One of the things I enjoyed about Xenia’s Renegade was the world you built. We didn’t only see the ranch, but the reader also got to walk through the doors of a stagecoach station, a saloon, and an hotel to name a few. And the ranch house itself had an interesting layout to accommodate two separate-but-together families. Do you use any particular resources or tools such as Pinterest when you create a setting? I wondered if the ranch house was based on something you’d seen? (And I envy the lucky ladies who get to live there with those hunky cowboy cousins!)
Agnes: I have a tub full of brochures of ghost towns, museums, and reconstructed old western towns as well as hundreds of pictures I made on a 30 day vacation in the west a few years ago. These are wonderful resources as well as Google. When I decide on a setting (state and area) for my books, I look up that state and read as much about the local plants, animals, weather and history as I can. As for the 2-family ranch house, it was mostly a figment off my imagination, though I remembered the houses in some Amish communities that add an almost entire house as the generations expand and grow. I figured if it worked there, why not in the west?
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The wild, old west certainly was wilder for some groups of people than others, which comes through as a theme in Xenia’s Renegade. You have a number of Indian and part Indian characters, including the hero, and prejudice is something they face is an important part of the story line. Another group who often find themselves in a precarious position are women. There are a range of female characters from innocent young ladies to soiled doves, and what struck me was how their fates were often dictated by the men who had control over them including fathers, husbands, and employers. The sympathy you feel for these characters comes through. If we transported you back to the old west, how do you think you’d do faced with some of these situations?
Agnes: My great-grandmother (a free spirit who lived to be 104) was born in the 1880's. She told wonderful tales about how it was for women in that time and how she wanted things to change. These things stuck with me and I want to bring some of them to light. I lived through much of the changes in the South in the 60's and I had a hard time understanding why anyone could hate another because of the color of their skin. Because there were so much prejudice against Indians in the west, I used these same feelings to point out that, regardless of belief, Indians were human.
As for how I’d fare in the old west, I’d like to think I’d be a woman like Calamity Jane or Annie Oakley. Truth be known, I’d probably be a wimp. I can’t now imagine living without modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and especially air conditioning.
You’ve written an astounding number of books covering historical western romance, cozy mysteries, and contemporary romance (did I miss anything?). I wonder where you find your inspiration? Do you switch from one genre to another or stick with one genre for a period? What’s your favorite genre to write in? Is there any new genre you’re hoping to tackle?
Agnes: I think most of my inspiration comes from my vivid imagination. I sometimes wonder if I ever really gave up my childhood imaginary friends, Spanky and Sparky or if I simply turned them into the many characters that live in my head now. My first book was a children’s puzzle book based on the Bible. I then wrote 2 more such books, then my daughter grew up and my inspiration was gone. I spent a lot of time writing articles, short-stories and fillers for magazines and newspapers. My first novel was a mystery because my friend wrote mysteries and encouraged me to do so. This led to the romantic suspense novels that followed. My father, an avid western fan, asked me to write a western, and eventually, I did. When my first western historical romance came out, I felt I had finally found my place in the writing field. Though I may write a few other genres now and then, I love the WHR and will concentrate most of my writing time there.
What are your favorite genres to read?
Agnes: I have personal friends who write mysteries, historical, thriller and contemporary who I read and enjoy, but when I need a new book to read and none of my friends have anything new out, I always turn to my list of Facebook friends and my publisher to get a Western Historical Romance. I have to admit it’s my favorite.
Writing is such a balancing act between creating, promoting, managing your media, and everything else a person has to do away from their desk. You’re a prolific writer, and so presumably have found a way to manage your time. What works for you?
Agnes: I enjoy talking to groups, book signings, writer’s conferences and sharing on someone else’s blog when invited. But, like a lot of writers, I don’t like much else about promotion, though it has to be done. I try to spend no more than 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night on the Facebook, Amazon and other sites. I try to keep my website and my blog somewhat up to date. I don’t understand Twitter and don’t spend much time there.
I’m retired from the cooperate world, but I still treat my writing as a job and I try to write something every day, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. It makes it easy to do, because I love to write. I keep telling my daughter that someday I’ll be that little old lady in the rest home pecking away at her computer thinking she’s writing the great American novel, though it’ll probably be gibberish.
The process of becoming a writer always interests me. Would you share some of your journey with us? Was it something you always wanted to do? Do you write full time or have you/do you have other jobs? Were there any turning points or defining moments for you?
