Colleen L Donnelly writes Historical Fiction. She loves the challenge of taking what she feels in her heart and turning it into words on a a page that a reader can recognize as their own. Welcome, Colleen.
Why did you write this particular book you’re talking about today? I wanted to write a heroine with a longing for love we can relate to, but whom we can also laugh at because she reminds us of ourselves at our worst. My books always have a theme of lost love, broken heart, or betrayal, and this one is no different…except this heroine is quick to take matters into her own hands to get what she wants.
Is it part of a series?
Letters and Lies was written as a stand-alone title until my last round of edits before publication when I noticed Jim, the man who jilted my heroine. There he was in a surprisingly heroic light, and I knew that Jim’s story was the next book.
What’s the most difficult part of writing and why? (Yes, you can talk about marketing.)
Hmmmm… When I consider the bar I can hold high over my head to improve my writing and my marketing, I have to admit the most difficult part of writing is ME! I wrote my best books when I did it simply because I loved to, not because I wore myself out researching the skill. And as for marketing, if spread myself to every media platform I hear about, I’m quickly robbed of the love that put pen to paper to begin with.
I’m thrilled with every reader who contacts me, responds with a hearty amen to a post about my books, or shows up at a book signing and shares what the book meant to them. I learn something from each of those interactions, and I learn by reading reviews as well. A well thought out review is worth its weight in gold, favorable or not. More than once I’ve read an insightful comment that made me say, “Dang, I wish I would have thought about that while I was still writing the book!”
Relationships are what our books are all about, all different kinds of relationships. What fascinates you about how people find one another?
I’ve heard three theories on how people find each other. First is an olfactory attraction. I poo-pooed that notion at first, even though it came from a biologist who insisted (I didn’t google it) studies showed people’s sense of smell detected and gravitated toward imperceptible odors unique to another. I decided not to base a romance novel on this theory. Second, and equally unromantic, is the psychological assessment that a person is likely to gravitate toward a partner who reminds them of the parent they have the most unresolved issues with, and they use this new relationship to fix old issues. Ugh again. Though there is likely some truth in this, it’s a type of drama that doesn’t fit my stories. Thirdly, and this we see often, opposites attract. I’m a black-and-white analytic type, quiet, faithful, and predictable. Let one of those social butterfly types cross my path and I’m like a bug to light. Opposites round us out, do and say the things we never would, and bring either color or balance to our world. Opposites makes for great romance novels…and equally great stories when the opposites get married and find living with your opposite is a challenge.
What makes you angry?
Other drivers…*blush*…not something I’m proud of. But in my weaker moments, I wonder if every Stop sign should be changed to Hurry based on the number of drivers who blow right through them. And when asked by friends what the speed limit is, I respond through clenched teeth, “Ten miles per hour faster than I’m going if someone’s behind me, and ten miles per hour slower than I’m going if they’re in front of me.” I’ve also resigned myself to this unwritten but accepted rule for pulling out into moving traffic—it’s okay as long as all of the other vehicles can drive off the road, into the oncoming lane, or slam on the brakes to avoid hitting you.
Who is your favorite character of all of the books you’ve written and Why?
Magdalena Paine in “Asked For” without a doubt. Here are some excerpts to show why I want to be a little like her when I grow up:
Magdalena stepped in front of the washstand and leaned forward, pressing her face close to the mirror. The small light heightened the colors on her face, the pastes and powders Pop would scrub off if she didn’t get it done herself.
James thought of Magdalena at the ball park, smoking, and wearing all the colors Pop hated on her face.
James smoothed his hair where Magdalena had mussed it. He wished she’d sit down before Pop said something about her face and the traces of last night that looked even more obvious against the morning pallor her fair skin had.
They approached the car as if Magdalena had parked a flying saucer in the driveway instead of a Fairlane. Magdalena grinned and lit a cigarette.
Alex used to say things about Magdalena’s varied skills, but the way he described them made James blush. Magdalena looked proud.
Magdalena chewed the inside of her cheek while she stared at him. He could see her tug at it from within. She was thinking hard, something she rarely did before she spoke.
James snorted. He sounded like Magdalena.
“I said she got married again.” Pop shoveled in another bite. “She married some old guy this time.” He looked at Mama now, as if what Magdalena had done was Mama’s fault.
Magdalena never felt guilty about anything.
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.
“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.
Tag Line: Why wait for a new door when you can wedge the one that just closed open again?
