Being an avid reader (and writer) of Western historical romance, I thought it would be fun to host a series of interviews I'm calling "Best of the West."
This month, we'll start off with bestselling author Kaki Warner.
Since she launched her career in 2008 with Pieces of Sky, which won the RITA award for Best First Book, she's written nine novels in three series. The second book in her latest series, Heroes of Heartbreak Creek, is due out in July.
Here's a sneak peek
Where the Horses Run
Coming in July
Coming in July
Wounded in body and spirit after a shootout, Rayford Jessup leaves his career as a lawman and uses his gift with damaged horses to bring meaning to his solitary life. Hired by a Scotsman in Heartbreak Creek to purchase Thoroughbreds, he travels to England, unaware that a traumatized horse and a beautiful Englishwoman will change his life forever.
Josephine Cathcart loves two things: her illegitimate son and her injured stallion. Faced with her father’s looming bankruptcy, she must choose between a loveless marriage to the man who ruined her, or risk her horse and her future on a handsome, taciturn Texan and a high-stakes horse race. But as vengeful forces conspire against them, will Rafe’s love and healing touch be enough to save her horse and protect her and her son?
Excerpt from Where the Horses Run
It wasn’t until the lull before the meat courses arrived that Miss Cathcart finally turned to speak to him. “What are your plans for them?”
Rafe looked at her. And couldn’t look away. Those astonishing eyes trapped him, pulled him in. Made him forget what she’d asked him.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, breaking the awkward silence.
“Your eyes are different colors.” Hell. Had he actually said that aloud?
“Indeed?” Without taking her gaze from his, she slid a dainty forkful of something green into her mouth.
Did all women’s lips do that when they chewed? Purse, relax, then purse again, as if contemplating—no, preparing for—a kiss? How had he never noticed that before?
She swallowed, further scattering his thoughts. “I never noticed.”
Realizing his blunder, he tried to cover it. “I saw a horse once with different colored eyes.” Worse. Wiping his sweating palms on the napkin draped over his thigh, he cleared his throat. “He was very smart.”
“Ah. Well.” She tilted her head slightly, as if to allow the eye with the blue splash to study him better. “That makes all the difference.”
Wisely, he kept his mouth shut.
She didn’t. “I’ve never before been compared to a horse.” One corner of her mobile mouth lifted into a comma of a smile. “I rather like it.”
Relieved—and resolved never to speak again—Rafe picked up his fork.
“So what are your plans for the horses?” she pressed.
Realizing the cursed conversation would continue, he put down his fork again. “Lord Kirkwell is building a thoroughbred stable in Colorado Territory.”
“For what purpose? Racing?” Anger vibrated in her voice.
“Not to my knowledge.”
“Oh?” A brittle smile. “That some comfort, I suppose.”
“You don’t approve of horse racing?”
“I don’t mind a good run.” She frowned down into the round, unblinking eye of the baked trout the server set before her. “But I will never approve of any sport that routinely causes injury, or even death, to horses.”
“Nor would I.”
“Then you must be the exception.” With a look of distaste, she poked at the fish with her fork as if to assure herself it was dead. “I have yet to meet a man who isn’t a steeplechase enthusiast, regardless of the toll it takes on the fine animals forced to participate.”
Rafe waited for the server to set his plate in front of him before he spoke. “I’ve never seen a steeplechase race. But if it’s as dangerous for the horses as you say, then I doubt I would ever have a liking for it.” Swiveling toward her, he stuck out his right hand. “Rayford Jessup. The exception. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Cathcart.”
She stared at his hand. Dark brown brows furrowing into a frown, she lifted her gaze until those striking eyes met his. Rafe sensed it was the first time she had looked directly at him, rather than through him. He wondered what she saw.
But before he could find out, the man on her left recaptured her attention, leaving him to continue his meal in blessed silence.
The Heroes of Heartbreak Creek
Book 1, out now
Behind His Blue Eyes
Hoping to escape his past, Ethan Hardesty became an advance man for the railroad. Only two things impede his desire to transform Heartbreak Creek into a thriving town once again—a vandal bent on stopping the railroad, and the beautiful but hardheaded woman who won’t sign over the final right-of-way through the canyon.
Audra Pearsall has good reason for not allowing a train to pass within yards of her home, no matter how persuasive the handsome Mr. Hardesty can be. But when vandalism escalates to murder and fear stalks the canyon, Audra doesn’t know who to turn to—until the man she thought was her friend proves to be an enemy, and the man she wouldn’t allow herself to trust becomes her reluctant hero.
In between her years as a mother, teacher, commercial artist, reluctant collection agent and surly secretary, Kaki fooled around with writing. Then, in 2008, after twenty-five years of procrastination, she sent her first manuscript out into world. Now, six years later, she has seven books in print, one digital novella, a short story in an anthology and is finishing up her second trilogy.
Although they’ll always be Texans at heart (and proud graduates of UT), she and her husband are happily retired on a mountaintop in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state, doing whatever they feel like doing—which in her case is writing and enjoying the wildlife, the view, and thinking up stuff for her husband to do. It’s a grand life.
E.E.: Do you have a favorite “Blooper” from one of your novels?
Kaki: One that still makes me laugh…and shudder. In my first book, PIECES OF SKY, I wrote: “Brady walked into the kitchen to find Doc sucking on Buck’s jug.” (Jug of whiskey, that is.) Luckily I caught it before I sent it out. I don’t know which is worse—the actual words, or the image they evoke. GADS.
E.E.: What’s something you’d like to tell your fans?
Kaki: I don’t write graphic, multi-page, sweaty, OMG love scenes, and no matter how many letters or emails you send, I won’t change my mind. These characters are my friends—my children, if you will—and they deserve SOME privacy. Besides, I can’t always be the only one with an imagination.
E.E.: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
Kaki: Sometimes, sorta, and no. Reviews are more of a reflection of the reviewer, not the author, and they’re aimed at people who read books, not write them, which is as it should be. Of course, I love good reviews. But a bad one doesn’t ruin my day, although it might make me re-think a plot point. An astute, well-thought-out review can be a valuable tool for an author, but it would be a terrible shame if any writer changed writing styles based on a few random comments from strangers.
E.E.: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
Kaki: Signing my first contract with Berkley. Then holding that first book in my hands. Then getting a RITA for that book. Then actually getting paid because readers bought that book. It’s validation on the highest level. But mostly, I’m proud that I had the persistence to finish that book, and the courage to send it out. It’s a scary, heady, triumphant feeling. I wish it for every writer.
E.E.: What is your hero’s “kryptonite” – in other words, what will bring him instantly to his knees?
Kaki: Other than overwhelming lust for the heroine? Lead bullets. I also try to give him a flaw he has to overcome. In Pieces of Sky, Brady’s arrogance and controlling nature almost costs him his family and Jessica. In Heartbreak Creek, Declan has to conquer his fear of heights to save his wife and daughter. In Colorado Dawn, Ash has to swallow his pride and confess to his “affliction”—dyslexia—in order to regain Maddie’s trust. Whether it’s fear, something in his past, stubbornness, or a general unwillingness to admit he needs to change, all my heroes have vulnerabilities. And really good builds. And nice teeth.
E.E.: What one thing about your hero drives his heroine crazy? And what one thing about your heroine drives her hero nuts?
Kaki: In my current WIP, it upsets Pru that Thomas wanders off when things don’t go his way. (He’s a Cheyenne Dog Soldier, so he pretty much gets his own way with everybody else). What upsets Thomas is that Pru (daughter of a slave and her white owner) is all about running off to help displaced Negroes (this is Post civil War) rather than hanging out with him in the mountains in a drafty tipi. It’s complicated. It’s also the sixth book in a two-trilogy series, so I’m leaving a lot out. But you get the idea: opposites attract…a trope I’ve used to some degree in all nine of my books: the three most dramatic being Brady and Jessica (Pieces of Sky), Rafe and Josephine (Where the Horses Run—out July 1) and Thomas and Pru, (my current WIP).
E.E.: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Kaki: I think about it for a minute, decide it’s total crap, then start making changes. When I’m finally so tired of it I’m about to chunk it altogether, I send it to my editor.
E.E.: Describe an absolutely perfect day.
Kaki: A day when everything is in order. The garden is blooming—the house is clean—I’m ahead of my deadline—my inbox has a lovely email from a happy reader—and my husband is in the kitchen cooking up something that won’t kill me outright. I’m retired, I live on a mountaintop, I do whatever I want whenever I want, and have a husband who understands what I do and stays with me anyway. I’m the luckiest person you know.
E.E.: Be honest, when reading...do you put yourself in the heroine’s role?
Kaki: Never. I’m more the bad voice at her shoulder: “Really? You’re going to do that?” Or, “For the love of God, quit whining.” Or, “Stop being so wishy-washy and make a fricking decision.” And my favorite…”Shut up and grow some balls.” This last applies to either gender.
Gotta Ask: What is your biggest vice?
Gotta Answer: Where do I start? Impatience, followed closely by arm-waving and cussing. I’m blessed with the gift of hyperbole and the ability to string together an imaginative—and in some cases, physically impossible—string of cuss words and still not offend. Most of the time. The challenge of coming up with new and amazing combinations helps get me back on the creative track.
Books by Kaki Warner (All published by Berkley/Penguin Group US):
Pieces of Sky (Brady’s story) RITA winner, Best First Book
Open Country (Hank’s story) RITA Finalist, Historical Category
Chasing the Sun (Jack’s story)
RUNAWAY BRIDES NOVELS (the stories of 3 women in a dying Colorado mining town)
Heartbreak Creek (Edwina’s story) RITA Finalist, Historical Category
Colorado Dawn (Maddie’s story)
Bride of the High Country (Lucinda’s story) Maggie winner
HEROES OF HEARTBREAK CREEK
Behind His Blue Eyes (Ethan’s story)
Where the Horses Run (Rafe’s story) Out 7/1/2014
Untitled (Thomas and Pru’s story) Out 2015
Miracle in New Hope (digital Christmas novella)
Boots Under Her Bed (The Scent of Roses) Anthology with Jodi Thomas, Jo Goodman, and Alison Kent)
Where you can find Kaki:
To introduce to those readers who haven’t yet met the folks in Heartbreak Creek, Colorado Territory, I’ll be giving away one set of the Runaway Brides Novels (Heartbreak Creek, Colorado Dawn, and Bride of the High Country), as well as one copy of Behind His Blue Eyes (Book 1 of The Heroes of Heartbreak Creek).
Kaki, a transplanted Texan, now lives atop a mountain in beautiful Washington State. If you could live anywhere when you retired, where would it be?
Comment and enter the raffle for your chance to win: