By Susan Sey
Everybody, I'd like you to meet my good friend and chapter mate Alison Henderson! Alison, this is everybody. Alison graciously agreed to sit down with me for an interview about her latest release from the Wild Rose Press, A Man Like That.
Susan: I'd like to start by complimenting your voice. It has a beautiful, lyrical quality to it without ever feeling fussy. It's a perfect fit for the Ozark setting of A Man Like That, as well as the post-Civil War era. Can you talk a little about how you developed your voice? Did your natural voice lead you to the time frame/setting for A Man Like That, or did you choose your time frame/setting first then tweaked your voice to fit it?
Alison: What a lovely compliment! I’m afraid I can’t take much credit for “developing” my voice. After reading my first book, Harvest of Dreams, both a co-worker and my hairdresser commented that the book “sounded exactly like” me. Since it’s a historical, I’m not sure how to take that, but they claim to have enjoyed the book, so I guess it’s OK. I do think my natural voice led me to write American-set historicals rather than the more popular English or Scottish versions. I love to read about rakes and highlanders, but I was afraid my less formal, more direct American voice wouldn’t sound British to anyone.
It’s clear from the lovely descriptive passages in AMLT that you know and love the Ozarks. Can you tell us about your history with the area?
Alison: I grew up in Kansas City, where “going to the lake” usually meant the Lake of the Ozarks. I vacationed there with my family as a child and spent a week at Girl Scout camp in the Ozarks in the fourth grade. I remember it as buggy and blistering hot, but the land was also wildly beautiful. I was an art history major in college and have always responded to landscapes in a visual way. I relied on the paintings in my mind to bring the beauty of the Ozarks alive for my readers.
Your heroine Jessy is a wonderfully headstrong redhead who brought to mind my favorite Julie Garwood heroines. I found her an endearing mix of bravado and naiveté, and really enjoyed watching her mature into somebody with the patience and compassion to truly love and be loved. Can you tell us anything about how she came to be? Do your characters just show up and start talking or do you have to discover them?
Alison: Jessy began as a secondary character in Harvest of Dreams. She was the heroine’s best friend and meant to be a foil for the quieter, more serious main character. She was so vibrant and so much fun to write that after I finished Harvest of Dreams I knew she deserved her own story. As a secondary character, she wasn’t fully developed. I knew she could be more than the stereotypical feisty redhead, and I wanted to give her the chance to grow and mature. I usually do quite a bit of character work with the protagonists before I start a story, but the secondary characters start out less well-formed. A Man Like That gave Jessy the opportunity to blossom.
Speaking of characters who bloom, tell us about Morgan Bingham. It sounds like he spent some time on the wrong side of the law in a previous book. Was he always destined to be a hero, or did he surprise you? And if so tell us about the redemption process. (Because as you know, I’m all about redeeming the outlaw with the reluctant heart of gold.)
Alison: Morgan is by far the most troubled hero I’ve ever written. As a teenager, he joined the Confederate guerilla band led by “Bloody” Bill Anderson and after the Civil War drifted into the company of Jesse James. By the beginning of A Man Like That, Morgan has left the James Gang to face the demons of his past by returning to his family deep in the Ozark Mountains. He’s no longer an outlaw, but he‘s deeply scarred by things he’s seen and done.
When he first appeared in Harvest of Dreams, I had no idea he would end up a hero, but after his reaction to Jessy at their first meeting I had to find a way to redeem him. Morgan is a man who doesn’t believe he’s worthy of love, and he fights redemption tooth and nail. Ultimately, the unselfish love of a good woman wins him over.
What’s next for you?
Alison: After two historicals, I switched gears to try my hand at contemporary romance. I’ve recently finished a sharp, snappy story about an ex-FBI agent who owns her own all-female bodyguard agency. She signs on to protect a sexy former CIA agent-turned-bestselling author on a book tour and ends up fighting her attraction to her client along with a would-be assassin. This book was a complete change of pace, and I had great fun with the witty contemporary dialogue.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! Can't wait to get my hands on it! Before you go, Alison, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?
Alison: How do you feel about the importance of setting in romance novels? Are there some settings that always catch your eye and others you try to avoid?
So how about it, everybody? Do you have an opinion about setting? Share!