"Our teacher asked me to read my rather long treatise in front of the class, and would you believe those kids clapped when I finished?"
Before you quit work to stay at home with your kids and write, you worked in the visual arts, including as an instructor for the Art Instruction Schools, known for their ads that ask, “can you draw me?” What was that experience like? In what ways do you think that experience has helped you in your writing career?
Working at AIS was a wonderful experience in that I got to know many talented artists. Some became my close friends. Correcting the same lessons over and over again could be tiresome, but I enjoyed advising budding art students with my demonstrations and letters. I believe my time there did much to build my self-confidence, and quitting to stay home with my two young children led me to write. As I’ve said many times, I started scribbling to save my sanity.
You were born in San Francisco and have since lived in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Texas. I’ve lived in three of those and the other is one of my favorite places to visit. Yet, with the possible exception of Minneapolis and Chicago, they’re vastly different. Would you tell us your favorite things about each place?
My parents and I moved from California to Minnesota, my mom’s home state, when I was only four years old, so I don’t remember San Francisco, except for one foggy memory of a gorilla at the zoo. He was staring at me through the bars of his cage. Beyond that, I remember my parents’ stories about
Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf and the streetcars. Being handicapped, my dad did not like the hills. San Francisco
Minnesota, where I grew up, married and had my children, is the greenest, most beautiful place anyone could wish for in spring and summer. The many lakes are like jewels on the landscape. Early autumn brings a breathtaking canopy of bright color. Then comes winter, a wonderland for ice fishermen and cross country skiers, but I’m not one of them. When my husband was transferred to Chicago by his employer, I was glad to go. I wished we were heading further south, but Chicago has much to recommend it: outstanding museums, fantastic restaurants and a dramatic history. That’s where I first thought of writing about the Chicago Fire of 1871, and I spent a lot of time researching it. Eventually we moved to Texas, first to Houston, then to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I tolerate our hot summers quite well (with air conditioning) and I love the big sky country beyond Fort Worth. This is where I was meant to be.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. First I wanted to be a painter, then a fashion illustrator. I did both, but looking back, I should have majored in history or English in college, rather than art. As early as junior high, I enjoyed researching historical subjects. Once when I was in 9th grade, I was assigned to write a paper about the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution. Our teacher asked me to read my rather long treatise in front of the class, and would you believe those kids clapped when I finished? Too bad it didn’t dawn on me then that I was fated to be an author.
One of your books is called Six Cats in My Kitchen. Tell us about this book.
Six Cats is a memoir, focusing on the role six special cats played in my family. As I state in the opening paragraph, it’s not a cute kitty book. Although I wrote it in a chatty style, with humor sprinkled throughout, the book touches upon serious topics such as grief, upsetting life changes, and coping with a genetic disability. Some of my cat care beliefs have drawn sharp criticism, but overall this little book has been well received. By the way, it includes pages of family photos.
Your Texas Druids series is a planned trilogy, with two books plus a prequel available, and the final book in the works. This is a historical western romance series with a touch of the paranormal or supernatural. What was your inspiration for this series?
First there was the Chicago Fire, as mentioned above. That led to sending my heroine, Jessie, west in search of love. I actually wrote her story as a straight western romance to begin with. I also wrote a sequel featuring her brother Tye. Neither story sold. Several years passed during which paranormal romances grew popular. This inspired me to introduce a supernatural element to my westerns. Jessie and her siblings became psychics. Their Irish lineage gave me the idea to make them descendents of Celtic Druids. Because I’d experienced prophetic dreams in the past, giving Jessie second sight was a no-brainer. Her brother and sister have their own unique gifts.
You mention in your biography that you like doing the historical research for your books. Darlin’ Druid, the first book in your series, covers a lot of geography from Chicago (with a tie in to the fire you referred to), then on to Utah and Texas. How did you go about the research to get the details authentic? Do you research with specific questions in mind or learn as much as you can and then sprinkle in historical details that fit your story?
