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Fern Michaels

Fern Michaels

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Need to Know

Need to Know

Fern Michaels

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The Sisterhood saga continues

One hell of a storyteller: Fern Michaels gives back

I've been telling stories and scribbling for twenty-five years. I hope I can continue for another twenty-five years. It wasn't easy during some of those years. As I said, I had to persevere. My old Polish grandmother said something to me when I was little that I never forgot. She said when God is good to you, you have to give back. For a while I didn't know how to do that. When I finally figured it out I set up The Fern Michaels Foundation. The foundation allows me to grant four year scholarships to needy, deserving students.

I then went a step further and opened pre-school and day care centers with affordable rates for single moms who are having a hard time of it. Doing Fern Michaels allows me to do this and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for being so good to me. I don't know what I'm the most proud of, the books I write, the scholarships, the pre-schools or the fact that I put my kids through college on my own with no help from anyone. Probably the latter because when all else is said and done, the only thing that matters is family. Is Fern Michaels a great writer. No. She is however, one hell of a story teller. When people ask me what I do, I say, "I scribble and tell stories." It's a great way to make a living. The Dutch have a saying, `If you can't whistle on your way to work, you don't belong in that job.' I whistle all day long.

Donna Everhart

Donna Everhart

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The Road to Bittersweet

The Road to Bittersweet

Donna Everhart

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An evocative and inspirational family drama

Donna Everhart on the origins of her characters’ perseverance

The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina are a sight to behold. While nowhere as lofty as some of the peaks out west, like the Grand Tetons or Rocky Mountains, there is a unique beauty, a sense that the ancient hills and valleys keep hold of long ago secrets. The mountain range extends as far north as Pennsylvania, and as far south as Alabama. There are about one hundred and twenty-five peaks that exceed five thousand feet, with about thirty-nine of those in North Carolina and Tennessee reaching above six thousand. Yet, it’s not about the height of these mountains that draws millions of visitors each year. It’s the unusual bluish, smoky vistas, the thriving culture in many of the quaint small towns in the area, the history, and yes, the mystery.

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to go on a hike at Doughton Park, a lovely area situated around mile marker 241 on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. It has a list of trails that stretch across grassy bluffs, and for the more sturdy (and brave!) individual, there are a few very steep, and difficult winding footpaths traversing some thirty miles from beginning to end. Also within the park are a couple of maintained, historic pioneer cabins. One is the Brinegar cabin, which is easy to get to because it’s situated near one of the parking lots just off the parkway. It’s a pristine structure, preserved and maintained to show how a family in the late 1800’s would have lived, with a yearly planted garden, a loom inside and a cobbler’s bench, along with many other artifacts.

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However, the cabin I was most interested in is known as the Caudill cabin. It’s one of the only surviving structures still standing after the historic 1916 flood in the Basin Cove area, and our plan was to hike out to its location in what is considered a very remote area of the park. In our day backpacks we had bags of trail mix, some beef jerky, and water. Based on what we’d mapped, it would be around fifteen miles total, out and back. As a reward that would come about two-thirds of the way into the hike, we tied a couple bottles of YoohooTM together and set them down in a slower moving section of Basin Creek running alongside Basin Creek trail. The stream was chilly enough to keep them cool until we made it back to that point, and we’d certainly need the energy by then since the last part of the hike would be mostly uphill.

After a few hours, we finally spotted the structure where it sat in a clearing of trees. It was a rather tiny dwelling, and upon seeing it, I was surprised at its diminutive size because I’d read it had housed quite a few of the Caudill family. Father, mother, and about fourteen (!) children. The doorway was short too, and I had to duck to get inside, and I’m not that tall. Inside there was a stone fireplace, an old cane back chair, some dusty cast-iron cookware, and two lofts at about eye level, one on each side, stretching from one wall to the other. I pictured the Caudill children lying side by side like ears of corn, sleeping in those lofts.

