Kathleen’s Writing Space

Readers often ask about a favorite author’s daily schedule – and where she spends most of her time writing. Sometimes finding the right spot isn’t easy. I moved my writing space all over the house I used to live in, searching for an area where I could see the outdoors whenever I looked up from my keyboard. I started in a small bedroom where the window looked out over the garage roof revealing a patch of sky. No tree branches, no leaves. Sigh. I began to feel overwhelmingly confined and started to search for a more open and airy space. I moved downstairs to the dining room where I was surrounded by large windows overlooking the front and back yard. This seemed perfect – at first. However, typing on a keyboard placed at the height of a dining room table eventually proved to be very unsatisfactory. I then moved to a downstairs bedroom, set my desk to face the doorway so I could look out onto the family room. Sort of okay, yet still confining. And no vista.

Today I’m in a different house and I have the luxury of an office that faces the front of my home, with corner windows to let in the light, a view of palm trees, and a wide swath of sky.  I can watch the neighborhood children going to and coming back from our nearby grade school. And I get to watch the weather and the seasons change. I love to listen to classical music while I write. I can enjoy the beautiful sounds, while not being distracted by any lyrics.

Have you noticed how many authors post pictures of their pets? There’s something so special about having an animal you love close by while you work. My companion is an American Bulldog. While I’m tapping away on the keyboard, Auron curls up on his bed beneath the corner windows and waits patiently. Well, patiently until it’s mealtime. (He has an inner clock that rings at dinner time.) This is only one of his beds. Others he moves around the house at will. At nighttime, we move his biggest bed next to mine. And when my alarm clock wakes us up at 5:00 am, he’s right there with a good morning kiss.

I’m not usually posed so formally in my office. These photos were taken at the request of my publisher, Avon Books, and were included in their promos. But here I am, looking very serious, in front of my desk. And here is Auron, looking up and wondering why I’m taking his picture instead of going into the kitchen to fix his dinner. You got it – his inner clock is ringing!

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Living in the Moment

Kathy's SnowmanAs the holidays grow closer, I find myself so busy getting ready that I forget to enjoy the simple acts of preparing for the celebrations. I always work off a to-do list that seems to become never-ending. I cross off things accomplished in the evening and add things to be done in the morning. A trip to the post office for stamps. And a second trip the next week to mail packages. Then Target on Monday, Costco on Tuesday – well, you get the idea!

But yesterday my shopping errand brought me back into the moment. A moment of delight and anticipation and pleasure.

I went to Barnes and Noble.

Just walking into a real brick-and-mortar store devoted to the sale of books, books, books sent a thrill right through me. I hurried straight to the back where the children’s books are displayed, fighting the urge to check out the romance section first. (That would have to wait for another time.) I was on a mission to choose age-appropriate books for my grand-nephews. And as I picked up the familiar storybooks, happy memories flooded through me.

For many years, I taught First Grade and the highlight of each school day was story-time. How the children loved the tale of the witch who wanted to pick her pumpkin to make pie, but the giant pumpkin wouldn’t budge from the vine. Although the mummy, the vampire, and the monster all tried their best to help her, it was the little bat who solved the problem. And, of course, they all celebrated with the witch’s delicious pumpkin pie.

Once when I was sharing The Night Before Christmas and read the phrase the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath, the children stared at me wide-eyed and aghast. Santa smoked a pipe? ( The class had learned about the evils of drugs and tobacco in October.) I quickly assured them that, although he’d once smoked, Santa had given it up a long time ago.

Since none of my grandnephews are older than Kindergarten age, I had no difficulty knowing which book would be right for each child. But there were so many wonderful choices, familiar and new, that it took a long, long time to settle on two books for each boy. I found a brand-new one which was perfect for the two-year-olds: llama, llama, red pajama. (The title has no caps.) If you know a youngster who doesn’t want to go to bed alone at night, check this one out.

As I left Barnes and Noble, I had a satisfied smile on my face. Not simply because I could cross this errand off my to-do list.

