Sunday, June 29, 2014

Favorite Author of Western Historical Romances and My Guest Today: Kaki Warner!

Although she now lives on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Kaki grew up in the Southwest and is a proud graduate of the University of Texas. Her years spent riding horses and enjoying the expansive vistas of Texas became the inspiration for the backdrop of her first novels—the wide-open spaces of historic New Mexico Territory and then Colorado.

Kaki and her husband, Joe, now live in a hilltop cabin overlooking the scenic Methow Valley in Washington where Kaki spends her time gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and soaking in the view from the deck with her husband and floppy-eared hound dog. Sounds ideal, no?

Note: For 3 lucky commenters today, Kaki will be giving you a copy of her new release WHERE THE HORSES RUN. Only one of you may be international but all three may be sent to the US and/or Canada.

The Interview:

Hi, Kaki. Welcome to the blog! I’m so glad you’re here to conclude western month. I’ve posted my review of WHERE THE HORSES RUN, so I know my followers are anxious to hear more!

Kaki: I’m delighted to be here, Regan, and thank you so much for including me on such a formidable list of outstanding authors.

1. Tell us where HORSES fits into your Heartbreak Creek series. You’ve several trilogies out now so we need help!

It is a bit confusing. Maybe it’s easier to think in terms of six books in a series, rather than two trilogies, since all the books relate to the same setting and all the characters are linked to the four female characters who first came to Colorado in Book 1.

Book 1—HEARTBREAK CREEK (Edwina’s and Declan’s story)
Book 2—COLORADO DAWN (Maddie’s and Ash’s story)
Book 3—BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY (Lucinda’s and Tait’s story)
Book 4—BEHIND HIS BLUE EYES (Audra’s and Ethan’s story)
Book 5—WHERE THE HORSES RUN (out July 1st)(Josephine’s and Rafe’s story)
Book 6—Untitled (out in 2015) (Pru’s and Thomas’s story)

2. What inspired HORSES?

I love the “stranger in a strange place” trope and wondered what would happen if I sent a Heartbreak Creek character to England and Scotland. So I sent Rafe Jessup (the ex-Texas lawman, horse wrangler introduced in Book 4) and Thomas Redstone, the Cheyenne Dog Soldier (introduced in Book 1 and appearing in every subsequent book) to England to buy Thoroughbreds and bring them back to Heartbreak Creek. If ever two men were out of their element in Britain, it would be these two. It made for some interesting—sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing—situations.

3. Was it difficult to write a Western set in England (mostly) with a trip aboard ship, too?

Definitely. In addition to researching transatlantic vessels, local English road maps, and what it would take to transport mares and studs by ship and railcar for thousands of miles, I had to describe the terrain and climate of a country I’d never visited, the society of that era back in 1870 and the Scottish Highlands…all from a male point of view. A woman might be awed by the beauty, history and glamour of the English Lake District or a battered highland castle, but these fellows mostly thought it rained too much and the residents talked funny. And if they were baffled by local laws (especially in regards to poaching) or the British customs of behavior, dressing up in Sunday clothes just to eat dinner, or risking fine horses in steeplechase races, the locals were just as bewildered by them. Texans and Cheyenne warriors don’t always transplant easily. Or so I’ve heard.

4. Tell us of your own experience with the west and with horses. I know you are a horsewoman!

I used to be. In fact my husband and I owned two feisty American/Missouri Foxtrotter mares and raised a couple of beautiful colts out of them. The area where we live now (land that we bought over thirty years ago and retired to a while back) is “John Wayne” country, for sure. By horseback, we chased cows, mended wire fences, outran forest fires, swam rivers, and rode some amazing trails before our horses galloped off into the sunset. Those sassy mares are mentioned in the dedication to this book and I miss them still.

5. You have an accent that is clearly not from the east and now you live in Washington State. Where is your accent from and how did you end up where you are?

