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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interview with Author Skye Taylor

Vickie:  Skye, what inspired you to write your first book?

Skye:  My first book?  That was so long ago it's hard to remember exactly what inspired me to start writing it.  I read voraciously, and I was big into Georgette Heyer at the time.  My first husband had gotten tired of being a husband and father and left me with three small children, a broken heart and very empty nights.  So perhaps I was just filling the aching void in my heart with a story that had a happy ending.

Whatever It Takes
Vickie:  Your first published novel, a political intrigue titled Whatever It Takes, was just released.  What made you choose a political intrigue?

Skye:  I didn't originally.  When I started it, my story was titled The Candidate, and it was written from one man's point of view.  My protagonist was struggling with a personal crisis in the midst of a presidential campaign.  But an editor from a well-known publishing house who liked the premise of my project suggested I needed more tension, so I expanded the story to include other points of view.  Because of our current political climate, the novel became a three-way race and took on a life of its own fed by disillusioned public sentiment and front-page headlines.  My hero, Matt Steel, is still the kind of candidate I wish I had an opportunity to vote for, and he's still struggling with his personal demons, but now he's flanked by two other men just as determined to bring their vision to the White House, just as haunted by a past that could be their undoing, and just as willing to do whatever it takes to win.

Vickie:  I am reading it now, and it's a an awesome book.  So if anyone hasn't gotten their copy, you can go to Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and down load it for your e-reader.  If you'd like it in trade paperback, you can purchase it through the publisher at http://www.wings-press.com.

Vickie:  With your love of history, do you think you will ever write a historical?  Do you have a preferred time period?

Skye:  Most of my novels have been historicals of one sort or another.  I'm especially intrigued by the idea of time travel and have written two.  While working at the historic tavern in downtown St. Augustine, another great time travel idea came to me, and I can't wait to get started on that one.  I've also written two historical romances set during the Revolutionary War, but I'm told by agents it's a hard era to sell.  I also have an intriguing idea for a paranormal romance set in the early 1900s and another plot inspired by a visit to Halifax Nova Scotia that I want to write one day.

Vickie:  What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

Skye:  Initially, it was my high school English teacher who apparently saw something worth encouraging in my writing and gave me increasingly challenging assignments along with copious praise and encouragement. Over the years since then, I would have to say it's been friends who've read and liked my stories and other writers who have helped me hone my craft and encouraged me to keep trying when rejections became a way of life.  I met Elizabeth Sinclair by chance at a conference over fifteen years ago, and she's been both inspiration and cheerleader ever since.

Vickie:  Tell us about your writing schedule.  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?

Skye:  Back when I lived at the end of nowhere in Maine and had been laid off from my job, I pretty much lived in my book 24/7.  I keep thinking I'd like to go back to that again, because being so intimately and completely immersed in the lives of my characters made the writing go so much easier and swifter.  But my life is very different now, and in spite of being retired, my world is full of people and things to do.  I always intend to start writing first thing, but I get sidetracked with e-mail and visitors and walking on the beach. Then, finally, my best writing time starts somewhere in the mid to late afternoon and the next thing I know, it's after eight.  The world outside has become inky dark, my stomach is growling and the dog is wondering how come he hasn't been fed.  I've been known to suddenly realize what needs to come next in a book and gotten out of bed in the wee hours to write for an hour or two before crashing again.  I probably should have a more disciplined approach, perhaps a set time or daily goal, but I don't.

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

Skye:  Doesn't everyone sooner or later?  Sometimes it's because I've painted my characters into an impossible corner, or being a panster by nature, I've lost sight of where the plot is supposed to be going.  When that happens, I usually take myself for a very long walk on the beach and let the scene(s) run through my head.  I have entire dialogues with my characters.  They argue, and I argue back.  Then they just start talking to each other and that's when I have to hurry back to my desk and capture the action.  When nothing else works, I disconnect my laptop from the big monitor and keyboard on my desk and take it somewhere else and somehow, the change of scenery gets things going.

Vickie:  Are you a plotter or panster?  If you're a plotter, do you have any plotting tips to share?

