Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Member Spotlight on Alyson McLayne!

Minerva Spencer: Hello Hearts Through History members, today I’m talking with HTH member Alyson McLayne. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been working on?

Alyson McLayne: Hi everyone! I’m Alyson McLayne. I live in Vancouver, Canada with my prop master husband, my twin seven-year-olds (boy/girl), and my chocolate lab-cross named Jasper, who’ll always be a puppy to me. My amazing eighty-eight-year-old dad also lives with us, and I swear he has a more active social life than I do (all those lunches and dinners with the ladies!). Lastly, in case of late-night writing emergencies, I have several stashes of dark chocolate hidden around my house.

My main series is set in the Highlands of Scotland, and it’s called The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod. It’s published by Sourcebooks:

Five boys destined to become Highland Lairds are fostered together to become brothers. Darach, Lachlan, Callum, Gavin and Kerr fight for their clans, for each other, and for their own true love.

The first three books of the series, HIGHLAND PROMISE, HIGHLAND CONQUEST, and HIGHLAND BETRAYAL, are all out. The fourth book, HIGHLAND CAPTIVE (Gavin’s story), releases today! I’m thrilled to say, it’s getting great reviews, including my first starred review from Kirkus. Woo hoo!!

MS: Do you write full-time or part-time?

AM: I write full-time, although it often feels like part time because my kids are still young and I’m busy with them. When I got “the call” in 2016 they were only four years old. I’d been lucky enough to be a stay-at-home-mom until then, which allowed me to write when I wasn’t constantly feeding the little monsters. Seriously, we joke that my son is actually a Hobbit because he’s always asking for second breakfast and third lunch.

MS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

AM: I’ve always loved to read, and stories have been tumbling around in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was nine, I wrote the first chapter of a book about an adventure I took with my talking dog and cat. Wish fulfillment at its finest! And I still have a book of poetry I wrote at that age, too.

MS: Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?

AM: My love of Romance started because my mom read the Harlequin Presents line. I remember being fascinated by the couples on the covers of the books, and when I wasn’t pretending to be Sabrina from Charlie’s Angels or a horse named Lightning, I would pretend to be one of the girls on the Presents’ covers. At around thirteen, I started sneak-reading them. At one point I found a huge bag of Harlequin Presents in the basement, and I spent hours down there binge-reading. Shortly after, I tried to write my first romance about a dance teacher, who was mistakenly given incriminating evidence about a mob boss. When the mob boss comes after her, she runs to her ex-husband—a prosecutor—for help. Hmmmmm… that’s not a bad story idea at all!

My love of Highlander historical romances started with Julie Garwood. I’d already written several short contemporaries (targeting the Presents line) as well as several screen and teleplays. One day I was getting my teeth cleaned, and when the dentist saw the book I’d been reading, she started gushing about how I should read Julie Garwood’s books. I couldn’t reply much as her fingers and sharp, whiny tools were in my mouth, but I stopped at the library on the way home and picked up THE PRIZE and loved it. The rest is history

MS: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

AM: I am definitely a plotter! I studied drama at university and part of that work involved analysing and dissecting plays. I also took acting and directing classes, which required me to delve deeply into character and individual scenes. Building a character’s backstory, figuring out their world view and motivations, and deciding what they liked and didn’t like was something I did in drama class long before I did it for my novels

Then, when I started writing screenplays, I learned about story structure and turning points, which are so important for screenwriting—for all good writing in my opinion (not that you have to be a plotter to do this!). Once I went back to writing romance, I applied everything I’d learned as a screenwriter to my novels. By the time I start writing, I have a detailed outline that keeps me moving forward but doesn’t stop me from changing things as the story progresses. But I ALWAYS write with story structure in mind, and I know the key, pivotal scenes that I’m writing toward.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? 

AM: Ha! My journey was a long one—27 years—so buckle up! 

After my first year of University, my mom bought me a book that she found at the grocery store called How To Write A Romance And Get It Published (thank you Mom!). I read it immediately, and instead of getting a summer job that year, I decided to write a book for Harlequin Presents. That was in 1989—pre-internet, pre-email, and before it was easy to access information on publishing. I followed the directions in the book and mailed the printed manuscript to Harlequin.

And then I waited. And waited. Aaaaaaaaand waited! It felt like my manuscript had been lost in some kind of publishing black hole. Finally, I heard back…and I was told that they weren’t accepting manuscripts at this time. What a let-down! I didn’t write another book for over a decade. 

