Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bride of the High Country & Giveaway with Kaki Warner


If it weren't for award-winning author Kaki Warner, I wouldn't be here.

Not here on this Earth, but here on this blog. Writing. Interviewing amazing people, and learning about how they wrote their books. Her books lit a spark in me, which started up a writing journey I had veered from a long time ago.
Kaki Warner has not only written some great books, she has also been an inspiring and encouraging force behind many writers. She's a friend to many, and is a hoot and a half on social media. She takes the time to get to know her readers, and really invests in them. I don't know how she balances everything she does, but she does it with style and grace.

Her take on historical romantic fiction has drawn in numerous adoring readers, some of whom have actually become addicted and think the characters are real (Michelle has dibs on Brady). These female readers just can't seem to get enough and will go to any lengths to get their hands on her books. She has fans as far away as England and as close as her backyard. That's assuming her hound dog reads her books. By the way, I checked all these statistics against Facebook and they are correct.

Bride of the High Country, the third in the "Runaway Brides" trilogy, just launched on June 5, the same day as the spectacular Venus Transit. I think she planned it that way. (Read my review of BOTHC). If readers are new to Kaki's stories, a good place to start would be Heartbreak Creek (the first in this trilogy) or Pieces of Sky. POS was her first book published, and it has one of the best openings of any book I've read. Plus, there's Brady. If you think these phrases are funny: "Her chins quivered in outrage" and "sputter of intestinal wind" you should definitely check it out. Not only do her characters get into some tense situations, they also have some incredibly romantic moments. By tense, I mean that they hit every possible obstacle along the way to their destination. Kaki makes sure it happens that way, although she claims that her characters are just telling their story.

So now, friends, I am honored and beyond excited to interview Kaki here at A Story Club. So grab a glass of iced tea, settle back, and prepare to be happier'n a tick on a fat dog. (That's Texan for happy- just for you, Kaki).

Hey, Christina! Thanks so much for inviting me here today. It’s always fun to pimp my books and meet new folks. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to your readers.

I have heard you mention that it took a long time for you to publish your first book. What is your story behind this?

I started PIECES OF SKY over 25 years ago. After reading a crummy book, I decided if they wanted crummy, I could do that. So I did. In fact, it was so crummy, I didn’t want to put my name on it. So I re-wrote it…over and over, off and on for the next quarter century. Then when my husband and I retired and moved to our mountain cabin, I got inspired again. After that re-write, I sent it out. Three months later I gained my lovely agent (Nancy Coffey) and discerning editor (Wendy McCurdy), and was a writer for Berkley/US Penguin group. I’ve hardly taken a breath since.

What changed after you became a published author?

Not much. Except now I’m on deadline, and complete strangers write me the most wonderful and supportive emails. The contacts I’ve made over the last few years are the second best part of being published. The first best is holding in your hands that first finished copy of the book you slaved over. You can’t beat that feeling.

What made you choose the genre of historical fiction?

Photo by K.W.
Familiarity…with both the geography and mindset of the people. Westerners have always been tough, individualistic, self-sufficient people. They lived by “codes” (a la Zane Grey in CODE OF THE WEST) rather than laws. They were pragmatic, courageous, and tough as whang leather. I grew up on the myth of the cowboy, and as a horse owner, have ridden many a trail that John Wayne would have loved. The West is an inspiring place, even now. As for the “romance” genre, my editor decided to put me there, even though my books contain no graphic sex scenes. Since most book buyers are women, and most of those buy romance books, it’s a sound marketing strategy. But I still think of myself as more of a storyteller than a romance writer.

Aspiring writers are interested-- what is your writing routine?

Photo by K.W.
Again, I’m lucky because I’m retired and can write when I want to. I admire authors who struggle to follow their dream by stealing an hour here and there away from work and family demands. I’m also lucky that my husband is so supportive and has taken over the cooking chores so I can stay at the computer for up to 12 hours a day. (If I could only get him to do the housekeeping and gardening chores, it would be perfect.)  As for my routine:  I’m usually at the computer by 7 AM and off by 9 PM, with several bathroom and food breaks in between. It’s a hard schedule, but nobody said writing was easy. I try to work in a walk here and there, but my knees are shot, so until I have them replaced, that’s an ordeal. But I’ll persevere because I’m a Westerner, too, and that’s what we do.  Mostly.

