An interview with Cindy Nord!

Cindy Nord - Professional ImageI am delighted to welcome my special guest this month, bestselling Historical Romance author, Cindy Nord.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and share your experiences with us.

What inspired your love of books, or the desire to be a story-teller/writer yourself?

Coming from a family of educators, I’ve always been encouraged to read.  I devoured books by the dozens.  From classics to childhood favorites, books expanded my world. As I grew older, I also grew to love history, with a specific focus on the Victorian era.  I read my first romance, and fell in love with the genre. I enjoyed the details of history sprinkled throughout the storyline, coupled with an unrestrained romantic entanglement. Because of this combination, I felt moved to put pen to paper and craft my own love story.

NO GREATER GLORY cover

What characteristics do you think are essential in a hero or heroine?

I want my hero to be strong, involved and engaged. A man who transforms compassion into heroic action with a unique leadership ability that separates him from the rest of the pack. Of course, he’s not perfect, he does have his weaknesses, AND, ultimately, it will be the heroine who helps him overcome those internal conflicts and imperfections. Likewise, I want my heroine to have a resourceful and internal focus that becomes challenged when she meets her hero. She must have a resilient sense of purpose with an unfulfilled need that even she doesn’t know she has. And, in turn, the hero, at first overwhelming and unwanted, eventually fills this void inside her heart. Of course, the romance wrapped around these two individuals is the catalyst that spurs them onward to completing their tumultuous journey to happily-ever-after.

Reliable research is essential to historical authors, but when did you first become involved in Civil War re-enactments?

As a Victorian lecturer and historian, I appreciate the details that breathe a character to life upon the pages. Wonderful tidbits that immerse the reader fully into the time period.  And my experience in re-enacting only helped solidify this knowledge. Many years ago, when I began writing my first novel, I read in the newspaper that they were having a Civil War living history weekend at our local university. Holy Toledo! I couldn’t believe that they actually did this sort of thing.  Here was American history brought to life. The acrid aroma of campfires. The thundering gallop of cavalry horses. Women clad in Victorian gowns sashaying across a lawn. All the things that I was writing about at the time. Indeed, I was swept straight back into the nineteenth century, and fell head-over-heels in love with this whole new experience. Immediately, I threw myself into the hobby.  I even ended up meeting my future husband on the battlefield.  Although we no longer re-enact now, I’ll forevermore cherish those years spent living in the time period I love so well.

What can your readers expect from a Cindy Nord novel?

Passion. Emotion. Conflict. Indeed, an accurate, historical immersion. All those things plus an ardent romance filled with sensations that tug at a readers’ heartstrings. Getting my characters to ‘The End’ is a hard won journey, for sure. And the greatest test of success for any writer is when their readers make the trip through their novels and never want the love story to end.

In your fascinating career to date, what memorable moments stand out?

Oh my, such a great question. Let’s see… I’ll begin with being a Romance Writers of America National Golden heart finalist with No Greater Glory which started this whole incredible journey, signing with my fabulous literary agent, Louise Fury of the Jenny Bent Agency in New York City, the day my first box of books arrived from my publisher, being a USA Today Lifeblog ‘Recommended Read’ author, having my Civil War romance novel used as a supplemental read in a well-known university history class, receiving a stellar review by the Library Journal (buying bible for all libraries in the U.S., Canada & the U.K.), my first invitation to be a keynote speaker at an RWA affiliated chapter, and having my very first book signing at Barnes & Noble…these, and so many more, have truly brought me untold joy.

With Open Arms (USE)

Do you have a very organized day, or do you write around ‘life’, but to set targets?

Balancing my time and attention between writing, social media, my family and my friends is always a difficult task. I try to set up a schedule with mornings spent on the internet and my social media sites, with my afternoons devoted to writing. In the evening, my husband listens as I read what I’ve written for the day.  This is a routine that works well for me. I’m what they call a ‘pantser’ (writing without an outline), and must completely finish each chapter before moving on to the next. I wouldn’t advise anyone else to follow this writing style, so say the ‘plot-first’ experts, but it does seem to work for me.

Writing books involves long hours working at a computer. What do you do to keep healthy and active?

I thoroughly love to ‘water walk’ at the gym, plus I walk my two shelties daily around our neighbourhood. I also enjoy working in the garden, as well as bicycling with my husband. We are both passionate followers of an ‘organic’ lifestyle, along with nutraceutical supplementation.

Along with other writers, I understand that you contributed to an anthology for ‘Women in Need’. Could you tell us something about this work and the charity?