If I went perfectly still, the quiet was almost unnerving. The only sound came from the wind blowing through the treetops and every now and then, the occasional bird. I went to the doorway, and sat down. I looked around while trying to imagine living there, having to grow and kill everything needed in order to eat, having to haul water up from the nearby creek, make clothes, preserve food, care for children. I envisioned how cold it might get during winter, and stared at the gaps in the log cabin walls. They would have likely filled those in with mud, moss, or some other natural material to help stave off the wind, yet I had read somewhere, it could get so blustery, handmade rag rugs would lift from the floorboards, and settle back down after each gust.

Back in those days, the closest town was called Absher, and it was eight miles away. There are/were no roads to the cabin. The Caudills had lived in this tiny structure, only leaving after the devastating flood of 1916 wiped out everything around them. This is where the initial seed was planted to one day write a story about a family who lived in a similar area and what might happen to them should the same circumstances occur in which they are driven from the only home they’ve ever known by a natural disaster. It is often discussed how the people who live and have lived in this area over the past several hundred years are filled with fortitude, perseverance and courage. Mainly of Scots-Irish descendants, their traits and characteristics are what I’ve instilled in my characters in The Road to Bittersweet as they face what seem to be insurmountable hardships. The story is one of privation and suffering, yet it is exactly because of my character’s stamina, endurance and strength that my fictional family is representative of the many, many other families who’ve inhabited this extraordinarily lovely part of my state. They manage to find a way to live, survive, and most of all, a way to love, thrive, and prosper.

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The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina are a sight to behold. While nowhere as lofty as some of the peaks out west, like the Grand Tetons or Rocky Mountains, there is a unique beauty, a sense that the ancient hills and valleys keep hold of long ago secrets. The mountain range extends as far north as Pennsylvania, and as far south as Alabama. There are about one hundred and twenty-five peaks that exceed five thousand feet, with about thirty-nine of those in North Carolina and Tennessee reaching above six thousand. Yet, it’s not about the height of these mountains that draws millions of visitors each year. It’s the unusual bluish, smoky vistas, the thriving culture in many of the quaint small towns in the area, the history, and yes, the mystery.

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to go on a hike at Doughton Park, a lovely area situated around mile marker 241 on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. It has a list of trails that stretch across grassy bluffs, and for the more sturdy (and brave!) individual, there are a few very steep, and difficult winding footpaths traversing some thirty miles from beginning to end. Also within the park are a couple of maintained, historic pioneer cabins. One is the Brinegar cabin, which is easy to get to because it’s situated near one of the parking lots just off the parkway. It’s a pristine structure, preserved and maintained to show how a family in the late 1800’s would have lived, with a yearly planted garden, a loom inside and a cobbler’s bench, along with many other artifacts.

However, the cabin I was most interested in is known as the Caudill cabin. It’s one of the only surviving structures still standing after the historic 1916 flood in the Basin Cove area, and our plan was to hike out to its location in what is considered a very remote area of the park. In our day backpacks we had bags of trail mix, some beef jerky, and water. Based on what we’d mapped, it would be around fifteen miles total, out and back. As a reward that would come about two-thirds of the way into the hike, we tied a couple bottles of YoohooTM together and set them down in a slower moving section of Basin Creek running alongside Basin Creek trail. The stream was chilly enough to keep them cool until we made it back to that point, and we’d certainly need the energy by then since the last part of the hike would be mostly uphill.

After a few hours, we finally spotted the structure where it sat in a clearing of trees. It was a rather tiny dwelling, and upon seeing it, I was surprised at its diminutive size because I’d read it had housed quite a few of the Caudill family. Father, mother, and about fourteen (!) children. The doorway was short too, and I had to duck to get inside, and I’m not that tall. Inside there was a stone fireplace, an old cane back chair, some dusty cast-iron cookware, and two lofts at about eye level, one on each side, stretching from one wall to the other. I pictured the Caudill children lying side by side like ears of corn, sleeping in those lofts.

