Today’s guest, Debra Parmley, was one of the first people to interview me for her Make-Believe Mondays blog when my first book, Private Property, came out. When I started hosting others on my blog, I occasionally turned to her and Debra always very graciously responded with sage advice. So it’s only fitting that today I host her here on my blog to talk about her writing process.
So, Debra, what’s the most interesting/unusual thing you’ve done for the sake of research?
Well, I’ve travelled to thirteen countries and have so many experiences to write about that it’s hard to choose one. I worked as a travel agent/consultant for a few years and escorted a group to Scotland in 2007 before I closed my agency down to write full time. Post tour I added on two extra days in Dumfries to visit my clan castle Caerlaverock. The Maxwell clan held five castles and their fortunes rose and fell as they backed the Scottish rulers. We have some fascinating clan history. You can find a link to Maxwell clan on my website. It was wonderful to be able to walk through the second castle built and to imagine the first while standing amid the ruins. I’ll be starting a Scottish historical romance set at the castle once I finish polishing the two manuscripts I’m working on now. I also enjoy re-enacting the middle ages with my SCA friends. It really is like stepping back in time and the medieval period is my favorite.
If you could meet three famous people (or authors) from the past that influenced you as an author, who would they be and what would you always love to ask them?
Charles Dickens, because his characters were so real and memorable. I’d love ask him about his stories, his life and his travels to promote his books. I’ve read books about his life and believe he faced many of the same challenges we face today.
Isak Dineson is my favorite author and the movie Out of Africa which was based on her life is one of my favorites. I’d ask her about her travels, about men, love, life and of course her short stories. I started out writing short stories before I turned to novels and I still love reading them.
Of Robert Louis Stevenson I would ask about his travels, especially to the South Seas islands, but also I would ask him about lighthouses as his father designed them and I have always been a bit fascinated by lighthouses. And as he was Scottish, I might ask him questions about Scotland.
Do you have any unusual writing rituals?
I used to write on the pc at my desk which was in the laundry room, my golden retriever always by my side. And there was pattern and routine to it. But when she died I didn’t write for almost six months. Every time I sat in front of the computer I felt too sad. At a certain point I got very frustrated with myself as I realized I’d become too set in that pattern. So I broke completely away to break the writers block I’d created. I wrote on a yellow legal pad with a pen sitting on my bed. On the living room floor with my laptop. At the kitchen table. I even sat on the kitchen counter one day to write. After a time I taught myself I really can write anywhere and it doesn’t have to be on a computer. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and have learned to write in airports, hotels, in my car, at coffee shops and restaurants. I suppose I do still have some rituals though. There are hand and wrist exercises that I do and what you might call yoga at your desk. In fact, I had a workshop accepted for the 2010 Romantic Times convention in Columbus where I’ll be teaching this for the first time. I’ve blended some of what I’ve learned through yoga and dance into movements for writers. We spend so much time at our computers sitting and I’ve never heard anyone really address that. So I’m looking forward to teaching it next year .
Do you have a favorite book (someone else has written) that you keep as a ‘comfort read’?
I have a favorite book which I read every Christmas. It’s an old leather bound copy of O Henry’s short stories, which includes The Gift Of The Magi, my favorite short story. The book was a gift my grandfather gave me on my fourteenth birthday, one year after my sister was born. I was adopted and my grandmother had made a comment about my sister, something along the lines of how nice it was to have a real grandchild, which of course hurt very much. That year he pulled the book out of his set and gave it to me as an extra gift something just from him to me though he inscribed it ‘To our first dear Granddaughter. I then inherited the rest of the set, a 1922 edition, after he went into a nursing home. I read the story very carefully and only once a year because the binding and pages are loose. It reminds me just as the story does of what is a true gift of the heart. And it almost always makes me cry.
Leah here: Aww, that’s one of my favorite stories too. Way back before color was invented (yes, that’s how my kids think of my life, since my childhood pictures are all in black and white), my parents had a huge console radio. When I was about 8, they bought a smaller one and didn’t know what to do with the old one, so it ended up in my room. On Christmas Eve back around 1968 or so, I sat listening to that old set – it had such a beautiful sound to it – and there was a narration of The Gift of the Magi read over the radio by someone with the deepest voice like James Earl Jones. So I sat in my bed, in the house that had been built in 1877, listening to this old radio while snow fell outside, listening to my own personal performance. It was the first time I’d heard the story and it’s stayed with me ever since. It was years before I realized that it was actually a short story, and even now I look at it in amazement at how much was told with so few words. To have a book that has been passed down like that must be extra-special.
What is something unusual that you do or have done that people normally don’t know or would be surprised to know about you?
I have worked as a professional belly dancer, teaching and performing and though I stepped away to devote myself to writing full time, occasionally I will appear as a guest dancer at an event.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do just to kick back and relax?
Yoga is relaxing, of course I read constantly and I love the beach and the ocean but because I live near Memphis I have a CD of seaside sounds which is restful. Sitting around a campfire with friends can be relaxing and watching the stars at night.
What’s your favorite memory from when you were a child?
My grandmother reading poetry to me when I was very young.
Do you believe crop circles are made by aliens?
Perhaps those crop circles are made by millions of little faeries racing miniature dragons sort of like the Kentucky Derby.
Sometimes a journey of the heart is the most dangerous journey of all.
Sally Wheeler learned the hard way that men aren’t always what they seem. Now she will stop at nothing to track down the bigamist husband who stole her child and abandoned her on their failing Kansas farm. Even if it means traveling with a handsome maverick who could change her mind about men.
Free after spending seven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Rob Truman aims to balance the scales of justice on the man who sent him there—Luke Wheeler. His quest doesn’t include falling for the one woman who will lead him to his quarry, but Sally’s courage in the face of her fear touches his soul.
Through dangerous days and nights on the trail, neither Sally nor Rob can ignore their growing feelings for each other. Yet both are haunted by the poor judgment that, in the past, led them down the wrong road. Love—and trust—are luxuries neither of them can afford.
But as the bullets start flying, love may be all that saves them—and Sally’s son.Warning: This title contains ornery mules and ornery men. Get ready to see how the West was really won – one relationship at a time!