Skye:  I am basically a panster.  Even in life, I prefer spontaneity over regimentation.  Life is so much more fun when you leave yourself open to the surprises and opportunities that happen when you least expect them, and my writing is no different.  I create strong characters, give them a world to live in and let them do their thing.  I always have sense of where they will end up, and I've even written the last chapter first at times, but much of what happens between the beginning and that anticipated ending is as much a surprise to me as to anyone else.

Vickie:  Do you always love what you write?

Skye:  Most of the time I do, but if I don't, then I toss it, because if I don't love it, then no one else is going to, either.  My biggest mistake once was rewriting several times to try to fit into the demands of an editor who said she liked my story but . . . .   By the time I got my third, "I like this story, but it would be stronger if . . ." letter, I hated the book so much I wouldn't have wanted to put my name on it if she had bought it.

Vickie:  What is your personal writing goal?

Skye:  Well, until I sold Whatever It Takes, my goal was to get published.  Perhaps my next goal should be to write a best-seller, but in the mean time, I just want to keep creating characters and stories that other people will find as engaging to read as I found them enjoyable to write.

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

Skye:  On My Own, is the story of Jake, a single dad coping with the challenge of a teenage daughter eager to explore her growing independence and the heartbreak of a parent losing her independence to the ravages of Alzheimer's, when Zoe moves in next door.  She's attractive, and he's interested, but he's already overwhelmed with women he feels he can't live up to.  As for Zoe, having spent most of her life worrying about what others need, she knows it's time to focus on what's best for herself and the baby her ex-lover wanted no part of.  But it's not so easy for the compulsively nurturing woman to turn away from the issues Jake is dealing with, especially when she realizes she has fallen in love with him.

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

Skye:  I call my writing space my library.  It's not an office, and it's not a study in spite of the fact that my desk is there as well as a loveseat where I can curl up with a good book to read.  It's a library because I am surrounded by my books, floor to well above head height on three sides.  All my favorites sit on those shelves along with novels still waiting to be read, trade craft sources, history books, travel guides, inspirational writings and a very eclectic collection of research materials.  On the fourth wall, where my desk sits, is a big window with a wonderful view of the ocean I love almost as much as I love books.

Vickie:  What are you most proud of accomplishing in your life?

Skye:  That would most definitely be the smart, wonderful, loving, generous, caring adults my children have grown up to be.  I know I made a ton of mistakes along the way, but the end result fills my heart with enormous pride and much joy.  I'm also pretty pleased at the difference my time in the Peace Corps made in the lives of others.
Vickie:  What motivated you to join the Peace Corps?

Skye:  By the time I reached my 21st birthday, I was already someone's wife and someone's mother.  By the time my last child graduated from college, I was a widow.  When I looked back, I didn't regret the life I'd chosen, but I began to realize I'd never had time to discover who I was before I was a wife and mom.  And I'd never had the kind of adventures my kids were enjoying before settling down.  Peace Corps seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand my horizons, challenge myself to be more than I'd ever been before, and give back some of the blessings and lessons life had given me.  It turned out to be one of the greatest adventures of my life and an opportunity I will always be grateful for.  I now have another family half a world away and a wealth of wonderful memories to treasure.

Vickie:  Name at least three things you can't live without.  

Skye:  Chocolate, books and love.  (Water, air and food are a given, right?)

Vickie:  As a teenager, I fell in love with The Girl of The Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter.  I still love that book and have it in both e-book and paperback.  Do you have a favorite?

Skye:  When I was a child, it was Heidi by Joanna Spyri, and I still love that book, and yes, it is on my library shelf.  As an adult, there are three books vying for top spot:  The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves and Storm Tide by Elizabeth Ogilvie.  I've read all three more than once and undoubtedly, I will read them all again.

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

Skye:  Well, not ALL genres, but depending on my mood, I enjoy a heartwarming love story, a roller-coaster thriller or a great who-done-it.  Two of my favorite heroes are Lee Child's Jack Reacher and David Baldacci's Oliver Stone - two very different heroes, two awesome writers.  I also read non-fiction, mostly history and current world issues.