If I went perfectly still, the quiet was almost unnerving. The only sound came from the wind blowing through the treetops and every now and then, the occasional bird. I went to the doorway, and sat down. I looked around while trying to imagine living there, having to grow and kill everything needed in order to eat, having to haul water up from the nearby creek, make clothes, preserve food, care for children. I envisioned how cold it might get during winter, and stared at the gaps in the log cabin walls. They would have likely filled those in with mud, moss, or some other natural material to help stave off the wind, yet I had read somewhere, it could get so blustery, handmade rag rugs would lift from the floorboards, and settle back down after each gust.

Back in those days, the closest town was called Absher, and it was eight miles away. There are/were no roads to the cabin. The Caudills had lived in this tiny structure, only leaving after the devastating flood of 1916 wiped out everything around them. This is where the initial seed was planted to one day write a story about a family who lived in a similar area and what might happen to them should the same circumstances occur in which they are driven from the only home they’ve ever known by a natural disaster. It is often discussed how the people who live and have lived in this area over the past several hundred years are filled with fortitude, perseverance and courage. Mainly of Scots-Irish descendants, their traits and characteristics are what I’ve instilled in my characters in The Road to Bittersweet as they face what seem to be insurmountable hardships. The story is one of privation and suffering, yet it is exactly because of my character’s stamina, endurance and strength that my fictional family is representative of the many, many other families who’ve inhabited this extraordinarily lovely part of my state. They manage to find a way to live, survive, and most of all, a way to love, thrive, and prosper.

Kate Pearce

Kate Pearce

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The Bad Bad Cowboy

The Bad Bad Cowboy

Kate Pearce

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Corral yourself the latest book in the Morgan Ranch series

On ranches and romances: an interview with Kate Pearce

After writing historical romance, what made you want to write about cowboys?I grew up watching American cowboy TV shows, and the first thing I did after moving to the USA was learn to ride “Western style.” I also went on cattle drives, and stayed at a working ranch in Northern California near where I lived. I set the books in that world, but made up my own family, town, and ranch.

What would you say are the main themes of your Morgan Ranch series?Familiar ones, I hope: family, love, and forgiveness. I wanted to write about a family that had been torn apart by tragedy, and how each person involved in that tragedy thought they were responsible for all of it. I wanted to explore the idea of forgiveness, of not being perfect, and how time, maturity and gaining perspective can alter how you see yourself and allow you to forgive yourself and be loved.

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There is a continuing mystery alongside the romance in each book. Was that difficult to write?Not really, as I also write cozy mysteries as Catherine Lloyd, and I love to include other elements in my romance novels to encourage people to keep reading.

What’s an average day like for Kate Pearce?I’m lucky enough to live on the big Island of Hawaii. I get up around 7, let out my two small dogs, get my daughter to school at 9, and then settle in to either write or do social media, or edits, or all the other things writers have to do these days. My husband works from home so we try and meet in the kitchen for lunch, and a nice cup of tea. After lunch, I keep on writing until around 5 when I start making dinner. Unless I’m really pushed for time, I try not to work in the evenings so I can watch some TV and knit.

What’s next for the Morgan Ranch series in 2018?Well you’ll get book five, The Billionaire Bull Rider, around May, which involves a heroine from Morgantown, and a World Champion bull rider who is half Brazilian. I’m currently writing book six, which will finish up the Morgan siblings’ stories, but I can’t tell you any more than that right now.

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Leah Marie Brown

Leah Marie Brown

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Dreaming of Manderley

Dreaming of Manderley

Leah Marie Brown

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Take a virtual tour of the South of France in the Kobo Exclusive Edition

Follow in the footsteps of Dreaming of Manderley’s heroine

A little mise en scène with Leah Marie Brown

Movies — modern blockbusters, black and white classics, obscure foreign films — are a major theme in my novel, Dreaming of Manderley, which is filled with references to movie stars and movies. In fact, the first scene opens in the south of France during the Cannes Film Festival, with my heroine, Manderley Maxwell, watching actor Jake Gyllenhaal work the red carpet.

