Jen: Please help us welcome Brenda Gayle to Romancing the Book as part of her Doubting Heart Blog Tour. Brenda, will you share a short bio with us?
Brenda: Thanks so much for inviting me to visit with you today. I’ve been a writer all my life but returned to my love of fiction after more than 20 years in the world of corporate communications—although some might argue there is plenty of opportunity for fiction-writing there, too. I have a Master’s degree in journalism and an undergraduate degree in psychology. Although I am a fan of many genres, I find myself drawn to contemporary romance and enjoy creating deeply emotional stories with elements of mystery and suspense.
I live in eastern Ontario (Canada) with my wonderful husband, two fabulous children, a rescued cat, two Siberian Huskies, and assorted aquatic wildlife.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Brenda: My current release is The Doubting Heart. It is the second book in my Heart’s Desire series, which focuses on the trials and tribulations of three cousins as they manipulate the minefield of family expectation to find love and happiness.
The Doubting Heart was originally called Wildhorse Pass, and the title came to me when I misread a sign while driving along a highway on the Bruce Peninsula, in Ontario. I thought “hey, that’s a neat name for a place,” and started to wonder about what type of place it would be and what would go on there. I don’t know what sort of mood I was in but I kept thinking about doubting your senses and mistaken identity, and slowly a plot formed. I changed the title when I realized the overarching story was bigger than one book. So, although The Doubting Heart was written first, it actually became the second in the series.
Here’s the blurb:
When Shelby Holt convinces a friend to work at Wildhorse Pass tourist ranch, she never imagines he will die there. The police say Michael’s death was accidental, but Shelby doesn’t believe it. Haunted by guilt, she puts her academic career on hold to investigate.
Just back from the Middle East, Chad Graham is guilt-ridden over Michael’s death too. He poses as a ranch hand at Wildhorse Pass to investigate the woman claiming his cousin’s death is suspicious. Were the police wrong? Or is Shelby hiding something?
Shelby knows she can’t trust her heart, but when it comes to Chad, she can’t trust her head either. He looks uncannily like Michael. Yet even as their distrust deepens, sensual attraction simmers between them. The closer Shelby and Chad get to answers—and to each other—the closer they get to danger…and to a killer who will stop at nothing to avoid discovery.
Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Brenda: I don’t remember ever not being a “writer.” One of my favorite activities growing up was writing short stories. A girlfriend and I used to take a first sentence and then go off and write a short story. I was always amazed at how different they ended up. My high school English teacher, Mrs. MacGregor (to whom The Doubting Heart is dedicated), was very encouraging of my writing, and for that I owe her my deepest gratitude. My first publication credit came when I was 14. My city’s newspaper published a half-page article I had written about our high school’s band trip to the Yukon. After receiving a graduate degree in Journalism I worked for almost 20 years in corporate communications before my creative muse had had enough of annual reports and speeches, and insisted I return to my love of writing fiction. My first romantic suspense, Soldier for Love, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2008.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Brenda: I’m a bit of both. When I start a book I generally have an idea of where I want the story to go and some key events that need to happen along the way, however, it’s far from fully plotted. I generally allow the characters to drive the story, so I usually only know in detail what’s going to happen a few chapters ahead. Usually this works well for me, but every once in a while the characters take the story off in a totally unexpected direction messing up the original plot path.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Brenda: Oh my, you should see the scraps of paper all over my house. Perhaps it’s my journalism background, but I never go anywhere without a pen and paper. After a few near melt-downs, my family has gotten very good at never throwing away what appears to be random bits of paper covered with illegible scribbles. They know it’s likely my latest brain wave and I’ll be looking for it some time.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Brenda: Most of my research came via the Internet, books, and talking to people. I’ve been to Nevada and Arizona; New Mexico is a place I’d love to visit some time. The first paragraph of The Doubting Heart is very close to something I experienced while traveling through Arizona a number of years ago. It had been a very wet winter and I was stunned by the beauty of the flowering cacti.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Brenda: I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I think there are bits of me in all my heroines. Nora, from The Hungry Heart, was a burned-out association executive, and although she was modeled on a former boss of mine, I share many of the same attitudes and beliefs. Shelby, the heroine of The Doubting Heart, was a difficult character for me to write—probably because her desire to please hit a little too close to home. However, I think Anna, from the upcoming The Forsaken Heart, is probably as close to my personality as any other character I’ve written—except I think she’s more fun. She shares a lot of the irreverent personality traits of her cousin Hunter, the hero of The Hungry Heart and my all-time favorite character (so far).
Jen: What’s next for you?
Brenda: At the moment, I am finishing the third book in the Heart’s Desire series, tentatively titled The Forsaken Heart. This concludes the original story arc and wraps up a bunch of loose ends from The Hungry Heart and The Doubting Heart. My working blurb is: When Anna Graham marries Callum Hart she’ll finally receive her uncles’ agreement to take over the family ranch. Will the return of Jackson, her first love—and Cal’s brother—throw it all in jeopardy? I am also exploring storylines for other characters in the books, so look for more in this series.
Thanks to Romancing the Book for hosting me today. I’d love to know what characters appeal to you. Do you have a favorite, one you identify with or one you wish you could be more like? One commenter will be randomly selected to receive a free digital download of my new short story, Father of the Bride?, the first in The Wild Rose Press’s Dearly Beloved series. In addition, every time you comment at one of the stops on my virtual book tour you’ll get another entry to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Be sure to include your email address in your comment.