I was invited by writer-extraordinaire, Hope Tarr, to be part of her project entitled, “Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them” non-fiction anthology where I joined several New York Times & other romance fiction writers.  Each real-life story in this body of work details how we writers met, wed and love—and are loved and supported by—our spouses and life partners. All proceeds from this literary compilation go directly to Women In Need, a New York City women’s shelter for abused females & their children. I am so honoured to have been asked to participate. Happily Ever After isn’t only the stuff of romance novels and fairy tales.

What single piece of advice would you give to any, as yet, unpublished author?

Never, ever, ever give up on your dream. And since we’re going to dream anyway…DREAM BIG!

What is next for Cindy?

I am putting the finishing touches on AN UNLIKELY HERO, the third book in my four-book The Cutteridge Series. I anticipate this love story debuting Spring, 2016.  I’ve also been invited to host one of the ten coveted ‘opening night’ tables at the 2015 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Dallas in May.  I’m also doing several book signings, as well as guest interviews for television stations. Plus, lecturing on Victorian fashions at several locations across the Midwest.

More from Cindy:

Congratulations to Cindy!

I was delighted to read today that Cindy Kirk has just become the President of Romance Writers’ of America, which has a membership of over ten thousand.

The RWA represents romance writers in the same capacity as the Romantic Novelists’ Association does in England and the Romance Writers’ of Australia.

These wonderful organisations are focused on advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers. They offer a network which is helpful and informative to their members as well as holding events, conferences and high profile competitions such as The RITA, RoNA and ARRA awards. Two of my own titles: Hannah of Harpham Hall and Moving On were short-listed for the now named RONA Rose award. I have been a member of the RNA for many years and find their willingness to guide new writers inspiring.

You can read more about Cindy in my interview with her earlier this year. I hope she has a really marvellous time promoting the organisation she so obviously loves.

The inspirations for Magic Sometimes Happens

I am delighted to welcome Margaret James back to my blog as she tells us about her enchanting new book Magic Sometimes Happens!

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Valerie. It’s great to be here! Today, I’m going to tell you about the inspirations – music, poetry and places – for my latest novel, Magic Sometimes Happens.

The story is about second chances for both my hero and my heroine. My hero Patrick Riley is married, is the father of two small children and doesn’t expect his wife to leave him for a man she says makes her fly. My heroine Rosie Denham is running away from a bad mistake and needs to learn to forgive herself.

The story starts when Rosie visits Minnesota in the fall, a season which is probably the most beautiful time of year in one of America’s most beautiful states. The whole place seems to turn red and gold almost overnight as the trees change colour. But fall is a very short season. Minnesota’s long, harsh winter will soon be on its way, and the whole place will be frozen solid for almost six months until spring makes a brief appearance before the next sweltering summer comes around.

So yes, Minnesota has an extreme climate. But it’s place that is full of extremes. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are divided by the Mississippi River, which winds between limestone bluffs and through various locks and channels to join the Missouri before flowing on to the Gulf of Mexico. There are quiet, very beautiful stretches of river very close to the urban hearts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. But some parts of the Twin Cities are very built up. Minneapolis is home to the Mall of America, the biggest shopping centre in the western world. But there are also hundreds of parks, lakes and playgrounds dotted between the buildings, and – in spite of the dozens of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers in downtown Minneapolis – the whole place has a countrified feel to it.

Most American schoolchildren are probably familiar with Henry Longfellow’s narrative poem, The Song of Hiawatha. It’s the story of a Native American warrior and his bride Minnehaha and it’s set in Minnesota. When you visit the Twin Cities, you can’t help but be aware of the influence of Longfellow on place names. You’ll come across Minnehaha Park, Hiawatha Avenue, the Hiawatha Clinic and many more. My fashion PR consultant heroine Rosie is a British girl who has never heard of Longfellow, but American-born Patrick knows long stretches of the poem by heart.

As for music – although Patrick is a professor of IT and very science-oriented, he is in love with music, especially American classical music by the likes of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber – Pat listens to them all. But his absolute favourite is Gershwin who wrote, among many other compositions, Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. So, when Rosie takes him to Paris, Patrick can’t help but be enchanted and magic is surely bound to happen!

Maybe have a listen and see if you’re enchanted, too?

More from Margaret

Why not have a peek at her blog, or chat with her on Facebook and Twitter?

An Interview with Eileen Ramsay

Eileen RamsayThank you, Eileen, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be my guest this month.