As an assistant to a world-famous screenwriter, Manderley is both observer and participant in the glamourous world of make-believe. The decision to cast Manderley as an impotent, insignificant player in her milieu allowed me to create a timid character with a rich internal dialogue and sharp, wry observations. It also allowed me to eventually force her to step out of the shadows and claim the leading role in her life and romance.

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For Manderley, movies provide more than a paycheck; they provide an escape from a world she feels she doesn’t belong. If given the choice, she would rather spend an evening at home, watching an old black and white film, than over-dressing in Dior and attending a black-tie event with image-obsessed celebs. Casablanca. His Girl Friday. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Laura. Some Like It Hot. Roman Holiday. The fabulous forties and fifties are where it’s at for Manderley.

So, when her best friend suggests they visit the sites featured in To Catch a Thief, a film set in the south of France, Manderley is happy to don her Grace Kelly inspired sunglasses and ride shotgun in their zippy rented roadster.

Now, you can follow in Manderley’s footsteps. Take a virtual tour of sites featured in Dreaming of Manderley when you buy the Kobo Exclusive Edition in a special behind-the-scenes look.

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V.S. Alexander

V.S. Alexander

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The Taster

The Taster

V.S. Alexander

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He’s got a taste for historical fiction

An interview with author V. S. Alexander

What drew you to writing and how long have you been working at it?In my childhood, I wrote plays and short stories. At the time, I didn’t think anything of them, at least in the context of what I might like to consider as a future profession. They were silly pieces, stuff that kids write and keep to themselves, and that’s what I did, although my mother was proud enough to save them in a scrapbook. My last semester at college, I took a creative writing class because I needed to round out my schedule—that was all it took. I left that class on fire, filled with enthusiasm, and the desire to write. However, it took me many years to fulfil my dream, more years than I care to remember. If you are a writer, you never give up your dream despite rejections—in fact, you’re probably working on a book now. I’m an ardent student of history and the arts and I love writing historical fiction with strong women protagonists. My first novel for Kensington Publishing was The Magdalen Girls, an Amazon best seller, set in 1962 Dublin. The Taster is my second offering from Kensington and I’m very excited about it. Currently, I’m at work on a third book set in 19th-century Ireland, and I’ve just signed a contract for two more titles.

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Do you have any hobbies, interests, or pastimes that are relevant to the book?I was drawn to history as a student and I’ve always loved to read. I joined a book club in grade school and read as much as I could, even muddling through the classics. I remember Ivanhoe being a particular favourite. I do like to travel, although I’m not fond of the experience of getting there—but visiting other countries is thrilling. This past summer, I was able to take a wonderful trip to Ireland while conducting research for my third book. I also play classical piano and do a bit of composing. I watch very little television, but when I do it’s almost always BBC. I’m a big fan of Poldark, Grantchester, Victoria, and, of course, Downton Abbey.

What was your favourite book as a child?David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondryod. This book opened the world of writing to me. It’s a potent mixture of fantasy, adventure, humour, and palpable sadness. I won’t give the ending away, but be prepared to shed tears.

What inspired you to write The Taster?The inspiration for The Taster came from a 2013 Associated Press article about a food taster for Adolf Hitler. The Taster kept her former profession a secret for ninety-five years. I had always wanted to write a holocaust novel, so I had done much research on the WWII years, but I never felt I was up to the task of equalling the memorable books and movies already produced about the holocaust. The AP article grabbed me and I knew The Taster would be my book about Nazi Germany, the book I had been longing to write for years. I started it a short time after the article was published, and after additional research, it took me a little more than two years to write and edit. I submitted it to my agent after I had signed the contract for The Magdalen Girls. At the time, I was working full-time in another industry, so I would write Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and on weekends. I gave myself Friday and Monday nights off.

