First of all, I think it’s wonderful you’ve written a western, it’s part of our not-so-distant past. The struggle to exist without all the benefits of a big city had to be quite a challenge. Is Cassie’s story something that’s been with you for awhile, eager to be told?
Yes, Lies, Love & Redemption has been with me for quite a while—many years, in fact. When I got the idea for the book, I did all the initial research and wrote a very rough draft. After that, the handwritten manuscript just sat around. I’m not exactly sure why other book projects came ahead of it, but they did. I wrote several other books while this one was waiting in the wings, so to speak. Cassie’s story was always there, but I guess I wasn’t ready to revise and edit it.
When I started working on the book, I found that although the basic story still resonated with me, I wanted (and needed) to make a lot of changes. I added new scenes, deleted others, and generally gave it a makeover. I think it’s a much stronger and better book now than it was originally.
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What came to you first, the characters or the plot?
It was a combination of both. I always had the opening scene of Sam walking across the prairie in my mind. I knew where he was going (to Cassie’s store) and I had the general idea of how the story would play out and who the characters are, but not the specifics of each scene. As I got further into writing the book, the details became more solidified.
Is this the first time you’ve written about the Nebraska prairie? Did you dig deep into its past?
Yes, this is the first time I’ve written about Nebraska, or tackled a western, for that matter. Although I’ve written a lot of historical romances, the time periods are always different. I’ve used Medieval (A Most Unusual Princess), Scottish (The Viking’s Witch) and Colonial (Dangerous Indenture) settings.
I enjoy reading about history and exploring what life was like back then, so doing the research part of the book is interesting—and time consuming. I’m always scribbling notes about details I could use in the book. I never use them all, but adding realistic details helps draw the reader into the world of the characters, even though it might be very different from how we live now.
But no matter what the setting, I’m finding that the basic structure of a romance (two people in love overcoming obstacles to be together) remains universal, wherever (or whenever) the story takes place. And I always make sure my historical romances are anything but boring. I don’t include a lot of “info dumps” or have stuffy characters lecturing about historical events unless it’s critical to the story.
Having a woman as a business owner is an interesting challenge in this time period. Tell us about Cassie Wilcox. Was she born in this town or moved from a big city for a new way of life? How did she come to own a general store? Why is she having trouble with the townspeople? Does she have any form of support?
Cassie has lived in Holloway all her life, and her father used to run the store. After a tragic incident, Cassie inherited the store and she is determined to keep it open, no matter what. Unfortunately, the town is dying out and the puritanical townspeople don’t approve of her headstrong and independent ways. They’d like nothing better than to drive her out.
Until Sam arrives, Cassie’s only form of support in town is Luke, the sheriff. He’s like a big brother to her and helps her out—whether she admits she needs help or not.
Sam Hixton had to be shot and left for dead not too far from town. He probably wouldn’t have made it there otherwise. What can you tell us about Sam without giving away too many of his secrets?
Sam was shot and wandered across the prairie. He stumbled into town and literally collapsed at Cassie’s feet. He was in bad shape and Cassie had to persuade the doctor to treat him. Against her better judgment, Cassie allowed Sam to stay in the store until he recovered.
Sam is a noble man who feels he has a debt to pay and a duty to watch over Cassie, and this leads to conflict between them. The townsfolk (and Luke) don’t trust Sam because he’s a stranger, but as the story develops, Luke warms up to him. Sam is keeping his past a secret and is hiding his true identity—and much more—from everyone.
Was it fate that brought these two together?
Yes, fate brought Cassie and Sam together. They’re a lot alike in some ways; both are stubborn and think they don’t need anyone else. Over the course of the book, they realize they need (and want) each other. Sam and Cassie have troubled pasts that they’re trying to overcome and everything isn’t what it originally seems when we first meet them.
Was it a good idea for Cassie to hire Sam to work in her store?
Yes and no. From day one, Cassie keeps telling herself (and Luke) that as soon as Sam is healed, he has to leave. But the more she says it, the more you wonder: who is she trying to convince? Cassie does need help at the store, but she’s smart enough to realize she’s playing with fire when she hires Sam. He’s another complication she doesn’t need in her life—or so she thinks. Hiring Sam stirs up a whole bunch of new troubles (and emotions) for Cassie.
Is there an attraction there?