How long does it take you to write a book, start to finish?

As I said earlier, the first one took twenty-five years, off and on. The second one three months. But the rest have run from six to eight months each. My current contract gives me eight months per book. It’s the research that slows me down. I don’t know how some authors can turn out four books a year. They must have great assistants or ghost writers. 

Once your book is written, what is your editing process?

Photo by K.W.
I edit as I go, since I can’t stand leaving a mess behind me. I try for twenty polished pages a week. I also read every word aloud to find redundancies, dropped words, and to keep the dialogue and action sequences tight. I highly recommend it to any aspiring writer—and yeah, you might feel stupid, but it works. Plus, the dog likes it. Every hundred pages or so, I go back and read it in a block to check for continuity and to be sure all the info is in there. Then about that time, the characters decide to throw in some back story they hadn’t bothered to mention earlier (like Declan being afraid of heights, or Ash being dyslexic) and I’ll have to go back and add the groundwork for that.    

We all have our favorites; who is your favorite character in your books?

Every one of them for a variety of reasons. I love Brady because he’s such a doofus, but thinks he has all the answers. I admire Hank’s brilliant and inventive mind, and Jack’s adventuresome spirit. Declan is such a sweetie, and so bound by a code of honor he makes it even harder on himself, and Ash is such a guy…even though he’s faced some ordeals, there’s a part of him that will always be that playful boy. And then there’s Tait…how can you not love a man that smart, that compassionate, and who has such integrity? The fact that he dresses well and has such nice manners helps, too. As for the women, I love every one of them, too…and see a bit of myself and my friends in each of them. But then I expect more from the women, because I know what they’re capable of. I admire them all.  

What has been the most exciting or surprising thing you have researched?

I come across interesting facts all the time. The most recent is that in grizzly country, trappers would leave nails poking out of their shutters so the bears wouldn’t push their windows in. And I had no idea condoms were invented in the 1850s by Charles Goodyear, or that they had multi-storied “horse hotels” in urban areas (which made the spread of equine influenza that much easier), or that twenty-five million horses died in three weeks when the Great Epizootic of 1872 swept the country. And then there were the awful traders who sold Indians blankets infected with small pox just to wipe out entire villages, and the Galveston hurricane of 1900 that killed thousands—and with no way to dispose of the bodies, they were dumped out at sea, only to have the tide bring them back. Good stuff and bad stuff. It’s fun trying to put some of each into every book.
 
Do you have plans for a new series? What can we expect next?

I just signed a contract with Berkley for three more books set in Heartbreak Creek.  Even though the previous characters will weave in and out of each story, there will be a new set of characters and a new romance in each book. Besides, the town still has to be saved, the water and railroad issues settled, Ed can’t stay pregnant forever, and Thomas and Pru have a long road ahead of them. Hopefully, I’ll be able to blend the old with the new as the family at Heartbreak Creek grows.

Have you always been this funny?

I don’t know how funny I am, but I have an irrelevant, irreverent, goofy sense of humor. And admittedly, on road trips with my lady friends, I strive to make at least one of them suffer bladder malfunction or shoot coffee out their nose. I’m a blast at funerals, too. The problem is, it’s really hard for me to take things seriously (which is probably evident in my “love scenes” as you’ll see in the condom episode in Lucinda’s story). Come on, admit it. It’s all kinda funny. 

. . .And when you are not writing?

Travel.  Visit my grandkids.  Sleep.  Watch historical movies (BBC is a favorite).  Garden when I have time.  Walk when I can.  Listen to music.  Think up things for my husband to do.  The usual.
K.W.'s Garden in full bloom

You are so supportive and encouraging to so many. Who encouraged you along the way?

A lot of people. But writing is a lonely business, and in the end, the writer has to do it on his/her own. I’m blessed with dear friends and a supportive family who keep me going when I feel discouraged or burned out. And one special lady, who died several years ago before I was published, always believed. She’s in the dedication of my first book—poor thanks for all the encouragement she gave me. But probably
the most encouraging are the readers who write to me. I doubt any of them know how much it means to an author to hear from satisfied readers. 

What is your advice for new writers?