How difficult was it to write a book about Hitler and the Reich?Oddly enough, Magda Ritter, my heroine, popped into my head and never let me go. She was a strong voice, the guiding force behind the book, and any time doubts about the story blossomed in my head she would tell me to get back to the writing. The book flowed because of all the preparation I had done in the years before, while struggling to place this kind of material in a workable context. At one point in the book, Magda took me to a place I had no idea she was going. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out where that might be, but it was a revelation and an exhilarating experience for me as an author. I love process moments like those. Information about Hitler and the Reich was easy to find—there are countless sources. Constructing Nazi “characters” was more difficult without falling into the trap of caricature and stereotype.

Is writing an enjoyable experience for you?Mostly. Some writers compare it to slow torture, others to ecstatic pleasure. When you are “in the zone,” there’s nothing like it. The words flow, all seems right in your fictional world, and the characters take over. However, there are certain aspects of the process that I like better than others. I’m all about creation. Editing is not my favourite task, but I appreciate the work and talent editing takes—and how much better it makes the novel. To now have the luxury to write full-time is a dream come true. I’m thankful for my good fortune.

What writing advice would you give to aspiring authors?Many aspiring authors say they’ve always wanted to write a novel, but they never do. Life gets in the way, or other reasons thwart their progress. To those writers, I say “Start now!” By the time you get published, you may well have written a million preparatory words. Don’t worry about getting an agent until you’ve written the best book you possibly can. And by that, I mean a book that’s saleable and unique. Also, read, read, read. Read outside your genre, including the classics that may have been a slog when they were assigned to you in school. And, perhaps, the best advice I can offer is—never give up. A disciplined, persistent, writer has a much better chance of being published than one who only dreams.

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John Lutz

John Lutz

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The Honorable Traitors

The Honorable Traitors

John Lutz

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Sympathy for the devils

John Lutz brings out the good side of the bad guys

You've written private eye, serial killer, psychological suspense—every genre in crime fiction. Why have you now turned to the spy thriller?All crime fiction is about people doing bad things. In the espionage genre, they're doing BIG bad things. I guess you could say I'm interested in evil-doing on a global scale.

But your work is distinguished by your—what shall we call them, sympathetic villains? Even the serial killers.Human villains, anyway. Human beings seldom think of themselves as being bad. Even if they're doing unquestionably evil deeds, they're being forced to. That holds true with the espionage genre, I find. The villains are serving their country. Or keeping faith with some sort of ideology. They're determined and courageous. Which is what makes them so dangerous.

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Your new novel is titled The Honorable Traitors. Are they really honorable?In their own minds, no question. Readers may find them sympathetic. Even admirable—though they're pulling off what someone in the book calls the biggest theft in history.

Are they your main villains?No. The main villain is someone I don't want to say too much about. For a long time in the book, he doesn't even have a name. But I can say that he sees himself as a man with a just mission. He's avenging a great wrong.

Sounds like he has a Biblical concept of justice—an eye for an eye?Yes. In this case, it's tens of thousands of deaths for tens of thousands of deaths.

I hope we have somebody good defending us from him. Tell us about your hero.Thomas Laker was a star running back at Notre Dame. He could've turned pro, but decided to serve his country instead. He was a CIA agent for many years, until a roadside bomb in Iraq injured him badly. On his recovery, he was offered a high-up desk job that would have kept him in Langley. Instead he "vanished into the mists beyond the CIA," as another character in the book puts it.

What's he like?He lives in a ramshackle loft in an unfashionable part of Washington. It was once a pin factory. He drinks a single-malt scotch so expensive he keeps it in the safe left behind by the pin factory. When the situation calls for it, he carries a Beretta M9, slung butt down in a shoulder rig. But even if you catch him unarmed, he's still pretty tough. He likes old Ford Mustangs. And Ava North.

And who is she?A beautiful redhead who works for the NSA. One of their brightest young code breakers. She does it only out of patriotism; she doesn't need the money. The Norths are a wealthy, well-connected Washington family. But her legacy has a dark side. Confidants of presidents going back to FDR's administration, the elder Norths have learned dangerous secrets. Ava will need all her considerable wits. And Laker.

