What made you want to write ‘Cowboy Ever After’? Did anything in particular spark the premise?
I love fish-out-of-water stories, so I loved the idea of sending a romance writer who wrote western romance but had never been on a ranch out into the wilds of Montana. And I had such fun with the idea that when she got there, she would find a cowboy who was the exact replica of the hero in her story…who in Kaylee’s mind, was the perfect cowboy hero. She describes Duke Ramsey as a hodgepodge of all her favorite classic Western heroes and celebrity crushes: a dash of John Wayne, a little Robert Redford, some Sam Elliott, a bit of Kevin Costner and Cole Hauser, and a whole lot of Chris Hemsworth. Which, I will admit, are all MY favorite Western heroes and celebrity crushes too!
Living in a small town, I know there is just something special about that atmosphere of community and taking care of each other. The Dine for a Dime scene in the book comes straight from a real thing that my dad and stepmom do at our church. My books happen in quirky small towns, but I always want them to show that sense of community and caring. From my grandmothers to my mom, and my sisters and friends, I have a lot of great female relationships in my life, and I love showing that in my books too. So even though Faye, Kaylee’s editor, is tough, she’s still an important and caring female in her life. And I loved making Kaylee’s first friend in town a ten-year-old girl.
I had such fun writing this book. And I have to share one real thing that sparked one of my favorite scenes. We have geese in a little pond in a park next to my house, and last summer when I was working on this book, I tried to get too close to their goslings, and that momma goose hissed and ran at me, and if you’ve never been hissed at by a mother goose, I can assure you, it is a terrifying experience. And it just HAD to go in this book.
Who was your favorite side character in ‘Cowboy Ever After’ to write?
I think that would have to be Bear—the big, grumpy old guy with the heart of gold. I describe him as looking like Hagrid’s grandpa, and that’s just how I picture him: gruff and tough on the outside but kind on the inside. I had such a fun time showing Kaylee, an introvert herself, connect with him and break through his crusty walls. And I really wanted him to be the one to help her when she finds herself in trouble later in the book. Bear isn’t mean—just misunderstood. After his wife passed away, he sunk further into his isolated shell, and it was really fun and touching to have this timid romance author be the one to crack into that shell.
What part of ‘Cowboy Ever After’ was the most fun to write?
I smiled through the whole scene where Emma convinces Luke to do a chicken chase with her during the rodeo, then ends up having to tag Kaylee in as her replacement. Just imagining the two of them in the feathered vests and clucky hats squawking and bawking and flapping their wings…er…arms around to get those chickens across the line cracked me up. The idea for the scene came from when my two sons were around 8 and 10, and were chosen from the audience to do a real chicken race similar to the one in the book. We were on a family vacation in Branson, Missouri and having dinner at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. I can’t remember if they won or not, but they each got a book as a prize, and I just loved that. We even still have the books. Dolly is a total inspiration with her love and support of children’s literacy, and I have so much love and respect for her. So, the chicken races were a real thing, but I made up all the stuff about the vests and making Luke and Kaylee wear cowboy hats with bobble chickens on top! 😊
Have you been on a ranch? What was your favorite part of being there/favorite thing you did?
Yes, I have been on several ranches. I grew up on a farm in a small town in Kansas. My dad was a veterinarian, and we often went out on calls with him and ‘helped’ him, which means we carried a bucket or some tools then hung on the corral fence and watched him help a sick horse, or birth a calf, or vaccinate cattle. Summers on the farm to me meant horseback riding, going to the parade and the county fair, going fishing with Dad, and spending hours holed up in the hayloft or our treehouse reading giant stacks of books from the library.
When my husband and I graduated college, his first job was as the Lead River Ranger on the Upper Missouri River, so we moved to a tiny town in Montana and spent several years there. So much of Bartlett, MT, the fictional town where Kaylee met Luke, was based on Fort Benton, Montana. And every summer we lived there, we went to the street dance and watched fireworks during the Summer Celebration. I made up the kettle/caramel corn thing, but I’ve had it mixed together and it’s amazing.
Oh, and I had a lot of fun sneaking in an easter egg in this book—for those of you who’ve read another of my Hallmark books, Rescuing Harmony Ranch, you might have noticed the concert at Summer Celebration was put on by none other than our favorite country singer, Chase Dalton.😊
What was the first cowboy romance you ever read?
It was Jodi Thomas’ The Texan’s Wager—still one of my favorites. As a writer and a fan, I was honored and thrilled to meet Jodi many years ago at a writer’s conference where she gave a keynote address that still inspires me. In fact, I have a quote from her talk—“Success Comes Through Perseverance”—on a post-it note stuck to my desk directly in front of me to this day. She blew me away with her generosity and kindness a few years after I’d first met her, when she offered to read and blurb my first traditionally published cowboy romance. She is a talented writer with a thoughtful and generous spirit and just an amazing person.