Do you love fairy tale retellings? I do! And today, I am pleased to introduce you to an author I just discovered myself. Rachel Kovaciny writes ... you guessed it. Fairy tale retellings. But not just as fairy tales. She puts a western spin on it. And I can't wait to get to know her with you. Read on to find out more.
Rachel, welcome! Your books are fairytale retellings set as westerns, right? How did you come up with that idea of a crossover?
Thanks for having me!
I had the idea of retelling the fairy tale "Twelve Dancing Princesses" as a western about ten years ago. It struck me that the hero of that particular fairy tale is a soldier returning home from the war, and I knew that many Civil War veterans went westward when the war ended, so that kind of made the story a natural fit for that era. I actually considered doing a series of fairy tale-based mysteries set in the Old West, but it never went farther than daydreaming. I had other books I was working on instead.
Then, in 2015, I heard that Rooglewood Press had announced that Sleeping Beauty would be the focus for the new contest for their third anthology of fairy tale retellings. I had recently been to Colonial Williamsburg and learned about the larger kind of spinning wheels, called walking wheels, which have a large spindle that sticks out horizontally about three feet from the floor. The interpreter demonstrating that wheel made a joke about what body part Sleeping Beauty might have pricked if she'd been using that kind of wheel. That joke came back to me, along with the idea of drifting gunmen being a sort of correlation to the knights errant of yore, and suddenly, I had the idea for my novella The Man on the Buckskin Horse.
I won that contest and my novella was included in the anthology Five Magic Spindles. By the time the anthology was released in 2016, I had ideas for six more fairy tales retold as non-magical westerns. I decided to write them as a series of interconnected standalones. And here I am six years later, with four books out and two to go!
So exciting! Of all the fairy tales out there, do you have a favorite? Why?
My favorite is "Twelve Dancing Princesses." I love that the hero triumphs because he is kind and clever.
Recently, I've joined a group of Christian Mommy Writers. In it, I'm discovering lots of new authors to me, like Dulcie Dameron. I can't wait to get to know her better right along with you. Her books sounds like lots of fun.
Dulcie, you say your love of writing goes all the way back to seventh grade. If you're like me, you have some stories you hope never see the light of day that were written way back when. Can you remember the premise of your favorite? Could you see yourself revamping it in the future?
I actually do remember the very first story I ever started writing about ten years ago, and though I remember some of the premise, I don't know that I actually knew where the story was going myself! Haha. All I knew was that it was going to be a single mom romance/police officer romance and YES, I actually do think about revisiting that story a lot! I just wish I still had access to it to take a look at how horrible my writing must have been, haha.
You live in a small town. How does it compare to the small towns in your books?
It's actually very similar to the town I describe in my books. River Hollow is loosely based off of my hometown and it's where I've drawn much of my inspiration from.
If you had to describe your books in one sentence, what would you say?
I'd say you'll find quirky characters, swoony kisses, and small-town vibes in each one.
Sounds great to me!
Have you guys ever had someone you loved and admired even though you'd never met her? Well, today I'm sharing one of those people with you. Micki Clark and I have never met in person, but we've been at the same publisher for several years now, and I've followed her through publishing and cancer and life--she's awesome. So, I wanted you to meet her, too. Read on.
Micki, I'm so glad to have you on here. I very much enjoyed your book Don't Ask Me to Leave You. What gave you the idea to loosely base your story on the book of Ruth?
My husband and I used the book of Ruth for our wedding vows, so those words are constantly in my head. One day, I started wondering what would happen to Ruth and Naomi in a modern world, and the story was born!
I know you incorporated quite a few places from your home area into the book. What are your favorites and why did you pick them?
I did—almost all of the locations in the book are real! I did change a few details here and there to make it fit the storyline, but you can go and tour all of the places mentioned yourself! I also have a YouTube video with photographs of some of the locations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooghJjgGnpQ. My absolute favorite, of course, is the Ruth Hunt Candy Company, because I have a killer sweet tooth and their cream candy is amazing. My children love to stop by there when we visit my family and get Ale-8 suckers (Ale-8 is a local beverage also featured in the book). The kids love Berryman’s Tasty Treat, which is a diner not too far down the street from the church where my husband and I were married.
Do you like books that send characters through time? I have to admit, they're not always my favorite (time travel gives me a headache), but the idea behind fellow Scrivenings author, Lisa Schnedler's, new book sounds interesting. I'm interviewing her today on how she came up with such a story as well as a few other things. I think you're going to enjoy getting to know her, too.
Lisa, congrats on your first book. I know it's set in two different time periods. What inspired you to write a story that crossed time?
I chose to have the book set in two different time periods as I was trying to flesh out what someone from Bentonsport in the 1870s would think of the town today. In the 1870s, the town was growing and prosperous—with railroad and steamboat traffic. Many people moved to Bentonsport. But, time was not kind to Bentonsport—the river traffic dried up and highways replaced the railroad. Likely, the former residents would have envisioned a booming future town…but instead, today, there are just 40 residents. Those residents have created an artist community—and tourist destination—so many people do still come, visit, and a few stay. At our largest festivals, we have over a thousand visitors over four days. The town would not be what past residents had envisioned—but I hope they would see that the residents have the same hopes, dreams, and sense of community that they did. I used time travel to create contrast and similarity.
Writing what you know is always a great idea and your story is set in a town you've lived in for 25 years. What are some of your favorite parts of your town that you've incorporated in your story?
My favorite part of the town is the people. When I was dating my husband, and we visited Bentonsport—where he had once lived—he said, “People usually visit towns for the sites and attractions. While there are points of interest in the town, when people visit Bentonsport, they enjoy getting to know the people who live there.”
It is a slower pace. People have more time to visit. And, the artists who live there—a potter, blacksmith, weaver, writer, etc. – are interesting and a lot of fun!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. One of the biggest blessings of being an author is getting to know other authors. For the last few years, I've been a part of the group Inspy Romance and been able to get to know quite a few of the other authors there, too. One of them is Toni Shiloh, and ... well, she's pretty amazing. So, today, I wanted to let you get to know her, too. Keep reading to find out more about Toni and her newest release (which I'm so excited about!). And make sure you read all the way to the bottom for a fun giveaway opportunity!
Congratulations on your book releasing next week. I'm very excited about it because I read the first one earlier this year and am looking forward to going back to Ọlọrọ Ilé. What was the hardest part of creating the island and all of its history and culture? What was your favorite part?
Thanks so much for having me! Creating Ọlọrọ Ilé was definitely fun for me. I think the hardest part of creating the history and culture was deciding what fit other colonized countries as well as fit the culture I was creating. I've never thought of myself as particularly political or even a history buff, so I felt a little out of depth in this area. But fortunately, there are so many books and articles on the topic. My favorite part was delving into part of Nigerian culture and what makes it it. 🙂
I know the heroine in this book is a fashionista. How did you pick her career? What was the most interesting thing you discovered in doing research for her?
I thought being in the arts and being creative fit Iris's personality the best. She's bubbly and joyful and I could just imagine her as a child playing dress up with dozens of dolls and creating her own fashion show. The most interesting thing I discovered was their sales process. When they're in winter season, they're already a couple of season ahead. It made sense and made me realize why you can buy swimsuits in the winter/springtime before the season has even hit.
If you love to read historical fiction, you're going to want to learn more about the author I'm interviewing today. She's got all sorts of historical stories out, and they all sounds good! So, stick around and get to know Linda Shenton Matchett with me.
Linda, what first made you want to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was very young. My parents gave me a tablet (with a bouquet of pencils on the front!) and a package of pens and encouraged me to fill the notebook. I was an active, imaginative kid, and I think it was their way to keep me in one place (and out of trouble) for periods of time. I scribbled lots of stories, but the incident that lit the desire of being an author was when I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as a young teen. The book made a deep impression on me, and I wanted to write stories that affected others the same way. I continued to write stories but was not able to get serious about publication until about fifteen years ago.
You call yourself a history geek. What is it about history that makes you love it so much and want to weave it into your books?
I actually hated history throughout my school years. Unfortunately, it was taught as a collection of dates, places, and names. It wasn’t until my early adult years that I experienced museums with docents and re-enactors who brought history alive with people’s stories and what it was like to live during the time period. The personal aspect is what intrigues me. How was life different during the particular era and how was it the same? How would it have felt to be there? Live through the various events?
Today, I'm chatting with a new-to-me author, Carol Underhill. But her stories sound so good, and her answers are fun. So, stick with me and we'll get to know her together!
Carol, I love your tagline, "Smalltown girl with big faith." Tell me, as I'm a small town girl who has learned to live in a suburb of a big city, do you ever like to get out in the big cities or do you prefer to stay in small towns? Do a lot of your stories feature small towns, too?
I lived in the city in my early twenties and loved it but settled in a small town when I got married. I like where I live but one of my favorite places to visit is Chicago. I’ve been there a few times and want to go back. I place my novellas in Chicago, but most of my stories are about small communities.
I notice you write both contemporary and historical romance. Do you have a preference? Why?
I like writing both. I’ve enjoyed the research for my historical series more than the contemporaries. The characters are what drive my stories. Some of them only fit in the historical timeline.