Where is the novel set?That's another attraction the spy genre holds for me. You get to travel. Or your characters do, anyway. In The Honorable Traitors, Laker and Ava will cross the USA, from Hawaii to New York City. The next one, The Havana Game, has settings all over the world.

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Jannine Gallant

Jannine Gallant

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Buried Truth

Buried Truth

Jannine Gallant

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An exciting new voice in romantic suspense

Jannine Gallant uncovers the dark side of a picturesque town

What better hiding place than a time capsule, soon to be buried for decades to come? More than likely, no one would remember its existence, and the film would never be found. Relief flowed over him, and suddenly the noise and confusion didn’t bother him in the least. All he had to do was slip the roll in the box before they nailed it shut. Problem solved.

Visit Siren Cove, Oregon, for gorgeous beaches, miles of hiking, delightful small-town shops — and a dark side none of its residents could have possibly imagined…

Leah Grayson has lived in Siren Cove all her life. It’s where she buried a time capsule with her fifth-grade class. Where she spent an unforgettable night on the beach with her first love. Where she married then divorced her rotten ex.

But there’s something ugly going on in her pretty little town. When Leah organizes a reunion for her fifth-grade classmates to open their time capsule, they discover a roll of film no one remembers saving. Afterward, strange incidents begin happening. Warnings. Accidents. Random acts of vandalism.

Luckily, her first love is back in town, too. Ryan Alexander has made it big with a wildly popular social media startup, but he’s still the same sweet, cynical man she fell for all those years ago. And the chemistry they felt as teenagers is as strong as ever.

A nostalgic fling turns deadly when someone is convinced Leah has the key to secrets long buried. With no way to know whom they can trust, Leah and Ryan will have to seek out the answers themselves…

Praise for Jannine Gallant:

“Every Move She Makes will have you looking over your shoulder long after the lights go out.” – Nancy Bush, New York Times bestselling author

“Jannine Gallant gives you a satisfying read.” – Kat Martin, New York Times bestselling author

Ella Quinn

Ella Quinn

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he Marquis and I

The Marquis and I

Ella Quinn

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Ella Quinn returns to the Worthingtons Series

Enjoy this exclusive Q&A with the bestselling regency romance author

Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?Laptop. No one really wants to read my handwriting, including me.

Where is your favourite place to write?In the cockpit of my sailing catamaran. When I’m at our apartment in Germany I have a room I’m making into my office.

What word or expression do you most overuse?Probably “well.” I’m trying to cull it.

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What’s your all-time favourite adjective?My favorite adjective is “prodigious”, but I rarely get to use it in my writing.

If your book(s) were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?I’m getting to have lots of books. So I’ll pick Three Weeks to Wed. I’d like to have Amanda Seyfried play Grace.

When did you realize you wanted to become an author?When I was 58 and looking for something different to do.

Do you believe in writer’s block?Sort of. I’ve been pretty lucky. Whenever I can’t think of something to write, I just start typing. It might be horrible, but horrible is fixable. Nothing is not.

Do you listen to music while you write? What’s on your playlist?No, I have to have quiet. That might change if I find the right music. On the boat there was always noise of some sort. In the apartment there is real silence.

Whom would you want to write your life story?Either Nora Roberts or Eileen Dryer.

What do all writers have in common?The need to have a community, even if it’s online.

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Heather Heyford

Heather Heyford

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The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot

Heather Heyford

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Like a fine wine

Heather Heyford on her latest novel, The Sweet Spot

If The Sweet Spot was to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?I’ve had a major girl crush on Margot Robbie since The Wolf of Wall Street. Margot is both girl-next-door wholesome and unapologetically sexy. While I was writing The Sweet Spot, I could see her as Jamie in my mind’s eye, acting out the scenes.