More excerpts from Letters and Lies
“Lord knows I’ll miss you, Louise, but I’m so happy at how happy you are going to be,” Mama said at my side.
I nodded. Neither of us would be happy if the ruse I’d devised to get me to Jim without him or anyone else knowing I was Louise Archer, the jilted spinster from St. Louis, didn’t work. I gripped my three bags, one with a ticket for Mrs. Penelope Strong, that I would surreptitiously hand to the conductor, hidden inside. People would believe my claims to be a once-loved widow on my way west to complete my late husband’s unfinished business. No one doubted or bothered widows. My plan would get me there so I could study Jim’s situation, figure out how to fix whatever had caused him to change his mind, then introduce myself with all of our answers in hand. All before our tentative wedding date Mama intended to buy a ticket for.
I glanced at her. I’d never lied to my parents before. I fidgeted with the cords to the bag which held Mrs. Penelope Strong’s ticket. “As soon as I reach Jim and we affirm our wedding date, I will wire you.”
“No need to wire me.” Mama dismissed my assurance with a wave of her hand. “I intend to come long before your wedding.”
“You what?” Drat. My plan allowed me one week to find Jim and a day to fix whatever had gone wrong. Then a few extra to meet his friends and make our wedding arrangements. Plenty of time to send Mama a letter which assured her life in southwestern Kansas was grand and I would soon get married, before she began to suspect it wasn’t and I wouldn’t.
“You look distraught,” Tall-and-Sturdy said. His earlier studious observance narrowed as he gazed down at me. “Are you sure I can’t…”
“Of course I’m distraught,” I snapped. “I’m recently widowed.” I ignored his, as well as the conductor’s, hands as I took the first step into the train. I caught the shift of the smaller and more well-dressed man next to him and heard the subtle clearing of his throat. I reprimanded myself. Naïve. Less assertive. Widows may be distraught, but they would be kind. I turned back. “I’m Mrs. Penelope Strong, and I’m on my way to…” Drat. If I said Dodge City, this man…or his friend…might happen to know Jim. Drat that Jim’s telegram arrived only yesterday. I should have spent more time working out the details of my plan and less putting together the album of his letters. “Larned, Kansas, to finish my dear late husband’s business,” I said as I prayed neither Mama nor my friends would shout a sudden goodbye to Louise Archer. I also prayed this man would do what I’d intended every person to do in the face of a widow—stammer, shy away, and leave me be.
“Larned, Kansas,” the conductor boomed, the same way he’d bellowed every other stop since St. Louis. “Fort Larned.”
The train squealed as it slowed, a riot of noise the conductor managed to thunder over as he announced the one town I’d prayed the train would miss.
I dropped back against my seat…Tall-and-Sturdy’s seat. Maybe the train’s struggle meant the brakes had failed.
I turned from the wall in front of me that I’d stared at all the way from St. Louis, straightened from what had indeed been private and comfortable, the last seat in the car, and looked up at the man who’d given it to me. Plus his traveling companion pinched tight against his side in the aisle.
“I believe this is your stop.” He removed his hat. “You said Larned, if I remember right.”
Yes, I’d said Larned, but I hadn’t meant it. Drat the luck he remembered, and that this man had interfered with me to begin with. And double drat I’d lied that I had a ticket for a town I had no intention of staying in.
“So you will…both…be getting off here as well?” At least this seat could remain mine once they left the train and I slipped back on.
“No, ma’am. We’re continuing on.”
“Continuing on? I mean, oh, I see… So this is Larned?” I feigned fresh-widow confusion as the conductor bellowed, “Larned, Kansas,” again. My face warmed. I pressed a hand to my cheek like a widow so forlorn I couldn’t even bother to clear a spot on the window to gaze at the scenery. I’d done nothing but worry about Mama and think about Jim, where and how to find him, instead of preparing to disembark so I could slip back on.
“Take your time.” The smaller man cleared his throat, and one of them shuffled his feet. “We don’t need the seat until the train pulls out again anyway.”
With a final squeal of brakes that hadn’t failed, the train ground to a stop. Passengers stirred and struggled to their feet in relief, people apparently glad to see Larned.
About the Author
Born and raised in the Midwest, Colleen studied and worked in science, using that career to travel and explore other parts of the country. A proud pug owner and avid fan of coffee while reading and writing, she seeks out tales involving moral dilemmas and the choices people come up against. Found outdoors as well as in her comfy living room, Colleen is always searching for the next good story.
Buy Links for Letters and Lies
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3aXuMCl