibly can.  I want my readers to remember my books long after the story has ended.  Will I ever write a bigger book?  If I have an idea that doesn't fit within the parameters of the series genre, the answer is yes.  If not, I'm quite happy writing for Harlequin Desire.

8.  Describe your writing space, that one corner of the house that is dedicated to your writing.

I'm actually in the process of setting up my office in a different room.  Not the smartest thing to do with back-to-back deadlines, but then I was never known for being the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  LOL.  It's taking twice as long to get finished because I have to juggle my time between writing and arranging the office.  The only picture I have of the new office is of the wallpaper boarder that I think is perfect for a romance author.  What do you all think?
9.  If you could choose anywhere in the world to write, where would it be and why?

One of the things I love the most about being a writer is the ability to take my work with me.  As long as I have a laptop, I can go anywhere and still work.  But if I had to choose one place, it would have to be on top of a mountain in a little cabin in the Smoky Mountains.  The view is spectacular, it's peaceful and very inspiring.  In fact, I've worked on several books while I vacationed there and could see myself making it my permanent place to live and write.

10.   What are you most proud of accomplishing in your life?

I'm proud of my career, and it was an honor and thrill to make the USA Today Bestseller list, but my greatest accomplishments and the ones I'm the most proud of are my three children.

11.  What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you, either at a booksigning, a conference, or in any way associated with your writing?  What is the funniest?

I think the strangest thing that ever happened to me at a booksigning is also the funniest.  A reader came up to me and while I signed her book, she lowered her voice and said that she had heard a romance author draws on her own experience to write love scenes.  She then asked me if that was true.  Being the smart-mouth that I am, without missing a beat I pointed to my husband, who by that time was in a wheelchair due to complications from diabetes.  "Do you see that man over there?" I asked.  When she said yes, I asked, "Do you know why he's in a wheelchair?"  Clearly puzzled she looked at Charlie then at me and shook her head no.  I smiled and told her, "Well, the reason he's in such bad shape is because I've just completely worn him out."  we both laughed, but to this day, I'm not all together sure she didn't believe me.  LOL.

12.  Name three things you can't live without.

Oh, that's easy.  Chocolate, coffee and country music.

13.  When you read for pleasure, are you drawn more to romance, or do you find yourself reading all genres?

I don't have a lot of time to read for pleasure anymore, but when I do, I definitely prefer romance.  From the time I was a little girl, I always loved the stories with a happily-ever-after.  I don't see that ever changing.

14.  What advice or tips would you like to pass along to other writers?

Learn the craft of writing, but don't become so hung up on the technical aspects of crafting a book that you lose sight of writing a good story.  When I judge contests or critique a writer's work, more times than I care to count I've seen manuscripts that are technically perfect, i.e. grammar and style.  But the story fell flat because the characters were one dimensional and the plot lacked the spark that keeps a reader turning pages.


USA Today Bestselling Author, Kathie DeNosky has written 31 books since the release of her first book in May of 2000.  Kathie’s books have received numerous awards, including two National Reader's Choice Awards, a Write Touch Reader's Award, several Awards of Excellence from the Reviewer’s International Organization, as well as nominations for Best Harlequin Desire of the year and a Career Achievement Award by Romantic Times Magazine.

Writing highly sensual stories spiced with a good dose of humor, Kathie has seen her books translated into 26 different languages, and has well over a million copies of her books in print world-wide.

Thank you, Kathie for a great interview.

Please visit Kathie at her website  www.KathieDeNosky.com

Or on Facebook  Kathie DeNosky Author

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Interview with Summer Stephens, Historical Researcher and Author of Fiction and Non-Fiction

1.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I am scatterbrained and easily distracted, but I'm cute and have a good sense of humor. This year I will celebrate my twenty-ninth wedding anniversary with my husband Bob, who had the chance to run for his life in 1983 and didn't take it. We have no human children. Our family consists of close relatives and friends, four legged critters with manes, tails, paws, and hooves, and two leggeds with feathers and wings. In another life, I was an equine massage therapist and saddle fitter. I have owned a graphic design business, and worked with endangered Philippine red-vented cockatoos. I am wildly crazy about Duran Duran. I love contemporary jazz, and Sting. I read incessantly. I inhale French fries. And chocolate. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily at the same time. (Just sometimes.)