Agnes: I was the oldest child in my family and the first grandchild on my father’s side. To say I was spoiled, is an understatement. From the time I could listen, my family immersed me in books and reading. I was reading for myself by second grade. At this time, I found myself deciding how I’d change many of the books and stories I read. In third grade I discovered a book by Enid Johnson – Cowgirl Kate. It was an older book, but I thought it was the most wonderful thing I’d ever read. I decided then and there I’d write books one day. (I found this book on a used book site a few years ago and paid $35.00 for a $3.00 book.)When my daughter was in fifth grade, I decided it was time for me to go to college. I attended a nearby university as a day student. My English professor encouraged me to send my writings to market and some sold. I had written a couple of novels by now, but still too afraid to send them out. I decided to go to a writer’s conference. They had a short-story contest and I decided to enter. Against all odds, I won. The writer judge encouraged me to send a mystery book I’d written out and I did. I got rejection after rejection, but then attracted the eye of an agent. She kept my book for a year, sent it to one publisher and then sent it back to me. I was about ready to give up when a writer I hardly knew suggested I send it to her publisher. It sold and was published in 2004. This set me on fire. I wrote several mysteries and romances after that and was able to sell them to a variety of publishers. Because of my father’s love of the western, I decided to one. Fiona’s Journey ame out in 2012. I was thrilled and since I had met Sue Graften and saw how well it worked for her, I decided I’d write 26 westerns using a woman’s name beginning with a letter of the alphabet and one other word. Only thing, I decided I’d jump around and not go from A-Z as she did. I have now had 16 Alphabet westerns published and 8 to go. Though I occasionally write another genre, I feel I have found my voice in writing the western historical romance and plan to concentrate on this genre.
Do you have any activities or hobbies outside of writing which you think support your writing talent?
Agnes: When I think about it, I realize I lead a simple life. I belong to several writing groups. I still go to book signings when they’re local because I know how it feels not to get a crowd to come. I also attend all the plays and dance programs my high school aged granddaughter is in and we often go to get our nails done or do a little shopping. I have a monthly dinner date with my college aged grandson where we discuss his goal to write a book someday. He plans to be a psychiatrist and his studies take most of his time. I travel when I get the chance and find these trips not only relaxing, but informative. I spend as much time as I can with my school teacher daughter. Other than reading and writing, that’s about it.
About Xenia's Renegade:An urgent plea for help from a family member calls for action from Xenia Poindexter and her sister, Mea Ann. How can the rest of the family ignore Uncle Seymour’s plight and let him hang? Xenia and Mea Ann leave the comfort of their Virginia home for the wild, untamed Arizona Territory to do whatever they must to save their uncle.
But traveling west is not what these two well-bred, innocent ladies expected. A raid on a stagecoach way station would have seen them dead if not for the quick thinking of one of the other passengers, handsome rancher Ty Eldridge.
In the midst of the deadly raid, Mea Ann finds an orphaned Indian baby that she adopts as her own. Once the stage reaches Deer Meadow where their uncle is being held, Mea Ann and Xenia discover the deep-seated prejudice that pervades the town. Indians are not welcome—even Indian children. Ty and his cousin Wilt are all too familiar with the bigots in Deer Meadow, being half Sioux, themselves.
Ty wants to protect Xenia from her uncle’s schemes to use her and Mea Ann as prostitutes in his saloon—sold to the highest bidders—but can he? Though romance blooms for Wilt and Mea Ann, Ty has been burned in the past by his love for a white woman—and he won’t risk his heart again.
Though others say they’re all wrong for each other, Xenia has never felt more “right” than when she’s in Ty’s arms. She is determined to show him she’s strong enough to adapt to ranch life—his life. For Xenia, prejudice doesn’t exist—there’s enough love in her heart to hold Ty and heal his wounds. But Ty knows if he gives in to Xenia, he runs the risk of being hurt again. Is true love worth the chance of becoming XENIA’S RENEGADE?
Xenia's Renegade is also available in the collection Under a Western Sky.
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Where do the very best love stories blossom? UNDER A WESTERN SKY, of course! This fabulous boxed set of six tales of danger and romance are sure to capture your imagination as you are carried away to the old west. Handsome marshals, Texas Rangers, gunslingers, and wealthy landowners meet their matches with the daring women they happen to fall in love with, and you won’t want to put this boxed set down until you’ve read the very last story!
Authors Cheryl Pierson, Celia Yeary, Kaye Spencer, Tracy Garrett, Patti Sherry-Crews, and Agnes Alexander spin six incredible novel-length love stories filled with danger, excitement, and romance that will keep you turning page after incredible page until the very end. Saddle up and kick back for some excellent reading, as star-studded romance finds you UNDER A WESTERN SKY!