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Author Spotlight: Anne McAllister is Here With a New Cowboy!

Annnnd…we have a winner! Jan Trampp, you are the lucky winner of Anne’s Giveaway. Anne will be in touch with you. Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by!

What a treat to have the amazing and accomplished Anne McAllister back in the Author Spotlight! She’s here to tell us about her newest novel, A Cowboy’s Promise, which released on June 8.

Two-time RITA winner and nine-time finalist, Anne has written 70-ish books for Tule Publishing and Harlequin Books.  She was named Midwest Fiction Writers “Writer of the Year” and also received Romantic Times’ Career Achievement Award as “Series Author of the Year” and, of course, awards are great.

But what she likes the most about writing are the people she meets – sand castle builders, bull-and-bronc riders, architects, photographers, lifeguards, pro beach volleyball players, cowboys, artists, hair stylists, firemen – as well as readers and other authors. And, of course, she loves meeting new characters  – or getting to know old ones even better – and discovering through writing what makes them and their relationships tick.

Something else she loves about writing is that she can do without having to scrape the ice off the windshield before she goes to work. Though born in California, she lived most of her life in the Midwest, as in “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa,” where she and her husband raised their four children.

Now they live in Montana where there’s even more ice on the windshield, but she still doesn’t have to go out to scrape it off – only to walk the dogs.  And in Montana she gets to enjoy her four youngest grandchildren.  But the oldest Iowa grandson and his wife provided Anne and her husband with their first great grandchild last year, so you can bet there will be visits back to Iowa in their future.

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Anne…the floor is yours!

Many thanks to the wonderful Nan Reinhardt for inviting me to join her – and all of you — today on her blog. It’s always a pleasure to be here.  This time she has asked me to share a bit about my most recent release, A Cowboy’s Promise.

Because writing, for me, has pretty much always been about sitting down every day and waiting to see what comes out of the tips of my fingers as I type, I knew that writing this piece today wasn’t going to be any different.  I never start out with a sense of what’s going to happen or even who these people are – unless they’ve got a start in an earlier book of mine. So, writing is generally a process of discovery, which makes for a fair bit of rewriting because it’s rare that I get it right the first time.

As often as I’m asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” I also get asked, “What’s the theme of the book?”  Well, it’s a romance, so its basic theme, I guess, is Love Conquers All.  But if I were to have to come up with a theme for this book – and, as you’ve no doubt guessed, I am not good at themes – I will offer two: coming home and “do-overs.”

When my editor and I were tossing around ideas for a series title for A Cowboy’s Promise and at least two books that come after it, the one thing (besides cowboys) they all had in common was the notion of coming home.  Sometimes it’s a literal homecoming – back to the place they were born or to a place they were passing through but which, later in life, circles around and ropes them in again. So, Cowboy, Come Home was born.

But in the case of A Cowboy’s Promise, home wasn’t a place – it was a matter of heart. Charlie Seeks Elk, the main character, is an award-winning photojournalist who has spent his life on the road. Orphaned as a teenager in urban Los Angeles, he has made a point of not putting down roots, of not making commitments other than to his work, shooting hard-edged, stark photos of all the world’s most troublesome hotspots.  And when he meets nurse Cait Blasingame, a woman who wants more than something casual, a woman who believes in love and commitment and roots, a woman who believes in him, Charlie’s not having it.  He has places to go in this gritty, war-torn world.  Settling down is what eternity is for.

Then, caught in a bloody crossfire halfway round the world, Charlie stares eternity in the face – and discovers that Cait’s not there.

To say it’s a wake-up call is putting it mildly.  And when he gets his “do-over” and goes looking for Cait, he’s determined to make it right this time, to find Cait again, to make the commitment, to find, first inside himself and ultimately with Cait, a way home at last.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a book if Cait weren’t determined to have a life without Charlie. And the book wouldn’t last longer than ten pages if the minute he showed up, she threw her arms around him and said, “Yes! At last.”

She doesn’t.  If Cait has a theme, it’s probably something to do with trust.  How do you trust the man you gave your heart to, who basically handed it back and said, “You’re better off without me. Have a nice life,” when he shows up suddenly and wants to share it with you?