2.  What inspired you to write?

Available on Amazon
I'm good with words, I'm an amazingly good speller, and I like the way words look on the page. I can't paint, draw, dance, sculpt, or create anything "artistic," but I can arrange words on a page so they are pleasing to the eye and convey a message. Words are art to me. I don't read words as a series of letters, I see them as pictures and images of what they represent, and I love them for that. My eye absorbs the word and my mind fills with images, and I wish everyone could read that way.  Some words are just beautiful - like "wisteria." I think that is the most beautiful word in the English language. And the word "chicken" always makes me laugh. It's just a funny word! I mean, look at it! "Chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken." Hahahahahaaaaaa...
I like when words make me laugh, or think, or cry, or angry, or afraid. Words should always have the power to invoke those emotions, and if they are written, combined, and positioned properly, they do. This is part of what is called "reader experience."

3.  What has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I once saw a greeting card with this on it: "If you hear a voice within you saying 'you are not a painter,' then by all means, paint. And that voice will be silenced." ~ Vincent van Gogh. Of course, I bought the card and stuck it on my wall. I see it every day. I think that is the most powerful thing any artist can do, no matter the medium. It's hard to do, of course, when you think you suck, but first you write to please your ear. (Or in my case, my eye.) Then you have your "wow" moment when you realize you've thrown something down on the page that you can work with. I love that moment.

4.  What is your current work-in-progress, and can you summarize it in a few lines?

My current WIP is a historical romance set in 1779 British St Augustine, between a wealthy Englishwoman and an impoverished indentured worker from the Mediterranean island of Minorca. It is fiction-based-on-fact, and gave me an outlet to use my twenty-some years' worth of research on the indentured workers who came to Florida in 1767 from Minorca, Greece, and Italy. They came here to populate a plantation that would later become the town of New Smyrna Beach. The real story is poignant, important, and a sadly-ignored part of American history.

5.  As a historical researcher, how do you draw on the historical facts for your stories?

Historical researcher. Hmm. That's really kind of you. What I actually am is an insatiably curious information-addict who cannot pass by a historical marker, falling-down house, or sign that points to a "historical attraction."  Or a cemetery. Good golly, I love old cemeteries. And research libraries. Basically, what happens is I "meet" someone who has been, well, dead, for many, many years, and I become fascinated with that person. As I research and get to know them, and complete the "big picture" that was their life, I use details I know about the time period to "fill in around the edges." I also create corresponding characters to tell the story. I use actual people very sparingly and try to portray them in context, the way I understand them from my reading and research. I wasn't in British St Augustine in 1779, so rather than overuse "real" people who were, I created characters to be "assistants" or "friends" to actual historic figures, and I let them tell the story. Gives me more freedom and also allows for interesting plot points to pop up. For instance, one of my "created" characters in my current WIP turned out to have an ugly secret, but I didn't know that until I was almost done with the book! (C'mon, say it with me: re-write...)

6.  What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Wow, that's a hard one. I enjoy the advantage of not having another "real" job so I don't worry about having time to write, or a place to write, or something to write about. I think what has been most difficult these past two years is that I went back to school to study historic preservation, thinking I could do school and write at the same time. I tried, and while I was great at school, I was atrocious at making time to write. I have overachiever tendencies, which my husband will tell you is like saying Noah experienced light rain and drizzle. Trying to maintain an A in school came at the price of having to set my book on the back burner. My incredibly supportive husband sat me down after finals last December and gently pointed out to me that the "write and go to school at the same time" thing just wasn't working out. He assured me he would remain supportive no matter what my decision, but he encouraged me to drop school, if only for spring semester, and focus on my book. So I sobbed for a while and then I took his suggestion. I miss school but I love being able to focus on my writing. It was the right thing to do. (Sob.)

7.  What is your writing schedule like?  For example, do you write any time of the day or do you prefer a specific time of day?  Do you write for a specific amount of hours or pages?

I write all the time. I have a Kindle Fire, and I use My Writing Spot (a Google program), which allows me to put whatever I am working on on my Fire, and work on it anytime, anywhere. My "workday" ends around 5:30 or 6 pm, so I take my Fire into the living room and squeeze in some editing or revising or writing while we are watching TV or whatever. I also take my Fire with me wherever I go, so if I find myself with some free minutes, I have something to do.

8.  Do you ever experience writer’s block?  If so, how do you cope with it?

I can't think of an answer for this. Hang on a minute while I think it over. Okay, so far, no. But the day is still young.