Oh yes! Sam is attracted to Cassie from the moment he first wakes up—even though she’s not being very nice to him. Cassie falls for Sam, too, but she has a hard time admitting it. Part of her doesn’t want to get attached because her heart’s been broken before, and she doesn’t want to feel vulnerable again.
What do they fear?
Cassie says she’s not afraid of anything, but we know that’s not true. Deep down, she fears losing the store. She’s also afraid of falling in love with Sam, only to lose him. She has experienced a lot of losses in her life and she is hesitant to open her heart to someone else.
As the situation with the townspeople escalates, Sam is afraid for Cassie’s safety. She has made enemies in town and people aren’t shy about wanting her gone. He’s also afraid that when Cassie finds out the truth about his past (and the things he’s done) that she won’t love him anymore.
Was this a difficult book to write? How soon after you submitted it to the publisher was it accepted? How many books have you had published now?
Lies, Love & Redemption wasn’t hard to write, but it was time-consuming. It’s a long book (over 60,000 words) and the longer the book, the longer the writing process. Once I had an outline of the scenes and knew where the book was going, I went through my usual writing process and the editing and revising stages. (Believe it or not, coming up with the title was one of the more challenging parts of getting the book finished. Credit goes to my husband for the great title!)
When it was finished, I submitted it to Medallion Press and they bought it about a month or two later. This is my third historical romance with Medallion Press (the other two books are The Viking’s Witch and Dangerous Indenture).
In addition to my novels with Medallion, I had 16 romances published with Amber Quill Press. After they went out of business in spring of 2016, I revised several of these books and began re-releasing them on my own as e-books on Amazon and other platforms. To date, I’ve re-released seven Amber Quill romances. I’m planning on re-releasing the rest in 2017. (Readers are invited to visit my blog, website, and social media pages for the latest updates.)
How are you promoting Lies, Love and Redemption?
I’m doing several guest blogs and interviews about the book. Plus, I’m posting book spotlights, doing ads, and sharing excerpts on social media (Goodreads, Facebook, etc.). I’m also sending out review requests, press releases, and featuring it in my newsletter.
What are you currently writing?
Right now, I’m writing another historical romance. I hope to have it ready for release in 2017. (No, there’s no title yet!) I’m also working on a few new horror short stories and revising more of my Amber Quill Press romances for 2017 releases.
Any tips for writers that you can share?
I have a lot of writing tips! In fact, I kept getting asked this question so often that I wrote a book about how to write. It’s called You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. This fun guide is filled with advice, tips all writers can use, and writing exercises designed to motivate you and get you writing. It’s available on Amazon and other platforms: http://www.amazon.com/Write-Really-Beginners-Guide-Writing-Fiction-ebook/dp/B00THWLFQU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423749384&sr=1-1
I also posted 15 fun writing tips on my blog. The link is: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_15.html
And here are 3 quick tips for GWN readers:
- If you’re writing a historical romance, be sure to do your homework and research the time period and setting. Find out what was invented when and check any facts you’re not sure of. (You don’t want your 1570 heroine struggling with a zipper or talking about events in history that haven’t happened yet!) Use details relevant to the era to add an extra dimension of believability to your scenes.
- Don’t make your heroes and heroines too perfect. Each character must have a weakness he or she works to overcome. It could be anything: chronic lateness, unreliability, drinks too much, lies, steals, or refuses to make attachments. Use this weakness against your character in the story and show readers how he or she overcomes it.
- Be sure to make life difficult for your characters. They should have challenges and obstacles to overcome in the story. Why not give them something from their pasts that comes back to haunt them? Perhaps a secret is revealed (or is threatened to be), an ex-lover returns, a love child appears at the worst moment, or a scandal threatens to destroy a prominent family member. This adds depth and believability to the characters and also moves the plot forward. What are the consequences of hiding the secret? What happens when it’s revealed?
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. It’s fun to answer questions and touch base with readers. Feel free to write with questions, follow me on social media, and share posts with your friends!
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
In 2016 Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information. Kelli’s third Medallion Press historical romance, Lies, Love & Redemption, was released in September 2016.
Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 15 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor. She also writes a weekly blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/.
CATCH UP WITH KELLI
Here are a few links to find Kelli & her writings on the web
Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb
Medallion Press Author Page: http://medallionpress.com/author/kelli-wilkins/