Saturday, July 24, 2010

Susan Palmquist Interviews Author RayAnne Thayne

( Author RayAnne Thayne)

INTERVIEWER: Susan Palmquist

I read maybe a dozen category romances per year. One of my greatest finds was a HQN Special Edition book by RayAnne Thayne. If you’ve ever read any of her stories you’ll know what I mean when I say they make you smile when you’re done. She has a gift with crafting true to live characters who live through every day ‘stuff’ we all face. It’s always a thrill for me to ‘chat’ with someone whose books I truly enjoy so here is my interview with RayAnne.  

Susan Palmquist (SP)-You've been an avid reader all your life. Who were some of your favorite authors?

RayAnne Thayne (RT)-My all-time favorite book when I was a girl was Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. When I was a teenager, I adored Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy as well as Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters and Madeline Brent. But really, anything I could get my hands on!                                                                                                             
SP-You worked as a journalist. Any interesting interviews you can remember? And have you ever turned any of these into plots or even sub plots for your books?

RT-Working for a newspaper was such fertile ground for ideas. The last eight years of my newspaper career, I was the news/wire editor for a small daily paper and had to read all the Associated Press stories to select the ones that would run in our paper. I had folders and folders of ideas!

I definitely mined those stories for some of my characters. My first book for Silhouette, THE WRANGLER AND THE RUNAWAY MOM, featured a heroine who worked as a physician on the rodeo circuit -- that idea came directly from an AP feature story about traveling medical care providers on the rodeo circuit. Another book for Silhouette, THE VALENTINE TWO-STEP, had a heroine who was an equine vet practicing acupuncture. That was based on a veterinarian near me whom I interviewed for a feature story. I wrote a very memorable story once about a woman with Alzheimer’s who couldn't remember her husband's name anymore or take care of her most basic needs but when she picked up a violin, she could play heart-stirring, haunting music on it.

People sometimes ask me how my early career as a journalist helped my fiction writing. My answer is that it was invaluable ... I learned to write on deadline, whether I felt like it or not, I developed an interest in a wide variety of topics and I picked up an ear for dialogue through hours and hours of interviewing sources.

SP-Why did you choose to write romances?

RT-Great question :) Since the time I read my first romance novel when I was probably eleven or twelve, I have loved the genre. I love reading (and writing!) stories about the healing, redeeming power of a happy ending. Romance novels have been a comfort and a solace to me during some pretty tough times and I love the idea that I can maybe lift someone else who might be struggling.

People who pursue journalism as a career tend to lean toward the idealistic, believing they can make a difference in the world. I don't mean to sound cynical but a few years in a daily newsroom can quickly beat that optimism and sense of purpose out of you. I hated losing that completely. Long before I ever sold my first book, writing romances in my spare time became my way of holding onto that hope that the world wasn't just about the harsh ugliness that appeared on the pages of my newspaper every day. I have this quote on my desk, widely credited to Kathleen Gilles Seidel: "I may not change the world, but I can change someone's afternoon." That's the reason I write romances, the hope that somewhere right now someone is reading one of my books and being transported away from the craziness and pain of life to a place where good people can find the happy endings they deserve.

SP-You sold your first book in 1995. What do you think of the changes that have taken place in the publishing world since then -- for example, the growth of e-publishing? Do you think it’s harder or easier for a writer to get published today?

RT-I am very excited by the changes in the industry and see them as putting more control in the hands of writers. Two or three years ago, I remember saying I just couldn't get into reading books on a computer and didn't know how it could ever be a viable publishing option. Boy, do I have to eat my words. I have an e-reader now and much prefer reading books on it to any other reading method. I've had a free book available electronically for the last two years (DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT, one of my first books for Silhouette Special Edition) as part of a publisher promotion and it's been a huge boon to my career. I've picked up many new readers and I'm pleased to say my entire Silhouette backlist is now available digitally.  It's a very exciting time to be a writer but also a very challenging one. I'm excited to watch the changes!

SP-You live in northern Utah. I spent my freshman year at university there. It’s a beautiful part of the country; do you find it distracting or an inspiration for your writing?

RT-Definitely an inspiration. If I'm stuck in a scene, all I need to do is go into the mountains and take a fifteen minute walk on some of my favorite trails. Something about the clear air and the scent of pine and sagebrush completely recharges me and I can always find a solution to my current plotting dilemma.

SP-I've read many of your books, both the Silhouette romantic suspense and Special Editions. I'm always impressed how real your characters seem. By the end of the book I feel I know these people personally. What's your secret?

RT-First, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you! Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can answer your question!  I'm not really sure what I do. I can tell you that they become very real to me too during the writing process. Finishing a book is always such a mixed bag -- I'm usually always so glad to be done but also very sorry to say good-bye to these people who have become friends. I love writing connected stories, just so I have the chance to revisit old friends.

SP-You seem to love the West and cowboys. Are these personal favorites of yours?

RT- I do love living in the West. I grew up in the Midwest until I was thirteen and loved it there but the Rockies have definitely become home. I love the idealized image of cowboys. The reality is often not quite as romantic, alas.

SP-You write both family based books and romantic suspense; do you have any plans to write a more mainstream novel?

RT-I am writing single titles now as well as series romance but I'm definitely sticking with romance :) My first book for HQN, BLACKBERRY SUMMER, will be released in June 2011. It's part of a trilogy called HOPE'S CROSSING, set in the fictional Colorado ski/tourist town of the same name (again with the Western setting!). The series is centered around a bead store in the town and I'm having a wonderful time exploring all the interesting stories there.

SP-Can we expect to see more SRSs from you?

RT-I learned early in my writing career to never say never but I don't expect to be writing any books for SRS in the near future, at least not for the next few years. I'm contracted for four more Silhouette Special Editions and three single-titles, so I won't have time right now to even think about anything else. I do love writing romantic suspense and can possibly see that somewhere down the line.

SP-What are you working on right now? In fact, I'd love to hear about the new trilogy you've been working on. What can we expect to see?

RT-These are warm, funny emotional stories about life in a small town. The heroine of the first book is Claire Bradford, a divorced mom trying to juggle her kids, her demanding mother, her ex-husband and his pregnant new wife and the challenges of being a small business owner in an uncertain economy. She definitely does *not* need a man to muck up everything -- or at least that's what she thinks, until Riley McKnight returns to town as the new Hope's Crossing police chief. He used to be only her best friend's pesky kid brother but Riley's all grown up now and ready to teach Claire that she doesn't need to try to rescue everyone in town.  I love Hope's Crossing and the people in it, who have endured some tough times but are finally learning to come together.

My new SSE series will be four more COWBOYS OF COLD CREEK books, focusing on the family of Trace Bowman, a secondary character I'm introducing in my October 2010 book, A COLD CREEK BABY. (BABY is Easton and Cisco's story, for those who have read the others in that particular series of COLD CREEK books!).  I fell in love with Trace and wanted him to have a story of his own. Turns out he has two brothers and a sister who also wanted their stories told :)

I also just finished another Christmas book, A THUNDER CANYON CHRISTMAS, a December 2010 release for SSE. This one is part of the latest MONTANA MAVERICKS continuity and I loved the chance to work with some really phenomenal authors.

SP-Any tips for aspiring writers, any books you recommend?

RT-I swear by GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon for craft, as well as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamot for motivation. Most recently, I've been reading THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass and SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder.  I strongly encourage beginning writers to purchase the RWA whole conference CDs each year. I always purchase them, even on the years when I'm able to attend the conference, and invariably find a wealth of information there.

SP-Any tips for those wanting to become Special Edition authors?

RT-Nothing original, I'm afraid. Read, read, read. SSE has some of the best category authors in the industry and you can learn tons by reading their books. This is also not an original idea, but when I was starting out, I would double-read books. I would read the first time for sheer enjoyment then immediately re-read to study craft: pacing, dialogue, characterization, etc. I actually still do this. If I read a book that really wows me, I try to re-read it ASAP to analyze why the book worked so well for me.

Susan Palmquist is a freelance writer and also writes romances and mysteries. Her latest novel, Sleeping With Fairies was published by Lyrical Press in December 2009. She’s currently working on a romantic suspense set in the Pacific Northwest and two novellas. Find out more about Susan and her work at

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this interview. I have not read her books. I love stories with happy endings and some humor. Always makes for a good read.
    Sue B