9.  Are you a plotter or a panster?  If you’re a plotter, do you have any plotting tips?

Am I a plotter or a pantser? Yes. (I'll bet that wasn't what you were going for, was it?) I plot. Then I throw it all out, and pants. You should have seen the outline for my current WIP. It was a work of art, a thing of beauty. It was perfectly formatted with multileveled, numbered lists, a different color type for each main character, character bios, genealogy charts...heck, I even checked the phases of the moon in Florida in 1779 so I'd know for sure whether my action was taking place under a full moon or a quarter one. And halfway through the first draft. I tossed it.  (Well, I didn't actually toss it. I just stuck it in a drawer so I could refer back if I needed to and refresh my memory if necessary.)

See, my characters don't care. They are supremely unimpressed with my plotting and my outlines and my efforts to run their lives. Of course, as the author, I can make them do whatever I want. If I want a character to do a certain thing, I can write him doing that thing but it's just so much less annoying to shut up, let him tell his own story, and try to keep up as he goes along.
In other words, it's their world. I just live in it. Trying to make them do things they don't want to do is like pushing a chain uphill with my nose. Possible, but far more trouble than it's worth. I prefer to lay the chain in place and see who tugs it up the hill for me.

10.  What is your personal writing goal?

To assemble eighty thousand words (give or take a few) that please my eye, then have someone I will never meet read those words and be glad they spent some time in my twisted but fun little world. Then, do it again. And again. As many times as I can.

11.  What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you?

Well...I had to think this one over because I am incident-prone, so strange things happen to me all the time. Probably the strangest (and in a twisted way, the funniest) was in 2003 when I had a little "health issue." My stomach had felt strange for several months but it was nothing I could put my finger on so I didn't think much of it. In June of that year, I was booked to do some traveling and "horse work" in Indiana and Michigan. The night before I left, this grinding pain started in my belly and just got worse and worse until I thought I might explode, and then it went away. Just like that. So I'm thinking, "All RIGHT! I'm FINE!" and I headed out the next morning for my two-week working trip. 

I did great for about a week and a half, and then started feeling icky again. By then I knew there was "something" going on, so I promised my husband I'd see my doctor when I got home. But I didn't make it to the doctor. As soon as I hit the driveway, Bob hauled me to the ER.
Seems the night before I left two weeks earlier, the "relief" from the pain I'd been experiencing was actually my appendix rupturing. I spent four hours in surgery, two weeks in hospital, and another three months on IV antibiotics at home. I nearly died, but when I look back on it now, it's funny. I had the best care in the world and my nurses really enjoyed me but it was because I made them laugh. I figured we could either cry about it or laugh about it, and whenever possible, I choose to laugh. Bob says if I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to ignore pain until it nearly kills me.

12.  What is the funniest?

I actually have two, and both are so funny I decided to include them both.

Available on Amazon
Funny Thing #1: My family and I owned a frozen yogurt shop for a while, and I worked there when I was not working with horses. If you've ever been around machines like those frozen yogurt/ice cream dispensing machines, you know how loud the compressors can be. Either you can't hear yourself think, or they are dead silent. So I was working in the shop one night with my dad, and he was serving customers in the front while I was resolving a horse business issue in the back.

A friend of mine was trying to breed a mare to a stallion in another state, using shipped semen. This is a very common practice in horse breeding now, but back then it was still fairly new. My friend had called me at the shop complaining that the stallion owner had failed, for the third time, to ship the semen at the proper time to inseminate the mare and get her pregnant. Artificial insemination is expensive for the mare owner and an annoyance for the mare, because you have to use hormones to prepare her, ultrasound her to make sure things are progressing, and you have to catch her at exactly the right time for the process to "take." So the stallion owner needs to be on the ball, so to speak, and do his or her part to get the job done right the first time.

My friend was new to the horse business, and asked me what she should do about the situation. I was frustrated, because I knew the stallion owner and had arranged the breeding.  Keep in mind, I was having this conversation in the yogurt shop, the compressors in the machines were running, and my voice was raised enough that my friend could hear me over the compressors, but the customers out front could not. 

So I said (okay, yelled): "You call her up right now, and you tell her three times is too many, and tell her..."

The compressors shut off.

"...if I do not have semen in my hand by noon tomorrow, the deal is off and I want a full refund of all fees!"

Needless to say, the shop had filled up with customers during the time I had been on the phone. Among the customers were the local OB-GYN and his family of five children. I, of course, slunk out the back door in wretched humiliation. My dad pretended he hadn't heard a thing.
The next day, the doctor asked my mother, who was a nurse at the local hospital, "Exactly what is it your daughter does with horses, anyway?"  My mother called me up. "What did you DO??!!"

