1. What inspired you to write Tame the Wild Wind?
I once heard the term “claim jumper” and started thinking how hard it must have been back in the (mostly) lawless old West, especially for women, trying to defend their land. I think Jed was the impetus of the story in its early beginnings, but then Cassie took on a life of her own.
There are many themes in the story that I like – escaping from one’s past (Jed), and believing in the power of love to heal everything (Cassie). In the first few drafts, the Navajo were only a side note, but as the story grew, I realized the town’s bigotry and Cassie’s desire to help everyone could conflict. Ironic that her helpfulness is what brings Jed down. I’ve watched a lot of westerns, but never thought I’d write one. This is my 7th completed novel, and the six prior all take place in England, so it was truly the characters that captured me to write it down.
2. What is your favorite scene in the novel?
I love all the love scenes, but my favorite is the simple one of Jed wide awake, counting knotholes and randy sheep while Cassie sleeps next to him. I thought there was a lot of tension there, even though one of the main characters is asleep! In a few paragraphs, we see Jed’s loneliness and growing love for Cassie, and think that maybe – just maybe – he’ll roll over and take her in his arms….And then she does wrap herself around him, and we see how natural and easy their love could be if he would just live in the moment instead of worrying about the past.
3. Who is your favorite character? Why?
So much of Cassie is in me – spur-of-the-moment, romantic girl that she is! I was naiive at that age and trusted everyone to do the right thing. I also modeled her face on my daughter, Megan. Megan has beautiful hazel green/brown eyes and little freckles all over her face! She hates her freckles but everyone else loves them. Once she read the book, she embraced her freckles! I am also part Mexican through my mother’s side, and Mariana is a culmination of the beautiful, strong Latina women in my life and in the world. I wanted her to play a stronger role and not be a caricature. I like how she turned out – more worldly than Cassie, but with the same do-or-die attitude. I was very happy when Tyler realized what he had right in front of him. Look for Tyler and Mariana along with their headstrong daughters, Rosalinda and Elena, in a future sequel!
4. Once you get to the end of the novel, you feel like you have been on an amazing journey. Did you have the story planned out from the beginning, or did it take on a life of its own during the writing process?
I knew I was going to write a story about a couple fighting over land ownership, but never dreamed that Jed would have such a troubled past! I was truly blessed to have a wonderful editor in Patricia Tanner, who helped in so many ways. Some complete chapters were removed (dealing with Killeen’s trackers on Jed’s trail) and new ones were created, such as the “knothole scene” and the scenes at the fort. Patricia also said to me, “make me fall in love with Jed!” and that was a big challenge. I thought the reader would already love him, but had to flesh him out more. So I wrote the side storyline of his lost love, Ellen, so we could see the tender side of him. And what about him and little Abigail Button Nose? He was so cute with those little girls. Buying the hair comb for Cassie when he was broke is something my husband would do – I thought it showed a sensitive side to Jed. The original ending had a pseudo fight on Jed’s part with Cassie to make sure she’d leave before things went bad for him, but I felt she wouldn’t let a little thing like an argument with her beloved make her go. Again, the Navajo storyline became bigger – at first, they were just background characters, but then I saw how I could use their plight to twist the plot. I always have a general idea of how I want a story to end, but it’s the getting there that ebbs and flows.
5. This is the first novel I have read that I can see being made into a movie. If it were, who would you cast to play Cassie and Jed’s roles?
Thank you for saying that! I always envision every scene I write, so that it unfolds like a movie. It’s much easier to write that way! I saw Enchanted during the writing of the book, and thought that Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey would be perfect! I love the contrast between those two – not just physically, but the personalities. She is very playful and open, while he is reserved, protective. Mariana would have to be Eva Mendes and I actually wrote Tyler with the blond American explorer from The Mummy in mind (the one who gets it while guarding Evie!). He’s cocky and rugged and the ladies love him almost as much as he loves himself. Incidentally, in the first few drafts, Tyler was dangerously close to winning Cassie himself. I had to really push Jed there for a while!
6. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Tame the Wild Wind?
Research-wise, I was shocked by the horrible conditions the US government imposed on the Navajo and other native peoples. Once I realized how terrible life was for them, I had to keep Laughing Crow’s family safe on Jed’s land. The title of the story can also be a comment on their struggle, too. They were fighting against the winds of change themselves, while struggling to hold on to their identity and lands. From a writing standpoint, I really learned how to let go of a scene or a complete chapter, in some cases, to tighten the story. I could probably write another book with all those discarded scenes!
7. Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I recently contracted with Bookstrand Publishing for a contemporary romance set in Carmel, CA, called Taking A Chance on Forever. It will release around March 2011! I’m very exciting about it. It sure is a far cry from a little ranch in the middle of the Southwest. I also have a Scottish historical, a Regency, and another western that I’m working on, as well as the twin sequels to Tame the Wild Wind – two stories that feature the children of those wild Hazard boys!
8. Where do you go to get your best writing done?
I am lucky to have an office in my husband’s “man cave” where no one disturbs me! I have all my pictures, books, knickknacks, etc., laid out just as I want them. Oh – did I say no one disturbs me? Just my two kids, who “have to” be near me whenever I get the creative urge, and said husband, who plays Mafia Wars while watching the History Channel! I’ve learned to tune everything out. As long as nobody talks to me, I’m good. For traveling, my dear cousin, Nancy, gave me a mini laptop when I sold Tame the Wild Wind. I can slip it in my purse, it’s so compact.
9. Are you more creative in the morning or in the evening?
Definitely in the evening. It’s 9:36 pm as I write this. I find that if it’s daylight hours, the kids need me too much. At night, they’re settling down and ready for bed. They all know that night time is Mommy’s time! On Friday nights, I often write from 9pm to 1 am. The time really flies by.
10. Do you have any writing quirks?
Hmmm – well, I have complete trust in my mother, who is an avid reader and has been my harshest, most loving critic since I wrote my first romance when I was 16! Everything goes through her. She’s even started reading my Romance Writer’s Report (from RWA) so she can be up on the news! She has an eye for detail and everything has to be perfect before it goes back to the editor, or Mom’s not happy. In case anyone’s thinking that “well, she’s your mother! Of course she likes it” – nah ah! Her comment on the new book is, “It’s not the Pulitzer, but it’s good.” I think she’s miffed because I’ve temporarily laid aside my Regency work in progress, which is her favorite of all my books (I’ve written 8). That one is definitely for her. No real quirks, I guess – but I have a certain way of starting a nice long day of writing – turn the tv to the music channel (movie soundtracks are my favorite), get a glass of ice water, put my feet up on my little ottoman beneath the desk, and find the kids something to do. I can go for about 4 hours unless my eyes start crossing and all chaos is breaking out inside the house! I also use my husband for research – yes, I know what you’re thinking! Seriously, I will take his hands, and demonstrate various grips and touches and strokes, etc…to be able to describe the hero’s wonderful hands. So, his hands truly appear in all my books!
11. If you could add one thing to your writing area, what would it be?
A grammarian on call 24/7, a wall of research books, a vase of fresh flowers….well, at least I can manage the flowers! One thing I do love in my writing area is a cheap, $3 poster of a ranch – the kind you buy in a discount store! My husband bought it for me once I finished Tame the Wild Wind. When I asked why he would buy such a kitschy thing, he said, “it looks like the ranch in your book.” Aw, what a guy.
12. Which is more inspiring: nature or technology?
Nature, by a million times more! We are lucky to live two miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and there’s no place on earth more beautiful than the ocean. When I was correcting the galleys for this book, my husband and I drove to the Florida Keys for the weekend – he and his friend disappeared for hours on end while I stayed indoors writing. I could look out the window and see the beautiful water and the National Key Deer Refuge. At night, I stopped writing and we’d sit outside on the deck, watching the moonlight on the water and the little deer sneaking through the yards. I also love birds and ocean life. The mountains, especially in California, are my other love, and I lived in England for 10 years and can praise the countryside for hours if you’ll let me.
13. Which would you rather drink: coffee or tea?
Tea with lots of milk and sugar! Ice tea, too, the way we drink it here in the South – sweet!
14. Favorite late night snack?
Tends to be chips or cheese and crackers! I always wake up with crumbs in bed!
15. Black finger nail polish – love it or hate it?
My daughter and her friends use it and it looks cute on them. I guess if you’re in middle school, ok! But I like reds or browns.
16. Favorite old Hollywood starlet?
My idol was Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. One of the best gifts I ever got from my mom was a facsimile first edition of Gone With the Wind, my favorite book, and Mom inscribed it with the words, “The writer of the next Great American Novel should own the true Great American Novel.” I haven’t written the Great American Novel (yet?) but I hope my books touch readers’ hearts. I am so blessed in being surrounded by loving people who support and encourage me. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, but you need your family.Thank you, Zee, for taking the time to let me tell you about myself and my books!