I count six releases from Kaki Warner, Bride of the High Country being the latest on June 5th, and no fewer than 10 prestigious awards. The reviews speak for her writing best of all. Professionals (such as the reviewers at Romantic Times) unanimously love all her books, and so do readers. (Check out the rave reviews on Amazon.com.) As if you weren’t already impressed, she also won the 2010 RITA Award for Best First Book.
Kaki Warner knows how to deliver magical, memorable stories readers can’t get enough of. She also hosts first-time published authors on her blog in a feature called “Virgin No More.” I propose we dub Kaki “Patron Saint of Debut Authors.”
Moriah Densley: Welcome, Kaki, and thank you for taking the time to visit. As you can tell, I’m a big fan! Your books are western-themed historical romance – is that an accurate label? What about this niche calls to you?
Kaki Warner: Wow, what an intro. I think I should probably give you a car or something, or at least put you in my Will, for whatever good that’ll be. Anyway, thanks for all the kind words, Moriah, and for inviting me to visit today. And I’m really looking forward to hosting you on my virgins blog early next month.
As to your question, yes, I write western-themed historical romance. I do so because I think the period of western expansion between the Civil War and the invention of the automobile is one of the most dynamic, heroic, and exciting times in our history. Plus, I love horses, and have even raised a few, and I’ve been lucky enough to ride over country that would make John Wayne proud. The west can be pretty inspiring, as well as beautiful, but not always an easy place to carve out a life. It was a simpler—yet more dangerous—time back then, with harsh challenges and great rewards, and where accountability and self-sufficiency and lending a helping hand were necessary to survive. Lots of heroes back then.
MD: Mind if we jump directly into a tough question? The description of your latest heroine on your website piqued my curiosity. It reads, “Snatched from unspeakable abuse at the age of twelve and given a new identity as the ward of a Manhattan society widow, Margaret Hamilton thinks the safety and security she craves is at last within her reach.” Will you talk about how you created this character and how you approached such a difficult topic?
KW: It started out simply enough. I knew Lucinda was a New Yorker, and that Irish immigrants were coming into the eastern ports by the tens of thousands. I also knew that Irish immigrants worked on the east to west expansion of the rail lines (Chinese laborers worked on the west to east routes). And since railroad building is a sub-plot throughout all the Heartbreak Creek novels, I decided to start in NY. Then I got a big eye-opener when I read more about the Irish potato famine of the 1850s and the “coffin” ships that brought the starving immigrants to America. I didn’t see how I could write about NY, or that time period, or railroads without mentioning the Irish influence. And when I first envisioned Lucinda in HEARTBREAK CREEK and saw that she was hiding something more than those railroad shares she brought from NY, I decided to give her an immigrant background. Then once I put the idea in my head of an Irish orphan caught on the streets of NY and what she would have to do to escape that, the story sort of wrote itself.
MD: I can only imagine the loads of research you do – will you share your secrets? How did you prepare for writing this book? What were your favorite sources? Did you find anything unexpected, or information which turned the story in a new direction? And does your background/experience contribute to the world-building in your stories?
KW: A loaded question. Mostly I go to Google and start clicking and reading. Then one answer leads to another question, which leads to a series of “what-ifs”, which leads to more clicking and reading. Somehow, it all falls into place eventually.
Did I learn something new this time? Tons of stuff…but mostly, I gained a better understanding of why a militant Irish group like the IRA came into existence. There are some long-standing, historically-justified resentments there, and during the famine, the Irish were treated very poorly by their English rulers. Almost as poorly as they were treated in America for many years. It was a challenge coming up with a character who had suffered for being Irish, but grew stronger (and less accessible) because of it, then was able to cast off all the negative so she could become the positive person she was meant to be. (Although, she didn’t do it alone—she had her Heartbreak Creek family, and the love of a brave and honorable man. Aw…isn’t that sweet?).
And finally, yes, my background and experience weigh very heavily in my books. I’m a westerner. I love the country, the mindset, the I-can-do-it attitude. I also live in the middle of a thousand semi-mountainous acres in Washington State—with deer in my garden, bears on my deck, rattlers by my steps, and cougars prowling the night—where it might get to 110 degrees in the summer, and maybe 25 below in the winter. With snow. Lots of snow. So, yes, all that awareness helps my writing be more authentic. I hope.
MD: Cover art is a big deal to me as both a reader and writer. I can’t stop looking at this one. It’s exquisite. Do you love it too? Does it represent your story well? Did you have any influence in choosing the cover, or was it a surprise?
KW: It’s always a surprise, especially when people are portrayed; they never look the way I imagine them. This latest is a beautiful cover—no question the Berkley art department is full of talent. And yes, I am often asked for input—some is accepted and some is politely disregarded for marketing reasons (such as Brady’s mustache missing on in the mass market release of PIECES OF SKY, and no gray showing in Ash’s hair on the COLORADO DAWN cover). But overall, I’ve been really pleased. As for this cover, I love the colors, the train in the background and the mountains. But the model and pose are a bit “sweet” for Lucinda. She’s hardly a blushing bride. But when I think of how she COULD have been and looked had she not had such a rough start, then I can see it. It’s a very hopeful cover, and hints at more than just a pretty model in a pretty dress, and I think that’s very representative of her transformation in the book.
MD: What’s next for you? More in the Runaway Bride series? Or something else?
KW: Right now I’m working on three more books set in Heartbreak Creek, and even though the original characters will appear in sub-plots, each story will focus on a new couple. In addition to watching their relationship develop, we still have to resolve the railroad and water issues, save the town from obscurity, get through Edwina’s birthing, and see what’s up with Thomas and Pru, so there’s a lot of the old mixed in with the new.
MD: I wish you utmost success on your latest release and hope to see many more fabulous titles from you in the future. Forgive my silliness, but it’s tradition for me to ask: What’s your favorite dessert?
KW: I love burnt cream. And anything with lemon. Or chocolate. Or pecans…or…oh, dear, I better stop now.
Thanks so much for having me visit today, Moriah. I love answering questions.
Kaki’s giving away a signed copy!
If any of your readers want to post a comment or question for me here, their name will go into a random drawing for a signed copy of BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY. (And you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it, trust me).
Meanwhile, please stop by and visit my website: http://www.kakiwarner.com, where you can sign up for my e-newsletter to receive advance notice of giveaways, contests, etc. Or follow my blog at email@example.com, or find me on Twitter and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kakiwarner, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I love hearing from readers.
Thank you again for visiting, Kaki! So excited your new release!