How did you come up with the relationship between Logan and Sadie?
I suppose it began when I had a dream about someone finding a stash of money. The story stuck in my head long after I wakened so I explored the idea. It was contemporary so I began to think how I could make it historical. I did a little research and discovered gold had been found in Northwest Montana. A little town of Libby, Montana had been one of the places and it became the setting for my fictional town of Bella Creek. But I didn’t want to write about miners so had to come up with an idea for ranchers and cowboys. Thus was born the Marshall family, all tall, blond and blue-eyed. But how to get the cowboys some heroines? So I created a reason for newcomers in town. A fire worked really well. I wanted it to be a 6-book series so gave the three Marshall brothers a sister, gave one of the brothers a best friend and the sister a best friend.
I didn’t have a clear picture of Sadie and Logan when I began. I sent some preliminary ideas to my editors. She made comments and I developed the idea further. Gradually the characters evolved into two strong people. Logan comes from a big, loving, supportive family which was exactly what Sadie longed for but couldn’t believe she deserved. Logan has made some mistakes in the past that hurt his family and vows not to do anything that will again harm that relationship—all the more reason for Sadie to know she can never belong.
What is your favorite part about writing love-inspired historical books?
I have to pick just one? I would have to say it is always thrilling to watch my characters develop and take on a real identity and then see them face and conquer, through their faith and their emotional growth, the challenges I send their way. Yes, I know I talk like they are real but in some ways they are. I’ve been known to pray for my characters then laugh at myself, remembering they aren’t real and neither are their problems.
Do you have any traditions you enjoy during the New Year?
My traditions have changed over the years. When we were a young married couple in a small community, there were several couples at the same age and stage of life. Every year we gathered at one of our homes, played games, ate food and welcomed in the New Year.
We no longer do that. Now we’re content to watch the celebrations in Times Square and join in the count down. Because they are 2 hours ahead of us, we can happily go to bed at an early hour feeling we’ve welcomed in the New Year.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t always want to be a writer. In fact I was well into my life journey before the idea took root. One summer evening a friend asked me to join her in attending a new writers group. I went, listened to a lecture on organizing material for a non-fiction project and I was hooked. My friend wanted me to write a book called, Surprisingly Normal (she was surprised to discover I was almost normal despite having more than usual number of children.) I never wrote that book and never will because of privacy concerns for my children. But back to that first meeting. What really appealed to me about the whole process was how I could control it. At the time, with 6 troubled teens in my house, anything that offered me control was like a dream come true.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The rough draft takes about 2 months. But figuring out the story takes however long it takes. Some stories come easy. Some do not. I’ve learned not to rush the pre-writing process. And then there is revisions. But once I have the rough draft done, I have something solid to work with.
Where do you get your inspiration to write about a teacher eager to raise abandoned children?
Does it sound too simple to say it came from my imagination? I saw a woman who feels she will never marry so she helps children. Because of her past experiences, she vows to stand up to injustices. So when she sees children she suspects need help, she must take action.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
Montana Cowboy Family is book 54. That is published books. I have a lot of unpublished stories as well and it’s probably best if they remain so. A favorite? If I had to pick I would say it was one of my very earliest- Crane’s Bride. It’s written solely in the hero’s point of view and features a feisty heroine and two rescued children. (Do we sense a theme about helping children?)
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading Land Of Enchantment. Memoirs of Marian Russell along the Santa Fe Trail (which gives you a hint as to what I hope my next series will be)
What are your current projects?
I’ve just turned in the fourth book in the Big Sky Country series. There are six in the series so the 5th and 6th are in various stages of development. As I hinted above, I am working on what I hope will be a six-book series along the Santa Fe Trail. The research is fascinating and the characters I envision are wonderfully strong and independent, ready to face all sorts of challenges in order to achieve their goals.
What advice do you have for writers?
Learn everything you can. Go to conferences, take courses, join writers groups. Don’t let anyone tell you there is one right way to do anything. Discover your own process through trial and error. All of the above requires that you write, write and write some more.