Fast forward through my university and screenwriting years (don’t get me started on trying to get a foot in the door with film and TV!), and I decided to return to my roots and focus on romance. I wrote and submitted numerous manuscripts in different subgenres. For a while I was even working with an editor at Presents—the team there liked my writing but the manuscripts were never quite right. At one point they told me I had a single-title voice. 

Um… thanks?

And then I got pregnant. By my third trimester, I felt too crappy to write, and all my momentum came to an abrupt halt. 

It took a while, but I slowly got back into writing, and in 2015/16 several wonderful things happened—HIGHLAND PROMISE was a quarter-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, Harlequin Historical contacted me afterward, asking to read the full manuscript, and then to top it off, I was nominated for the 2016 Golden Heart contest with my paranormal manuscript! 

Harlequin Historical eventually rejected HIGHLAND PROMISE, but they were interested in seeing HIGHLAND CAPTIVE (book 4 of The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod). I loved the entire series too much to break it up and didn’t pursue the opportunity, but maybe that signalled something to the universe, because not long afterward I submitted to Sourcebooks, and within a few months, I had a 5-book deal for the entire series! 


If you’re interested in my “Call Story” you can read it here on my website: http://alysonmclayne.com/the-call/.

MS: Tell us about your latest release and what’s coming next for you. 

AM: HIGHLAND CAPTIVE releases TODAY! This is book four in The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod and features Gavin MacKinnon and Deirdre MacIntyre. Here’s the blurb:

She’d saved his son. 
Could she save him as well?

Laird Gavin MacKinnon is a changed man—and not for the better. Ever since his young son, Ewan, disappeared two years ago, Gavin has grown callous and bitter. Scouring the countryside, his search leads him to a mysterious woman who maintains the boy is hers. He decides to take them both and ask questions later. 

Deirdre MacIntyre will go with the brooding laird if it will keep her son safe. Gavin has to admit that the beautiful lass has a bond with Ewan, and things aren’t adding up. When Deirdre’s clan comes to claim her under threat of war, Gavin has a choice to make: fight for her or let her go.

I’m currently writing book 5, HIGHLAND THIEF. In addition, I’m taking a really great self-publishing course because I have seven full and partial contemporary romances that, with a little (or a lot!) of rewriting, could make a fun, sexy series. And waiting in the wings is my paranormal romance series that I would someday love to work on again.

MS: What’s the hardest part of writing? 

AM: I don’t know that there’s just one thing, lol. Lots of things about writing and publishing are hard. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

-Deadlines are hard because we have all the other things to do on top of writing our books. 

-Self-doubt and uncertainty are hard…and more so now with all the extra choices and opportunities self-publishing brings.

-Working our butts off for not nearly enough financial gain is hard—whether you’re published or pre-published, Indy or Trad.

-Staying focused is hard. Squirrel! Or in my case…Internet!

-Being flayed alive on Goodreads is hard. 

-Writing day after day when the words aren’t flowing is hard.

But one thing is easy…the choice (or maybe not a choice?) to do this hard thing we love. 

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

MS: Thanks so much for joining us, Alyson! You can find Alyson online at the following sites:

Website address: http://alysonmclayne.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlysonMcLayne/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alysonmclayne/?hl=en


Member Spotlight on Jane Rosebery

Welcome HTH Member Jane Rosebery!!!

Minerva Spencer: Before we start talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

Jane Rosebery:  First of all, thank you for having me. I love reading the member spotlights and I feel lucky that I’m being spotlighted today. I love being a part of this amazing RWA chapter. I’m a bit of a non-traditional historical writer because my romances are set during the Cold War. I write about strong women who navigate a tumultuous and action-packed era. The current series I am working on is set between the 1950s and 1960s in various locations such as Washington, D.C., Berlin, Paris and Moscow.

MS: Do you write full-time or part-time?

JR: I have a full-time job, so for now I write part-time during my evenings and on weekends. However, in a way, my writing is full-time because I do devote many hours to it. I just don’t get paid for it yet.

MS: Who’s your favorite historical figure?

JR: I’m fascinated by Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Sisi). She was the Empress of Austria and wanted for nothing in life. Yet she was extremely unhappy. She wandered from country to country seeking happiness which she never found. She wrote romantic poetry and was more liberal than her husband, Franz Joseph I. She feared that someday the people would not want a monarchy so to protect her future she placed her money in a secret Swiss bank account. Sadly, she was assassinated in Geneva in 1898. As she always feared, the monarchy was abolished shortly after World War I.

MS: If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?

JR: I’d love to have afternoon tea with Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. She married Napoleon’s younger brother, Jerome. This really angered Napoleon and he forced a divorce on them. Elizabeth spent the rest of her life trying to fight for their son’s birthright. She divided her time between Europe and Baltimore, Maryland. Oh, if only I could be her confidante.

MS: If you could time travel, what era would you visit?

JR: 19th century Vienna. I would love to be transplanted into a Viennese Ball, wearing a sumptuous gown and a massive diamond tiara. Even my fan would be encrusted with jewels. Someone, please invent a time machine!

MS: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

JR: I’m a plotter. To the point where I probably hinder myself with too much research, too much plotting, too much everything…

MS: What’s the hardest part of writing?

JR: The editing part.

MS: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

JR: Nora Roberts said you should place your butt in the chair. So that’s what I do. I sit down and turn off all distractions and I write.

Thanks so much for joining us, Jane!

Website address: I can be found at JaneRosebery.com.

Feel free to join me over at Pinterest and on Instagram.

Member Spotlight on Riley Cole!

Minerva Spencer: Hi Riley and thanks so much for joining me today! Before we start talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

Riley Cole: I’m a newly-retired psychologist who’s spent all her adult life living in Northern Nevada. Think high desert. Lake Tahoe. The rugged Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s gold and silver country up here. And of course, I write sexy, adventurous romances set in Victorian London. As one does.

MS: Do you write full-time or part-time?

RC: Full time. Since retiring, I’ve had the great good fortune to be able to hang out in my writing cave as much as I like.

MS: What drew you to write in the historical romance genre?

RC: Besides the outrageous fashions? I love witty dialogue and make believe. And the late Victorian Era is so full of invention and mysticism. And bustles.

Another thing that draws me to historicals is the distance from everyday life. While I’ve got adventure and fight scenes and villains in my books, I write light. After a career as a child psychologist, I want fun and adventure and entertainment. Thieves and rogues and parasols that conceal rapiers. That’s my kind of era.

MS: Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?

RC: In this new millennium, I can’t get enough of writers who do wit and sparkle and characterization in wonderful ways… my paired down list of must-reads includes: Lisa Kleypas, Tessa Dare, Julia Quinn and Eloisa James. The authors who inspired me early on—who made me want to be a writer—have to include Amanda Quick, Mary Stewart and of course, Elizabeth Peters.

MS: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

RC: I plot…kinda. My OCD side freaks out without structure, so I know how the hero and heroine need to change over the course of the story and I plot out the main beats of a story before I start writing. I use Scrivener & block out scenes in a general way. I know where the main story beats are going to fall, but I don’t worry about specifics. So I’ll know the hero and heroine need to have an argument in the next scene, but I don’t plan when or how or in what setting that’ll be. The scenes themselves never unfold until I actually sit down to write. …and then there’s no accounting for characters hijacking the plot. In every book I’ve written, a new secondary character has simply shown up. I LOVE when that magic happens. In my first book, Rejecting the Rogue, a little slip of a maid stepped in and announced herself halfway through a chase scene. She just appeared out of thin air. Now she’s one of my strongest ongoing characters.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? 

RC: It’s been a long one. I had two contemporary romances published back in the Cretaceous period. (No, I’m not kidding—long before ebooks and Amazon and the dreaded FB). I had a third book under contract, but the line folded. So I put writing on the shelf and concentrated on the day job… Fast forward a decade or two…

Last year, I wrote the first two books in a series, intending to dive straight in to self-publishing. And then, just when I was drowning in the sea that is book marketing, I submitted my books to Marie Force’s Jack’s House Publishing. To my complete amazement (and undying gratitude) her company signed on to publish all 4 books in my series. Now instead of squinting over spreadsheets, I have the luxury of concentrating on writing. –And talking over my projects with someone like…Marie Force! Right???

MS: Tell us about your latest release and what’s coming next for you.

RC: The first two books in my Restitution League series are on pre-order now. Rejecting the Rogue launches on Nov. 13th and Seducing the Scientist comes out Nov. 20th. Books 3 and 4 will debut early in 2019.

Rejecting the Rogue:

Thieves make the best rogues. And the worst heartbreakers.

Philomena Sweet, Victorian London’s finest safecracker, knows it better than most. The worst rogue of them all, dashing jewel thief Spencer Crane, smashed hers long ago.

And now he’s back, fleeing danger from their past. Danger he won’t survive without her help.

She’d love to refuse. She’d kill to stab him with her parasol. But she can’t leave him for dead.

Spencer Crane would sooner steal costume jewelry than ask talented, wickedly bright Meena Sweet for help. He’s well aware she’d rather to dice him into small pieces. He might even deserve it.

But revenge stalks them both. He needs her artistry. She needs his skills.

Neither needs the desire that sparks to life between them.

While they dodge criminals, carriages, and the occasional flying cabbage, who will protect these two notorious thieves from each other?

—Meet the Restitution League—

They’re thieves. They’re rogues. They’re well-armed for adventure.

The crew of the Restitution League fights injustice while wrestling with love and desire and the occasional throwing knife.

One blazing romance at a time…

MS: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

RC: When I was in middle school, Ray Bradbury came to speak to at our school. He told stories. Just stories. No videos, no music, no lighting effects. He just sat up on the stage in his maroon dad sweater and told stories about writing. And he held an entire auditorium of middle schoolers spellbound.

That was my first lesson in the power of story.

And he gave us a piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten. He asked the kids, “Picture a beautiful stage. The lighting is exquisite, the sets stunning. But no one comes out to speak. How long do you think you’d sit there? Now picture a dark stage. Just two chairs in the center. Two men sit down. They’re planning a murder. How long would you watch?” Every time I worry I don’t have enough description, I think of that story.

And a piece of advice I’d like to offer: If you’re new to writing, find a small group of critique buddies. Really. It may take some patience to find the right peeps, but I am here to say, I would never have gotten published without mine. Before I was published (the first time) I joined a group on AOL (remember AOL? Anyone?) I can’t recall the specifics, but we started out with 10 or 20 aspiring romance writers. After a few months, there were 4 of us left. We stayed together, polishing our work, for over a year. Every one of us ended up under contract. I have no doubt the ongoing feedback from people who knew my story–and where I was trying to take it—helped make that happen.

MS: Thanks so much for joining me Riley! If you’d like to learn more about Riley you can find her at the following links.

www. Rileycole.com










Member Spotlight on Minerva Spencer, HTH’s VP of Social Media

Greetings HTH Members!

This is Christy Carlyle, your HTH President, and I’m happy to introduce you to one of our board members, Ms. Minerva Spencer.

Christy: Before we start talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself and what you write?

Minerva: I write Regency Era romance and my first book, DANGEROUS, came out June 2018. BARBAROUS, book 2, is coming out October 30, 2018.

I live with my husband, a bunch of rescue poultry, and 4 big dogs in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.

CC: Do you write full-time or part-time?

MS: I am fortunate enough to be able to write full-time.

CC: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

MS: I didn’t start writing until I was 45, which was five years ago. I’ve always had jobs that were writing intensive, but I never considered a career as a writer. I wrote my first book in my head on a 6 hour driving trip in November 2013. I suppose I’ve written about 22 books since then. So, the writing bug kind of bit me with a vengeance.

CC: What drew you to write in the historical romance genre?

Historical romance was the only kind of romance I’d ever read (mainly Heyer and Holt). I didn’t read a contemporary until a couple years ago–but I already love them!

CC: What’s your favorite historical movie?

MS: Huh. That’s a toughie. Either The Scarlet Pimpernel with Anthony Andrews or the version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.

CC: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

MS: I am a complete pantser. I sit down in the morning and don’t know what I’m going to write until I’ve written it. I wish I was a plotter, I find being a pantser stressful on those days when I am not feeling “it” and the words aren’t coming.

CC: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

MS: As I mentioned earlier, I wrote my first book pretty quickly, over the course of November and December 2013.

I focused on writing and cranked out several books over the next few years. I had a real mental block about query letters and only sent out two between 2014-2017 and those were….bad. Very bad.

I joined RWA in 2015 and entered a lot of contests because I didn’t belong to any writing groups or know any other writers and nobody had read my stuff! I live out in the boonies so I didn’t go to an actual RWA meeting until 2017. I wish I’d gone earlier, but…..Also, I didn’t have beta readers until the summer of 2016 (and then I hit the JACKPOT with 2 awesome betas!!)

My beta readers held my feet to the fire in November 2016. They made me promise to send out query letters by the end of January 2017.

I sent out 5 letters in early February 2017–4 to agents and 1 to an editor–and received a 3-book offer from Kensington about 3 weeks later. DANGEROUS, the first book in The Outcasts Series, came out in June 2018.

I was, obviously, very, very lucky on my journey to publication.  

CC: Tell us about your latest release and what’s coming next for you.

MS: My next release is BARBAROUS, which is the second book in The Outcasts series. The series is set during the Regency Era and features older protagonists and also those characters who don’t always make it into traditional Regency.

He could be her ruin      

Hugh Redvers is supposed to be dead. So the appearance of the sun-bronzed giant with the piratical black eye patch is deeply disturbing to Lady Daphne Davenport. And her instant attraction to the notorious privateer is not only wildly inappropriate for a proper widow but potentially disastrous.Because he is also the man Daphne has secretly cheated of title, lands, and fortune.

She could be his salvation

Daphne Redvers’ distant, untouchable beauty and eminently touchable body are hard enough to resist. But the prim, almost severe, way she looks at him suggests this might be the one woman who can make him forget all the others.  His only challenge? Unearthing the enemy who threatens her life . . . and uncovering the secrets in her cool blue eyes.

CC: What’s the hardest part of writing?

MS: Having faith in my work. I worried about whether my writing was good enough before I was published and I still have plenty of moments of indecision. People criticize everything about an author–from her work to the author herself–and I’m learning quickly to develop a hard shell and only listen to people I know and trust.

CC: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

MS: I don’t know who said this, but you can’t edit what you don’t write. That really keeps me going when I’m bogged down.

CC: Do you have any writing advice for our readers?

MS: I never give advice about what people should write or how they should write it. Writing is a highly personal endeavor for me and I assume it is for other people, too.

However, I would offer a piece of advice about the BUSINESS of writing. Never let other people rob you of your joy in writing. Don’t let them tell you what to write or what you can’t write. 

This business is utterly subjective and arbitrary. Just because you haven’t yet met your editor, agent, or fan-base yet doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. The publishing industry is a crapshoot and sometimes it takes a long time to find the people who love your work–but they are out there, you just need a chance to get your writing in front of them. 

CC: Thanks for joining us today, Minerva! You can find out more about Minerva at the following links.




Minerva, Viccus, and friends

Minerva Spencer was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She’s lived in Canada, the US, Europe, Africa, and Mexico. After receiving her M.A. in Latin American History from The University of Houston she taught American History for five years before going to law school. She was a prosecutor and labor lawyer before purchasing a bed and breakfast in Taos, NM, where she lives with her husband and dozens of rescue animals.


Member Spotlight on Cynthia Owens!

Welcome to another edition of HTH Member Spotlight! Today I’m featuring Cynthia Owens.


Minerva Spencer: Before we start talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

Cynthia Owens: I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province ofb  Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three.

I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure.

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and Hearts Through History Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero. I have two adult children.

MS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

CO: I don’t know if I ever actually realized it. It was just something I did, something I was. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old. I wrote plays for holidays, and sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. When I turned seven, I got a record album (yes, I’m dating myself here!) called Peter Pan in Story and Song. After I’d memorized it (I played it a lot!), I wrote out the entire thing, word for word, even the punctuation. I did it because I had to. My family was quite impressed.

But I didn’t always receive that kind of encouragement. In first grade, our teacher told us to write a sentence about Dick, Jane, and their dog, Spot.

I wrote a paragraph.

The teacher went from desk to desk, reading what the other kids had written, offering praise or criticism. I was incredibly proud of that paragraph, and I waited eagerly to see her reaction.

She scolded me.

She said she’d asked us to write a sentence, not a paragraph.

I was devastated. Talk about stifling a child’s creativity!

Now I realize I hadn’t exactly followed the rules. I’d written much more than she’d asked. But didn’t that deserve at least a word of praise?

I often wonder how much of my ambition to be a published author stems from that one childhood incident. Probably some, because years later, when I ran into that same teacher (now retired) she congratulated me on my books!

MS: What drew you to write in the historical romance genre?

CO: I love historical romance. It can sweep you away into another time and another place.

It’s rather ironic, because when I was in high school, I absolutely hated history! I live in Canada, and Canadian history is a graduation requirement. But it was taught in such a dull way! We spent about three-quarters of the year talking about the fur trade—an important event, to be sure, but certainly not the only thing that happened in Canada! Memorizing names and dates just didn’t appeal to me.

But as a teenager, I enjoyed the old family drama show, The Waltons. I enjoyed the history the program showed in such an entertaining way. I call it social history. Not names of prime ministers or presidents, or the dates of battles, but how they affected the people who lived in those times. I wanted to know more about those long-ago times, and more, I wanted to write about them. And thus began my career in historical romance.

