Would you tell us a little about yourself Caroline?
My husband and I live on a small acreage in a rural area of North Central Texas. We each grew up in Lubbock on the West Texas Great Plains, also known as Llano Estacado. We have two grown daughters (how did they age faster than us?), one in Fort Worth and one in East Texas. Prior to writing, I was a stay-at-home mom (my favorite job), a newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to a retired TCU psychology professor and managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper for our county tax assessor. My youngest daughter and I had antique booths for a while until she became unavailable to help pick antiques due to her teaching. We loved the antique business and would dabble in them forever if we were better businesswomen. Sigh. The market is glutted now.
I hear antique shopping in Texas is fantastic! So, is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?
I write full-time in what was my youngest daughter’s bedroom and is now my office. I call it my pink cave because the walls are pale pink and I tend to hibernate there. I work from four to twelve hours a day because I simply can’t stay away from the computer.
If you had to sum it up BRAZOS BRIDE in 30 or less words, what would you say?
Hope Montoya knows she is being poisoned but not who or why. Micah Stone is the only man she trusts to help discover the would-be killer.
What inspired the idea behind your book?
My husband and I went on a historic tour in the next county west of us to visit a ranch that was founded in 1859 and still held by members of the founding family. The original cedar log house is still standing and incorporated in the Belding-Gibson main ranch house as a bathroom. Hard to believe a family lived in what is now a bathroom. The smokehouse and cool room are also incorporated. The family did a wonderful job of preserving original buildings while making the home livable for a modern family. The locale is gorgeous and it inspired me to write a trilogy about three brothers who came to settle the area in 1870.
Do you have a favorite character in BRAZOS BRIDE? Who and why?
I love Micah Stone, youngest brother of three of my Men of Stone Mountain trilogy. Micah fought in the Civil War for the Union, while his two brothers fought for the Confederacy. Living in Texas, Micah has endured censure and prejudice. He is compassionate, hard working, and inspires loyalty in those who work with him.
Will you share with us a short preview of BRAZOS BRIDE?
Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?
Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. Drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins. He and Hope have to stay alive and discover the killer before they become victims in the deadly assaults.
While writing BRAZOS BRIDE, did you connect with one character more than the others? Who and how?
Actually, I talk in the book of them as if they are one character because they are inseparable, but the two aunts, Maggie and Lizzie, are special to me. They are loosely based on my mom and my Aunt Elizabeth. Each woman worked hard and would do anything for her family. Both were tall, but my mom was thin and Aunt Elizabeth battled her weight (like me) all her adult life. My mom would never hesitate to tell you exactly what she thought and offer her unsolicited advice, and my aunt always found something good to say about everyone. in spite of being glass half-empty and half-full people, they were very close. They didn’t live together as widows, but spent a lot of time with one another.
What kind of research was involved for BRAZOS BRIDE?
Because most of my novels take place in Texas, one might think no more research is required. Not true. Each book has specific areas requiring detailed information. I had to check for a native plant that would not only poison Hope, but produce the prolonged symptoms I needed. What that area of Texas was like in 1870 required additional research. Normally, I would have chosen the 1880 time period with which I am more familiar from previous research, but I needed the second book to take place before the train reached this far West and after Comanche and Kiowa raids. That left a short time frame for the trilogy’s three books. To see exactly how ranchers lived in this time period, I visited several historic properties. That part of research is especially fun for me.
Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
I prefer solitude, although I listen to classical music when I write. Not totally alone, because my two cats keep me company. I prefer my nice computer workstation and my desktop rather than a laptop. When we travel (or for periods when I’ve been ill), I benefit from my laptop.
What kind of research was involved for the series? Did you find it became easier with each book?
Each book in the trilogy involves poison in some way, so that required research and I chose the poison for all three books before I did the outlines, and I did all three outlines before I began writing the first book. My husband and I drove all over the area that would include the ranches and fictional town so I could be familiar with the terrain. I also researched caves in the area for the second book. The third book begins and ends in Jefferson, Texas and my husband and I visited there. I took photos to remind me of buildings I might use. Writing the same general time period is helpful, because research is cumulative. I’ve ridden in a stagecoach (ouch), stayed in a vintage (haunted) hotel, visited a dude ranch (fun!), and have done all sorts of things to add authentic description to this and other series.
I would read these books simply because of the covers – all in the series are beautiful! (Brazos Bride is so romantically sexy) Did you have a part in their design?
