Kaki Warner may have debuted last year, but she swiftly became one of my all-time favorite novelists. Her RITA-award-winning historical Western novels are chock-full of quips, spine-tingling tension, and fascinating detail.
I’m so happy to have her here today as part of my Hearts and Minds giveaway, where you can win books that appeal to your heart and mind. Giveaway details are at the end of the post, after the interview.
Hi, Kat. Thanks for inviting me to cross the pond today. I hope you had fun back on my side when you were at RWA Nationals. Wish I could have been there, too.
Now on to the questions—and what fun ones they are!
1. Thanks! First off, how on earth do you get such gorgeous covers? Please tell me they’re paintings of actual places so I can put them on my travel list.
I have been lucky with my covers. But HEARTBREAK CREEK is the last one in this style. With the next book in this series (COLORADO DAWN), we’re going with people. Fully clothed, of course, and in a pose that might remind you a bit of Rhett and Scarlet on a GWTW poster. (If only).
And starting in Oct/Nov/Dec, the Blood Rose Trilogy will be re-released in mass market with a brother on each cover. And no, they don’t look much like how I envisioned them.
In fact, poor Brady was minus the mustache he was so proud of, so my husband photo-shopped one on for me. Problem is, when I sent cover copies to various websites, I sent the wrong one. (Fun trying to explain that to my editor. But she was very gracious about it, thank goodness).
They’re nice covers, too, but the one of Hank (OPEN COUNTRY)… whew. He’s exactly right.
2. The time and place you write about—the American West after the Civil War—is one that seemed to be skirted over in my high school history classes, and you make me so curious about it. What’s the strangest fact you’ve learned about American history from your research?
The period after the Civil War was a time of shocking and rapid change. After so many years of destruction, the country seemed to explode with new ideas, innovations, and an urgent desire to escape the war-ravaged east and head west.
For five years ranches had gone untended, and when men returned home, they found unbranded cattle running wild all over the southwest. Enterprising fellows gathered them up by the tens of thousands to stock newly formed ranches totaling hundreds of thousands of acres each.
Railroad expansion, the discovery of gold and silver, the curtailment of the Indian tribes, and the promise of free land, all drew people west by the droves. But probably the most enduring legacy of those short years between the war and completion of the transcontinental railroad was the birth of the myth of the American cowboy. And it’s still alive today.
3. Your first series, the Blood Rose trilogy, centers around three brothers struggling with their ranch in New Mexico Territory. Your latest focuses on women who are starting new lives in a Colorado mining town, and your humor shines through more. After having the Wilkins family in your head for decades, how difficult was it to come up with a new community of characters, a different setting, and a lighter tone?
It was easy. Just cut back on the cussing and kill fewer people.
Actually the Wilkins brothers were pretty intense. There was a lot of family history to deal with, which made those books a little darker. With the brides trilogy I just tried to come up with some ladies I’d like to hang out with.
I think when you get a bunch of girlfriends together, there may be a few tears, but there’s also a lot of laughter. That’s what I wanted to capture. Even during the hard moments, these ladies find a way to lighten the mood with laughter.
4. Your characters are always so intricately drawn and realistic that I can still hear their conversations in my head months after I’ve read one of your novels. Now, that might say just as much about my mental state as it does about your skill as an author, but pushing that aside for a moment: how developed are your characters when you start writing a new story, and how much better do you get to know them as you write?
They’re not all that well-developed at the onset. I know how each character wants the world to see him or her, but it takes a while even for me to get beneath the layers to the person underneath.
I joke about it, but I’m still learning about them when I get to the end of the book. For instance, I didn’t know Declan was afraid of heights until page 300. It made sense, but also made for some interesting re-writes.
But by the time I finish a book, I know the characters as well as I know anybody. And not to worry—I still hear them in my head, too. And probably always will. It keeps them alive in my imagination.
5. I love the way you write male characters. They’re exactly how I imagine frontiersmen would’ve been: tough, quietly funny and mystified by women. Unlike some romance heroes, they don’t seem like a woman’s idealized version of men. Do you find men easy to write? Or do you have some special insight into their brains?
I think most men are pretty basic. That’s not to say they’re simple or lack depth. But most of the time they’re fairly up front with what going on with them, and aren’t compelled to drag everything out and think it to death.
There’s that old joke: Ask a man how he feels and he’ll say, “Well, I’m not hungry, or thirsty, or sleepy, or cold, or hot, or horny…so I guess I’m OK.” So when I’m writing male characters, I try to keep it simple. In dialogue they use fewer words—especially modifiers, or words that describe emotion. They speak in shorter sentences and give briefer answers.
