When you start publishing your books, you meet other authors-- sometimes rather distantly-- but you get a feeling for their work and something about them. One writer I found particularly of interest was Peggy Henderson. Yes, she's a good writer. I've read some of her books (will read more whenever I get the time to read for pleasure), but it was also because she was writing about one of my favorite areas-- Yellowstone. I found her knowledge and love of that land inspiring for how she captured its heart and history as she created a series of five books with each standing alone and yet linked. I am happy today to have her on my blog as a guest author where she relates a bit about her work for not only you to discover her books but to learn more about the craft and art of writing from someone who is out there doing it-- and doing it well.
Thank you, Rain, for having me on your blog today. These were great interview questions!
Yellowstone and that part of Wyoming and Montana has clearly inspired your books. How and when did you first discover that country?
The first time I’ve been to Yellowstone was the year my then future husband introduced me to camping. We went on a road trip after our high school graduation. I immediately fell in love with the beauty of the area. Here we have an ecosystem that is, for the most part, intact much the way it was hundreds of years ago, and who wouldn’t be in awe at the beautiful landscape and thermal features.
Do your family, friends, hobbies or work find their way into your stories?
I think every author writes some aspects of their life into their stories. Yes, I modeled my first heroine, Aimee Donovan, after a close friend of mine (I never told her, and she just recently read the book, so whether she recognized herself or not, I don’t know). One of the most frequent questions I used to get asked was, “Are you a nurse?” because Aimee is a nurse. No, I’m not a nurse, but my background is in biological sciences and veterinary medicine, so I brought a lot of knowledge from that into my first book.
When a reader finishes one of your books, what is the thing you most hope they take away with them?
I hope the reader will have that feel-good feeling after finishing one of my books, after witnessing love blossom and develop between two people who were destined to be together. I also hope that readers will take away a better appreciation for the beauty of nature and have a little deeper respect for it, and maybe learn a little about the history of the places and people I write about.
Something I hadn’t foreseen when I wrote these books was how much readers appreciated all the scenery descriptions and how I used Yellowstone as the backdrop for the books. I’ve received tons of emails from readers, saying I had inspired them to want to go see Yellowstone now, after reading the books. That really surprised me at first, but in a good way, and I hope that all of my readers get to see and experience the beauty of the park for themselves.
Do you see your characters as you write about them, imagine them looking like say a movie star or some specific person? If so, can you share one example?
I’m a very visual person. I write my characters much better when I have a picture of what they look like. I very rarely go to the movies, so I don’t even know most of the movie stars and actors out there these days. For Daniel Osborne and Aimee Donovan, I had a clear image in my mind of who they were. No, I won’t share any examples. It’s been an ongoing personal challenge for my editor to try and figure out “who Daniel is.” She’s been trying to get me to tell her for a year now, and she’s been very persistent, but that’s a closely guarded secret. I think it’s better that readers can picture the characters in their minds, using their own imaginations.
You write adventure, historical stories, which means danger-- How do you make a decision on killing off a character?
Well, if a certain character is in the way of something that the leading character needs, the best, or easiest way to deal with that is to kill them off, right?
Because I write historical stories, and due to the setting of these stories, there has to be death and danger. Let’s face it, the lives of mountain men was gory, difficult at best, and brutal. Of course I romanticize that in the books. Who wants to read a romance that has nothing but gore and brutality in it?
It’s easy to kill off the bad guys in a story, not so easy when it has to be one of the good guys. There was a character in Yellowstone Redemption who, the more I wrote him, the more I liked him. I kept telling myself, “Oh, this isn’t good.” So, although I felt bad about killing him off, he had to die.
Have you ever written a book, had it do well, but later wished you could change something significant?
I sometimes wish I could have started Yellowstone Heart Song at a different point then where it starts in its published version. In my first draft, there are five chapters before the hero and heroine even meet, and the way it was written would have given away too much later on. As far as changing something significant after publication, no I haven’t wanted to do that for any of my books. I’m pretty happy with the way each of my books plays out.
How do you choose a book title?
Usually, the titles come to me before I even write the story. Each title says a little bit about the main theme or subject matter of the book. Heart Song was the most difficult book to name, maybe because it was my first. I must have had a dozen titles before that “A-HA” moment struck me.
Of all your books to date, do you have a favorite?
Absolutely. My favorite book to date is Yellowstone Redemption. I was sort of at a loss what to write after I finished Heart Song. I never intended for this to become a series. Heart Song was written as a stand-alone. I finally thought, “Eh, a sequel might be nice.” After the initial brainstorming, and when Chase Russell came to life in my head, that book practically wrote itself. I had my first draft finished in six weeks. I wish all my books would write that fast and easily.
What interested you most about writing a romance?
Well, I guess the romance, the slow build up of a relationship between two people who might be complete opposites, but are perfect for each other. I’ve read a lot of romance. One of the things that always annoys me is when the hero and heroine get together and jump into bed much too soon. I prefer a slow romantic build-up, let the characters discover their attraction to one another without physically acting on it within the first few chapters. As a reader, I’m completely uninterested in the rest of the story when that happens.
Since you write your stories going back to the days of the Mountain Men, would you have liked to live then? Ever been to a rendezvous such they have in many states where people reenact those times?
I don’t think I have the fortitude to live like the mountain men did. They were a special breed of men, and . . . no, I would not have wanted to live back in those days.
I am dying to go to a rendezvous! I’ve missed several of them by days when we go on vacation. There are no reenactments anywhere close to where I live. The closest I’ve come has been the Battle of the Little Bighorn Reenactment in Hardin, Montana. That was awesome.
Are your next books already germinating in your head or do you take a break between starting books?
I’m always thinking up my next book. Usually by the time I’m two-thirds done with one book, I’ve started taking notes and jotting down ideas on the next one.
Do you have any advice for those who might be interested in writing but have not yet given it a try?
Read a lot, then write a lot. It doesn’t matter what you write, just practice. It does make it easier if you “write what you know.” Find someone who is willing to critique your work honestly. Don’t ask friends or relatives to read your work and give their opinion. You want someone unbiased, and I don’t think a friend or family member (unless it’s my mother) will give you an unbiased opinion.
Writing is a tough business. Publishing is even tougher. It requires lots of hours, patience, and perseverance.
Peggy will return on Wednesday with a snippet from one of her books. :) In the meantime, here are links to take you to more about each of her books--
I am guesting today on Peggy's blog-- Peggy L. Henderson