When I begin researching a time period and setting, I apply the scattergun method, collecting general information from books and websites. Later, as the plot takes firmer shape, I seek specific details. This involves more internet research, ordering books on specialized subjects, making phone calls and occasional trips to view the settings for myself. For Darlin’ Druid I visited the Union Pacific RR Museum in
Omaha and the Bosque County Pioneer Museum in . I also called the National Archives in Washington, D.C. to find out who was the commander of Camp Douglas, near Salt Lake City, in 1872. I was a tad nervous about doing that, but the man I spoke to was very helpful, not the least put off by my obscure question. People are often eager to pass on their knowledge. Clifton, Texas
Tell us about the route to publication for your books, and why you chose the route you did.
For years I tried the traditional route, submitting to
publishers. I even signed with two different agents who had no better luck selling my work than I did. After submitting, rewriting, and submitting again and again, I stuffed the battered manuscripts in a closet. Now I must admit they were not ready for publication. My writing style needed improvement. Following years of practice, many stops and starts, lots of volunteer work and life changes, I’d pretty much given up writing when Amazon came out with the Kindle and gave authors the opportunity to self-publish. A friend and critique partner gently nudged me into giving it a try. My computer savvy son helped me set up a blog and assisted me with other tech matters. On November 4, 2010, I published Darlin’ Druid. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since. New York
What do you think the biggest challenges for Indie authors are?
The two biggest challenges we
Indies face are getting our books noticed and juggling time. I’ve tried every promotional tactic I can think of: blogging on my sites and guest blogging for others, chatting on writer forums, doing interviews such as this and requesting book reviews. I haven’t held any book signings yet because none of my books were in print until recently, when Darlin’ Druid became available in trade paperback size via CreateSpace and Amazon. Still, my sales are relatively small, although Amazon’s new KDP Select program has definitely helped.
Time management is a topic authors discuss constantly. It’s especially difficult for
Indies because we must do everything ourselves. We don’t have a big publishing house behind us to edit our manuscripts, prepare book covers, print and distribute the books and publicize them. Since we have to do all those things ourselves unless we hire someone to do them for us, which gets expensive, our writing time is drastically restricted. I’d like be two or three people!
What are your plans after you finish the last of the Texas Druids trilogy?
I will shift my focus to
. There’s a book I’ve had on the back burner for quite a while. Set during the 1798 Rebellion (the Year of Liberty) it’s close to half done, and I’m itching to get back to it. This manuscript made the semi-finals in the big Orange Rose RWA contest back in 2008. The second half of the book entails writing some battle scenes, which means more research. Oh goody! Ireland
What do you like to do in your leisure time?
Leisure time, what’s that? Okay, kidding. I do allow myself a little time off. Naturally I enjoy reading, and watching TV helps me unwind. Gardening is my only outdoor hobby, when I can find time. I also enjoy traveling, but not very often. (It’s that time problem again.) Several years ago my husband and I visited
Scotland and . That was wonderful! Oh, and I love seeing our kids and grandkids. Fortunately, they all live in the Ireland Dallas- area. Fort Worth
Who are your favorite authors?
Diana Gabaldon is my favorite author. I love her Outlander series. I’ve read those books so many time that her main characters are like old friends. I also like Linda Howard, Iris Johansen, Judith Ivory, Linda Lael Miller, and James Patterson for a change of pace.
Have you read books by your fellow Indie authors and, if so, are there any you’d like to recommend?
Well, I have a bunch of books by Indie authors on my Kindle, but I’m ashamed to say I haven’t yet read most of them. Again, it’s that blasted lack of time. However, there is one I’d like to recommend. The title is Dawn by the River. It’s part of a series by British author Elli Fitz. A contemporary romance with erotic tendencies, this is not my usual cup of tea, but it’s so well written that it instantly drew me in and kept me reading. There’s also a startling revelation at the end. Quite brilliant!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, I’d like to mention a group blog site I recently joined called Cowboy Kisses. It’s hosted by western romance author Ginger Simpson, and it includes some of the best Indie Western Romance authors in the business, Jacquie Rogers, Paty Jager and Caroline Clemmons to name just a few. Each author has her own page linked to the main home page, and we will each be posting a blog at least once a month. For western romance fans, this offers a diverse source of author and book info.
Authors interested in participating in our weekly interview series can find the details here.
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For more, visit Lyn's blog or the Cowboy Kisses blog mentioned above. You can also follow her on Facebook or twitter.