Vickie:  What advice or tips would you like to pass along to other writers?

Skye:  If you're already published, you probably know more than I do, so I'm not sure which things I'd pass along.  But for anyone still hoping to get published, never give up doing what you love, no matter how many rejections you get.  Find a writers' group to join and get into a critique relationship of some kind.  The support of other writers is invaluable.  Learn how to take constructive criticism and grow.  No matter how good you think you are, you can always be better.  The adage is, write what you know, but I'd like to add, write from your heart.

Thanks for a great interview, Skye!

BIO:  If Skye Taylor had to pick one of the 16 Master Archetypes to describe her, it would be a combination of the Free Spirit and The Swashbuckler.  She spent two years in the South Pacific as a Peace Corp volunteer, has jumped from planes, snorkeled over the coral reefs, climbed crumbling castle towers, crawled through lava tubes, and hiked over glaciers.  She's a mom, a grandmother and a writer.  She loves the Highland Games, Renaissance Fairs and history, so it's no surprise that she currently volunteers at La Taberna del Gallo on St. George Street in downtown St. Augustine, where she dresses out and works as a 1740's tavern wench.  http://www.askyetaylor.com/fun__fascinating_history

Her Peace Corp articles, previously published in her local newspaper, can be read on her website.  Click the following link to check out her website and the articleshttp://www.askyetaylor.com/peace_corps

Her first novel, a political intrigue titled Whatever It Takes, was just released by http://www.wings-press.com.  You can find her book on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com or at her Publisher's website.

Find her on Facebook 
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Interview with Award-Winning Author, Traci Hall

Vickie:  Traci, what inspired you to write your first book?

Traci:  Reading was always an escape for me . . . even as early as kindergarten I told stories to entertain--my stuffed animals, my little brother, the kids in class.  I guess I wanted to make people laugh.  Of course, my report cards read, "Traci is very social," or "Traci won't shut up," or "sit down" or . . . .

Vickie:  What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

Traci:  I remember reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books.  I read everything I could get my hands on, but Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was funny and ridiculous, and I loved how the kid who needed to learn his lesson always got his comeuppance!  And it was clearly his own fault.  LOL.

Vickie:  You write in many genres:  Young Adult Paranormal, Coming of Age Young Adult, Historical Romance and Non-Fiction.  What made you branch out into different genres, and do you have a favorite?

Traci:  My favorite genre is whatever I am writing at the time.  <g>  I am a Gemini, so split personality was a guarantee.  All of these other personalities are bonuses!  I like everything, and for me the story comes as an idea, and what if, and that can lead anywhere . . . which is an amazing journey.

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

Traci:  I just finished The Queen's Guard:  Peony, which is the second in the QG series.  It takes place, literally, during the second crusade, 1147.  The first book starts in Constantinople, and each book after will be along the road until the crusade is over.  In my version of history, Queen Eleanor had to have had a group of women spies, and this is about those women and the duties they might perform, and of course, the love they find along the route.

Vickie:  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 set amount of hours or pages?

Traci:  My deadlines dictate my writing schedule.  I can go for a week or more without writing anything fresh, but once I am on deadline for something, I try to really commit and get to work.  No Facebook, no checking numbers on Amazon, LOL.  No, no.  Bad writer.

My recent schedule looked like this:  Wake up at 5 am, go to work at Starbucks until 10 am, come home, eat, write, nap for an hour, get up, write until 7 pm, at which point, I am brain dead as I try and coherently speak with my family over a LARGE glass of wine and food.  Any food is good, because I didn't have to make it.  I have a very supportive husband who ignores the mess in the house, does laundry and will make dinner if I haven't ordered something in.

(Vickie:  He sounds like a keeper, Traci.)

Vickie:  What is the most difficult or challenging part of the writing process for you?

Traci:  Layering in emotion sucks.  I would rather crack jokes or have action and plot carry the characters through, but that is not what readers identify with.  LOL.  So I have to dig deep and make sure the emotions are there.

Vickie:  Do you ever experience writers' block?  If so, how do you cope with it?