What accent? I lost my accent years ago. When I did have one, it was a combination of several different accents. My parents were from Southern Louisiana (pronounced Suthun Loozy-anna) Cajun Country, so there might be a touch of that. And since my mother was raised by a Virginia woman (who gave all her “r”s to my grandfather to add to his Scottish brogue), there may be some of that soft Southern cadence. But mostly, my accent would be Texan, although not a real twang, no matter what anybody says. Since my daddy was in the o-i-yul bid-niss, we moved around the state a lot, and didn’t stay in one place long enough to pick up the local accent. And now that we’ve been up here in Washington State (sent there originally by Texas Instruments over thirty-five years ago), my husband I sound just like everybody else up here—which is to say, like a radio announcer.

6. I understand you’ve been writing the last book in the series. Tell us about that one. For those of us following your series, I know who the hero and heroine are, but tell all those who may have forgotten…and what’s in store for them?

This was a hard one. Originally, I envisioned Thomas and Pru as secondary characters in Book 1: a one-quarter white Cheyenne Dog Soldier, and the mulatto half-sister to the heroine. Both were to act as foils, or contrasts, to the main characters. Instead, they took on lives of their own and demanded to be included in almost every book, finally becoming the glue that holds all the stories together. And if that wasn’t pushy enough, they complicated everything by falling in love, despite all their differences. By the third book I started getting emails from readers, asking when I would write their story. I resisted, mainly because I wasn’t sure I could do them justice. I’m just a gray-haired grandma, sitting on a hilltop, hunched over her computer. What did I know about the Cheyenne culture, or what a Native American warrior would think when he saw his people forced onto reservations and his way of life overrun by soldiers, white settlers and trappers? How would Pru feel, growing up in the slave-owning South, beloved by her white father and sister, but despised by most blacks and whites because of mixed blood? Google can only cover so much—it can’t delve inside another person’s mind. But neither the readers, nor the characters would let me off the hook, and finally, at the gentle persistence of my agent and editor, I decided to give it a try.

That’s when the research started. Not to fill the pages with stale facts, but to paint pictures in my own head, so I could translate them into my characters’ thoughts and wants and decisions. Thomas, a nomadic warrior who grew up in a tipi, whose life had been marked by violence and loss, and whose culture was little understood and drastically different from those intruding upon his land—and Pru, half-white and half-black, a beautiful woman highly educated and pampered, but still carrying the scars of her own violent past. How were they to bridge the gap between them and reconcile their vast differences of culture, religion, dreams, lifestyle and expectations? It wasn’t easy, but love conquers all, right?

7. What do you do with your time you aren’t writing western historical romances?

I take road trips with my husband or some lady-friends, visit my grandkids, read, work in the garden, read some more, and make lists of stuff for my husband to do. It’s a grand life.

[Regan’s note: I am so jealous!!]

8. What is your writing process? Do you plot? Or, like me, do you write with a general idea but let the story take you where it will?

Like you, I’m more of a pantser. I start with a setting and time period. Then I people it with characters. After I figure out what they’re missing or need or want, I set them on the right path toward their goals. Then I screw up all their plans by throwing obstacles in their way. Sort of like real life. Except most of my characters are handsomer/prettier and sexier than real life. This is, after all, a romance. I find that if I outline before I write, I limit my characters’ responses to the pre-conceived plot. I like them to be spontaneous, to do the unexpected. Usually after the first half, I know who they are and where they want to end up (and with whom), so I finally begin to outline that last part so I can be sure to tie up all the loose ends. For me, it all begins and ends with the characters. Plot is secondary.

[Regan’s note: it sounds a bit like cooking dinner. I’m always amazed when all those dishes come up together in the end.]

9. Speaking of dinner, do you have a favorite food?

Anything I didn’t cook. The kitchen isn’t my favorite room. Since I’ve been writing full time and my husband has decided to try out his culinary skills (with total indifference to a healthy ratio of fats to sugar to carbs—does EVERTHING have to have bacon?) I’ve had to lower my expectations even further: anything I didn’t cook AND won’t kill me outright.