Funny Thing #2: In 1991, my beloved grandfather died. My grandfather came from a large family of deep south Georgia dirt farmers. He grew up very poor but very dedicated to his family, his church, and the Masons. He was also very, very bullheaded, much like his entire family. So when he died, my grandmother went straight to his desk for the list of instructions he had carefully hand-written out for "when it was needed."

He was to be buried in the family cemetery in south Georgia (which, until that moment, I did not know existed.) His nephew, Stewart, (a mortician, who I also did not know existed until then) was to handle the transport from Atlanta to the south Georgia funeral home, and all funeral arrangements. The funeral was to be a short graveside service, immediate family only, which meant a very small group. 

Apparently Stewart wasn't able to come pick up my grandfather himself, so he had the body "shuttled" south to him through a number of funeral homes. We ended up losing track of exactly where my grandfather was at any given moment, and when someone asked where to send flowers, I threw up my hands in exasperation and said, "I don't think it matters. Just send them anywhere between here and the funeral home in south Georgia where he is headed. He'll pick them up on his way through."

Eventually my grandfather ended up at the correct funeral home in a town I had never heard of. Bob and I were given directions to the funeral home and told Stewart would lead us to the family cemetery, which no one knew how to get to but him. Bob and I were the last to arrive at the funeral home, and there we found my grandmother tapping her foot. She'd been inpatient for me to get there because she wanted photos, and everyone knew I was the one who always had a camera with me.
Photos. Of my dead grandfather in his casket. Ick. But...my grandmother would not be denied. Click, click, click. 

After I'd taken a few photos, Stewart stepped up. "Is everyone ready to go?" Not waiting for an answer, he slammed the casket shut--BAM!--locked it, and nearly ran us over pushing it out of the viewing room and racing down the hall where the hearse waited.  SHOOMP! He shot the casket into the hearse, slammed it shut, jumped into the driver's seat, and scratched off, spraying gravel all over the place. We, of course, were standing there wondering what the heck just happened! 

My dad yelled, "We gotta go! We don't know where it is!" By that time, Stewart was several blocks away, rocketing through traffic lights and screaming around corners. We raced madly to our cars and desperately fought through traffic, trying to keep each other in sight. My dad got out first, so he was in charge of not losing sight of Stewart. The rest of us just had to keep sight of each other.

Eventually, we all found each other again, and we left the fairly busy town in a "procession," ending up on long stretches of south Georgia blacktop in some obscure county whose name I can't even remember now. We drove and drove, following Stewart, who kept the hearse at a steady 65 mph. We kept up by not talking, never taking our eyes off the road, and following Stewart's two-wheeled turns deeper into places I had never heard of, much less seen. I held my breath, hoping Stewart had closed up that hearse tightly so my poor grandfather wouldn't come flying out and go bouncing off down the road. (Having to chase down an escaping body is just not a good way to start a funeral, in my opinion.)

At one point, a large white Cadillac passed us. Passed the entire procession that was traveling at 65 mph. It was starting to feel uncomfortably like we needed to dispose of the body as quickly as possible, but none of us knew why.  Suddenly Stewart stopped. I don't mean he slowed to a stop. I mean, he was traveling at 65 mph and then he was stopped cold. -Insert sound of eight sets of screeching brakes here.- Finally able to take our eyes off the road, we realized we'd arrived at the cemetery. By the time we'd collected ourselves and shaken off the horror of the trip, Stewart had my grandfather out of the hearse, up the hill, and in place for burial. The minister was waiting, and by the time we all made it to the graveside, he was well into his service. We'd barely gotten in place when the minister said "Amen." 

At that point, Stewart became solicitous and very attentive, speaking to each of us, holding up flowers for photos, and in general, being very funeral-director-esque. About twenty minutes after the minister finished, Stewart turned to my grandmother. "Do you need anything else?" When she replied that everything was fine, he waved, and jumped back in the hearse. (This time we all ducked to avoid the spray of gravel.) The minister took off after him as though only they knew the sooper seekrit location where free barbecue was being served, and we were left standing there without a clue where we were or how to get back to civilization. Fortunately, the guys who were in charge of burying my grandfather told us how to get back to a highway we recognized.

At the time, we were all staring at each other and saying, "What the...???" but in retrospect, it's funny. My grandfather would have loved it.

