Archive for September, 2010

NT: Hi Tiffany! Thank you for being my guest today.

Tiffany Clare: Thank you for inviting me!

NT: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take for you to make your first sale?
Tiffany Clare: I didn’t get serious about writing until halfway through 2006 when I entered a big contest for aspiring writers called Avon FanLit, hosted by HarperCollins. Previous to that, I only tinkered and played around with small stuff. It wasn’t until that contest concluded that I wrote my first full length novel and have kept writing full length novels since. I sold THE SURRENDER OF A LADY in May of 2009.
NT: You have a debut release this month, can you tell us about SURRENDER OF A LADY?

Tiffany Clare: It’s about a woman who is sold into a harem to pay off her husband’s gambling debts. She agrees only because the life of her child is at risk, and she is desperate to see her baby again (he is six months old when the story opens). Rothburn has only ever loved one woman. He never expects to find that woman in a harem where she is sold to the highest paying bidder.

Book blurb:
Sold. With one word, Lady Elena Ravenscliffe’s destiny changes forever. Forced into Constantinople’s slave market to pay off her late husband’s debts and save her son, Elena reinvents herself as Jinan—a harem girl adored by the rich lords who bid on her favors. But one man instantly sees through her façade.
Griffin Summerfield, Marquess of Rothburn, let Elena slip through his fingers years ago. When he recognizes her on the auction block, he pays an outrageous sum to possess her even if it is for a short period of time. But when his deadline looms, Griffin will risk all in a desperate bid to make her his—and his alone…
NT: What inspired the idea for this story?
Tiffany Clare: A glimmer of an idea. A woman dancing in harem garb for the man she loved. After writing the scene, I did research on harems, looked over a ton of art (pictures really are worth a thousand words) and went from there. I’d never written a straight historical before (I tried my hand at paranormal for a long while) and never thought I’d write such an exotically set book. I’m glad I did, though.
NT: Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?
Tiffany Clare: I get up at four in the morning to write. That gives me a few hours before I have to get the kids up and ready for school. Then I’m off to work. I’m pretty useless in the evening, so I might just type up what I wrote on the streetcar or do edits, but no real writing, my brain just doesn’t work like that after for in the afternoon. I also spend a good chunk of my weekends writing and revising.
NT: Is there anyone you use as a sounding board when you’re stuck on a scene?
Tiffany Clare: I often plot with my dearest friend and critique partner Elyssa Papa. We sound things off each other all the time. Sometimes we’ll be on IM for hours plotting, looking at possibilities of ideas, etc. I’d be totally lost without her.
NT: What was the most interesting thing you had to research and what was the hardest thing to research?
Tiffany Clare: Everything was interesting. I knew nothing about harems or the Ottoman Empire. I didn’t realize how involved the British were with Chinese affairs and the opium trade.
I don’t remember any difficult things to research. It’s pretty easy in this day and age to find information that you need. The only trouble I had for the book (in the beginning) was finding the perfect date for the story to take place, because Rothburn does travel to China for a brief stint of the book, I had to make sure it wasn’t during any of the wars between the British and Chinese.
NT: When not busy writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? (If there is such a thing *G*)
Tiffany Clare: Writing is all I can do in my spare time. I’ll fiddle away on the piano when the mood strikes (I’m actually pretty terrible at it) but I love music, it is the only thing I love as much as writing (hobby-wise).
NT: What are the latest additions to your TBR? What are you most eager to read?
Tiffany Clare: I’m excited for my friends’ upcoming releases. Juliana Stone’s HIS DARKEST EMBRACE and Maggie Robinson’s MISTRESS BY MIDNIGHT and her alter ego Margaret Rowe’s ANY WICKED THING both their writing is brilliant and I’m thrilled to have read them before they released. I am also a huge Lora Leigh fan and the next book can’t come soon enough in her Breeds series!
NT: Any advice to aspiring authors? What craft books helped you that you would recommend to aspiring writers?
Tiffany Clare: Workshops on writing are helpful. I’m not much for structured learning or reading craft books, though I do buy them because I *think* they’ll be great to read—I just never get around to reading them! There was two courses that I took (online) that was brilliant. Margie Lawson. Her courses helped my dissect my work and look at it from a distance for emotion and for editing. If you ever want a course, I definitely recommend hers!
NT: What can your fans look forward to from you in the near future? What are you working on now?
Tiffany Clare: My next book to release with St. Martin’s is: THE SEDCUTION OF HIS WIFE (Feb 1, 2011)
Emma Hallaway has not seen her husband in twelve years—and that’s fine with her. As a young girl, she’d agreed to a simple marriage of convenience, allowing her to pursue her private passion for painting. And though unknown to the rest of polite society, Emma is now one of the most daring and sought-after artists in London. However, when her secret is threatened to be exposed, Emma is forced to open her heart—and her home—to a total stranger: her husband…
Richard Mansfield, Earl of Asbury, is all too familiar with danger. As a matter of fact, it is hard on his heels when he returns to England. Still, even he is shocked to learn of his wife’s scandalous double life as an artist. But once he sees the vibrant grown woman she has become—so passionate, so strong, and so alluring—his undeniable attraction to Emma stuns him. Suddenly Richard is determined to turn their sham of a marriage into a true and lasting love. But how exactly does a gentleman seduce his own wife?
My third book releases May 24, 2011. THE SECRET DESIRES OF A GOVERNESS
Featuring Emma’s youngest sister, Abby Hallaway who leaves her comfortable world to strike out on her own as a governess. She doesn’t expect to find herself in lust and then in love with her employer, Elliott Wright, Earl of Brendall. But will his secrets tear their budding relationship apart? Or will something more nefarious at play in the background spell out Abby’s end. . .  (that’s me writing a blurb on the fly, I guarantee my editor will write a much better one for the book in due course). Blurb coming soon on my website! LOL
NT: How can readers contact you?
Tiffany Clare: Via my web at www.tiffanyclare.com
NT: Thank you so much for blogging with us here at Novel Thoughts!
Tiffany Clare: Thank you for having me!
For a chance to win a copy of THE SURRENDER OF A LADY, just leave a comment below. (North American residences only.) Good luck! 😀

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Eliza Farrell, the heroine of my debut historical romance, Lord Lightning, which was just released on September 28, is a Regency era astrologer who reads the chart of an anonymous stranger and interprets it as being that of a man who was born to love. Unfortunately for her, those who know the man’s identity take this as proof she’s a fraud, for the chart is that of a well known libertine, famed for his cold heart and the love of shocking behavior that has earned him the nickname Lord Lightning.

Eliza’s trust in her astrological insight gives her faith that Lord Lightning is not what he appears, though as the story unfolds that belief is sorely tested.  When people ask me how I got the idea for this tale, I have to tell them it is autobiographical. Though I was not abducted by the hero of my own romance, as Eliza was by hers, my understanding of my real life hero’s astrological chart helped us get through some real difficulties early in our relationship.

That’s because, my real life hero, just like Lord Lightning, has an astrological chart dominated by an aspect even a beginning astrologer would read as meaning that his character was formed by an uncomfortable relationship with his mother. And, just as you will see is the case with the sardonic Lord Lightning, this aspect made him wary of letting a woman get close to him and led to him indulge in outrageous behaviors that would have driven away a woman unable to see the good things revealed by his astrological chart.

Fortunately, I’d  been I’ve been a student of astrology since my teens. So when things got out of hand I confronted my real life hero on the emotional issues that were making him behave so outrageously.  His surprise at how accurately I’d identified his inner conflict led him to give the relationship another chance—and to let me help him get past the fears that were keeping him from expressing his enormous need to love.

He turned out to be a keeper. We’ll be celebrating our fifteenth anniversary next winter.  And I hope the story of how Eliza’s insights allow her to tame the unpredictable Lord Lightning will end up being a keeper for you, my readers, too!

Book Description:
They call him “Lord Lightning”. . .
For his shocking behavior. An unrepentant rogue with a wicked reputation, his outrageous conduct ensures no woman will get close enough to hurt him.

But demure and lovely astrologer Eliza Farrell casts a chart that tells her Lord Hartwood is capable of great, passionate love. When Hartwood indulges in one of his famous pranks and invites Eliza to become his new mistress, the virginal country miss must meet her fate armed only with her knowledge that the cynical lord will become the tender lover she sees predicted in the stars.

Though Eliza is nothing like the brazen strumpets he prefers, the seemingly incorruptible seer excites Lord Lightning much more than the hard, calculating women he is accustomed to. Eliza’s trusting spirit and quick mind touch his cold heart—and when the bewitching innocent surprisingly agrees to be seen on his arm, neither can predict the sparks that will fly between them . . . or resist the electric passion that will threaten to transform them both.

Giveaway!  Have you ever had your own astrological chart read? Would you like to? Post your comments below. One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of Lord Lightning.


A big thanks to Jenny Brown for joining us today! To find out more about Jenny, please visit her website here. And don’t forget to leave a comment below to enter her giveaway. Good luck! 😀

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Ten years ago, Rori Simon left town shy, unattractive and with zero self-esteem. Now she’s back, older, stronger and finally loving herself—and it shows. Hot men are soon knocking at her door, including Jude Callahan, the bad boy who starred in her teenage daydreams…and her adult fantasies.

Jude can’t believe the sexy, confident woman before him is actually Rori! She’s gotten under his skin like no other woman has…and brings out secret desires he can’t resist. He wants to dominate Rori with every fiber of his being. Wants to own her and pleasure her. To cherish her as he makes her his.

Rori discovers she likes being controlled. She also knows Jude is not a one-woman man. Everything changes when she meets Zach Helm. Edgy, sensual Zach knows just what she needs, and before long, she’s in love. Jude watches them together and wonders if he’s lost his chance forever…

Carina Press
ISBN: 9781426890697
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Small Town
Length: Novel
Release Date: October 25
(this is a revised reprint of an earlier title)


I can’t say too much about the events in this book without dropping huge spoilers so this review will be short.

I have read many of Ms. Dane’s previous books. I knew that she could bring the heat and emotion and she didn’t skimp on either of those in Second Chances. Rori is a heroine that you can’t help but love. She is warm, confidant, she knows what she wants and what she deserves and refuses to settle for anything less. And the love scenes are melt-the-pages hot.

Second Chances spans a few years and you get to know and love all the characters so much. Which leads me to the one warning I want to give. The most heart-wrenching scene I have ever read is in this book. If you choose to read it (and I hope you do), have tissues ready. And not just a couple. I mean, go to the store and get a brand new box just for this story.

I won this ARC on a twitter contest and I’m absolutely thrilled that I did. And I really hope that we get to see more of these characters in the future. Second Chances is definitely a keeper.

To read an excerpt from Second Chances, please visit Lauren Dane’s website.

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Seven innocents have been brutally murdered in Los Angeles, yet the Shadow Alliance has no suspects and no leads. As the body count mounts, the age-old feud between vampires and werewolves threatens to explode.

Lissa Monroe—a strong-willed, ravishing succubus who entices men to surrender their souls—agrees to go undercover for the Alliance. Her mission: infiltrate the mind of werewolf leader Vincent Rand, a ferociously alluring enemy who exerts a powerful hold over her. As the City of Angels teeters on the brink of apocalypse, these two adversaries must join together in order to survive an even more lethal enemy hidden in plain sight.


I don’t think that I’m alone in this:  When I sit down to write a book, it’s not theme that I’m thinking of.  It’s character and story.  I’m trying to craft a story that moves at a fast pace with characters that are compelling and interesting and change over the course of the story.  I’m not thinking in terms of Grand Themes or Literary Devices.

And yet after the draft is done and I’m digging back into the story, inevitably the theme presents itself.  Even more, over time, I’ve discovered that there are certain themes that I’ll return to again and again.

I imagine that’s the same for most writers.  I’ll even take that a step further and say that the old adage of Write What You Know could more accurately be couched in terms of theme:  Write What Compels You.  What plays in the back of your mind.  Write the themes that make you think or that scare you personally.  Write to work through your own issues (yeah, writing novels can be very therapeutic!).

One reason romance novels are so popular, I think, is the overarching theme of finding love.  And, sadly, one of the reasons I think that romances aren’t always taken seriously is that the theme is too universal.  Either elitists feel it’s too trite to form the anchor of a book, or else doubters don’t like to see the reflection of their most basic desires staring back at them.

That need to connect with someone is one of my favorite themes to write about—but it’s not my only recurring theme.  Second to that is the theme of Figuring Out Who You Are, especially in the sense of overcoming adversity in your background—whether it be a parent pushing you in a certain direction, or the trauma of being turned into a werewolf against your will.  Certainly paranormal characters and stories lend themselves to the playing out of that theme.  In fact, in WHEN PLEASURE RULES, my second Shadow Keepers book, both Rand and Lissa are trying to come to terms with their core nature, both in different ways.

Lissa, a succubus, has no memory of her past lives, but even so, she’s working in this life to make up for wrongs she did in the past.  She knows that inherently, and that deep-seated knowledge has made her who she is.  But she still carries the burden of the past, and until she can fully accept who she is now, she’ll remain haunted by it.  With Lissa, the theme is played out more subtly.

Werewolf Rand is a different story.  A boy who grew up in gang territory—who participated in gang killings and ultimately tried to seek redemption in the military—he’s a man who is convinced that he’s unworthy, and that he’s become the beast he was changed into.  And this despite the fact that he’s loyal, hardworking, and deeply protective of those he loves. His torment runs so deep that his very soul is tattered, something Lissa can see—and something she wants to help. But it’s a long road to believing you can be other than the person you think you are.

Looking back now, I can see those themes, but as the story first appeared on the page, it was only the characters trying to tell their story through my keyboard.  I hope you like it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jkbeck, Friend me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorjkbeck, or just email me at jk@jkbeck.com.

And, of course, you can read more about the series at www.theshadowkeepers.com!

Finally, I’ll give away a signed copy of WHEN PLEASURE RULES to one lucky commenter!  Don’t know what to say?  What themes are you drawn to as either a reader or a writer?

Happy reading!


Many thanks to J.K. for being our guest today!

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PLAY DIRTY releases September 28, 2010. Order your copy today at your favorite on line bookstore or buy your copy on the 28th at your favorite brick and mortar bookstore! This is one book that won’t stay on the shelves long! Don’t miss out on your chance to meet the bounty hunters, Greg, Marc and Jake King!

PLAY DIRTY is Greg King’s story. His love life is as intense and dangerous as the criminals he hunts and captures. Greg might live on the edge, but there is one woman who knows how to soothe the beast in him.

Heartthrob bounty hunter Greg King knows how to work it—and he knows that he can have any woman he wants. But there’s more to Greg than meets the eye…and he’s still haunted by the memory of his beautiful, estranged wife. Much as he’s tried to move on, he’s never been able to stop wondering why Haley left him. Or what he could have done to make their marriage better—and make her stay…

After putting a vicious criminal behind bars, Haley King had no choice but to leave her loved ones behind and enter the witness protection program. Turns out that, in her new life, Haley has once again found herself in serious trouble—and needs help from the only person she can trust: her husband. Now, as old secrets threaten to tear them apart and danger closes in from all sides, it’s up to Greg to keep Haley safe…and convince her that this time, he’s playing for keeps.

Be sure and check out the rest of Lorie O’Clare’s books at www.lorieoclare.com. She loves hearing from her readers and you can e-mail her at lorieoclare@aol.com. Also, Lorie lists her books on eBay. If you’re after one of her older titles or her newest release, go to http://shop.ebay.com/lorieoclare/m.html. Bid on the auctions to win Lorie’s book or go to one of Lorie’s “buy it now” auctions. All books are mailed out personally autographed to the winner of each auction. Books are mailed worldwide!

Two lucky commenters will win their choice of any ebook from Lorie’s digital backlist. Have you read Lorie yet and if so, what book would you recommend to first time readers? If not, check out the above link and tell me what sounds good to you.

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Regina Ross

wins DARK MOON OF AVALON by Anna Elliott


Tracey D.

wins BOND WITH ME by Anne Marsh



wins COME AGAIN NO MORE by Jack Todd


Linda B.

wins THE MISTAKEN WIFE by Rose Melikan

Congrats to all the winners! You have 48 hours to email Mad at mad at romancereaderatheart dot com to claim your prizes.

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Far be it from me to criticize Jane Austen, but an unfortunate consequence of her popularity has been the assumption that Englishwomen living during the reign of George III spent all their time writing letters, attending card parties, and striving to make a “good match”.  Admittedly, the Bennets, Elliots, Dashwoods et al. represent a particular segment of society, the provincial middle class, but even so, were these women really so limited in their outlook and aspirations?
Undoubtedly, some of them were.

Jane Austen was too astute an observer of manners and morals to misjudge things badly.  Nevertheless, some middle class women did venture beyond the parsonage and the manor house, either through necessity or the desire for a wider experience.  I thought about these women when I was creating my heroine, Mary Finch.  She doesn’t represent any particular person who actually lived at the end of the 18th century, but when constructing her adventures I did consider whether there was a contemporary precedent for what I was planning, or whether her strengths and weaknesses were out of line with what I knew about women of her time.  So when readers ask me whether someone like Mary could really have existed in the 1790s, I say, yes, I think she could.

Let me give you examples of two Georgian women who, in their different ways, are somewhat in the Mary Finch mold.  The first is Hannah More (1745-1833).  Having been taught Latin, mathematics, and foreign languages, she and her sisters ran a girls’ boarding school in Bristol, while her parents presided over a like establishment for boys.  From an early age she enjoyed writing, and her work attracted the attention of the London literary elite.  As a young woman she made the acquaintance of David Garrick, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Samuel Johnson, and was invited to join the exclusive Bluestocking society.  Her plays were popular and won rave reviews from the critics.  A devout Anglican, More’s writing had always had a particularly moral tone, and increasingly she devoted herself to what she considered important social and political causes: education, patriotism and respect for authority, and abolition of the slave trade.  In the last of these she worked closely with William Wilberforce and was a member of the Clapham Sect of Evangelical reformers.  Her loyalist tracts, published during the war years, sold enormously in Great Britain and America.  While of dubious literary merit, they were extremely important in providing a coherent, easily accessible platform for the forces of political, social, and religious conservatism.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was cut from a very different cloth.  Almost entirely self-taught, she left home at the age of nineteen to escape a violent father who had squandered the family’s resources.  After unsuccessful stints as schoolteacher, governess, and paid companion, she decided to become an author, and began supporting herself by writing stories, book reviews, translations, and essays.  Her Thoughts on the Education of Daughters was published in 1787.  While More sought to uphold values of deference, obedience, and loyalty, these were anathema to the egalitarian Wollstonecraft.  She enjoyed the company of the leading radicals and rationalist thinkers of the day, including Thomas Paine, Joseph Priestley, and William Godwin, and she published the first refutation of Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, entitled, A Vindication of the Rights of Men.  In it she attacked monarchy, aristocratic privilege, and traditional institutions that promoted inequality.  Her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, took her arguments a step further, charging that women were being denied (and denying themselves) equality through a lack of rational education and a cloying celebration of feminine “sensibility”.  Similarly, while More attacked the French Revolution, Wollstonecraft defended it; indeed she travelled alone to France in 1792 to observe events firsthand, only returning in 1795.  Her intrepidity was also evident in an expedition she made to Scandinavia – accompanied this time by her enfant daughter – to pursue her lover’s business interests.  More never married, but Wollstonecraft’s personal life was by far the more exceptional.  She had a child with a married man, and only wed William Godwin (they were both opposed in principle to the institution) when she discovered she was pregnant.  They moved in together, but he also leased a separate workspace so that they could preserve their professional independence.

I don’t mean to suggest that More and Wollstonecraft were “average” women, or that their conduct passed without comment by their contemporaries.  Their political views won them both support and censure, and Wollstonecraft, in particular, was strongly criticized, even by some of her friends, when she revealed that her first child had been born out of wedlock.  My point is rather that despite the constraints and conventions of their time, they both managed to lead adventurous lives.

Adventurous people are necessarily unusual – and adventurous characters in novels are even more so. As Captain Holland reflects upon first making Mary Finch’s acquaintance, “He had never met a girl who said and did such odd things – and not just occasionally, but one right after the other.”  Holland’s own career is not exactly straightforward, but he has never met anyone quite like Mary.  He would undoubtedly have considered Hannah More and Mary Wollstonecraft rather odd as well.


A big thanks to Rose for visiting today. You can learn more about her here or here http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Rose-Melikan/45491181/widget.

For a chance to win a copy of THE MISTAKEN WIFE, leave a comment below.

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I love this series, I love this cover, now I love this video. Come on, November!

For more info, visit Lauren’s site here.

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I can’t wait for this series by Larissa Ione and the cover is fantastic! April is seeming like a long time away right now. So what do you think?

They are here.
They ride.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

His name is Ares, and the fate of mankind rests on his powerful shoulders. If he falls to the forces of evil, the world falls too. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he is far stronger than any mortal, but even he cannot fight his destiny forever. Not when his own brother plots against him.

Yet there is one last hope. Gifted in a way other humans can’t-or won’t-understand, Cara Thornhart is the key to both this Horseman’s safety and his doom. But involving Cara will prove treacherous, even beyond the maddening, dangerous desire that seizes them the moment they meet. For staving off eternal darkness could have a staggering cost: Cara’s life.

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Turning family history and American history into fiction

It started with a box. A fairly large, unwieldy box, heavily taped and tied with grocer’s string. Sent, with love, from my mother in western Nebraska to me in New York City in 1981.

This time, it wasn’t a box of brownies. My mother, born Maxine Marguerite Morgan in a Nebraska sod house in 1910, had shipped our family history, or as much of it as a single box could contain. Letters, family portraits, fragments of diaries, and one fairly substantial memoir, thirty-five pages single-spaced on someone’s old typewriter, left by my great-uncle Eb Jones, pioneer and frontier character in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Perhaps, my mother suggested in the accompanying letter written in her elegant hand, I could do something with all this. I don’t know what she had in mind: a family history to be circulated to the relations, perhaps? One of those Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill and the bear at the family picnic things, preserving all the family yarns for posterity?

I did read Uncle Eb’s memoir, pieced together from memory after the diaries he kept for forty years were lost in a house fire in the 1930s. It was lively stuff: frontier murders, a goldrush or two, the Civil War, a drive to bring a thousand head of buffalo from Arizona to Wyoming. The massacre at Wounded Knee, where he was a scout for the cavalry.

I put the box aside and forgot about it. Somewhere along the line, in one of my numerous moves, most of it was lost. Twenty years later, a conversation with my sister aroused my curiosity about those old letters and memoirs, because two things struck me: first, there was a doozy of a story in there, which I had been too obtuse to see the first time around. Second, there was a remarkable confluence, over a period of nearly 150 years, between the history of my family (or more specifically, my mother’s family) and the history of the United States.

The first members of the Jones family had arrived in the Boston area before the American revolution. They drifted south as far as Mississippi, where John Milton Jones was born in 1830. John Milton left the south to walk to California with seven or eight friends after gold was found on the West Coast in 1849. As far as we know, he was the only one to survive. He returned to the Mississippi River with enough capital to buy what he called a “store boat,” which he operated on the river in partnership with a freed slave until they came under Confederate fire during the Civil War.

