For this particular book (The Hens: The Third Day), the project coordinators got together and decided on the theme of a town that needs saving. From there, I came up with the idea of writing a story about family…with an unusual twist in that it doesn’t look like either the hero or the heroine has much of a family at all when the story starts. But since Christmas is a time for family and loved ones, it felt only natural to write a book about that.
Could you give me a short synopsis of the story for my readers?
Liu Meizhen has been searching for her long-lost brother for what feels like forever. Her journey has taken her from China to San Francisco to Haskell, Wyoming, and beyond. But she’s tired of searching, and when the opportunity arises to end her wandering in Noelle, Colorado by becoming a mail-order bride, she leaps at it. Noelle is exactly what she’s been looking for, and Woody, the man she has promised to marry, is everything she could have hoped for.
Woody Burnside knows he’s not the smartest man in Noelle, but he works hard, cares deeply for the animals that are entrusted to his care, and believes with his whole heart that he could be a good husband. And the three hens that shadow him wherever he goes, Mimi, Gigi, and Fifi, seem to agree. Meizhen is more than he could have hoped for in a bride, and he is determined to make her the happiest woman in Colorado.
But just when everything looks like it’s going to be happily ever after, the ghost of Meizhen’s past shows up in the most unlikely place. She suddenly finds herself torn between her duty toward her family and the promise she made to Woody. And with time running out for Noelle, she must make a decision that she fears will hurt someone she cares for deeply.
What made you decide to do a Christmas themed book?
I was invited to be a part of the project, and since I love the authors who are part of this project, how could I say no? But I like to write at least one Christmas book per year since readers love them.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
I have to confess, the holiday season has been hard for me since my mom died in 2001. There are some parts of the holidays that I try to ignore because of that, like Christmas music. But I love Christmas trees. We always had two in our house: ours and my grandmother’s.
Our tree was always a riot of colored lights and mismatched ornaments with sentimental value, while my grandmother’s tree was very classy, with white lights and sophisticated, themed decorations (like white snowflakes and red bow, or silver bells and pinecones). I’ll confess, I actually set up my tree in the first month of November, but I decorated it with silk fall leaves and Thanksgiving ribbon. It’s not a Christmas Tree, it’s a Thanksgiving Shrubbery!
What’s next in your writing?
I’ve been writing Historical and Contemporary Westerns, but the funny thing is, that happened by mistake. What I’ve always wanted to write is novels set in Victorian England. And coming in 2018, I’ll finally be doing that! I’ve written a short crossover series, bringing some of my Old West characters across the pond to England.
My new series, The Silver Foxes of Westminster, will be full-English. Not only that, I’m trying something new in that my characters, the heroes especially, will be older. “Silver Foxes” refers to the fact that my heroes are in their 50s. But remember, people like George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Colin Firth are in their 50s now too. And since many of my readers aren’t spring chickens, it’ll be fun to write characters who are more at our point in life.
Any special awards or achievements you’d like to mention?
I have to brag about making it into the Top Ten bestselling books on Amazon in the spring. Top Ten! Of all books in all genres! Woo hoo!
What’s the best writing tip you’ve learned or been given that you’d like to share?
Write. And then write some more. And after you’ve done that, write, write, write. The only way to learn this craft is by practicing. It’s the whole principle that you have to spend ten thousand hours doing something in order to be considered an expert. I’ve also heard people say you have to write a million words before you really know how to write. There’s a lot of truth to that!
I wish I’d learned to outline sooner. I used to be a pantser. Then I realized that if I wanted to keep up with the demands of the market, I would have to learn to write faster. So I tried out different outlining techniques and found one that really works for me. That technique has evolved over the years to my own, unique method. But you know what? My writing is MUCH better now because of it. I’m able to be systematic in the way I develop a story and to make sure I hit all of the key elements of an engaging plot. I could never 'pants' a story again!
That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Merry's writing, here are some links to get you started.
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