Today, I have author Karen A. Wyle in the interview chair. She discusses her latest release What Heals the Heart, book one in the Cowbird Creek series, a western historical romance. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
1. What inspired you to write What Heals the Heart?
Durned if I know! Some of my novels have grown out of news items, whether current events or accounts of scientific or technological advances. At least one started as a dream. But my earliest recollection of the seed for this book is a saved text file in which the protagonist was not a doctor but a private detective.
2. What led you to self-publish your novels?
Once I finished the rough draft of my novel Twin-Bred, I began reading every blog and Twitter feed I could find, as well as several books, about the publishing process. At first, I was learning how to query agents and publishers, and how to format a manuscript for submission. But the more I read, the more I realized two things:
- Self-publishing was eminently feasible and would give me much more control over content, marketing and timing.
- In the current state of the industry, there are serious risks involved in the traditional route. More and more agency and publication contracts include language that can seriously limit an author’s future options, while offering relatively little in exchange. Nor will the publisher who’s preparing your book for publication in eighteen months necessarily be in business that long.
3. Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter have inspired you?
Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God are brilliant treatments of the theme of human-alien communication difficulties, the subject of my Twin-Bred series. Like me, she started with science fiction and then turned to historical fiction. Her books inspire me even as their excellence intimidates me.
I have also tended to gravitate toward novelists who explore themes such as the irrevocable impact of actions and decisions, whether obviously momentous or seemingly trivial – novelists from the 19th Century author George Eliot to current YA author Caroline Cooney.
4. What do you like best about being a writer, and what do you dislike most about it?
I love it when the story decides to write itself! It’s a bit like being a medium and channeling some spirit. I also find it extremely rewarding when readers tell me that one of my novels has moved them or even helped them through a difficult time.
My greatest ongoing gripe is the amount of work involved in trying to increase my visibility in the crowded literary landscape. However, as that difficulty is inextricably connected to the greater opportunities for authors these days, I try to focus on the positive.
5. Do you plan to write more historical romance? More historical fiction in general? More about Cowbird Creek and its inhabitants?
Having taken the plunge into historical fiction – which I hope readers will consider an apt description of this novel, despite its belonging in the subgenre of historical romance – I think it likely I’ll paddle around for a while. First up will probably be a second romance set in Cowbird Creek, focusing on a couple of the secondary characters in What Heals the Heart. I’m also intrigued by the possibility of dealing more thoroughly and seriously with the impact of the Great Grasshopper Plague of 1874-1875, about which I learned only late in the process of writing this novel. After that – who knows?
I will, however, strive to finish editing another near-future SF novel, Donor, and may well publish it before the second Cowbird Creek book.
6. Why are most of your previous novels science fiction?
I’ve been reading (and to a lesser extent, watching) science fiction for so long that I tend to view experiences, such as walking my dog and wondering what she’s smelling, and new information, such as news stories about conjoined twins or womb twin survivors, through a science fiction lens.
7. Which of your previous novels are most likely to appeal to readers who enjoy What Heals the Heart?
I hope that even readers unfamiliar with science fiction will, if they give my SF novels a try, find a similar style, sensibility, and thematic focus in those stories. That said, perhaps the novel closest in tone to, and whose subject matter has most in common with, What Heals the Heart is Wander Home, a family drama with mystery and romance elements set in a re-imagined afterlife. This afterlife has features which lend themselves to the confrontation of lingering personal issues and unfinished business. For example, you can relive any memory in perfect detail – and if someone else who took part in the remembered scene is there with you, you can trade places and remember the events from the other person’s perspective. There are other aspects of the afterlife that, while serving this same purpose, are also just plain fun. You can be any age at any time, and visit any place that you remember or that anyone you meet – from any time in Earth’s history – remembers.
Wander Home concerns a mother who desperately wanted a child, but who left that child in the care of her parents and grandmother for unknown reasons. The child, grandparents, and great-grandmother die in an auto accident four years after the mother’s mysterious departure; the mother dies of stress cardiomyopathy (“broken heart syndrome”) some time later, and is reunited with the family she left behind.
Title: What Heals the Heart
Series: Cowbird Creek Book 1
Author: Karen A. Wyle
Genre: Western Historical Romance
Print Length: 266 pages
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Blurb: Joshua Gibbs survived the Civil War, building on his wartime experiences to become a small town doctor. And if he wakes from nightmares more often than he would like, only his dog Major is there to know it.
