Interview With Colleen L. Donnelly
I am delighted to host historical romance novelist Colleen L. Donnelly on my blog today. Colleen is the author of the recently published Letters and Lies as well as six other books, including Mine to Tell (an Amazon #1 best seller and 2014 RomCon Reader’s Crown finalist in Historical Fiction) and Out of Splinters and Ashes (a Rone Finalist). Read on to get the scoop on Letters and Lies, learn about the personal element that drives all of Colleen’s stories, and find out how Louise Archer, the jilted heroine in Letters and Lies, differs from her previous protagonists.
Welcome, Colleen! Your western romance Letters and Lies was published recently by The Wild Rose Press. What can you tell us about it?
Let me first thank you, Kimberly, for the chance to pull the curtain back on the machinations behind my humorous but sometimes painful Letters and Lies the way Toto exposed the true wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Just as that man was aghast to realize his audience saw him—the real him and everything about him—I must confess that any character or story I write has an element of me or something that happened to me in it. Think of a writer as a reader turned inside out. People read for escape, pleasure, to gasp when we see ourselves on a page, or to find the company our misery needs, all in the privacy of our home or our soul. Those same motives exist in the writer, but we don’t just nurse them secretly, we put them on the page, out there for everyone to see.
That said, my prior books typically stemmed from and dealt with the heart, betrayal, unrequited love, and elusive dreams. Not so with Letters and Lies. This book wraps fun around matters of the heart, and instead of a character who struggles through the agony of a relationship gone wrong, it dishes up a heroine who circumvents…or tries to circumvent…any pain by nipping what went wrong in the bud and fixing it. My challenge was to blend a jilted spinster’s near heartbreak and brittle hope of recovering her man with her comical attempts and multitude of lies that caused more harm than good. Letters and Lies takes Louise Archer’s humiliation and pain, puts it on a train west to find the homesteader who jilted her, and lets us smile at the corners she backs herself into as she lies her way there.
Who is Louise Archer? What makes her tick?
Louise is any one of us who has done our best, meant well, found ourselves suddenly robbed of the prize we lived for, and are willing to suffer any number of red faces to get it back. Louise happens to be socially cultured, ambitious, bright, a credit to her family, and one breath away from the stigma of spinsterhood when a Kansas homesteader she has corresponded with proposes. His offer saves not only her from humiliation, but her widowed mother from an uncertain future. What responsible daughter, and sole single person amongst her friends, wouldn’t decide to lie when receiving, “Don’t come, I can’t marry you,” days before she was to leave St. Louis for Kansas to wed? Determined to save herself and her mother, Louise packs as if she’s a soon-to-be-bride rather than a jilted spinster in search of her ex-fiancé, and heads west telling everyone she meets along the way that she’s the widowed Mrs. Penelope Strong so no one will bother her or discover her humiliation.
How did you get interested in writing historical romances?
My age, mostly. I don’t have a good handle on modern electronic gadgets that a character could use to get them out of whatever fix they’ve found themselves in. Better for them to have to struggle to overcome the old-fashioned way. It builds character!
You have an impressive backlist. Can you give us a one-line synopsis for a few of your previous books?
This takes me back to being the inside-out reader, putting whatever hurt, made me tick, or tickled my fancy in a story. Here is a list of stories and characters who’ve shared my life:
Mine to Tell: Everyone, including Julianne’s husband, spread the tale she’d been unfaithful, no one caring to hear her side—what really happened, and whether it qualified as adultery or not.
Asked For: Did Mr. Morgan’s comment, “Your mother’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known,” explain why James’ father always referred to him as “that boy.”
Love on a Train: Martha found the perfect man and Raymond the perfect woman on the train, until he had to go his way to a prior commitment, and she to the man her parents wanted as her future.
The Lady’s Arrangement: Rex and Regina find themselves in a necessary but unwelcome business relationship when she needs a new last name to keep her deceased husband’s homestead, and he needs a temporary identity as someone’s husband.
Out of Splinters and Ashes: His family in the United States, and hers in Germany, want to know did he as a US runner in Berlin’s summer Olympics and she as a German writer, meet right before World War II and, as enemies, fall in love.
Sonata Contineo: Never having secrets in their years as best friends, Rachel now suddenly has two she can’t reveal to Lane—the truth about how his great-grandfather died, and that somehow she has fallen in love with Lane.
Blurb for Letters and Lies:
Louise Archer boards a westbound train in St. Louis to find the Kansas homesteader who wooed and proposed to her by correspondence, then jilted her by telegram—Don't come, I can't marry you. Giving a false name to hide her humiliation, her lie backfires when a marshal interferes and offers her his seat.
Marshal Everett McCloud intends to verify the woman coming to marry his homesteading friend is suitable. At the St. Louis train station, his plan detours when he offers his seat to a captivating woman whose name thankfully isn't Louise Archer.
Everett's plans thwart hers, until he begins to resemble the man she came west to find, and she the woman meant to marry his friend.
Excerpt from Letters and Lies:
“He wrote and changed your plans? Why didn’t you tell me? You know I love hearing his letters.”
Everyone loved hearing his letters. Or at least they’d pretended to. I glanced at my friends, especially the one who’d first suggested I correspond with her husband’s homesteading friend in Kansas who was ready to look for a wife. She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief while she flicked the fingers of her other hand in a weak wave. I dredged my soul in search of a smile. The man she’d introduced me to truly had penned everything I’d ever wanted in a husband, months of letters which convinced Mama Jim was my open door. Letters I’d foolishly carted from family to friend to blather every word like a desperate spinster. Drat.
“He didn’t send his change of plans in a letter, Mama. He sent them in a telegram.” Don’t come, I can’t marry you. The only words I never shared.
“Well I imagine your Jim has a surprise for you and didn’t have time to send a letter before you left for Crooked Creek. How thoughtful to wire you instead.”
Thoughtful…I felt poisoned and Mama would too if she ever found out Jim had shut my open door. Which she wouldn’t, since as soon as I got out there and found him, I’d wedge it back open again.
Buy Links for Letters and Lies:
For a limited time, Letters and Lies is 99 cents on the following sites:
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3aXuMCl
Born and raised in the Midwest, Colleen studied and worked in science, using that career to travel and explore other parts of the country. An avid fan of literature, both reading and writing, she loves tales involving moral dilemmas and the choices people come up against. A lover of the outdoors as well as a comfy living room, Colleen is always searching inside and out for the next good story.