IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE!
Today on my blog I’m interviewing the Amazon bestseller Patti Sherry-Crews.
Patti’s recent release is PHOENIX HEAT, one of seven stories featured in the
A COWBOY TO KEEP Anthology.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I had an Irish and British import store for 15 years. I gave it up to be a stay-at-home mom, but I work from home. I cane and rush chair seats, which I learned from my mother when she wanted to stay at home with us! I don’t advertise anymore because I stay busy enough by word of mouth.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I don’t remember thinking I wanted to be a writer when I was young, but looking back I always had a writer’s mind. Like I make up stories to daydream by or put myself to sleep since I was little. And then I was always someone who hoovered around in the background observing the action. I love words too! There is such power in word choice. I did toy with the idea of writing when I was in my twenties, but I finally gave myself permission to write when I turned 50 as a present to myself.
What was your journey to become a writer like?
Once I sat down to write my first novel, the words just poured out. I thought I was writing an important novel, but it was really just a thinly veiled memoir! But, they say, write your own story first.
In the beginning I felt guilty taking the time to write and did it in secret for maybe an hour a day. Then one day I accidentally deleted the whole thing! I had to ask my husband for help retrieving it and so outed myself. He’s been incredibly supportive.
The next important step occurred when I did a NaNoWriMo challenge. I realized I could spend hours a day writing and still have time to take care of business. It was a revelation! People still ate and the laundry got done same as always.
In the early days I had to work at giving myself permission to write. Writing is such an odd thing to do in some ways especially in the beginning when you don’t have the outside validation (or financial reward!). One great thing about being a writer is you can put your fantasies down for others to see. I don’t think of myself as a historical western writer, but I had a storyline in my head for one. I wrote Margarita and the Hired Gun and submitted it to Prairie Rose Publications and they accepted it! Since then I’ve written both historical western and medieval romances for some of their anthologies.
Now I devote most of my day to writing.
What do you find to be the most difficult challenges in writing?
Writing is easy. It’s what comes after writing “The End” that’s hard, starting with the question what next? What is the right path for my book? I have one completed manuscript now I’m spending time writing query letters for, and that’s a lot of work.
Whether you self-publish or get published, much of the promoting is up to you. One reason I like writing for anthologies is that it is a group effort, and I learn from others who are good at promoting.
One challenge I face when writing an historical piece, is that I have to do research. The first time I tackled a medieval story I was petrified! I sat at my keyboard trying to convince myself to plow ahead with the project, wondering if every word I typed was historically inaccurate. I have to check every little detail from the food eaten to the clothes worn hundreds of years ago. It’s also a challenge to keep an authentic voice but still be understood by the modern reader.
How do you come up with your ideas for a book? What comes first – the plot or the characters?
I like this question. I probably have a different answer for every book I’ve written. A couple of times I woke up from vivid dreams and then built a story around the scene in my head.
Other times I’ve had or seen an incident that caught my interest and then worked backward and forward from that. Phoenix Heat in the anthology A Cowboy to Keep is an example of that. Once I thought I was doing a neighbor a favor by letting her dog into her house before a storm, except it wasn’t her dog as it turned out. That dog did some damage.
So I took the wrong dog incident, had the heroine throw the dog into the hero’s house, and then I built the story around that. What brought her to his house? What was their relationship before? After? Who are these people?!
For me the characters come after the plot, and they develop pretty much on their own, and then they take the reins from me, sometimes changing the course of the plot.
Most writers has certain quirks or rituals when they write – my must haves are endless cups of coffee, my dog by my feet and complete silence. What are some of yours?
I don’t know if I’d call it a quirk, but I have a set routine I stick to starting with a long walk in the morning. And I mean a long power walk not less than 5 miles. I write in my head as I walk. When I sit down to write in the afternoon my pump is primed. I write in the late evening now too. Oh, and music is very important! I can’t write without Spotify playing in the background.
What does your writing den look like?
So, for many years my writing den was my kitchen, which was not ideal. People looking for food pestered me all the time. Now I’ve set up a place on the second floor. It’s a long narrow room that runs the length of our house. I look out at my neighborhood and watch the commuters going to the train or the children walking to school. I live north of Chicago, where we get all four of seasons, so I see them change from my window which looks out over my yard.
What genre do you prefer? And have you written in any other genres?
I love chick lit! That’s what I prefer to read lately. I’ve written a few novels I’d call chick lit because they’re funny and deal with the situations modern women face in life and love. Those have been my favorites to write.
How many stories have you had published?
Three western historical romances for Prairie Rose. One medieval for the same publisher, and I’m currently working on my second. I’ve self-published five contemporary or chick lit novels, and I have two completed manuscripts I have yet to publish. I’ve also been in three Indie author boxed sets, including A Cowboy to Keep.
What is one of your favorite stories you’ve written or had published?
My favorite book is Patrick III, a Quest Tale. It was inspired by a trip I took with two generations of women in my family to Newfoundland to trace our roots. We found our ancestor, Patrick Nugent, escaped an Irish prison ship bound for Australia and ended up in Newfoundland. First of all the idea of taking family dynamics on a road trip interested me. And then, how in the world does someone escape from a prison ship? What did he do to get arrested? I worked all that into the story.
I published the book and after years of searching for the answer to my questions, I found the entry online in Irish prison records: Patrick Nugent, 1800, Dublin, robbery, sentenced to deportation. I found this almost literally after hitting the “publish” button!
I had fun with this one throwing in references to quest tales from the Odyssey to Don Quixote. Everyone in Patrick III is on a quest, though they’re not all on the same quest and the matriarch of the family is on a secret quest.
I also jump back in time twice to tell the stories of a couple of the family’s ancestors (Patrick I and II), exploring at the same time what qualities are valued or dominant that get passed onto future generations.
Oh, yes, there is a romance too! The traveling family frequently cross paths with a mysterious young man on a motorcycle, who is on a quest of his own. Our heroine, Gwen, decides to lose her family and continue her journey on the back of his motorcycle. Loses her family, but she gains the thing she’s been looking. True love.
What is your current work in progress about? Or do you have an idea for a future novel?
Currently working on a medieval romance. It’s for a boxed set for my publisher. A knight has to protect a lady with a secret that could not only get her killed but could even topple the monarchy. He puts her in a nunnery for safe keeping, where she gets herself into more trouble by uncovering yet another secret.
I’m also itching to get back to one of those previously mentioned unpublished manuscripts for a final edit. This is the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo and because I wrote in such a hurry, it was a bit of a mess. I keep going back to it, because there are parts I really like. Chick lit set in Chicago about a young woman who’s feeling stuck. One morning an odd, almost mystical incident prevents her from going to work. Had she been at work she might have been killed when a driver steps on the accelerator instead of the brake and crashes through the window of the salon she manages.
The close brush with death makes our heroine rethink her life. She decides to make a list of all the things she wants to accomplish. Except she watches in frustration as the people around her, inspired by her story, make changes in their lives, while she can’t think of a thing to put on her list. What she almost misses is right under her nose: the handsome contractor there to repair the damage to the salon. He opens new possibilities to her, but can she open her heart to him?
Out of all the books you’ve written, published or not, who were your favorite characters and why?
I think my favorite character is Des Costello in Love with an Expiration Date set in Dublin. He’s an independent filmmaker who falls for a visiting American professor. He’s funny and charismatic. It was fun to write his dialog lines because he’s such a quick-witted tease. It was also fun to make him lose his temper. At six foot five, he’s larger than life in both appearance and personality. And player that he is, it was satisfying to make him fall in love, and he fell hard…for a woman who would be leaving. He’d be the character I’d most like to spend time with.
How do you come up with your titles?
With a great deal of pain! I hate coming up with titles.
Do you have any words of advice for a new writer?
Just do it. Make time everyday if you can. Don’t question yourself. The first person you have to please is yourself, and if you like what you’ve written, chances are somebody else will too. Also, not everyone will like what you write so don’t get hung up on a negative comment. Read the reviews of your favorite authors to see that you can’t please everyone. Even the most popular writers get bad reviews. Lastly, I’d say establish a routine.
Do you have any pets? And if so, do they help you write?
We have a puggle named Gracie May and a cat named Lucille Ball. They’re both rescue pets and both are characters. They hang out with me while I write.
What are some of the things you enjoy when not writing?
Just tooling around. Walking around aimlessly with or without friends and dogs. Jigsaw puzzles. I like to travel but haven’t done much of that lately between one thing (college tuition) and another (roof blowing off in a high wind and other disasters).
How can readers reach you or find you on online?
Patti Sherry-Crews lives in Evanston, Il with her husband and two young adult children. She writes historical western and medieval romances for Prairie Rose Publications. She also writes contemporary romances.
You can find her at:
Facebook as Patti Sherry-Crews, author
PHOENIX HEAT by Patti Sherry-Crews
Harper Donovan thought she had it all when she turned her dream into a reality—opening a restaurant in New York City. But when the venture fails and her fiancé leaves her, Harper has little choice but to return to her family in Arizona.
When she meets handsome firefighter and cowboy Frank Flynn, she decides it’s time to get in the dating game again. Except Flynn shows no interest and dodges her, but not before claiming they’ve met before. Solving the mystery of the complicated Flynn gets under Harper’s skin, making her even more determined to seduce him.
When the two finally come together, the smoldering passion ignites into a heat that rivals the Phoenix desert. Now that Flynn has opened his heart, can Harper handle this wounded cowboy who’s playing for keeps? And will the romance survive their differences?
PHOENIX HEAT Excerpt
She heard the rasping of the curry comb in the background. The sound stopped all of a sudden, followed by a heavy sigh.
She turned to see him standing in the doorway. “Is this an exterior door or an interior door?”
“Well, you better let me take a look at it. We can’t leave you unsecured up there. Give me a minute to put my horse back in the stall.” He had a pained expression on his face.
She followed him out. “Is that your horse?”
“Yes, I keep him here.”
“What do you call him? Horse?”
He looked back at her, a small smile threatened to break out on his face. “I put some thought into it. Lucky is his name.”
“You’re pretty good at naming animals. How’s Dog? Did you find his owner yet?”
“Nope. Dog is fine.”
“Did you repair the damage yet?”
“Excuse me,” he said, brushing past her while leading his horse into a stall. He spent a few minutes there, while she stood sweeping the toe of her boot back and forth until he came back. “All right, let’s see about this doorknob. Did you find the right screw?”
“I think so,” she said, holding out her hand.
He reached for the small screw in her palm. When his hand touched hers, she took in a sharp breath, surprised by the currents it sent through her.
He held the screw up to the light. “No, this is too short. It will wriggle free again. Come on.” He led her back into the tack room.
The sight of his broad shoulders and narrow waist bent over the workbench nearly undid her. She stepped in and stood close behind him. Close enough to smell the horse and sweat on him. In her imagination, he spun around and pulled her into an embrace. How his lips would feel on hers….
“You’re blocking the light standing there,” he said, jolting her to attention.
She stepped to the side. From here, she watched his long, tapered fingers flicking through screws. “This will do. Come on. Show me this door,” he said.
“Up the stairs.”
“I figured that much.” He stood back and let her go up the stairs first, much to her embarrassment.
Now he’d get to watch her ass from below. Great. She started up the stairs, picking out a deliberate pace that wasn’t too fast, not too slow—the pace of the unconcerned. About the time she hit step four, she heard his tread hit the steps below her. The dry, hot air enveloped her body sucking the moisture out of her, yet sweat still beaded on her upper lip. She heard him take in a breath, and the soft tapping of his boots on the steps. The railing beneath her hand shook with their movement. All the time all she thought about the view she must be giving him. The ascent seemed interminable. She had the jarring sensation of walking up a down escalator, time and movement out of synch. Her hand slid up the railing, and out of corner of her eye, she saw his hand sliding in step behind hers. Just when the tension was becoming unbearable he broke the silence. “How’s that car working out for you?”
“It’s great, thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me. It was your daddy who bought the car for you.” There it was again that hint of disapproval in his voice.
“I couldn’t talk him out of it. Here we are.” At last they’d reached the top landing.
Flynn fit the doorknob back into place and took a screwdriver out of his back pocket. She took the moment to admire his tight jeans with her fingers itching to grab his bottom.
“Could you hold this?” She swallowed hard. He handed her his Stetson.
She held the hat by the brim and worked it around in her hands to see the sweat stain running around it. She fought the impulse to put the hat on her head to feel the moist heat on her skin. “Do you lead trail rides?”
“No, I don’t. I do real ranch work. Your Uncle Pete doesn’t think I’m suited to taking out parties. Something about my people skills.” He looked up and winked at her.
“Is that right? I hadn’t noticed your lack of people skills. But I suppose it’s good to know your own strengths and stick at what you’re good at.”