Never give up. Love your characters, or no one else will. For every action there’s a reaction. People behave the way they do because it works—if you want them to change, show how that past behavior no longer works. Always stay true to the point of view of the gender you’re writing in. (Men speak in shorter sentences, avoid emotional words, are more direct in their confrontations, are less likely to notice a woman’s lovely sheath and stylish pumps, than the fact that she looks hot.) Passive voice distances the reader from your characters, so avoid it. Don’t over-use foreshadowing. Action sequences should be short, fragmented, devoid of adverbs or “ing” words. Cut extraneous chit-chat. If a scene doesn’t move the story forward or provide insights into the character, cut it. Great characters aren’t perfect, but they strive to be better. Join a critique group—then throw out half of what you hear. Honor your readers—they spent time and money reading what you wrote—they deserve your best. But mostly, if you love your story, NEVER give up.
 
So now I have a question for your readers:  What keeps you going when the road ahead seems daunting?  Do you get your energy from those around you, or dig deeper into yourself? 

Congrats to Fedora Chen, our randomly drawn winner!

To read excerpts of any of Kaki's books, stop by www.kakiwarner.com. You can also find her author page on Facebook- Stay up-to-date on more chances to win! Thanks so much for coming by A Story Club, and to Kaki for answering all my questions! 
What keeps you going when the road ahead seems daunting?  Do you get your energy from those around you, or dig deeper into yourself? 

44 comments:

  1. Christina,

    Nice to "meet" you through your blog today. Also, I must say that you have a fantastic name :)

    Another great interview Kaki!

    Though I have no idea who she is, I may have to fight this "Michelle" person you mentioned for Brady (love Brady!)

    As to the question posed at the end of the interview, I would say I dig deeper within myself when the times get tough. Because after all, there's not going to be a crowd cheering me on at the computer as I write (then erase, then write more, then curse, then dig out the thesaurus, then cheer for finding the right word, then write more).

    As a mother of twins, I treasure the small amount of time I have per day to write. It's a battle to get quiet time to begin with, so when it does happen I hunker down at the keyboard and let my fingers fly.

    Please enter me in the drawing to win Kaki's book...it sounds like another great one *glances over at the bookshelf filled with the whole Blood Rose Trilogy*

    Christi Corbett

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    1. Hi Christi! I know how hard it is to find time to write (POS took me a quarter century, remember), but twin BOYS! That must be exhausting. Kudos to you for hanging in there...believe it or not, it will all pay off. Just don't let yourself give up. Ever. And thank you so much for reading my books--I really appreciate it. Good luck on winning a copy of BOTHC.

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    2. Hi! Mother of twins, I admire you. Are they little? Mine are old enough to throw out the "why are you not spending 'quality time' with us" guilt question! So-- late night, early morning it is. Thank you for your support of my blog and Kaki's books! P.S. Michelle gave up Brady, so no fighting necessary!

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  2. I LOVE reading about "new-to-me" authors. This is a real fun blog!!
    When the road seems to daunting to me, I dig deeper into myself....sort of. The first thing I try to remember is..."this to shall pass". No matter how bad the situation there is always tomorrow. When the sun comes up, it brings another new day and another chance to change the situation and make things better.

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    1. Hi Betty. You're right to remind yourself that today will be yesterday soon, and "tomorrah will be anutha day"--yea Scaw-lett! But it's true. Nothing is forever--not even the good stuff--so make the best you can out of each day. Good luck winning a copy of BOTHC, and I hope you'll check out my other books. Thanks for coming by.

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    2. Hi Betty! You will absolutely LOVE Kaki's books. I guarantee. :)

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    3. Thank you, Betty! It's true, things always look worse at night than they do in the morning light. :0) Good reminder.

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  3. Hi Kaki, stalking again! Great interveiw again, love these things. So sorry to here about your knees I know how rough that can be. I am having back issues myself and have to have some surgery done and not looking forward to that. Hank has a special place in my heart. Of all of your books Hank's story has been my favorite. I love all of your books but this one just stands out to me. Can't wait to read Bride of the High Country. Thanks for sharing your books with us today!