You have had a fantastic breadth of life experiences from teaching the children of international politicians and celebrities in the USA to working in Migrant Education. What lasting impressions did this contrast leave you with?
One fact that has remained with me through all my years of teaching is that, no matter the social position of the parents, the wealth or lack of it, education or lack of it, ALL good parents want the best for their children. Another is that poor parents – and I’m not talking finance here – come from every strata of society. I have had extremely wealthy parents leave seriously ill children in hospital while they jetted off to join some celebrity at a ski resort and I have had really poor Mexican parents turn up at my door begging for “Trabajo ahora?” whenever there was a school outing that cost a little money. They didn’t want a hand-out, they wanted to work to earn the money.

What is it about Mexico that appealed to you so much?

I visited Mexico often and studied Spanish language and Mexican music there. I love its fascinating and sometimes sad history. It is incredibly beautiful. The people are proud and they are generous and full of humour and you have just given me ideas for articles!

Would you agree with the observation that despite having lived with the lifestyle of the very privileged, you always seem to have kept your focus on what is important in life – family and reality?

You’re right, I did enjoy some incredible experiences and my upbringing was certainly not among the privileged but one wonderful woman in Washington DC reinforced all my early lessons. I had just met the man who was to become my husband and I wanted to impress him – shallow person that I am – with my ‘new’ family. I was taking him to lunch – to be introduced – and we walked into the house to see the lady of the house on her hands and knees washing a floor.  It turned out that the resident ‘cleaning lady’ wasn’t feeling well and had been sent to bed.

‘But why are you washing the floor?’ I asked.

She looked up at me and laughed. ‘Dirt,’ she said, ‘is no respecter of persons.’

My husband, of course, fell in love with her on the spot.

Churchills AngelsWhen did you break away from teaching to develop a career in writing?

Teaching and writing marched together for years. I wrote stories for Sunday School magazines and I wrote reading materials for primary schools. I was able to use knowledge of Native Americans I had gained while living in the US to write something a little different – Bud and the Hunkpapas was a favourite. For a few years I wrote from 4am to 6am but resigned when our younger son went to university.

Are you a very disciplined writer in the way you organise your day?
Organise?  I can already hear the laughter of those who know me.
I am disciplined. If possible I write every day; some days I write all day and well into the evening – that’s research time too. I use a laptop that has no internet because I can’t resist an email pinging in. My husband is learning to cook – our sons and lovely daughters-in-law sent him on a course – and he does one meal a day and he helps with housework – does all the heavy things and brings me a cup of coffee in bed first thing – and so I have 30 mins of ‘fun’ reading.

How and when did your first breakthrough as a published writer occur?
I went to a writing conference at USC where the great Michael Shaara, Clive Cussler, and the editor Charles Block were speakers. A friend typed up part of a Scottish Regency novel I’d been writing – I had even fewer technical skills then – and Charles Block read it. He was waiting outside a lecture room for me on the last day, handed me the script and said, “I think this will go but have chapters one and two change places.”

I had introduced the heroine in chapter two and he advised that the heroine should always be right there in chapter one. We returned to live in Britain that summer; I managed to get an agent – long story and sent her the finished, rewritten manuscript. A few days later she called and said she’d attended a party the evening before and an American editor had asked her about the availability of Scottish Regencies.  She showed her the typescript and it was bought! I looked at it a few years ago and it was rather dire – wouldn’t be published today. I rewrote it, correcting errors, and published it on Amazon!

You were established as a saga writer and then made the bold and successful move to writing romances based around the world of opera and music. What inspired this departure?

I had written children’s books, Regencies, Sagas and serials and I wanted to write contemporaries. I went to an artist chum’s exhibition and found myself thinking – What if all these paintings were of one person? The idea stayed and grew like Topsy and I wrote a book about an artist who loved a tenor – my favourite voice!  It was read by several reputable editors and agents but no one wanted it but almost everyone made sensible points. (I occasionally bump into one or two at an RNA party and we chat perfectly happily!)

            At a book launch I found myself standing beside a lovely woman who asked me if I wrote books like those of the superb writer onstage. I said “no” and told her my friend’s publisher had just, that very day, rejected me.

            “I didn’t reject you,’ said the woman and gave me her card. “Send it to me and I’ll have a look.’

            I dithered for days and eventually rang my friend, telling her I felt badly about, even inadvertently, using her launch to contact a very senior editor. She looked at me and said. “Don’t be stupid; if anyone holds out a hand to you in this business, grab it.”

            I grabbed, sent it and received the manuscript back with a “NO” for which she gave her reason. She also told me I really needed a good agent and suggested three. Two had already rejected me but I had not heard of the third and so I had one more go.

