It’s another guest author day and I’m so pleased to welcome fellow Tule Publishing author, Anne McAllister to the blog. Anne has written 70-ish romance novels for Tule Publishing and Harlequin Books. She has won two RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America—for Cowboy Pride and The Stardust Cowboy—and has had nine other books which were RITA finalists. She was named Midwest Fiction Writers “Writer of the Year” and also received Romantic Times’ Career Achievement Award as “Series Author of the Year.” She grew up on the beaches of southern California, but spent childhood summers in Montana and on her grandparents’ small ranch in Colorado. They were formative experiences—not only in providing her settings, but in giving her heroes. She finds herself attracted to lean, dark, honorable men—often lone wolf types—who always get the job done, whatever it might be.
She thinks writing romance is the best job in the world. It lets her meet amazing, interesting people and do things she never imagined she doing. Happily, too, it’s a job she can do without having to scrape the ice off the windshield before going to work! This is important because for much of her life Anne lived in the Midwest, as in “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa,” where she and her husband raised their four children. And now they live in Montana where the snow is currently falling. Here Anne is getting back to her roots, has just finished accreditation as a professional genealogist, and is enjoying time with four of her nine grandchildren.
I got to sit down for a chat with Anne recently:
N: Welcome to the blog, Anne. I’m so delighted to have you with us today. So, what inspired you to start writing?
A: Thank you for having me, Nan! It’s a treat to visit with you today. I think I’ve always been writing. My mother had a stack of stories that I wrote back when I was in grade school. She believed in me to the extent that she actually kept her favorite in her safe deposit box! Later, when I was married and had kids, a friend reminded me that I used to write in high school and she thought I could write a romance. Turns out she was right. So, I think I owe my career to her!
N: What comes first—the plot or the characters?
A: Definitely the characters. I am plot-challenged. I have to show up to see what my characters are going to do. I never know ahead of time. It’s a little like walking a tightrope without a net.
N: Your newest book, The Cowboy Finds a Family just released February 11. Can you share with us something about this new story that isn’t in the blurb?
A: It’s actually a book I wrote a number of years ago and published as A Cowboy’s Tears. I loved the characters and the story, but I wanted to give it some TLC to make it ready for new readers. I’ve done that now, and I love it more with its new, more positive title. That said, it still is a deeply emotional read in which a man has to confront his inability to have children, a discovery that rocks his world, and makes him do what he believes is the honorable thing to do, even though he feels like he’s tearing out his heart. (Incidentally, his wife pretty much feels that way, too).
N: What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing The Cowboy Finds a Family?
A: Oddly, I discovered that, though I’d written the book when I was still living in Iowa and had come out to visit a son who lived in Montana, my husband and I now own land—and a cabin—that is almost exactly where The Cowboy Finds a Family takes place. It wasn’t intentional. It was serendipitous. But knowing the area even better and more personally now made going back and reworking the book a much more intense experience. It felt more immediate even than it had the first time. It was almost—in terms of setting and feeling—a case of life imitating art.
N: What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
A: I hope they will appreciate the honorable man that Mace is (even if they, like Jenny, would like to hit him upside the head at times) because men like Mace are the cowboys you want to ride the river with. I hope they will understand his struggles as he comes to terms with this new version of himself. I hope they will appreciate Jenny’s almost old-fashioned focus on relationships as the core of who she is, and sympathize with the hollowness she feels when it doesn’t seem as if she’s going to get back the man she’s always loved and forces herself to try to move on even as she’s still bone-deep in love with him. And mostly, I guess, I hope they appreciate the family that Mace and Jenny find – and create. Families are, to me, less about DNA and blood ties, and more about commitment and promise and love.
N: If you had to describe both Mace and Jenny in only three words what would those three (six, really) be?
A: Mace: honorable, vulnerable, responsible; and Jenny: steadfast, loving, determined
N: I know that Mace and Jenny’s story is part of a three-book series. What has been the highlight of writing “The Cowboy” books?
A: Actually Mace and Jenny’s book is the sixth in a much bigger series that began with Cowboys Don’t Cry, the first of the Tanner Brothers books. Besides the two coming out in the next couple of months, The Cowboy Steals and Lady and The Cowboy Crashes a Wedding, there are more that, I hope will come after. One of the highlights of writing Mace and Jenny’s book was being able to pick up a thread from my earlier book, The Cowboy and the Kid. In it, the hero, Taggart’s daughter, Becky, who was eight at the time, had a crush on neighboring cowboy, Mace Nichols. Of course, he was 23 years older than she was and had been married longer than she’d been alive. But Becky recognized something in Mace that had her following him around like a cattle dog whenever she could. She’s ten in this book, a little more self-aware, and also Mace-aware. And she knows something’s wrong almost before anyone else does. There’s a subplot (look, ma, a plot – of sorts!) in The Cowboy Finds a Family in which Becky has a significant part. I really enjoyed writing about her because when I was young – like Becky – I imprinted on a cowboy myself. I followed him everywhere, too. And writing about Becky brought so many of those memories back. It was like mining a particularly rich vein of ore than generally I haven’t been able to tap into. I’m glad I got to do that.
N: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A: Enjoy the process. Writing “the end,” which is always gratifying, only comes along once a book. But there’s a lot more to writing that is worthwhile and sometimes seems to be left by the wayside in the striving to meet a deadline. Also, some of the best friends you will ever make are other writers. Writing can be a solitary process, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Enjoy those who are sharing the journey with you.
N: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell your readers about?
A: I’ve recently been accredited in English Research by the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. It was a ton of work – harder than my Master’s degree, for sure – but very rewarding. The work I put in has given me a depth to the backstory of any fiction I’ve worked on, and, unexpectedly (to me at least), I’ve found that my nearly 40 years in writing romance has provided a lot of insight into what motivates people to do things. I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing new fiction, but there are some stories percolating (complete with backstory!) that I may be exploring further, if I can tear myself away from the genealogy and family history – mine and others – long enough to do it.
N: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
A: I think I just answered that in the previous question! I do a lot of genealogical and family history research for myself and for others these days. I also Zoom-teach a course in genealogy and, before the pandemic curtailed such things, I liked spending time with my kids and grandkids.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Deep down I think I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know any, so I wasn’t sure that it was a real job. I have always been fascinated by history and archaeology, so doing something where I could dig in the dirt and get stories out of it, sounded like a good thing to do.
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: Probably The 13th is Magic. We had a not very large public library that I used to go to at least four times a week on my bike, my basket overflowing both ways with books I wanted to read and then took back a couple of days later, having them all read. I knew them all because there weren’t that many of them. And I would deliberately forget the story so I could read it again and again. I think I read The 13th is Magic more times than I read any other book.
N: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: Because of my interest in family history, I’d invite three of my long-dead ancestors whose family connections are – so far – beyond mysterious. One is my great-grandfather William Henry Johnson who was born in 1861 in Texas and died in 1941 in Oklahoma City. He left an 1879 record in the Johnson County Texas courthouse swearing that his mother (whom he didn’t bother to name!) gave her permission for him to marry. I’ve pretty much deduced who she was, but I’d love for him to confirm it – and tell me his father’s name because he and his sister disagree on it. And then I’d invite the “late Mr. and Mrs. Weldon,” the grandparents of William Henry Johnson’s wife, who gave their 14 ½ year old daughter, Emmeline, permission to marry in 1846 in Arkansas, whereupon they promptly died, leaving several orphans, one of them, my great-great-grandmother, Mary Jane, to be parceled out among the local farmers to be raised. When Emmeline married, she did so “by the verbal consent of parents” (unnamed, of course) When the younger children ended up as wards of the court they were described as the offspring of “the late Mr. and Mrs. Weldon.” So, I’d like them to come to dinner and introduce themselves!
You can connect with Anne here:
The Cowboy Finds a Family
Mace Nichols is an ‘I’ll die with my boots on’ cowboy. Old-school. Tough, silent and honorable. Which is why he’s leaving his wife, Jenny. She has helped him build his dream—the Montana ranch they loved. Now he can’t give her the family she’s always dreamed of, so he has no choice: he needs to set her free. It makes perfect sense to him.
It doesn’t make a bit of sense to Jenny! She loves her stubborn, bull-headed husband. She admires his courage, his tenacity and his determination to always Do The Right Thing—even if, in this case, it is the stupidest thing he’s ever done.
Mace is right—Jenny has always wanted a family. But she wants a family with Mace! How can she convince the most honorable, stubborn man in the world what really matters in life?