An avid daydreamer and Midwestern transplant, Julie Benson always loved creating stories. After graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in Sociology, she worked as case manager for a social services agency before having her children. Three boys, and many years later, she started actively pursuing a writing career to challenge her mind and save her sanity. Now she writes full time in Dallas, where she lives with her husband, their three sons, two lovable black dogs, a mischievous brown one and a turtle. Julie says while her house is never quiet or predictable, it is full of heroes.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Roping the Rancher
Stacey Michaels is trying to get her acting career back on track while looking after her traumatized teenage brother and a demanding mother. She doesn't have time for romance. And if she did? Well, she'd look to date someone in the business, not some cowboy.
But when her brother begs her for a chance to try the equine therapy program Colt Montgomery offers at his ranch in Colorado, Stacey can't refuse. Even if she and Colt strike sparks off one another. She knows he sees her as a diva, but why can't he understand she just wants what's best for her brother? She's spent her whole life taking care of others—maybe it's time to let Colt take care of her.
Read an excerpt on Julie Benson’s website:
QUESTIONS FOR JULIE:
Kathleen: Your heroes are great! I really enjoy them. Of course, who doesn’t love a cowboy? I also enjoy how your heroines are city girls pitted against these strong-minded rugged cowboys. What made you decide to write about cowboys in your books?
Julie: I’ve always loved reading romances with a cowboy hero. Historical or contemporary. It didn’t matter to me. I also enjoy reading nonfiction books about the era. Despite that, none of the story ideas I came up with ever had a cowboy hero. Then I took a vacation to Estes Park, Colorado.
The idea for my first book with Harlequin came to me when I met a real life cowboy who acted as our guide on a horseback ride there. He told one of my sons people were always asking him to model. (Yup, he was that good looking.) He said they didn’t understand why he failed to jump at the opportunity. I couldn’t get that story idea out of my mind, but didn’t sit down to write it because it was the only contemporary romance cowboy story idea I had.
I kept wondering what I would do if I sold the story. (Yup, that’s very me, too. I worry about all the possible problems with something before I ever start.) I remembered that people told me I’d better like whatever type of story I sold, because that’s the type of story my editor would want me to continue writing. She’d ask what I planned to write next and I’d have to admit have to admit that one idea was all I had. Then one day I was so frustrated with my current romantic suspense novel I started writing my cowboy story. The words poured out of me and I haven’t looked back since. By the way, by the time my editor bought that book I had thought of another idea and was working away on what turned out to be the second book I sold to Harlequin.
Kathleen: Are you a city girl or a country girl?
Julie: I was raised mainly in Iowa where a big city is considered sixty thousand people. However, my grandparents lived on a farm a couple of hours from my family near the Minnesota border and I spent a lot of time there. They had dairy cows, chickens and pigs. They also grew corn and hay. I loved to follow my grandmother around the farm. I’d tag along with her as she gathered the eggs and milked the cows. I’d help her in her massive garden. Though I don’t have her green thumb, I love trying to grow things. I have a small garden of my own where I attempt to grow green beans, tomatoes, peppers, spinach and lettuce. I must do okay with the last two things because the neighborhood bunnies loved those last year. She’s also the one who taught me to cook. My favorite of her recipes are for lemon bars and cream puffs.
Growing up I thought I was a city girl. But now, I’m not so sure. I often think I’d like to move to a house on a few acres where the biggest town had a population of ten thousand or less. I find the pace in the country and in small towns feels slower, less frantic than city life and that sounds pretty good to me.
Kathleen: What’s the first book you remember reading?
Julie: I don’t remember how old I was, but the book that got me hooked on reading was THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett. One of my elementary school teachers read it to us in class. That book had it all as far as I was concerned. It was suspenseful—I couldn’t wait for Mary to find the garden and to learn who was doing all the wailing. It had romance—I swore Mary and Dickon would end up married later in life. (Even then I had the heart of a romance author because I tried to imagine what their adult story would be.) It had tons of conflict. Mary’s uncle was downright scary. I loved how the characters grew and changed. How Mary and Colin found a strength within themselves they didn’t know they possessed. We used to get the Scholastic book orders in school and I ordered The Secret Garden through that program and read it over and over.
Kathleen: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Julie: I’m going to have to give you two because well, I’m that kind of gal. I always have to qualify an answer. One of my choices is more serious. The other is a romantic comedy. The first is It’s a Wonderful Life. I believe dependable, loyal people like George Bailey really do make a difference in the lives of those around them. I also believe these individuals don’t always see the value of what they do and I think Clarence, the angel, is an absolute hoot. His logic is so hilarious and yet, makes such sense to me.
