Please welcome my fellow Wild Rose Press author Lynda J. Cox!
Hi, Lynda, thanks for being my guest today. Tell us about your upcoming western romance, The Devil’s Own Desperado. I love the cover!
This book is near and dear to my heart, and I like the hero so much, I named one of my collies for him when I first wrote this. The working title was Rolling Thunder and the hero’s name is Colt. Colt—the collie—was registered with the American Kennel Club as Wych’s Rolling Thunder and later earned his championship. At any rate, Colt and Amelia (the heroine) marched hand in hand, fully formed, into my consciousness and announced, “Here we are. Start writing.” It’s rather hard to ignore that kind of a demand, especially when he’s got a Peacemaker strapped down low on his thigh. The following blurb I take very little credit for. I HATE writing those things. I spend so much time (as any author does) fleshing out the characters and their story that to try to condense them down into less than 200 words is sheer torture. The marketing staff at The Wild Rose Press is phenomenal! They took my nebulous thoughts about a blurb and came up with the following:
He’s everything she fears…
Wounded gunfighter Colt Evans stumbles onto a remote homestead never expecting to find compassion. But beautiful Amelia McCollister is like no other woman. Suddenly, his dream of settling down with a wife and home is within reach—but only if his past never comes gunning for him.
She’s everything he dreams of…
Amelia had to grow up fast after outlaws murdered her parents, leaving her to raise her siblings alone. With a young brother who idolizes shootists, she dreads having a notorious gunman in her home. But as Colt slowly recovers, he reveals a caring nature under his tough exterior that Amelia can’t resist.
Just when Colt starts to believe he can leave the gunfighter life behind, his past returns, bringing danger to them all. Can a shootist ever hang up his hardware? Or will their dreams disappear in the smoke of a desperado’s gun?
Yeah…like in my wildest dreams I could have never written that blurb!
What inspired this story?
I love Westerns. I grew up on a steady diet of the things, mostly in syndication: The Rifleman, The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Bonanza, and every possible Western movie that was shown on television. I love writing Westerns, but at the time that I wrote the very rough draft to The Devil’s Own Desperado, westerns weren’t doing well. So, it went onto a back burner and I didn’t do anything with it. When I pulled it out while working on my master’s in creative writing there was a lot there that was good. I could see the roots of this story in so many of those Westerns I grew up on: the hard-nosed town marshal who isn’t quite as gruff as he’d like the world to believe he is, the cold gunslinger who really only wants what most people want—a place to call home and be safe, and the innocent young thing who falls for the world-weary shootist. I had to get rid of the clichés though. So I started asking myself what would be Amelia’s greatest fear? And, what was the pivotal moment that forced Colt to pick up a gun? I also started rewatching all my favorite Western movies. Interestingly, almost all of those movies are John Wayne movies: The Cowboys, The Shootist (which actually gave me another direction for Colt in his desire to hang up the hardware while he still can), Big Jake, True Grit, Angel and the Badman (there they are, the gunman and the innocent young thing), and The Searchers. It was The Searchers that indirectly influenced me the most. When the movie opens, Ethan Edwards rides out of the wilderness and into the civilized world of his brother and sister-in-law. Ethan brings chaos to this world, and he isn’t able to divorce himself from that chaos, which was yet another reason (of MANY) why I think at the end of the movie, director John Ford opted to leave the character of Ethan Edwards in the wilderness and shut him out of civilization. That movie made me really start asking how was I going to take the wilderness motif that is Colt—a man who lives by the gun—and mesh it with civilization—Amelia and the domesticity she represents. (Or, then again, maybe I’m just putting too much thought into this…)
What are your writing goals for this year?