[Regan’s note: you are such a hoot, Kaki! Just think how lucky you are to have a man who cooks!]

10. Share with us a few pictures from the Methow Valley of northwestern Washington where you make your home!

Delighted to. These are all pictures my husband took. They don’t quite give the scope of where we live but you get enough of the view to see why I’m inspired to write westerns.

The first is a picture of our garden in full bloom. Since we’re on a bluff, there are also a couple of lower levels, all bound by an eight-foot deer fence.

Even though it’s certified, our outdoor fireplace is only useable in the spring and fall before/after the summer fire danger is past. We’re paranoid about fire up here. With good reason.

The Fireplace outdoors

The picture on the right was taken after one of the early winter snowfalls. If we’re lucky, everything is solid white by January—we get almost all our water from snow. This was a bad year—an early hard freeze before snow came to insulate the garden, then limited snowfall, and no spring rains. It could be a very bad fire season.

The eagle below is one of many that hang out in the trees along the Methow River in December.

Methow Eagle

      This is an old doe we called T-Bone because of her droopy ears. She hasn’t been around for several years.

Thanks, Kaki, for being a guest on my blog and sharing the story behind your latest books--as well as a bit of your life in Washington State!


  1. I love a good “road trip.” Gorgeous pics, Kaki!

    1. Thanks Lisa Kay. We're lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Kaki. I love you books so much. Horses are my life. Thanks for the chance to win one of your books.

    1. Thanks for coming Kim and good luck!

  3. I would love to read your books. They seem like something I would enjoy. I love books in series...keep the magic coming!

    1. Thanks Gwen. Good luck winning a copy.

    2. Gwen, you are a winner of one of Kaki's books! I couldn't find you on Facebook but make sure I have your information for Kaki to send you the book! And thanks for commenting.

  4. Crystal ChristophersonJune 29, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    I love your pictures! I was just recommended your books by a friend and I can't wait to read them. My daughter's name is Josephine and I have a son named Asher that we call Ash. You don't have a Levi hiding anywhere do you? ;)

    1. LOL, Crystal. We have a neighbor named Levi. You need to win one of these books since I apparently named two characters after your kids. Thanks for coming by!

    2. Crystal, you won one of the three books Kaki is giving away! Contact me with your information. (I tried to find you on Facebook but wasn't sure it was "friend" me to get my posts there!)

  5. Sounds like a wonderful book...would love to read it........babyruthmac16ATyahooDOTcom

  6. Thanks for coming by eyeballlucy. Hopefully you'll win a copy.

  7. I enjoyed this blog Kaki. Thank you for sharing with us. I have read several of your books and like them. I mainly wanted to tell you I work at a library and we have all your books on the shelf. The patrons love them.

    1. Excellent! Thanks for telling me, Debbie. Maybe you'll win the new one so you can donate it! Thanks for reading my books and for coming by.

  8. Thanks for sharing your amazing talent. Your books engulf my imagination to the point I feel the emotions of your characters

    1. What a wonderful compliment, Patty. Thank you! And thank you for reading my books. I hope you like this one, too. Glad you stopped by, and good luck!

  9. thanks for sharing your photo's! I love reading about author's and how they get started on writing their stories, and getting to know you better, I like to cook even though I don't so much since I work nights but do when I'm off work! looking forward to this new book-love to win it, good luck to all who has entered! carole fiore

    1. Thanks for coming by, Carole. I wish you luck, too. You sound like a busy lady. Wish you could come cook for me.

    2. Carole, thanks so much for commenting and for dropping by to read the interview!

  10. Drum roll please....the winners of Kaki's book are: Debbie McCreary, Crystal Christopherson and Gwen Rutherson--Congratulations! I'll be in touch to get your information.