For the duration of my visit there, reading children’s storybooks, I was truly living in the moment.

Memento vivere.

That’s Latin for Remember to Live!

Kathleen Harrington-What’s Next

 

Kathleen HarringtonAs readers look back at the stories I’ve told, it might appear that I’ve moved without rhyme or reason from the American West in the early 1800’s to Regency London to medieval Scotland. But I know better. The backstory or the future events in each adventure – or the research itself – led me to another time, another place.

Sometimes outside influences provided the jumping-off point. For example, after reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, I decided to write a “journey” tale with unusual and, hopefully, fascinating and memorable characters. This goal evolved into my first book, Cherish the Dream, which took my readers on a topographical expedition across the unmapped prairies of the early US. From this initial story came my interest in the Northern Cheyenne, leading to Warrior Dreams and Dream Catcher, both set in Montana. In addition, Montana Angel came from my research there.

Not all my stories are linked in some way. Sunshine and Shadow, a Georgian romance, and Promise Me, a Regency, arose from my love of the writings of Georgette Heyer.

Most evolved, however, with an intangible thread running through them. The Dreamseekers Series brought my twin heroines to England in Fly with the Eagle, and Scotland in Enchanted by You. My research of Scotland piqued my interest in the history of the Highland Clans, evolving into my latest trilogy. The stories of three Scottish ship captains in The MacLean Groom, Lachlan’s Bride, and Black Raven’s Lady resulted in my captivation with sailing ships.

So what’s next?

I’m presently researching a series about a Boston family of shipbuilders and sea captains set in the early 1800’s – around the early U.S. Navy, of Barbary Pirates, of merchant ships sailing to the Orient and returning with cargoes of extraordinary worth. On the high seas, our young nation couldn’t compete with the power and sway of the British navy and its mighty ships-of-the-line. But Yankee ingenuity and courage took us to the far-off edges of the world and back again.

This is the time of the birth-pangs of our fledging Republic, when no one knew for certain if our country and our Constitution would survive past the first few years.

Kathleen lives in Southern California with her American Bulldog, Auron. Her latest release, BLACK RAVEN’S LADY, Book 3 of the Highland Lairds Trilogy, is now on sale.

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Why I Write Historical Romance

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I’ve always been entranced and enthralled by different historical time periods. And this love of history drives my passion for writing in many different settings. I’ve moved from Western America to Georgian England, from Victorian Scotland to the Highlands in the early 1500’s.

Reading was my first love. For as long as I can remember, the stories I’ve most enjoyed reading were set in another place and another time. I always received a book at Christmas, and my earliest beloved novels –  Anne of Green Gables and Little Women – came from Mrs.Santa Claus. (aka Mom).  We lived in a small Nebraska town set alongside the Missouri River – small but not too small to have a public library built during the Great Depression by the WPA. What a gift from FDR that library was to South Sioux City’s boys and girls. During the long summer days of my childhood, my cousins and I would walk to the library together.  I can picture the children’s section where I selected from the Bobbsey Twins Series, The Wizard of Oz, and Dr. SeussI can no longer recall the many titles, but the sheer pleasure of reading, I’ll never forget.  As a teenager, I’m sure I read everything by Louisa May Alcott available. I can remember discovering with delight the stories by Georgette Heyer, starting with April Lady and continuing until I’d read every one of these marvelous Regency romances I could lay my hands on.

Along with the books, came the movies. I remember the green witch of Oz who scared me to death! And seeing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with my mom and dad and brothers. Later I attended the films with my cousins, watching Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, and The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, and Janet Leigh. How I loved those historical dramas!

When I grew older, I read War and Peace. What a fantastic novel, with several heartbreaking stories woven throughout the historical narrative of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the burning of Moscow. If you doubt that Leo Tolstoy understood the power and passion of love, just consider Anna Karenina. What pathos. What romance. What a joy to read! And Lonesome Dove influenced me tremendously. So when I began to write in earnest, I knew, without a doubt, I would write historical romances.