Traci:  There have been times when I've been so overwhelmed by my inability to control my career that it has been hard to sit down and write.  What helps is reminding myself to write a book that I like, personally, and then it doesn't matter after that.  However, I don't pay the mortgage with my writing $$$, so I can say that.  I don't rely on my income to do anything other than pay for the occasional conference and a pedicure, sometimes a new pair of sandals.

Vickie:  Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?  If you're a plotter, do you have any plotting tips to share?

Traci:  I use a plotting board, critique partners, a dozen or so notebooks, and I have post it notes in every room, vehicle and purse.  I have character sheets.  I have story notebooks.  I have research books piled on the floor.  I use whatever I need to in order to move forward.  I know some people who write chapters out of sequence.  I can't imagine doing that.  LOL.

Vickie:  What is your personal writing goal?

Traci:  It's a secret.  But if you promise not to tell, lol, I will share--I want to make a lucrative living as an author.  I want New York, I want it all . . . bwahahahahahahah!

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

Traci:  I live in Jupiter, Florida.  It's pretty beautiful.  I think I'll stay!  Although a condo on the beach would be very nice . . . .

Vickie:  Describe your writing space, that one corner of the house that is all yours?

Traci:  If by corner of the house you mean corner of my bedroom, then yes, I do have a space.  It's by sliding glass doors, so there is plenty of light.  I usually have the curtains pulled because I am very, very easily distracted, lol.  I have my desk, my printer, my easel board, maps everywhere and the two dogs sleep by my feet.  By the end of a book, we are all fat from pretzels and junk food.  This book I tried substituting gum for M&Ms . . . totally not the same.

Vickie:  What are you most proud of accomplishing in your life?

Traci:  As corny as it is, my family is the thing that makes me whole.  Sheesh.  But they are really proud of me and how hard I've worked to make my dreams happen, which is cool.  They've seen for themselves that dreams come true!

Vickie:  What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you at a workshop, presentation, book signing or conference?  What is the funniest?

Traci:  I got nothing, Vickie . . . oh, wait, there was a signing where a woman made me a necklace.  That was really nice and a little strange.  She'd read one book, my first historical romance, Love's Magic.  It inspired her to give me jewelry.  The jewelry didn't have anything to do with the book, lol, but it was very thoughtful.

Vickie:  On a personal note, name three things you can't live without.

Traci:  Family, the ones I like, lol, and friends.  White Zinfandel over ice.  A good book!

Vickie:  As a reader, instead of a writer, what is your favorite type of book to read?

Traci:  I love, love, love reading historical fiction, and I adore funny books.  Christopher Moore is a favorite.  I have Erma Bombeck books I still pull out if I need a quick pick-me-up.  Amanda Quick for historical funny romance.  Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame.

Vickie:  What advice would you like to give, one writer to another?

Traci:  Never ever lose your enjoyment of the journey.  Celebrate every small thing between the big things.  They matter, and you don't want to look back and wonder where the fun went.  You have your proposal accepted?  Celebrate!  You sold another book?  Celebrate.  Publishing can be brutal, but I believe a writer will be more resilient if they have that stack of positive stuff in the 'win' pile.

(Vickie:  Very important advice, Traci!  My first sale was celebrated with friends over a special dinner at Buca di Beppo.)

Traci:  Thank you so much for having me, Vickie--and congratulations on your sale.  :-)

Vickie:  Thank you on the congrats.  And thank you for the interview.  I enjoyed it.  Loved your answers.

Traci, thanks for a terrific interview!


Traci Hall is the award winning author of the Rhiannon Godfrey series for teens, as well as the Boadicea medieval romance series, and Diary of a Bad Boy, a coming of age novel. The Queen’s Guard: Violet is her latest historical romance series, beginning in May 2012. Zombyre, My Love is the newest teen paranormal series, available in April 2012. She is a member of RWA, MWA, FRW, IERWA and YARWA, and volunteers her time for school library visits. She lives in South Florida with her husband and children, and spends her free time on the Jupiter Inlet.

Visit Traci at  http://www.traciehall.com/

You can write to Traci at tracihallauthor@aol.com