13.  If you could choose anywhere in the world to write, where would it be?

Well, anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with St Augustine, so if I could choose anywhere in the world it would be in a certain house in the historic district there. My second choice would be anywhere on the Georgia or northeast Florida coast where I could have ancient oak trees, Spanish moss, and super cool English and Spanish ghosts in my life all the time. Third choice: Italy.

14.  What are you most proud of accomplishing in your life?

My marriage, hands down. Bob and I were separated for three years of our marriage, and looking back, I don't even remember what the original fight was about. And my husband is such an incredible guy that he reminds me constantly that it doesn't matter. We got back together after The Great Ruptured Appendix Incident of 2003, when he moved back in to take care of me and we have been inseparable ever since.

I regret that I lost three years with the most loving, supportive, and unselfish man in the world, but I am grateful for the almost 26 we have had. If I can be married to him for two hundred more years, it won't be long enough. I marvel every day that he picked me and stuck by me even when I hurt him. Or, as my Gator-Girlfriend (You know who you are!) has told me many times, I don't deserve him. My mother even said that once...

15.  What writing advice or tips would you like to give to other writers?

That's an easy one: "If you hear a voice within you saying 'you are not a painter,' then by all means, paint. And that voice will be silenced." ~ Vincent van Gogh.
That's the first thing I would say to other writers. You don't have to be "good" at it, you don't have to do it for money. You don't have to have a college degree to do it, you don't have to even have a story in mind before you start. Just dig into your mind and find some words and put them on a blank screen. Then keep doing it. Do it until you have thousands of words and people start showing up in your head and talking to you. Then...THEN...you will have what you need to make a beautiful piece of art that pleases your eye
The second thing: don't be alone. Find a writer's group to belong to; find a home. It may take a few tries to find the right group for you, but you need this. You need the support of a clan you fit into well, that is made up of other writers with various levels of expertise and experience. You need to develop relationships with other writers, and the trust that comes with those relationships. You need people with whom you can feel comfortable enough to let them peek at your naked soul (or nekkid, as we say it in the South) because that's how it feels when someone else reads your writing and you're not used to it. Your group will help you strengthen not only your writing but also your ability to allow someone to read your work without breaking into a cold sweat. Your group, if it's the right group for you, will also help you learn to accept honest evaluation of your work and will make suggestions to help you make it better.

Third: If you plan to sell your writing, treat it like a business and know your industry. If you plan to submit your work to a publisher, research publishers. Find the ones that publish what you write. If you plan to seek an agent, research agents. Read their blogs, get to know them. If you plan to self-publish, seek out people who've done it, successfully and unsuccessfully, read their blogs, get to know them. Follow trends in your industry: know who is working where, know who is publishing what, know what genres or tropes are hot and which are over.
Stay on top of it. It's work, but you have to do it. If you were a hairdresser, you'd be reading industry guides and magazines, attending shows, and networking to learn the hot trends and what people want their hair to look like. Writing is no different. Read industry blogs, go to conferences, and talk to as many people as you can to keep yourself tuned up and your writing fresh.

And lastly: never forget that no matter how long the publishing chain is or who is in it, the two most important parts of the chain are the very ends: the author and the reader. Whether your reader ordered your book from Amazon, bought it at a Barnes & Noble, picked it up at an indie bookstore (may God forever bless the indie bookstores!) or downloaded it to their e-reader, the bottom line is still author-to-reader. Always remember that. Because, if writing is your business and your career, writing a darned good story that sinks its claws into the reader, and hangs on, is the most important part of the process.


Summer Stephens is obsessed with northeast Florida and coastal Georgia history, and uses her 25+ years of gathered stories and research in her writing. Watch for her upcoming historical romance set in 1779 St Augustine, Florida.
Her work has appeared in numerous horse and parrot-related magazines, including Equus, The Chronicle of the Horse, The Morgan Horse, Birds USA, Bird Talk, and others. Her short story, Surviving Foaling Season, is available in the Amazon Kindle store.

In another life, she worked with horses as a behaviorist, equine massage therapist, saddle fitter, and breeder. She has also worked in parrot conservation with Philippine Red-Vented Cockatoos, a threatened species. She and her husband live in the sticks in central Georgia with their small herd of retired horses, several goofy dogs, and a flock of impossibly silly parrots. She currently serves the RWA chapter Ancient City Romance Authors as Social Media Chair.
Visit Summer on the web.

Summer, thank you for a great interview.