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    1. Hey again, Quilt Lady. Sorry to hear about you back surgery. That sounds rough. I'll be pulling for you. And don't tell the others, but Hank is one of my favorites, too. Yeah, he was bad that one time, but he was really, really sorry, wasn't he? Hope you like Lucinda's story too. Good luck winning a copy and glad you came by.

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    2. Hi Quilt Lady! I know I've seen you around in all of my stalking Kaki as well. Hope your surgery goes well. Thanks for reading the interview and good luck!

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  4. The past three years have been a daunting march through challenges that make great fiction reading but are far less enjoyable in reality. So I turned to favorite authors to get ideas on how to survive and hopefully one day thrive again. Kaki's writing (along with Grace Burrowes, Genevieve Graham, Elizabeth Hoyt, Diana Gabaldon & more amazing women) gave me a place to escape, regain hope, and sometimes be very grateful to have my challenges versus what their characters go thru to reach HEA. Reading seems to do both - gain energy from others and gain from introspection.

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    1. Hey Kitchen Witch of the West, great to hear from you. Sorry things have been rough for you over the last few years--hopefully it will improve for you soon. And what a compliment to know that I (along with that impressive list of authors--thianks for including me) can give you a little respite with our books. I'm sure I can speak for the others--we love writing them, and to know that they might have lightened someone's life is an extra special bonus. Thanks for sharing, and especially thanks for coming by and showing support for Christina. Good luck. I'll be pulling for you.

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    2. Wish I could think of something to add to Kaki's comment, but she's said it all (and beautifully, as usual). It's an honour to know you have opened your heart and let our stories in, and we're so glad they can take you away, if only for a while.

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    3. She really did say it all! Thank you for coming by my blog and adding your thoughts. I read to escape sometimes, also!

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  5. Can I just put in here: I'm really enjoying this font, Christina. :)

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    1. She's really done herself proud, hasn't she? Thanks for coming by, G. I see you're the guest in a week or so. I'll be looking for your words of wisdom. I'm anxious to hear how SOUND OF THE HEART is doing. The reviews have been great! Way to go!

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    2. I know, it's so cutesy. Kinda makes it hard to write anything mean, heh heh. Yep, I'm giving her just a little time to relax before I bombard her with questions.

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  6. WHat a great interview! I just found Kak's books this last spring and devoured them one right after the other.

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    1. Great, Linda! Thanks for giving them a try. They were a lot of fun to write and I'm glad you enjoyed them. Maybe you'll win another one here. Good luck and thanks for coming by.

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    2. Hi Linda! Devoured is a good word for it! Thank you for taking time to read the interview. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. I really enjoyed the interview with Kaki Warner......been a big fan of Kaki's for a long time....looking forward to reading Kaki's new book...'Bride of High Country'.....so excited......

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    1. Thanks eyeballlucy. (Hmm...I bet there's an interesting story to go with that name). I'm delighted that you've read and enjoyed my books. In this economy, books are a luxury in money and time, and it means a lot to me that you've made the investment. I hope BOTHC meets your expectations. Good luck winning a copy.

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    2. Yes, I'm intrigued at your name, too. Kaki does have some great fans. Thank you for checking out the interview and my blog!

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  8. Hi Christina , I try to dig deep inside myself and find the strength within my heart N in a lot of time people come and they inspire me. I am the kind of people who believes inspiration came not just from big things but also from many hundred million wonderful things :), aretha zhen , arethazhenATrocketmailDOTCOM

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    1. Hi Aretha! "A hundred million wonderful things" should be the title of a book! Thank you for visiting, and for adding your thoughts. Have a great day!

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    2. Hello, Aretha. What a great philosophy to have. I draw energy from those around me, too, but ultimately I have to set my own mind to rise or fall when faced with difficulties. Thank you so much for coming all this way to visit--it was great "seeing" you again. I wish you luck!

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  9. Sorry it has taken me so long to get my keester (? spelling) over here---UGH. As usual, Christina, you have done an exemplary interview, and I ALWAYS enjoy Kaki's witty words and sage advice!