            The agent accepted me as a client, and, with her guidance, I rewrote a few scenes. The agent, the brilliant Theresa Chris, sent the manuscript to auction. It went for an amazing amount of money and was then bought by several foreign publishers.

Wave Me GoodbyeLast year, ‘Wave me Goodbye’ was published under the name of Ruby Jackson, which I understand is the first of a series of novels ‘Churchill’s Angels’.  Please tell us something about this new project?
I suppose, like many writers, after five best-selling books, I fell out of favour. Theresa stayed with me, encouraging me, advising me.  A few years ago, she asked if I would like to revisit WW11 and after much thought, I said yes. I did not know, of course, that  an editor at Harper Collins had conceived the idea of publishing a series of books about the courageous women who did everything from catching rats to ferrying Spitfires; the women she calls Churchill’s Angels.  Using the pseudonym, Ruby Jackson, I have now written four books; two have been published so far.  It’s been an enormous privilege. I’ve met land girls, pilots, nurses, etcetera and been awed by every one of them. Their stories need no exaggeration – they were quite simply – superb.

You obviously love historical fiction and research your chosen topic thoroughly. What advice would you give to anyone who was considering writing a historical novel?
Advice would depend on which era and which country but obviously I’d say, find out as much as you possibly can about the person the time and the place. Read everything, especially newspapers of the time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Archivists and librarians are great sources and remember there are archivists in famous department stores, in grand hotels and in universities.  They know what you don’t know you don’t know!

What is next for Eileen?

I have no idea; my head is spinning – that way, or that way but I did visit a conductor friend at the Royal Opera House earlier this year. He has been keeping me accurate about conducting and conductors for several years as I have an idea. He asked me about progress.

‘I’m afraid, for the past four years, the poor man has been standing on a rock looking out to sea.’

He shrugged. ‘Well, there are worse places for a conductor to stand.’

Now, wouldn’t you want to discover the worse places?!

More from Eileen

Website: eileenramsay.co.uk
Blog: Eileen’s Blog

An Interview with Cindy Kirk

My guest this month is prolific American author Cindy Kirk. Cindy is a writer who loves romance and has written many special editions for Harlequin.

When did you first discover the joys of story-telling or writing your own stories down?

I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I could remember.  If I didn’t like a book’s ending, I’d make up my own.  The same held for movies or televisions shows.  For a long, long time I thought that everyone made up different endings.  I wrote my first “book” when I was thirteen.  It was a romance, of course, with a happy ending!  I let one of my teachers read it and I could tell she didn’t think it was very good.  It was a devastating blow to my young writer’s soul.

Which novels inspired you, or you would rate as your all time favourites?

LaVryle Spencer’s Bitter Sweet and Separate Beds; Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Dream a Little Dream and Nobody’s Baby But Mine; Lisa Kleypas’s Travis Series, Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Series.

Could you share your journey to becoming a published author with us?

I wrote five books, it was the fifth that sold, 3 years after I started writing in pursuit of publication.  The book that sold won a contest.  The first prize was a critique of the entire manuscript by Harlequin editor, Patience Bloom.  She not only read it, she bought it.  And 15 years later, she’s still my editor!

What advice would you give to a new writer who has not made it into print yet?

To continue to hone your craft.  When I started writing, I began attending regional conferences for writers. Every year I attend the Romance Writers of America‘s National Conference and soak in all the wonderful information on how to write a better book.

Why romance?

I love a happy ending!  Not only in books but in movies.  I want to cheer for the hero or heroine, see them become stronger, learn life lessons, then be rewarded.

How did the ‘Jaunty Quills‘ develop?

I was writing also for Avon (Harper Collins) when a group of Avon authors decided to get together and start a blog.  At the time I was the only contemporary author.  The group has morphed over time to include authors from all different romance genres and publishers.  It’s been fun every step of the way.

What is the essence of a Cindy Kirk novel?

It’s a fun, enjoyable read with a dash of humor.

What is next for Cindy?

More books in my Jackson Hole series for Harlequin.  A return to Harper Collins with a novella that will release in December 2014.  And, who knows? That’s the beauty of writing.

More from Cindy

An Interview with Cindy A. Christiansen

Photo - Cindy A. Christiansen (1)

My first guest of 2014 is Cindy A Christiansen. To work as an author takes dedication and determination. Cindy appreciates this more than most as she has had to overcome life-changing illness to achieve her ambitions. She has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to share her experiences with us.

How dramatic was the illness that caused you to change from your original profession to becoming an author?