When did you realize you wanted to become an author?Growing up in our house there were books, magazines and newspapers everywhere. I think I came out of the womb knowing how to read, because I don’t remember ever not knowing how to. But I loved art, too. I always thought that if anyone ever wrote a book it would be my dad or sister, who were both English majors. But my dad passed at a young age, and my sister found fulfillment in her law enforcement career.
I must’ve done something right as an art teacher because students flocked to my classes. But I would go home at night completely drained. Too late, I realized that teaching is acting. Extroverts, like my hubs, absorb energy from people.
But I’m an introvert. I like people, but I crave time alone to recharge.
There was this love story I’d been carrying around in the back of my mind, nagging me. Finally I thought, I’ll just write it down. How hard can writing a book be? (laughing) And then it will be out of my system. That was ten books ago!

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Do you believe in writer’s block?The road to finishing a book is filled with potholes that jar you to the bone, surprising hairpin turns, and everywhere, ghosts. I would like to be able tell you that there is satisfaction in writing The End, but for me it’s more like relief. Ironically, it’s only a day or so until I’m itching to start the next one.

Do you listen to music while you write?In The Sweet Spot, Hank suspects Jamie of seeing the guitarist in her band. One frosty night he follows Jamie and her band mate home, pulls into a parking space facing her window and waits. Before long he sees what he’s been dreading most: a silhouette of a man and a woman locked in each other’s arms. It is the worst of times. Hank’s heart is broken. He is alone, so in place of dialog, a song plays at full volume, filling every square inch of the tiny cab: That’s my girl, my whole world, but that ain’t my truck*. Even at his lowest, he is far too brave to succumb to being teary or overemotional. And he never loses his sense of humor. That’s my kind of hero. *lyric by Rhett Akins.

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Jannine Gallant

Lynn Cahoon

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Who Moved My Goat Cheese?

Who Moved My Goat Cheese?

Lynn Cahoon

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Writing the better version of what you know

Advice from mystery author Lynn Cahoon

Write what you know was the first piece of ‘writer advice’ I found when I was first starting out. And I kind of threw it away when I started telling stories. Or I thought I did.

One of my first paid fiction pieces was a story for a confessional magazine. I Fell in Love with a Carney was published in one of the True magazines. It told the story of a girl who fell in love with someone totally out of her social group – a rambling bad boy – only to find out he was a local professor on a research sabbatical. Total fiction, right? Actually, no. I mixed together several life experiences to tell a story that didn’t happen.

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The meeting someone at the state fair in the beer garden while listening to music. That was true. Taking my nieces to the carnival the next day, true, but not the same year. And falling in love on the Tilt a Whirl? I reached back to my first teenage love for that memory. Mix it all together and I had a story that worked.

My first full length book did the same with several towns and tourist stops in the Idaho mountains. The vivid descriptions of the tilapia farm at the hot springs was true, it just wasn’t outside my fictional town of Shawnee. And the first rodeo of the season is in Riggins, not Shawnee. But like my fictional rodeo, it’s always the first weekend in May and always a really good weekend long party.

The romance tropes I used for that story (secret baby and reunion) were the framework for the memories I wove together for a place for my characters to take over and build their lives.

When I moved into cozy mystery, I took my mantra with me. During a long ago spring break trip, I’d taken a picture of a house just outside a small tourist town just off the pacific highway in California. It stayed taped to my desktop computer for years, waiting for the story to erupt. When it did, the Tourist Trap Mysteries were born.

Last year I decided I wanted to go home. At least in my mind. The Farm to Fork mystery series is set in River Vista, Idaho. For those of you who knew me growing up, you might recognize a few of the spots and the town that my fictional world is built over. But I get to set up the businesses and invite people in to live there.

In Who Moved My Goat Cheese, Angie Turner returns to the house her Nona left to her. A house with one lone hen, Mabel, and plenty of room to finally get a dog. With the Farm to Table restaurant, The County Seat, that Angie’s opening in a few months, she’s got a lot on her plate. She doesn’t need to help solve a mystery. But of course, she does.

I’m writing what I know, it’s just a better version of what I know.

What’s your favorite piece of advice? I’d love to hear your stories.

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