    Introspection for me only goes as far as what's tucked inside the file folders within my brain. So, I usually turn to my research for a creative spark. When this fails, I force my hubby to one or more brainstorming sessions on our back porch. On the rare occasion that this doesn't work, I follow Dr. Seuss and get in a "box with a fox," sit on the "train in the rain," or whatever else bizarre there is to do that comes in rhyming fashion. And when I'm really desperate, I consider plagiarizing from Kaki's novels---NOT!!!! BUT she does have some awful great material---I've read all of her novels, and I'm itching to hunker down with Bride of the High Country! Congratulations, Kaki, on your latest release, and I'm looking forward to a whole lot more from you.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Lisa. (Lisa's another of the sterling ex-virgins, and is now working on her next book.) I'm looking forward to talking to you at the Crested Butte Conference--you ARE coming, aren't you? It'll be fun catching up and finding out how SWEET GLORY is doing. Thanks for coming by, Lisa. Hope to see you soon!

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    2. Hi Lisa! I was beginning to wonder where you were! I love your methods of brainstorming. I need to hunker down with this book, too. I know you're NOT going to the conference, so we can call each other and talk about not being there, and not wonder about what everyone else is doing or eating. Okay?

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    3. I'm super bummed, Kaki, not to be going--I had to make a choice between the CBW conference or a trip to China with hubby. And I warn you, Christina, I will be crying! So perhaps you should hunt down someone else who'll be more jolly to chat with about the doings at the conference. Hey! I just had the most brilliant thought of my life--sad but true--we could "Skype" our way into the conference. You will cooperate with the right contraption on your end, right, Kaki??

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    4. Actually, that IS brilliant! Bring it to the loop!

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    5. Hi Lisa,
      I just sent you a request to be added to my contact on Skype so maybe we CAN Skype during conference! I don't have the ability to Skye more than one person at a time, but Christina or Lisa, if you do, let's make a Skype date during conference and see if it'll work.

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  10. Great book Kaki! You rock. Can't wait to get my teeth into this new book!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. Good luck and thanks for coming by. Christina and I appreciate the support.

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    2. Debbie, Wow! I like your energy! Thank you for visiting!

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  11. Great interview and post, Christina and Kaki! Thanks for taking the time to share! As for the hard times, I definitely look to those around me, especially those who are sharing the road or who have gone ahead of me. And I so appreciate those who remind me that strength to go on and wisdom are not naturally mine, but can be mine if I simply ask the One who gives. So in those times, there's a lot of asking, too :)

    f dot chen at comcast dot net (new e-mail subscriber :))

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    1. Great response, flchen1. I love the phrase "those who are sharing the road or have gone before me." Never totally alone, right? I like that. Thanks so much for coming by, and good luck in the drawing.

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    2. Thank you SO much for visiting and subscribing. Love your answer-- I definitely have to ask for strength and wisdom alot, too!

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  12. Kaki,
    I love you dearly, but after that comment about road trips with your lady friends, I may rescind my offer to drive you to CB and back. Lexy is brand new and clean and I simply don't want coffee or other liquids spewed all over my baby. But I will still buy your book, 'cause I'm selfish and I can't WAIT to read it. In fact I'm doing my darndest to get all my work done ahead of time so as soon as we hit town and I buy Bride of the High Country, I can plant myself next to the pool and READ!
    Christina, great interview. Thanks for sharing!
    T

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    1. LOL, Theresa! Christina, you see why you should come to the Crested Butte Writers Conference next year? It's a hoot! Especially with T. as our hostess. Thanks for coming by, T., you're always a treat.

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    2. Hi Theresa! That would be an experience-- reading Kaki's book in the presence of Kaki herself! Extremely fun. Thanks for coming by and I do hope to join in next year.

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  13. Great post Kaki! Love your books. To answer your question I always dig deeper into myself to get things done, also dring a lot of coffee for the energy!Needing some energy today, trying to get some laundry and housework done.

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Virginia! Coffee always helps, but it's nicer to just enjoy it and forget the housework. :0)

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  14. Barb Leatherman (mom)June 19, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    I loved the interview and all the comments - even though I had to skim a lot of it. I plan to go back and read in depth when I have time. Planning a western, vintage wedding for my daughter, Erin, (Christina's sister). Takes place this Saturday, June 23. Bride and bridesmaid in boots. But not cutesy country, vintage country. We've had fun making just about everything. I look forward to sitting down and reading a lot with my cup of coffee on my deck when this is all over! I love your books, Kaki. And I love your words of support and encouragement to Christina.

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