It was devastating and confusing. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I got sick all the time and was missing way too much work. I kept falling asleep at my desk. I was a programmer/analyst and I soon found that I couldn’t follow the logic of a simple piece of code. I was sick for my bridal shower and during my honeymoon. I finally ended up in the ER with an enlarged liver and spleen, Mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr virus. The doctor said I had to make a life-changing decision about my future. He said I needed total bed rest.

However after a month of following his instructions, I was even worse. Despite seeking the help of thirteen different doctors, no one could tell me what was wrong with me. I finally had to quit my job. The illness continued to progress. Six or seven years later, I was finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Epstein-Barr virus. Since that time, I’ve been diagnosed with over thirty other health-related illnesses that affect me physically and cognitively.

 

What inspired you to turn around the situation into a positive step by entering the world of fiction?

Having been raised on a farm with a strong work ethic, staying in bed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My self-esteem and self-worth plummeted and depression set in. My husband was working and pursuing hobbies. I felt alone, isolated and down-right bored to death. I needed something else with which to think of in my life.

I got a yellow writing tablet and started writing. Articles and stories soon turned into a book. Sometimes I could barely move my hand across the paper, but I felt such a rush of accomplishment. Then I rescued and adopted a Wire-haired Fox Terrier puppy and my life began to change in the most positive ways.

 

Did your childhood fuel your imagination and love for animals – especially dogs?

Absolutely! After twelve books, I still haven’t run out of life experiences to use in my books. Growing up on a farm but within a city, I’ve experienced the best of both worlds. Living in Utah, I have enjoyed the most beautiful diverse landscape that has made the setting for every book unique without leaving the state.

I haven’t begun to share all the wonderful experiences I have had living on our farm and loving and working with dogs. Just to give you an idea of my imagination as a kid, I’ll share that our old hay wagon made a very nice stagecoach and our two-horse trailer made an excellent jail for all those desperate outlaws of the west. Our mixed-breed dog, Poncho, quickly became Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin on a whim.

When did you first break into publication?

Publication didn’t come quickly. I began taking classes, joining writing groups, and doing tons of rewrites on the same book. Although doctors said I would never have children, I found myself in a high-risk pregnancy. Motherhood took everything I had, and when my son was eighteen months he was diagnosed with learning disabilities and special needs. Another child followed three years later, and he was also special needs. My writing was on hold until one day when I read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand and found out she had one of the illnesses I had. It totally inspired me to seek publication, and I began writing again and submitting to publishers.

I published three books with a publisher but later pulled my rights and published with Sweet Cravings Publishing. I have seven full-length books published with them, not including the two additional books in A Merchant Street Mystery series that will follow. I also have independently published three novellas, one novelette, and a non-fiction book on writing.

When starting a new novel do you begin with the title, plot outline or character profiles? Or just a blank page and the first word?

I start with a plot idea and have a whole batch of worksheets I fill out before actually beginning to write.

Could you describe what experience a reader can expect from one of your books?

I want readers to know exactly what they are going to get from one of my books, especially since I write outside the box. As part of my marketing plan, I developed a list and post it in as many places as I can. Here it is:

  • A clean read with no bedroom scenes or offensive language.
  • A tantalizing, fast-paced plot.
  • A story without a lot of boring description.
  • Down-to-earth heroes and heroines with everyday jobs.
  • A rollercoaster ride of emotions you face right along with the characters.
  • A special dog to steal your heart.
  • A few added facts, a good message, and that important happily-ever-after ending.

German shorthaired pointer posing in the field

What is next for Cindy?

I am right in the middle of my first series. Time Will Tell: A Merchant Street Mystery Book 1 came out in September 2013 and Hunting for Happenstance, the second book in the series, will be released January 6, 2014. It’s been exciting but also a challenging task with my health issues, my two autistic children, and an ill dog.

Hunting for Happenstance is about high-spirited Daniela Estrada. She is tired of waiting for life and love to come to her in her poppa’s butcher shop. She wants to open her own doggie grooming business on Merchant Street and get practical Duston “Buck” Cooper, who owns the Bird Dog Gun Shop, to step out of his shell and ask her out.

Instead, while her Uncle Benito is deer hunting, he ends up missing and the area is swarming with aggressive black bears which holds up the search party. Duston and his dog, Ruger, have helped the police on other cases, and he is training a Karelian Bear dog. Will he help Daniela find her uncle?

Duston adores Daniela but secrets about his brother prevent him from getting close to anyone. He believes that if something is meant to be, it will just happen. Is Daniela’s missing uncle just the shot in the dark the two need to find love and happiness?

I already have plot ideas for other books and plan to continue writing and helping abused and abandoned dogs.

More by Cindy:

Sweet Cravings Publishing – Amazon – Barnes and Noble