They often don’t speak at all, or rely on looks and/or monosyllabic or non-verbal responses. I think they do this because they’re not really interested in the conversation, and are just trying to say as little as possible to stay out of trouble. But that might just be at my house.
6. Every mother says she doesn’t have a favorite child, but all children know it’s a lie. I suspect every author has a favorite character, even if they won’t admit it. Go on—who’s your favorite character of the Runaway Brides series?
It changes with every book. In HEARTBREAK CREEK, I really liked Declan—I liked his honesty, sense of honor, his bewilderment, and the fact that he always tried to do the right thing.
Then I wrote COLORADO DAWN, and suddenly Ash (Angus Wallace) captured my imagination. Probably because he’s Scottish—my grandfather was Scottish—or because he’s a little lost and at a confused point in his life, and that’s hard for anybody—especially an ex-military officer. But mostly I loved his sense of humor. Humor is a big deal with me. A failing, almost. I’m a lot of fun at funerals.
As for the ladies of the brides trilogy—they’re like my friends—and I really do love them equally, but for entirely different reasons. They’re all smart, loving, gentle-hearted warriors. What’s not to love?
Kaki’s not just smart and funny – she’s also generous. She’s giving away three copies of her latest release, Heartbreak Creek.
That means three winners!
And, since this giveaway is to celebrate my husband finishing his PhD, I’m also giving away one of the books that he wrote about in this thesis – one of our winners will receive Paul Auster’s The Invention of Solitude, a memoir exploring Auster’s relationships with his father and son (I figured this one is only fitting to give away with Kaki’s novels, since they’re full of strong, silent, difficult-to-get-to-know men).
Just leave a comment below to be entered. I’ll choose the winners on Monday, August 15, when my next guest – Beverley Kendall – will be joining me!
Don’t miss any of my Hearts and Minds interviews; make sure you subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter, or like me on Facebook.
Great interview, Kat & Kaki–Can’t wait to read these books. I love your description of how men communicate. It’s not just at your house, Kaki. I need to remember to get my male characters to shut up!
I love this series. I just found it recently and couldn’t put the books down until they were done. Can’t wait for more.
There never seems to be enough fictional stories that have a thorough grasp of the people who lived through those tragic times of the Civil War . For years as a genealogist and historian also as a writer, I have studied the period, learning as I developed into the era after the war. I am pleased to see you have a new book out, one I hope to read someday soon. Best of luck to you, Donna
I read all three of the books-Blood Rose trilogy, each book was so good.Loved all three, what amaze me the most was I wasn’t a fan of historical western books but Kaki made them so exciting and I love her characters.Now,I really enjoy reading them. I hope that I get pickd for I really want to read Heartbreak Creek, love her style of writing.
Hi Kaki and Kat! I loved the interview! I so had to laugh about Kaki’s description of how men communicate. So very true! They really don’t waste words most of the time.
I’ve read Kaki’s first trilogy and loved it. As I’m from Germany it’s sometimes hard for me to imagine how life was at the frontier but your books are so richly detailed that I can picture it perfectly in my mind.
So, is there a difference to your new trilogy, except it centers around three men?
Good Morning, Suzanne and Claudia (it’s 10AM on the west coast). Thanks so much for stopping by.
Suzanne, I found that once I became accustomed to writing in the male POV it was just a matter of deleting all extraneous words (but don’t throw them away–you can use them later when you’re in the female POV–HA!).
Claudia, thanks for reading my books, and I’m glad you’re getting a sense of the western frontier. It’s was a grand place. (Still is, just more crowded). And yes, there is a slight difference between the two trilogies, other than the gender focus. In the Brides Trilogy, there’s a little more humor and a little less angst. In other words, the harsh realities are a little less graphic (and so far, no horses killed). Also, I added a little more spice by referring to breasts more often. (I know. I’m out of control).
I had no idea anyone was writing books set during this time in the west. Many years ago I fell in love with the frontier novels of Dorothy Garlock and grew up on American set Historicals, many being Westerns. I’m very exciting to dive into these books!
Hi Kaki! I haven’t read any of your stories yet and it looks like I will need to remedy that soon. They have that heartwarming feel to them that I expect with emotional books. It seems the landscape also plays a part in your stories featuring them in vast open places like New Mexico Territory and a Colorado mining town. It’s a nice, almost unassuming place for love to bloom. I’m looking forward to meeting your characters. Congratulations on the RITA win for “Pieces of Sky”!
Thanks, Terri. I hope you like them–they’re a little more “gritty” than Dorothy Garlock’s (I loved her westerns, too), but I hope you give them a try.
Same goes for you, too, Na. The landscape is definitely a character in my books. In many ways, the land and its challenges were the strongest influences on folks back then. Being able to adjust to and overcome those hardships is part of the journey for all of my characters.
Historicals have always been my favorite and I have to admit I have not read you as yet but I really enjoyed the interview. I think your covers are gorgeous and hope your new ones are as well and no more mustach mistakes lol. I love a bit of humor in my reading and you have a wonderful sense of humor!
Hi Kaki – I agree with you 100% about the way men communicate LOL. With them, “I’m fine”, really does mean “I’m fine” most of the time. Best wishes on your new books. They sound great.
Thanks for stopping by Castslady. I love humor, too, and think it’s essential to any story or any life. I always try to include some in my books.
Hi, Jen, thanks for your comment. I think most women would be a lot happier if they accepted that a lack of chattiness in a man doesn’t always equate to a lack of interest. Many women find long silences intolerable. Most men don’t even notice them.
Hi, Margaret–I’m delighted that you’ve read my books. I had a great time writing them, and it’s always gratifying to hear that someone has a great time reading them. Thanks.
And Donna, I agree that was an interesting time in our history. I realize those “cowboy” years have been overly romanticized in every media possible, and it’s hard to separate fact from fiction–but to me it truly exemplifies that western spirit of perserverence, courage, and the unbreakable connection to the land. It was a dynamic, uniquely “American” time of great heroism and great savagery. Just to live though it was an accomplishment.
Forgive my ignorance, but I thought that the western had faded away with the passing of Louis L’mour. I’m so pleased to find that it lives on. My late father-in-law would have been a huge fan I’m sure.
You’re forgiven, Tooty. Maybe you’ll win a copy of HEARTBREAK CREEK and I’ll make you a western fan, too. But be warned–unlike those in Louis’s books, my female characters have breasts and aren’t afrraid to use them. HA!
Now they’re the sort of characters that I like!
The Blood Rose Trilogy was terrific. I loved visiting the Wilkin’s family in every book. Heartbreak Creek sounds really great too. I can’t wait to read it. Its good to know that more are following it…something to look forward to. 🙂
Hi Kaki, great interview! I’ve read all your books so far and have LOVED each one!! My folks were visiting me recently and saw your books on my coffee table. My mom started reading and could not stop- she took all 4 home with her… My dad, who used to be an avid reader said he NEVER reads anymore as his eyes just can’t do it… However, when my mom finished them and couldn’t stop raving about the characters and the plots my dad became so interested that he picked them up and is now on ‘Heartbreak Creek’ and has called me twice to tell me what FANTASTIC books they are! So keep them coming Kaki, we’re LOVING them. And CONGRATULATIONS on the RITA it is well deserved! 🙂
Kaki, glad to hear there won’t be any nekkid people on your covers any time soon and I’ve very excited to hear you’re exploring the chest-al regions!
Great interview! can’t wait to read the book. I love anything western!
Thanks, Angie. I’m so glad you liked them. This second series is a lot of fun–hopefully you’ll like those books, too.
Cynthia, it’s apparent your parents have excellent taste (and not just because of your astuteness). Tell them thanks for taking the time to read my books. And thanks to you for pimping them. (My books, that is.)
“Chest-al regions”, Julie? Is that in any way related to “nether parts” (except for geography, of course)? Sounds like you’ve been doing some exploring, yourself. Bad girl.
Deborah, thanks for stopping by. I hope you give them a try. They’ve all been fun to write.
Western historicals are so appealing and unique. These books give me hope and a great feeling since life was different and simpler then. Your covers are wonderful Best wishes.
Thank you, Ellie. Even though these books deal with some hard issues and don’t always show the times or the characters in the rosiest light, I do hope the underlying message of hope and redemption comes through. They were tougher times back then, but as you say, also simpler and more basic. Not nearly as complicated and confusing as times are today.
Your books are some of the best I have ever ready. I am looking forward to the next series.
WOW. Thank you Goldie. What a lovely thing to say.
Lol about the man saying he was OK. You’re a new-to-me author, and I don’t know how I’ve missed you. Your covers are gorgeous and your books sound right up my street.
Thanks, Shelley. I appreciate that you’re willing to take a chance on a new author. I hope you like them.
I just finished “Pieces of Sky”. I really enjoyed it. Starting on “Open Country”. I love your book covers and will have to buy the ones with the men on them. Keep on writing. Kim