The other movie I love is The Sure Thing, a romantic comedy. Walter Gibson and Alison Bradbury are heading from the east coast to California during their Christmas break from college. She’s going to visit her boyfriend. Gib’s going to visit a friend who says he’ll hook him up with a girl who’s a sure thing. Of course things don’t go as planned. Alison and Gib get dumped by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and have to work as a team. I watched it recently with my kids and they kept saying, “So that’s where that saying comes from.” Watch it. I dare you not to quote it afterwards.
Kathleen: Who’s your favorite villain?
Julie: Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs. He is so horribly awful, an absolute monster and yet, there’s something about the relationship between him and Clarice. Hannibal has a connection with her that he doesn’t have with anyone else. He won’t give come right out and tell her what she needs to know to catch the killer, but he’ll give her the clues and the tools to find the answers. In his warped way, he helps her discover her strength and grow into her job. He’s brilliant, but somewhere in his life his mind became twisted. I always wondered what he could’ve accomplished if he’d channeled his mind in a different, more positive direction.
Kathleen: What’s something you’d like to tell your fans?
Julie: Roping the Rancher and my previous book The Rancher and the Vet were very much labors of love for me because of the role animals play in the stories. Animals have always been a part of my life. Now studies are showing how important they are to our lives. I had a huge amount of help writing these books from a couple of very special people. In the Rancher and the Vet, my heroine Avery was a vet/director of a animal shelter. My BFF Lori Halligan is theExecutive Director of the Hinsdale Humane Society. She let me tag along with her the day of their Pet Walk. For Roping the Rancher, Colt runs an equestrian therapy program. I knew these kinds of programs were doing incredible work helping people with disabilities, both emotional and physical, improve their lives.
Even though I’d done research on the Internet that part of the book was giving me fits until I talked with another friend, Sue Casteel. She volunteers for an amazing organization, Equest in Wylie, Texas. Sue acted as my guide during Equest’s open house and answered my countless questions. I never would’ve been able to write either of these books without those two ladies’ help. I guess what I’d like people to know is wonderful organizations like these can’t keep doing the work they do without our support, through our generous donation of our time and money. I encourage everyone to take an issue they’re passionate about and find a way to give back to the community. I’ve found I get way more than I give when I volunteer.
Kathleen: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Julie: A well written one. For me it’s all about the characters. I have to be able to identify with them, get inside their heads.
Kathleen: If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?
Julie: This is a hard question for me. I’ve worked in a lot of different fields over the years. I was an assistant manager in a clothing store, a contact lens technician for an eye doctor, a purchasing clerk, a case manager for Big Brothers and Sisters and I’m a certified elementary school teacher. I tend to jump in head first and am all excited about whatever field I’m working in. Until I learn the job. For me, it’s all about the challenge. Once that’s gone, I’ve always gotten bored with a job. I guess that’s why I’ve stuck with the writing. The challenge never ends. Every story has new problems to solve and new obstacles to tackle. So what would I do if I couldn’t write? I’d go back to teaching. I’d probably want to work in fourth or fifth grade. Where I live teachers in those grades can specialize. That means I could teach just Language Arts. Also where I live in Texas in fourth and fifth grade, there’s a strong emphasis on writing at those ages. (In fourth grade children have to pass a state writing test.) When I’ve worked with that age group before, I’ve enjoyed helping them realize how the world can open up to them through their writing. It can take them places they’d never be able to go otherwise. It gives them an avenue to express their ideas, dreams and opinions.
Kathleen: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Julie: I laugh about this one. When I asked my husband what the first thing I do when I finish a book, he laughed and said, “Sleep.” That’s pretty much true. I’ve been so ramped up and am usually working about twenty-four seven for a few weeks before that to get the story done that I collapse when I finish. After a few hours when I’m human again, I start catching up with my family and dig out the messes in the house that I’d been ignoring. Finally, I treat myself to spending a few hours reading a good book.
Kathleen: What do you do to unwind and relax?
Julie: In the summer I take a good book and my chair raft to my pool. It’s my retreat. My sanctuary. I float, read and forget about everything. I’ve been known to hide out there for an entire afternoon. If it’s too cold for the pool, I run a hot bath full of bubbles. I lock the door, crawl in and read in the tub. My husband can always tell when I’m super stressed because I look like a prune. If I’m too hyper for either of those things, I enjoy making jewelry. Sometimes I need to do something with my hands. Focusing my mind and keeping my hands busy helps me work off nervous energy. Another thing I do to chill out is curl up on the couch, snuggle with one of my dogs and watch a good movie. I’m a sucker for the Hallmark Channel’s movies.
FOLLOW JULIE AT:WEBSITE TWITTER: @julierbenson FACEBOOK
A QUESTION FOR READERS: