Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I am a writer. I have always been a story-teller. It’s a family tradition. I remember my grandmother as the queen of pithy comments who served putdowns at her Sunday dinners, along with her pot roast. Grandma never swore. It wasn’t ladylike, but insulting someone’s intelligence, morality, behavior, manners and children or mate was an art form. Grandma ran the Pine Tree Tavern below First Avenue in downtown Seattle, a very unsavory part of the city. She kept a “cuss jar” for her clientele. Funds collected from the foul language paid for the annual Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas party at the bar, while the leftover money went to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
What makes writing your passion?
Grandma’s love of language was the legacy she passed on to me. As she told me more than once, “Your words have power. Use it wisely. Don’t shout when a whisper will do.” So, when I chose a pen name for my romances, I opted for part of hers as a tribute. Josie Malone. When people ask what I do, I say, “I’m a writer. Telling stories is a family tradition. I just write down mine.”
How long have you been writing?
I started writing down Grandma’s stories as a young teen although I knew nothing about the techniques or mechanics of what would become my passion. Most listeners, my parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins squirmed at her turn of a phrase. I always admired Grandma’s use of language. When I graduated from high school, I was determined to be a writer. My creative writing teacher had told me I had talent and suggested college. I came from a poor, single-parent household, and higher education wasn’t possible. No one in our extended family had ever attended college. The girls got married and the boys went to work.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I write about girls and women who do things. In My Sweet Haunt, the first book in the Baker City Hearts and Haunts series, Cat McTavish doesn’t wait to be rescued from a bad marriage. She saves herself and her twin daughters when she moves to a dilapidated guest or dude ranch. Granted, she doesn’t expect to find a ghost, much less be able to talk to him, but Rob Williams was so much fun. How could I resist him?
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Don’t quit! Everybody knows a ton of clichés on the subject from “You’re never given a dream, without being given the power to make it come true,” to “Write from the heart if you want it to work.” Okay, the last one is mine –I tweaked it from a country song. However, I really believe it. There are so many options now for writers and much fewer limits. If you are determined to be a writer, then write. Study your craft and rewrite. Do your best and you will sell if you don’t quit!”
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
I always compare myself to the latest heroine in my current Work In Progress or WIP. Right now, it’s Debbie Ramsey who knows, “You don’t say whoa on a go-ahead show.” That’s a Baker City saying that means never stop in the middle of a problem. Push through until the end. She’s a survivor and while she must deal with her past to have a future with Rex, she’s ready. My grandfather used to tell me that winners get up one more time when life knocks them down and losers lie on the floor and snivel. He always expected me to get up and I still follow that advice. I loosely base my characters on me, it isn't really my intention but I believe a little piece of me is in each of them.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I love reading Louis L’Amour westerns and collect them in the brown vinyl that is supposed to look like leather. No, I don’t have all of them, but I keep watching for them online, in second-hand stores, thrift shops and the antique stores in Snohomish, Washington. Granted, most of my shopping trips took place prior to Covid-19, but I’ll be thrilled when I can go shopping in person again.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
What would you say to your readers?
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I was born in Seattle and spent most of my first seven years there. Then, we moved to Everett, Washington and my mom opened a pony farm.
What is your day job if you have one?
I live at Horse Country Farm, a family-owned riding stable in the Cascade foothills. I organize most of the riding programs and teach horsemanship, nurse sick horses, hold for the shoer, train whoever needs it – four-legged and two-legged. And write books in my spare time, usually from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week after a long day on the ranch.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Did you have a happy childhood?
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
Because my dad left on my twelfth birthday, I grew up in a single-parent household. I was the first girl in the family to graduate from high school and the last thing I wanted was a husband. I went to work for a temporary office service and washed dishes at night in a restaurant. I couldn’t fulfill my dream of joining the Army because I was needed at home to raise my younger sisters. I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve instead. When the wolf was at the door with a litter of pups, as my grandfather used to say, or when times were even harder, the civilian liaison of my Army Reserve unit, Ed Matthews would put me “on orders.”
This meant I did office work for him, answered phones, and taught myself to type on his new electric machine, and was paid well for that time. Ed didn’t care what I typed as long as I looked busy and didn’t allow anyone at his desk when he was out playing golf with the General who commanded Fort Lawton. So, I began my first novel. At nearly eighteen, I was fascinated with romance. I had read tons of them growing up and they were my favorite fantasy. I always wanted a hero on a white horse to rescue me although I knew it would never happen. Life in a single-parent household taught reality. Men came with baggage and they always expected women to buy the suitcases. While I happily typed away on my masterpiece, Ed occasionally looked over my shoulder. If he felt my hero was turning into a jerk, or worse acting like a coward, Ed told me so.
My orders ran out about the time I finished the novel, so I bundled up my baby and shipped it off to Harlequin Books in Canada. I didn’t know anything about the publishing business, so I mailed the only copy I had. In addition to this no-no, I also didn’t have a clue about setting up a manuscript. I finished each chapter and began the next one on the same page, a fatal flaw. I also used up every scrap of paper and didn’t worry about such things as margins, or double spacing the lines of text.
Worst of all, while the man my heroine thought she loved was dashing, romantic and charming – he was also unfaithful, dishonest, and nasty, a little too much like the real life I knew about. She ended up with her nice, quiet, dull best friend, Toby – the kind of guy a woman could spend a lifetime loving, but he wasn’t a traditional romance hero. Still, as Ed pointed out – our Toby was a Vietnam veteran who could survive anything – even the garbage our heroine threw at him – not literally – just emotionally. Well, Toby survived the trip to Canada and Harlequin. Eventually, I received a letter. Harlequin liked my book. However, all the purchases at the time were made in England, so my book was going somewhere I HAD NEVER BEEN, LONDON!
It took a few more months for the book to finally be rejected, but by then I was hard at work on my next romance novel. At eighteen, I had almost made it and I was determined to become a successful novelist. College still wasn’t an option. I could only learn so much from books and magazines, so I began to attend talks by published authors. Many offered classes in writing for nominal fees. I saved every extra cent to pay for these courses, usually by riding the bus and not driving the car to work. Grandma let me stay in her guest room so I wouldn’t have to pay rent and I packed my lunch every day.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
What is your favorite music?
I love ABBA and played the Greatest Hits CD when I wrote Family Skeletons. Yes, it’s the same songs popularized in the movie, MAMMA MIA.
Share a secret with us 🙂
Living behind the Pilchuck River on a 113-acre farm without drive-up access. The only way in or out is over a suspension footbridge. As the saying goes, “I’m living the dream.” It’s especially beautiful here when the sun shines.