As the year is almost over, I need to get my tail in high gear, or I’m not going to make the goals I set at the beginning of this year. I want to finish polishing a second romance set in the same small town of Federal, Wyoming (which, by the way, is a real town, but Federal is little more than a wide spot on a spur of the Burlington Northern Railroad now. There isn’t anything there, other than the crumbling depot) and work on the rough draft of the third story I have set in Federal. And, still on my list—perpetually, I think because I set this goal every year—is to write Daniel home. During my first marriage, my parents purchased a 112 acre farm in Juneau, Wisconsin. The cornerstone on the house claimed 1860 and I lived there for almost two years with a ghost. Her name is Eileen. According to the official records, Eileen died in January of 1865 at the age of sixteen. Local lore has it that she died of a broken heart. Eileen’s beau was a young man named Daniel. He served in the 1st (or was it 3rd—I need to dig out my notes) Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment. Daniel was wounded and reported missing at the Battle of Cold Harbor. Nothing more was ever heard of Daniel again. When I talked to previous owners of the farm, they all said they knew about Eileen, she never bothered anyone (most of the time), and they all said they thought she’s waiting for Daniel to come home.
How do you come up with ideas?
Heavens…where don’t I find ideas? I’ve come up with ideas from reading old newspapers, from local lore and history, from the evening news. I have even had an idea come to me when I was watching a movie…and it turned into a piece of fan fiction. It was a surreal experience. 95,000 words later, I had written my first and only piece of fan fiction. It was incredible writing experience and even though some people might think it was a waste of time, because I’ll never be able to do anything with it, it was also a marvelous learning experience being forced to write each character as true as possible, and working within the set parameters created by the world those characters populated.
Can you share with us “the call” story?
I was still working on my masters, and while I was writing the creative piece for that and writing the critical introduction, Colt and Amelia were on the back burner. They started to nudge me, insisting on my attention and no matter how I reasoned with them or my Muse that I didn’t have time to devote to them, they didn’t listen. So, when I needed a break from Arthurian Britannia, I worked on their story. Before I had even defended my master’s project, I queried TWRP and got the robo-generated “thanks for submitting, someone will be with you shortly” response. A few days later, I received an e-mail from Susan, and she promised she would get back with me within six weeks. Okay, fine. Six weeks came and went. I figured it was a no-go and didn’t worry about it because my defense was coming up in less than a week. During all of this, I was also working for Indiana State University (where I received my masters) as the director of the Writing Center. I defended my master’s project and the next day I had a letter from Susan in my e-mail box, asking if I would be willing to do a few small revisions and resubmit the manuscript. This was another step that I hadn’t taken. I’d queried other houses and agents, had been asked for the full, but never had been asked to do some revisions. Needless to say, I shot an e-mail back saying I would be more than willing to do those revisions. I made the changes, resubmitted, and waited. In December (Merry Christmas to me!), Susan sent another e-mail with the line “I am pleased to offer you a contact for publication…” I honestly couldn’t believe it. I made my husband read the e-mail to me—TWICE—because I was certain I wasn’t reading it right. I think I danced around the house for a whole week. I called my department chair, called everyone in the department that I could reach over the Christmas break, and shouted it from Facebook. There are times it still doesn’t feel real.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, character, or…?
I usually start with my characters. I have to know them—inside and out—before I can start writing. If I don’t know them, know what makes them tick, what terrifies them, makes them happy, angry, sad—I don’t know how they’re going to react to the situations that will arise when writing. I create backgrounds for the two main characters. One of the best tools I’ve found is a character interview. I added to it, because for each answer, I demand a “why” answer. If my heroine says she’s terrified of snakes, I keep asking “why” until I’ve got an answer. It’s interesting how much of those answers to the “why?” questions show up as backstory, dispersed in bits and pieces through my novels. I don’t do a lot of plotting. I have a general idea where I’m going to take the characters, but that doesn’t always go according to plan, either. I’ve had a few very head-strong characters who loudly protested, dug in their heels, and refused to move when I tried to write them in one direction.
What is your favorite scene from this story and why?
My favorite scene from The Devil’s Own Desperado is the scene when Colt teaches Amelia and her younger brother and sister to play poker. He knows he’s leaving in a matter of hours, because his past is closing in hard and fast and he doesn’t want them caught in the crossfire and hurt. But he hasn’t told Amelia yet. So, knowing he needs to make memories that will last for a long time, he assumes an all is perfectly well attitude and convinces himself that just for one night, this is his life—being with a woman he loves, sharing time with two kids he’s come to care about and love, and that he doesn’t have a past gunning for him. It was difficult to write without being over the top maudlin and yet still to show the agony this imminent departure was putting Colt in. I think it was Stephen King who once said the way to write really good horror is to take something that scares you, make it so horrifying and scary that it becomes almost a caricature and then ratchet it back a step. That worked as well for this scene.
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
My Grandmother and Grandfather Harris. She was a retired Chicago public school teacher. She taught me to read before I started kindergarten. I was actually reading at a third grade level in kindergarten. And, Grandfather read me stories of the Knights of the Round Table, stories of the Odyssey and The Iliad. I was probably the only kid who by third or fourth grade knew why these stories were so important to our society and how much they influenced our own literary offerings. Grandpa didn’t see mythology as something to be relegated to a less than important role in the development of a young child. Rather, he saw it as the very foundation of our societal mores. They both taught me that a book can take me anywhere in the universe.
Who influenced your decision to become a writer?
I can’t say that it was any one person or even any one event. I already knew I could escape into the pages of a book. As a child and young teen, I was painfully shy, awkward, and hampered by parents and grandparents who encouraged intelligence and creativity. (In short, I was probably a normal kid.) If I could escape into a book, why not write my own stories? For years, though, I didn’t share what I wrote with anyone. It didn’t think it was good enough. However, with all that being said, I would have to say that it was my ex-husband (there’s a reason we’re exes) who influenced my decision the most. Writing allowed me to escape a terrible marriage, allowed me to create a reality that I could control, and saved my sanity.
These are few of my favorite things:
1. going to a dog show and spending time with friends who see nothing wrong with using the word “bitch” in normal conversation
2. tucking my grand-daughter into bed at night
3. the sound of rain on the roof of our guest house which doubles as my office
He pulled her closer to him. “You need to be really kissed, and not by that dandified boy who just left.”
His mouth was inches from hers. Her heart leaped, and butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She had to swallow before she managed to croak, “Donnie Morris is not a boy.”
“Did he ever kiss you?”
“Once.” She wasn’t about to tell him that at the time she wondered what all the fuss was about. Why folks seemed to think kissing was such a wonderful thing.
“Once?” His brow shot up. “Only once? Either he didn’t kiss you right, or else this isn’t the first time he’s worn your handprint on his face.”
“Donnie Morris is a gentleman.” For a moment, Amelia reflected this was the second time she had defended one man to the other by claiming each was a gentleman. It was almost amusing that the one man she wished would act as a gentleman hadn’t recently, and the one who had been accused of not being a gentleman had so far been just that.
“Donnie Morris is a boy.” Colt slid his hand into her hair and cradled the back of her head, pulling her closer to his mouth. “You need kissed by a man who knows what he’s doing. You need kissed by a man who will make your knees weak and every inch of you ache for more.”
Everything in her stilled with the veiled promise in his deep voice. The depths of his eyes were as fathomless and warm as anything she could imagine. Amelia pushed away from him. “I suppose you think you’re that man?”
“Amy, darling,” he said in a deeper voice, “I know I’m that man.”
Bio: I’m one of those jack of all trades: I teach college English (usually freshman level), work in my husband’s veterinary office when he needs me to fill in if one of the “girls” is sick, show dogs (but, please don’t tell my mom that; to this day, she still thinks I play the piano in a house of ill-repute) and I’ve been raising and showing collies since I was seventeen (OMG, that’s more than three decades now!). But the hat I’m proudest to wear other than the one that says “Gramma” is AUTHOR.