MS: If could meet anyone in history, who would it be?

CO: Micheál Collins, the Irish revolutionary, who was assassinated in 1922 when he was only 31 years old. fought the British to a stalemate, negotiated the first Treaty of Independence for Ireland, and oversaw the country’s transition to democracy. It’s said he died in an attempt to remove the gun from Irish politics.

MS: Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?

CO: Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew books, had the greatest influence on me. I loved those books because they always kept me turning pages to find out what came next. Years later, I think when I was in high school, I read an interview with her in which she gave the greatest advice ever: Always leave a scene, or a chapter, on a cliff-hanger. Keep ‘em guessing!

It makes perfect sense, too. What better way to keep a reader reading?

The late Clare Lorrimer, a British author, also influenced me. I started reader her “sweeping historical romances” when I was 19, and I’ve read everything she ever wrote. I never failed to get lost in her storyworld, whether it was the French Revolution, Victorian England, or 18th Century Brighton. When I first started writing romance, I tried to write just like her. Of course, I couldn’t, our voices are completely different, but those exercises helped greatly in finding my own voice. And I knew I would never be satisfied until I was sure I could sweep my readers into a story the way she did.

MS: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

CO: I’m not sure you could call what I do a “process.” I’m definitely not a plotter…unless I need to be, and then I only plot a chapter or two in advance. I’m more of a pantser in that I let my characters tell me their story.

I usually start a story with a character—hero, heroine, and sometimes just a random secondary character—and a vague idea of the plot. Then I write down everything I know or can come up with about him or her. I follow that with short scenes of their past. For instance, when I was writing Deceptive Hearts (Wild Geese Book I), I wrote two pivotal scenes in the hero’s past, one on a coffin ship bound for America from famished Ireland, and a second when his mentor is killed. They really helped me get to know Shane, and from that, I worked up the plot.

Right now, I’m working on a character who was held prisoner for several years. I’m writing his entire time in captivity, from the time he was taken to the day he escaped. And in that way, I’m coming to an intimate knowledge of him.

These scenes may or may not appear in the story, but they’re invaluable to me in working up a plot.

MS: Tell us a little bit about your latest release.

CO: My latest release is A Claddagh Christmas (October 2018). It’s my first single-author anthology, a “duet” of two Irish Christmas stories. One of the stories, The Christmas Shop, is a stand-alone story, while the other, The Old Claddagh Ring, features lovable rogue Joe Donavan, who appears in My Dark Rose and Kathleen’s Mirror, two of my Wild Geese books.

Here’s the blurb:

Christmas. A time of joy and celebration, when dreams come true, and angels walk the earth.

A Claddagh Christmas ~ Two stories of Christmas, Irish-style!

The Christmas Shop ~ Maeve Brennan has lost everything she holds dear: her husband, her three children, and finally her home.

Micheál Lynch has one dream: bringing Christmas back to his three young children. He’ll do anything to achieve that dream, even if it means risking his own life.

Can some tiny Christmas angels unite these two lonely souls and bring them a real Christmas…and love?

The Old Claddagh Ring ~ Anna Clare Wycliffe has spent seventeen years longing for the twin sister torn from her arms when they were little more than babies. A surprise letter from California spurs a secret plan to visit her sister…but with no money of her own, and about to make her entrance into New York society, how can she carry it out?

Joe Donavan grew up on the mean streets of New York. He owes everything to the brother-in-law who gave him a job and a chance to become a man. He’s determined not to let him down. But what happens when a golden-haired, violet-eyed girl steals his heart and asks his help in fleeing her unhappy home? Will Joe sacrifice his most prized possession to give Anna Clare her heart’s desire?

MS: What’s the hardest part of writing?

CO: Two things: time and confidence. Time can get away so easily, with jobs and family and chores. And research, especially on the Internet. You start researching one small detail, and get distracted with a hundred other details, and before you know it, your writing/research time has been eaten up.

Confidence is a big one for me. Even though A Claddagh Christmas is my 13th book, I was still really nervous about how my editor would like it. I’ve been plagued with the “I’m not good enough” gene as long as I can remember, and unless I’m very strict with myself, it creeps into my writing. It’s tough to beat, but oftentimes, I’ll look at the shelf that holds my books, and then I go on and jump into my next story.

MS: Thanks for joining us today, Cynthia! If you’d like to find out more about Cynthia you can find her at the links listed below: