AC: Please tell us your "call" story:
SK: It was July 24th of last year, two days before I had to leave for RWA National. I was particularly depressed on this Monday morning, as I had been for a while. National was a couple days away and I had told my hubby I wouldn’t go unless I‘d sold a book, but being a double GH finalist, I had registered anyway. This was my third year as a GH finalist, so some of the golden glow had worn off, but I still viewed every final as an opportunity I couldn’t waste—I had to go! Fighting the guilt and sense failure, I walked into my office with my morning cup of tea, as usual, plopped into my chair, as usual, hit my email and thought, “You are so pathetic. Coming in here every morning, checking your email as though some message is going to change your life.” And then I saw it. The subject title MUSTANG WILD, the sender a Harlequin editor I’d emailed some westerns to just a few weeks before. I clicked on it, and did a scatter read, “We’re interested in Mustang Wild…convenient to call…really like this discussion before you leave for Atlanta...” I bolted from my chair, ran into the living room, looked at my husband and shouted, “Holy shit!” Then I ran back to my computer, with my hubby chasing after me calling, “Holy shit, what?” I emailed that I was home (and awake), unplugged my dial-up and the phone rang—that fast. In the midst of THE CALL, my hubby sniffled behind me. Of course he WASN’T crying (wink, wink), but his sniffles meant so much to me. By the time I’d talked to my editor and my agent I was late for my son’s orthodontist appointment and had to dash out the door—reality waits for no one. I did go out to lunch with my hubby and two sons afterward, and then out to dinner—my favorite Mexican restaurant. My hubby & boys surprised me that afternoon with a cowgirl hat and roses. There was champagne at some point. The best part was being able to board the plane for Atlanta guilt free :)
AC: What other books and/or writers have influenced you thus far?
SK: I started reading romance novels six years ago when I realized I was trying to write a love story. When I say I started reading, it was more like cramming for a final exam--I read about 300 books in a span of two months, trying to figure out the layout of a story and how to unlock the rhythm between prose and dialogue. Having no preference of authors, I quickly became fans of Dorothy Garlock, Laveryl Spencer, Elizabeth Lowell, LL. Miller, and few sporadic authors. I wondered why I consistently liked their books the best. I wanted to figure out what captivated me about their writing, why they drew me in more than the others. For me, it was the rhythm of their writing, the way they integrated prose and dialogue, so that the story didn't have to slow down for either one, but had a smooth continuous flow. As an unpublished author, I felt I wasn't trying to sell a book, but the way *I* told a story. I like to think that early obsessive compulsive reading was influential in developing my own style.
AC: How do you keep your characters and plots feeling "authentic" instead of like every other cliche of the Old West we've all seen/read?
SK: Other than that early burst of reading in 2000, I don’t have a very broad reading base, so I haven’t a clue of what’s been overdone or categorized as cliché. When developing a story, I don’t look outward—I look inward. Because each character has their own unique past, characteristics and quirks, so do the events that surround them. And then I strive to make my characters as real and vivid on the page as they are in my mind.
AC: You have two more Westerns due out from Harlequin Historicals but what's next for you after that? I know you said elsewhere that you were poised to try something different than Westerns. Is that still true?
SK: Truth be told, I stopped writing western historicals three years ago when it became very apparent the rumors were true—unless you were a western romance icon, new western historical authors were NOT being picked up by the major publishers. I do believe there was a high interest in werewolf cowboys and erotic western lovin’, but that just ain’t me. If I was going to sell a western, it had to be MY kind of western. My agent said I could do one of two things, wait out the market or focus on something new—I did both. I hung up my literary spurs, but kept testing the waters with my finished works, and I focused on writing romantic suspense, a place where cowboy justice could still rein and an adventure was waiting to be written. I do intend to pursue the publication of my RS manuscripts as well. They’ve won numerous awards and PLAYING FOR KEEPS was also a Golden Heart finalist last year. I’m currently working on a new series involving a certain hunky hit man—once I turn in my fourth western, that proposal will be at the top of my FINISH list.
AC: Any advice, words of wisdom or general comments you care to pass along to your AYU (As Yet Unpublished) buddies to help them down the long rocky road to publication?
SK: When you think you’ve hit bottom and there’s no way in high heaven you will ever publish…KEEP WRITING. To quote my pal Marlene’s sig line: “If at first you don’t succeed…try to hide your astonishment.” *g* Persistence is everything. Study your market, polish your craft, start a new book and keep SUBMITTING.
AC: Finally just for fun...Casting Call! Who do YOU want to cast as Jed and Rachell in the film version of "Bride of Shadow Canyon"? Or Tucker and Skylar in "Mustang Wild" the movie?
SK: Oh wow—that’s hard. I don’t use movie stars as character models. The characters in my mind are completely unique. The only actor who has come close was Sam Elliot and the hero in BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON, Jed Doulan. That was before my editor shaved off Jed’s mustache *pout*, and stripped ten years off his age. But the hot velvet voice, OH YEAH, that’s still the same. Perhaps the equally gifted Josh Turner could make his acting debut in BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON. After a quick internet search, I have to say Lindsay Lohan is good match, physically & vocally, for Rachell.
As for Tucker and Skylar in MUSTANG WILD…Skylar is already on the cover of the book *g* and I suppose you can’t go wrong with a Stetson man, Mathew McConaughey could pull off the wiry and playful Tucker Morgan.