You mention having a playlist for every mood. Can you give us an example? What are a couple of your go-to songs for when you're happy? How about sad? And do you make playlists for writing, too?
I start almost every morning with “This is Amazing Grace” by Phil Wickham and “Blessings” by Laura Story.
In the moments when I am feeling sad, “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns and the Hymn “He Giveth More Grace” give me strength and peace.
When I am writing my contemporary stories, I have a playlist of romantic ballads from the 1980s that I listen to.
Today, I'm delighted to help you get to know one of my favorite people I've never met in real life. Beth Westcott is a fellow Scrivenings author and one of the best encouragers I've ever known. She lives way up in New York, but I've enjoyed chatting with her online and always feel well-supported by her as my own books release. She's about to have a new book come out, too, and I'm thrilled to find out more about it (I just finished reading the first one in the series and am eager to know what happens next). So, settle in and read on to find out about Beth and her books.
Congratulations on your third book being published next month! I'm excited to read it. Do you feel you learn something new with each one?
Thank you, Amy. Yes, I learn much more about writing well with each book, more about character and plot development. We have some great editors at Scrivenings Press, and I’m thankful for their help.
This is the second book in your Three Sisters series. How hard did you find it to make sure everything tied together smoothly between the books (I'm learning with my own series that it's not always the easiest)?
A Heart’s Journey was the first book I wrote, although it’s the second book in the series. Once I wrote Heart’s Desire, I had to make sure the second book lined up with the first. I’ve written the third book, Her Heart’s Longing, but because of changes I made in A Heart’s Journey, I must make changes in the third book. It’s certainly a challenge to keep the details straight. I began writing the series many years ago. Developing character biographies and flexible outlines has helped.
So many of the authors I interview on my blog are people I have never met but know a bit through social media or their newsletters and books. The author I am thrilled to introduce you to today is actually someone who became my friend first and then an author. Elena Hill has her first story coming out later this month, a romantic suspense included in a novella collection, all set on Sharktooth Island. I think you're going to enjoy getting to know Elena and reading these stories. Be sure to scroll at the way to the bottom for more information.
Elena, congrats on your first published work. What led you to decide to write your first story for publication?
I’ve always been a fan of story. My mother is an author and now publisher. I’ve always pushed her saying ‘it’s not hard. You just gotta put it on the page’. So she essentially told me to give it a try and she’d publish it. I was wrong. The writing process takes much more effort than just throwing words on a page lol. But I enjoyed it and feel it better helps me understand Mom’s plight with words.
I know this is a collection with three other authors, all set on the same island, but 50-75 years apart. How hard was it to make sure your story fit with the other three?
I lucked out and got to be the black sheep. Each time we had planning sessions (zoom calls) nothing was required from me to “fit into the story”. All I had to do was leave a plane carcass in the shoals. ;)
One of your characters is a pilot. Have you ever had any experience behind the cockpit of a plane? What made you decide to give your heroine that job?
I personally have never flown a plane but I spent several months living in the bush of Alaska. Common travel from villages to the “city” was a small 4-seater plane. It was not uncommon for a passenger to sit upfront with the pilot.
When we decided we wanted to do this collection, we agreed we needed a pirate book, a gilded age, a plane crash and a modern day. I volunteered to crash a plane.
Over the last few years, Scrivenings Press has become a family to me. Needless to say, when a fellow Scrivenings author has a book release, we all cheer and celebrate with her/him. And today, I'm introducing you to Jenny Carlisle, whose first fiction book released last month. And y'all, it's so sweet and fun. I highly recommend it. So, read on to get to know Jenny and then keep reading to find out about her sweet story, Hope Takes the Reins.
Jenny, congratulations on your first fiction publication! What first made you want to be an author?
Thanks so much, Amy. If you had asked five year old Jenny McLeod what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have probably said, “I want to write books”, I loved reading at a very early age, and wrote stories at every opportunity. I think the first I remember was some sort of treasure hunt story. I also won an award for a poem I wrote in elementary school, and seeing my work hanging in the school hallway was the gratification I needed to really get me hooked.
Your book is set in a sweet little town in Arkansas and as soon as I started reading it, I felt I'd been there before. What made you pick that area to write about?
Crossroads is an entirely fictional town located somewhere between Little Rock and Fort Smith along the Arkansas River. The terrain is beautiful, with the timber-covered Ouachita and Ozark mountains surrounding green pastures perfect for cattle ranches. Since moving to Arkansas as a senior in high school, this particular part of the state keeps drawing me, and I always enjoy visiting or driving through. I have always lived in a small town, and the feeling of kinship and cooperation is strong. Crossroads combines memories from so many small towns, so I hope it feels familiar to many of my readers.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)