John Milton sold the boat and moved north to South Dakota, arriving as one of the first pioneers in the Sioux Falls-Yankton area in 1863. He married a woman who was part Sioux and fathered several children, two of whom, Eb and his brother Squier, became the protagonists of my first novel, Sun Going Down.

Both boys were fluent in Lakota, but Eb was perpetually restless. He scouted for the cavalry, worked as a sheriff in Spearfish and elsewhere, tried ranching in a dozen locations at a dozen times. Squier settled down in Brown County, Nebraska and built a ranching empire, beginning with a 160-acre homestead.

It was on that ranch that the essential conflict of this trilogy was borne, when Squier’s daughter Velma, my grandmother, became pregnant by one of his bronc riders. Squier kicked the pair of them off his ranch and set them up in a miserable homestead with a tumbledown soddy. After my mother was born, the bronc rider broke her arm in a quarrel and Squier went a little farther: he drove the young husband out of the state, leaving Velma to try to figure out how to survive, along with her two small children on a desolate homestead.

She might have pulled it off, but Velma learned she had tuberculosis in 1915 and spent most of the rest of her short life in and out of the sanitarium in Denver while her children were shuffled back and forth among orphanages and various family members willing to take them in.

In historical terms, it was all there, a primer of American history in the story of a single family: the great Mississippi River and the steamboats, the California gold rush (and a later gold rush in the Black Hills) the Civil War, the westward expansion, the Indian wars, World War I, the Roaring 1920s, the Great Depression and World War II. Somewhere along the line, members of the extended Jones family were always part of it.

I set out to tell the story. Six years after I began reassembling the stories in the original box, with the help of sisters, cousins and aunts all over the western U.S., Sun Going Down was published by Touchstone Books.

The first novel began in 1849 and ended at the beginning of the Great Depression, in 1933. The second, Come Again No More, is set entirely during the Depression years and researching it was less difficult, because I heard much of it directly from my parents. They lost their farm in Nebraska during the 1930s and joined the great migration to the West Coast, moving to a small Oregon mill town where my father, a former boxer, had a job in the mill. After six months, he decided he couldn’t stand the rain and dragged the family back to Nebraska.

Like Sun Going Down, Come Again No Moreis an attempt to get at the general truth of our common history through the particular history of a single family. It is one thing to read the history of the 1930s or to review the painful statistics of a time when a third of the American work-force was unemployed. Those statistics come home, however, only when you find a way to bring alive the impact of hard times on ordinary folk.

There is an odd process a writer goes through when turning family history into fiction. The real characters fade and are replaced by the fictional characters who become as real, in the imagination, as living friends and relatives. Thus Squier Jones for me will always be Eli Paint, his fictional counterpart, and Eb Jones is Ezra Paint, Eli’s brother.

The character Emaline in both books is, of course, my mother. With her hot-tempered, quick-fisted husband Jake McCloskey (my father, the first Jack Todd) she is alive to me as both fiction and memory. In Come Again No More, I attempted to tell their story, the awkward marriage of the rather prim young woman who loved Chekhov and Balzac to a character so rough, he would drive a steel bolt with his bare fist.

As Come Again No More ventures into the world, I’m completing the third novel in the series, The Rain Came Down, set almost entirely during World War II and based, in part, on the letters of my mother’s younger brother Jimmy Wilson, a gunner on the battleship Tennessee from Pearl Harbor to Japan. The contents of another box, in other words.

A lesson for writers everywhere: beware the boxes you open. You may find yourself, years later, still entranced by the old stories, the characters who stare out at you from the black-and-white photographs, the hasty letters dated 1887 or 1910 or 1944. More novels, waiting to be born.


Thank you Jack for joining us today! You can find out more about Jack and his books here. Or here http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Jack-Todd/44580857/widget.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win COME AGAIN NO MORE. Good luck! 😀

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