So, that’s what the book is about.  If you read it, I hope you enjoy it.  It was one of the books I really liked writing though when I booted up the computer every morning I had no idea what was going to come out my fingertips onto the screen.

When I told one of my sons what I was writing about–“eternity and all that”–and that I wasn’t sure where it had all come from, he said, “So, you’re finally using that theology degree?”

Oh. Well, yes, could be, although that seems another lifetime ago now. That son was born while I was working on that degree.  He has a teenager and middle-schooler of his own now.

But books are like that, I think. For me, anyway, they come together from bits and pieces of my life — memories, friends’ conversations, travels, research, experiences in ways that I never imagined.   When I was doing that MA in systematic theology, I wasn’t doing it so I could write romance novels. I hadn’t even read one at that point!  I was doing it to keep my sanity while I was pregnant and chasing two toddlers.

When my dad talked to me about his experiences growing up, about the disconnect between his native Oklahoma roots and his young adulthood in urban L.A., I had no idea that Charlie would co-opt those feelings.  The Montana my mother grew up in isn’t much like the Montana I live in now, but memories we shared grew into bits of the Montana Cait came back to, overlaid with some of my stepdad’s Colorado ranch experiences.  The troubled teenager Charlie was owes at least some to boys my husband and I oversaw while we were in grad school.  The photos Charlie takes in Montana were inspired by a project a granddaughter did. I had no idea when any of these things happened that they would resurrect themselves in my mind as I was writing Charlie and Cait’s story.

Now that I think about it, writing a book is a bit like Charlie discovered eternity would be–filled with the things that began–and mattered–in my daily life.

So now you probably know more about Charlie and Cait’s back story than you ever needed to know. And at this point it’s your turn.

GIVEAWAY! Tell me about some experience or idea or friendship in your past that you revisited later in some other context. Or tell me your favorite memory from when you were growing up. Two winners chosen at random will get an ebook of one of my earlier Tule releases. We’ll choose a winner at random on Saturday morning and I will notify you if you are one of the winners, and you can let us know which book you’d like.

Thanks so much to Nan for asking me to share some of Charlie and Cait’s story with you.  Hope you all have a wonderful week – and a wonderful summer or winter depending on where you are.

A Cowboy’s Promise

“Let’s get married.”

They are words award-winning photographer Charlie Seeks Elk never expected to say. He sure didn’t say them two years ago when, in a war-torn city halfway across the world, nurse Cait Blasingame looked at him with her heart in her eyes. As much as Charlie wanted Cait, he could never give her the life or the family she dreamed of. So he did her a favor and deliberately walked out of her life.

Marry him? Now? The last person Cait expects to turn up on her family’s Montana ranch is Charlie. He doesn’t do commitment. He doesn’t do marriage. His boots are made for walking and he couldn’t have made it clearer. So why is he saying the three words she once so desperately wanted to hear?

Confronting eternity can make a man rethink his choices in life. Charlie has rethought his. Cait hasn’t. She’s marrying someone else—unless Charlie can convince her to be his wife.

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  • flchen1

    Lovely post, Anne! I have one friend whom I’ve stayed in touch with over the decades. We first met at the playground, where apparently we threw sand at each other. We we’re BFFs in upper elementary and middle school, and have drifted apart somewhat, although we check in a couple times a year. It’s a blessing to have such continuity with other people! Love the sounds of your latest story—sounds like a lot of self reflection for your characters!

    • Anne McAllister

      Hi, I so agree that long friendships are wonderful. I’m glad you have a friend with whom you shared so many good times. I was reminiscing with one of mine last week and remembered things, after talking with her, that I had long forgotten. It’s kind of amazing how writing brings some of those things to the surface again, too. They are rather like bits of dreams in that they appear in a different context in fiction, but the emotions are the same. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Anne McAllister

    Karen, Thanks for sharing your memories of your best friend and so many things you did growing up. It’s really special to share so many experiences with someone. I have a friend I met when I was four years old when we had just moved into the neighborhood where she lived, and she asked me if I wanted to see a black widow spider! It was the start of years of adventures together in our elementary school years even though we went to different schools. In high school we were at the same school and have lots of memories there. We were roommates one year in college; she was the maid of honor at my wedding. And perhaps most important for the ‘rest’ of my life, she introduced me to romance novels. I hadn’t read one and she was reading a lot of them to get her through life with a very stressful job where she said that she needed “to believe in happy endings.” So, basically, I owe her my career! I had another good friend that I lost contact with for probably forty years, but, like you, was able to reconnect with her since the internet provided a way to discover her whereabouts again. I’m so glad we were able to get together again for a few years before she passed away. I’m sorry for your loss of your sister. Losing a sibling leaves a real void in one’s life. My brother died four years ago, and though we didn’t see each other often in recent years, I miss him so much.

  • Anne McAllister

    Karen, Isn’t it great when you discover a dear friend as a child and make many memories with them. I made a friend when I was four and we moved into a neighborhood where her family had moved the year before. We became friends when she showed me a black widow spider. We were college roommates. She was my maid of honor when I got married. She’s actually the person who introduced me to romance novels and basically showed me that they existed and I might be able to write one! I’m glad you have great memories of Coco. I’m delighted you were able to reconnect. I’m sorry for the loss of your sister. That’s wrenching. Definitely a hole in one’s life to lose a sibling. I lost my brother four years ago. I still can’t believe it.

  • Sue Farmer

    When I was 9 in 1967 my parents and I drove from Illinois to California for our family vacation. We stopped in Nebraska and Colorado to see my mom’s family. We stopped to sightsee at the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert before arriving in San Francisco to visit my paternal grandparents. I remember seeing the Haight and Ashbury area and Lombard Street. We then drove down the coast to Los Angeles. We visited my mom’s family and went to Disneyland for the first time. Another highlight was seeing my best friend who had recently moved there. It was a wonderful experience and fond memory.

    • Anne McAllister

      Sue, What great memories you must have! That sounds like a wonderful trip with your parents. How nice of your friend to move there! Strategically placed friends and relatives are one of the great joys of life.

  • Patty Fontenot Duplechin

    My favorite is spending time with my family. We were what you call, poor. Both parents were disabled. I don’t regret any of my childhood. They did the best they could. They showed us love

    • Anne McAllisster

      Patty, Love is indeed the best. How fortunate you were to have — and remember — that from your parents. Recently my granddaughter-in-law (!) said that they had taken a vacation with their little son and she knew he wouldn’t remember the events, and one of the ladies she was talking with said, “Yes, but he’ll always remember how you’ve made him feel.” He will remember so much love. I’m glad you do, too!

  • Roseann McGrath Brooks

    I love this blog! You are clearly a writer! My favorite childhood memories are of just hanging in the neighborhood. Like Karen said, those were different times, and we spent lots of time just making up games in the street.

    • Anne McAllister

      Thanks, Roseanne! Sometimes I wonder whether I’m a writer or not — even after all these years. We, too, used to play games and jump rope out in the street. There were lots of “kick the can” and “hide and seek” games and flying kites as well as going to the beach and body-surfing. Some of my favorite memories. Not sure how many will show up in books, but the memories are there!

    • Anne McAllister

      I sooo understand the memory of meeting a best friend as one of my best memories, too. We’re still good friends now years and years later. Friendships are one of life’s great blessings.

  • Liz Flaherty

    I love hearing about the people and places that gave you your story. It’s surprising sometimes, the things that jump from your past and say “use me!” That’s a pretty cover, too!

    • Karen Chandler

      My favorite memory of growing up was whenI was iittle a family moved in with 2 girls 3 doors down. Sherrie and Coco with their cocker spaniel Poncho. I was then allowed to leave my yard and go to Coco’s house. We became best of friends, we did all together from bike riding, camping and graduation. We had sleepovers in my garage with my friends, Mom left the house unlocked so if we needed to use the bathroom we could go inside. We would have my sister Geri, Vicki, Colleen, Cocoa and I in my garage without parents sleeping over frequently. It was a different time, you didn’t worry about something happening. I just reconnected with her on FB we lost contact for over 45 years. Strange how life goes. But all my childhood memories are tied to growing up with my Sister Geri who I lost in 2005 and Coco.

    • Anne McAllister

      Liz, I agree about the cover. We had a hard time finding the “right” Charlie. This guy is pretty close. I’m always grateful for the attention that Tule pays to getting the covers right and making authors happy. Glad you enjoyed hearing some of the things that went into Charlie and Cait’s story.