Then two newcomers arrive in Cowbird Creek: Clara Brook, a plain-speaking and yet enigmatic farmer’s daughter, and Freida Blum, an elderly Jewish widow from New York. Freida knows just what Joshua needs: a bride. But it shouldn’t be Clara Brook!
Joshua tries everything he can think of to discourage Freida’s efforts, including a wager: if he can find Freida a husband, she’ll stop trying to find him a wife. Will either matchmaker succeed? Or is it Clara, despite her own scars, who can heal the doctor’s troubled heart?
“What Heals The Heart is a time-machine in a compact tome.. . . If you love period pieces, Karen A. Wyle’s book will satisfy even the most discerning reader. This elegant novel is an exquisite example of romance at its finest!” — Indies Today
“Brilliantly connects the reader to the characters reliving collective trauma . . . . She was able to bring a perfect amount of lightness (small town matchmaking and quirky friendships) to balance a tough subject. The friendships in this novel were phenomenal and I loved every single one of them. Wyle is able to create characters who I wanted to befriend. . . . Characters I fought for, cheered for, loved, and in all honesty, cried for and with.” — Honestly Austen
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Joshua Gibbs felt sun on his face and thought about opening his eyes. He decided to wait. He had some blessings to savor that wouldn’t need sight.
He was in a bed, a four-poster with a well-stuffed husk mattress, instead of in a tent on rough ground. He was in Nebraska, far from any of the towns he had passed through — or seen devastated — during the war. The sound nearest his right ear wasn’t the whistle of a shell or the wails and screams of dying men, but the soft grumbly snore of his Irish Setter. And the dog’s name might be Major (or, to give the full grandiloquent version, Reginald Phineas Major), but that was the closest to an officer he’d find for miles around.
And what Joshua smelled, when he took a slow, lazy sniff, was a mix of Major and almost-clean bed linen, and not . . . well, no need to sully a brand new morning with the memory of what he’d have smelled this time nine years ago.
But thoughts like these were not worth staying abed for. He opened his eyes and sat up, stretching out his arm and laying a hand lightly on Major’s side for the warm breathing comfort of it. Major’s eye twitched, and his tail, but that was all. A dog knew, without having to think about it, what safety meant.
Joshua levered himself out of bed. He’d shave, get dressed, and take a walk with Major before frying himself some breakfast.
As a boy, if he could have even imagined himself so old as thirty-three, he’d have assumed he’d be leaving a wife behind staying warm in bed or making breakfast, or better yet, accompanying him on his morning amble. But things change. War changes them. And solitude suited him, these days.
Most of the latest — perhaps the last? — snow had melted. It wouldn’t take him too long to clean off his boots after his walk. Joshua liked having clean boots when he saw patients, even if some folk in town might think it affected of him.
He headed away from the square to start, toward the creek that had given Cowbird Creek its name. If he’d been taking this road out of town to see a patient, he’d have been riding his trotter Nellie-girl or using one of the livery stable buggies. He wouldn’t have had time or attention to spare for the serviceberry bushes just starting to put forth their lacy white flowers, or the sparrows with their thin high chirps, stirring about on whatever business sparrows had.
He got as far as the buttonwood tree by the creek before his hollow stomach reminded him to turn round. He took a turn around the square and saw a light in the laundry. Li Chang looked to be hard at work already. It wasn’t easy to get the Chinese fellow talking, as busy as he kept himself, but his tales of the gold fields could cure anyone of hankering after mining. Though he’d managed to make enough of a stake to set up his business and even pay for help — except the help had given up on America and gone home a year since.
Turning the corner brought Joshua past the church. Passing the church meant passing the churchyard. A few of his patients were at rest there, though others were buried on their farms. One or two of them wouldn’t be there yet, if he’d known then what he knew now. He paused, bowed his head, and sent them a silent apology, and a promise to stick to his books until he knew as much medicine as anyone could learn that way.
At least there were other folk, asleep in bed or about their chores, in town and outside it, who might have been sleeping colder in the ground if not for him.
He picked up his pace, more than ready for breakfast. He had bacon and eggs he’d got in payment from the farmer whose cough he’d dosed two days ago. Good thing he liked his eggs runny, because he hadn’t left all that much time for cooking and eating before opening his office and seeing who sauntered or stumbled or limped in to be doctored.
Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle’s childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9.
Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
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