Thank you for asking. Yes, I chose the covers. BRAZOS BRIDE is a Jimmy Thomas pre-made cover from his www.rncs.com (romance novel covers). The second one is a combination of photos I purchased from iStock and a free site, http://sxc.hu. My husband put the second cover together. My long-time friend Nelda Liles gave me a wonderful bluebonnet photo for the cover of BLUEBONNET BRIDE. I’m looking for a cowboy to overlay on the bluebonnets, but haven’t found the perfect one yet.
As a multi-genre author, how do you juggle going back and forth between the different genres? Do you have a preferred genre?
My problem is the dialogue. This is made more difficult since I live in a ranching area and hear cowboys speak whenever I’m around people. Many of them DO still sound like they’re from the 1800’s! Fortunately, my excellent critique partners nail me when my contemporary characters speak like they’re in the Old West. Even if local folks speak that way, it doesn’t translate well for a contemporary novel.
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Micah’s story, BRAZOS BRIDE, is the first book in the Men of Stone Mountain trilogy. Currently, I’m writing HIGH STAKES BRIDE, middle brother Zach Stone’s story, and will follow with BLUEBONNET BRIDE, eldest brother Joel’s story.
What type of hero do you like best?
Tall, dark hair, blue eyes, strong moral compass, hard worker, sense of humor, intelligent. Coincidentally and happily, that describes my husband.
What type of heroine do you like best?
No whining, works hard at whatever she does, compassionate, determined, spunky but not spoiled, sense of humor.
Is there any place and time in the world and in history that you would like to visit?
No thanks, I like my creature comforts. :D
How do you unwind after a long writing session?
I relax with my husband, read, browse an antique mall with my daughter, and do genealogy.
I had a lot of concerns about the way a major publisher dealt with me and with my books. I started indie publishing with my backlist after I recovered my rights and was surprised I sold as much as I did. I started promoting and the numbers increased. I feel so fortunate and count my blessings every day that I’m receiving the royalties I am. Now I intend to stick with indie publishing. I love the people at The Wild Rose Press, who have published four of my books. Whether as a lower tier author with a major publisher, with a small publisher, or as indie published, the author has to promote himself/herself. Don’t misunderstand me, if I were offered a gazillion dollar contract, I’d sign in a heartbeat. Not going to happen to me, though. Publishers are downsizing their authors. Since I would be working just as hard to promote no matter which publisher, I’ll stick with indie where my earnings are a much greater percentage and I am in control of everything.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Rear in seat, hands on keyboard.
What are you reading now? Why did you choose that book?
I’m reading Sheila Connolly’s apple orchard mysteries. My daughter loaned them to me and wants them back. ;D These are paperbacks, but I read my Kindle most of the time and take it with me wherever I go. You never know when you’ll have a few minutes here or there.
Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style?
Does where you live or have places you’ve been influenced your work?
Yes, I live in Texas; I write Texas settings. I’ve also lived in California and Florida, so there must be another reason I love Texas. I think it’s because my dad used to tell me stories about when my ancestors moved to Texas from Georgia. That’s probably also why I love family history research/genealogy.
What challenges did you face in getting your first book published?
I was very fortunate in that friends in my RWA chapter told me a particular editor was buying and I submitted. She asked for revisions, and I was so green that I took that as a rejection. A couple of published friends gave me a pep talk and I revised, resubmitted, and sold.
Is there a book you’ve ever read more than five times? Which book and what drew you back to it?
There are several, including several of Louis L’Amour’s books, especially FALLON. I still enjoy it. I’ve read Julie Garwood’s PRINCE CHARMING and FOR THE ROSES numerous times, Maggie Osborne’s THE PROMISE OF JENNY JONES, and Loretta Chase’s LORD PERFECT and MR. IMPOSSIBLE. Several friends think it’s crazy to reread a book, but each time I discover something new or forgotten - word images, a particular phrase. When I took a “writing fiction to sell” class, the teacher said we should read a book first for the pleasure. If we particularly enjoy it, we should read it again to analyze why we loved it and learn from the experience.
I read Garwood's Scottish books over and over! I like For the Roses too! What do you have in store next for your readers?
Completing the Men of Stone Mountain trilogy, finishing the next Heather Cameron mystery which is DIGGING FOR BONES, and then writing the third in the Kincaid series, which will be Storm’s story, tentatively titled TEXAS STORM.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers today?
Thank you, MK, for having me as your guest today. Thanks, readers, for reading this interview. Thanks, anyone, for buying my books.
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Where can your readers find you?
My website: www.carolineclemmons.com
My blog: http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com
My Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/458092.Caroline_Clemmons
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/carolineclemmons (There’s no E in Caroline here)
Other: team blogs
http://sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com on the 26th
http://ebooks99cents.blogspot.com on the 14th
http://cowboykisses.blogspot.com on fourth Monday