The Romance Reader Interviews Kaki Warner

  The Interviews
New Faces 212
Kaki Warner
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by Cathy Sova

Welcome to our New Faces column, where yo can meet debut authors and discover their books. This time we're visiting with Kaki Warner, whose first release is Pieces of Sky from Berkley Sensation.

Kaki, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.

Although I now call the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state my home, I was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, and in many ways, my heart still resides there. (What is that line? You can take the girl out of the country, but…never mind. Suffice to say, my Southwestern roots are still strong). I attended college at the University of Texas, earning a BA in English with a minor in history, which are useless credentials on the job market, but helpful if you ever decide to write about historical things in English. Which I did. But that came much, much later, after I had married, held a variety of boring jobs, raised two kids, buried parents, and gained enough life experience and wisdom to pull it off.

Are you coming to romance writing from another job?

No, my husband I are retired now, although we're busier than we've ever been, doing exactly what we want, when we want, and how we want. How fabulous is that? Granted, not many people would relish life in a remote area, off the grid, and eighty miles from the nearest mall, but we enjoy having deer and bears and cougars for neighbors, and watching eagles nest, and listening to owl and coyote serenades at night. It's very different from the city bustle we left behind, and we accept the challenges as part of the deal.

What led you to write romance?

When I started Pieces of Sky I wasn't aiming for a specific genre. I just wanted to tell a story about a place I loved and a time I found interesting. For that reason, although it's being marketed as such, it doesn't read like a "traditional" romance. There's death, destruction, revenge and vengeance. Bad things happen and hard choices are made. But beneath all that pathos is a strong love story with a happy ending, which does fit neatly into the romance genre. Personally, I don't much care which shelf it sits on, I'm just glad it got published.

Tell us about your road to publication.

My road to publication was neither straight nor well paved. And it was really, really long. Twenty-five years, to be exact. That's not to say I worked on this project for twenty-five years. In fact, I didn't write at all for twenty of those years. But after I retired, I came across the manuscript in storage, and thought that since I had the time, why not give it another go? So after I sent it off to some contests, where it did gratifyingly well, I made suggested changes, polished it as best I could, and started querying agents. From that point, things moved quickly, and within just a few months, I had signed on with Nancy Coffey, and she had sold this book and two more to Berkley.

What kind of research was involved for your first book?

Not a lot, except for casual mentions of historical events and people to add authenticity. Most of it-the setting, the ranching aspects, the mind-set of people who are closely tied to the land-was from memory or personal experience. I've raised horses and herded cattle, so that helped, too. Where I had trouble was getting the Spanish dialogue right (still have worries there), and trying to keep the voices of the different characters and their accents as authentic as I could. But luckily, as I was doing random research for Pieces of Sky, I came across some interesting stuff I was able to incorporate into the other two books of the trilogy, so that was a nice bonus.

Tell us about your debut book.

This always makes me crazy. How do you compress over four hundred pages into a few words? But I'll try. They say opposites attract-if they don't kill each other first. Jessica Thornton is a proper English spinster escaping a shameful act that has changed her life forever. Brady Wilkins is a hard-bitten rancher, haunted by secrets of his own and struggling to protect his land from a madman. Outrageous hats and pamphlets on deportment versus dusty dungarees and twenty years of blood on his hands. They don't fit. Yet after their stagecoach crashes and Jessica is stranded at Brady's ranch, antipathy becomes attraction. He teaches her to trust again; she gives him back the joy he'd lost. And together, against a backdrop of revenge, vengeance and unspeakable choices, they face the horrors of their pasts to find redemption, forgiveness, and ultimately, love. (Whew.)

Who are your influences as a writer?

The list is huge because I read a lot of different writers for a lot of different reasons. Western romances? Jodi Thomas, LL Miller, Francine Rivers, and L Spencer to name a few. Straight historical? Bernard Cornwell, McMurtry, Sara Donati, Follett. In addition to new and old stuff from regulars like Koontz, Crichton, Patterson, Grisham and DeMille, there are a few new romance authors in my TBR pile: Courtney Milan (Proof of Seduction), Monica Burns (Kismet), and Kimberly Fisk (Lake Magic). Too many books, not enough time.

What does your family think of having a published romance author in their midst?

They've responded with various comments like, "It's about time," or "Better late than never," or "Now can we go to Scotland?" I'm joking. Maybe. Actually, they've been incredibly supportive, and have offered invaluable help with railroads, period weaponry, medical issues and especially in helping me overcome (mostly) my curmudgeon/technology gap. Because of their help (and nagging) I now have a web page, a Facebook fan-page, an e-newsletter and I write a blog. I'm even learning that internet anagram speak, although it doesn't save me any time, since I have to work so hard to figure out what they're talking about. Baby steps. Maybe some day I'll be brave enough to take on Twitter.

Tell us about plans for future books.

There will be two more books coming out in this trilogy about the Wilkins brothers: Open Country, which is Hank's story, is scheduled for a June 1st release. Jack's story will be out in 2011. I'm also working on a proposal for a new series about four women who meet on a train in Colorado in 1870.

How can readers get in touch with you?

There's contact information on my website, www.kakiwarner.com, where I have summaries and excerpts from all three books, as well as a video trailer for Pieces of Sky. While you're there, dear readers, I hope you'll sign up for my e-newsletter or leave a comment on my blog. Living as remotely as I do, I really appreciate reader feedback-good or bad-and would welcome any thoughts you might want to share.

Kaki, thanks for visiting us and best of luck with your next release! Readers, we have a review of Pieces of Sky here at TRR. February 12, 2010

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