Is it true you’ve had a book optioned for a movie?
Heather: No. I’ve actually had THREE books optioned for a limited TELEVISION SERIES (think Hell on Wheels) by Breath of Life Productions! I’m pretty dang excited about this, even though an option is a long ways away from a deal. Still, an option is better than no option at all. Going out on a limb here, I have to say God has always had his hand on my Defiance books, especially A Lady in Defiance. I’ve always expected good things from this story.
What inspires your book ideas?
Heather: Once upon a time, there was this big man with a gun who saw all situations as black-and-white, right and wrong. He could shoot a hole through a quarter, quick-draw faster than a horse can flick its tail and throw a sledgehammer of a punch. Best of all, he shared his popcorn with me on Sunday nights … as we watched Bonanza together. My dad was my hero.
My momma is truly the toughest person I’ve ever known. She’s buried three of seven children and is still alive and kicking, mere months from 90. She is the reason I don’t like whiny, soft heroines.
In 1999 my sister Suzy passed away from breast cancer. An unwed teenage mother, she eventually gave her heart to the Lord and went on to live an amazing life impacting people for Christ. Their heart and spirit is in every book I write.
Is there an idea out there that you wish you’d thought of?
Heather: For a few weeks, my time travel novella In Time for Christmas sat right beside a Diana Gabaldon book on the charts. So I guess I wish I would have thought of a time-traveling nurse with a penchant for young, brawny Scottish bucks first.
Is there anything ironic that’s happened to you while doing research for a book?
Heather: Talk about irony. I discovered that John Henry “Doc” Holiday was sponsored to dental school by a physician from Valdosta, Ga. The name of the doctor astounded me: Lucien Frink. An ancestor of mine! How apropos! The most notorious Western outlaw from the South and my family helped him get his start … at least we were a link in the chain of events. I use Frink as the maiden name of my sisters in Defiance.
Do you have any particular rituals that help you get into the writing frame of mind?
Heather: Amazingly, I attend boot camp every morning. Some people call it exercise class, but I don’t think that begins to describe the torture I go through. Afterward, I pray. Hard. Then I ingest copious amounts of coffee, sigh melodramatically and start typing. Sometimes whole sentences. If I persevere, my brain unlocks and the story starts writing itself.
What do you do when you get stuck?
Heather: One of the coolest inventions of this century is YouTube. If I get stuck, I watch a particular scene, like a fistfight or a kiss, without having to sit through the whole movie. The danger is I may get distracted by cute animal videos. But that almost never happens. Wink. Wink.
What distracts you the most when you’re trying to write?
I have three children, ages 15, 18 and 57 (said the snarky wife). If they’re home, I’m trying to tune out engines revving, dirt bikes bwaaap bwaaap bwaapping, guitars strumming or the guffawing of teenage boys playing on the Xbox. Writers get no respect. No respect at all.
Do you write by the seat of your pants (pantser), or do you carefully plot your stories (plotter)?
Heather: I’m a planter. Or would that be pantter? Plotster? In other words, both. I type thoughts, I write ideas for the outline on sticky notes, I carry a little notebook around with me, and I work the living daylights out of Scrivener. Eventually, the mishmash becomes an outline then a book.
Is there another romance author who turns you into a fangirl?
Heather: Oh, fudge, yeah! Bodie Thoene! She’s written great books and screenplays and even wrote for John Wayne’s production company. She and Francine Rivers are two writers that I’d like to touch the hem of their garments.
Joyce: What’s your favorite snack and/or beverage while you’re writing?
Heather: A long, long time ago (1958) a man named Juan Valdez came from the jungle bearing magic beans. From these magnificently aromatic pods of joy the gods made an elixir so wonderful, so spectacular that we now have temples to this beverage on every corner — oh, sorry, I get a little excited. The answer is coffee.
What TV show or other activity interferes with your writing schedule?
Heather: 9 p.m. No, it is not a show. It is a time. It’s wine and popcorn time. The lights are out. The closed sign has been flipped. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. I don’t want to hear my name or see a computer screen for at least 10 hours.
Do you have a pet that hangs out with you while you’re working?
Heather: I have two cats. Both rescues. They follow me everywhere. At first, I thought it was cute. Now I think they’re plotting something.
What’s your ideal scenery while you’re writing?
Heather: Freshly vacuumed carpet, no tracks. No laundry piled on the couch. No candy wrappers on the floor in front of the Xbox. If my house is clean, I can write in any room. Otherwise, I hide in my bedroom and pretend I’m in the mountains.
I pretend a lot.
Do you listen to music while you write? What are some tunes on your playlist?
Heather: Silence! I must have silence! Otherwise, I’d sing and not write a word. Ask my kids. I think I’m Pat Benatar.
Have you ever had a really bad date? Care to share?
Heather: Well, that’s a fun walk down memory lane … not. So, so many from which to choose. I’ll go with Pete Lowe (first name changed to protect the innocent).
I’m from a small town, a really, really small town. Cashiers, N.C. In my school days, we used to drive down the mountain to Sylva (a slightly larger metropolis) to hang out at the Hardee’s. Social gathering mecca of the area. I met Pete there. He asked me out. Date night came. He drove up the mountain to pick me up, we drove down the mountain to eat dinner, then we drove back up the mountain to park at the lake (my town’s one claim to fame — a pristine body of water). Well, ol’ Pete didn’t come to look at the moonbeams bouncing off the water. He turned all octopus on me and wanted to do the Wild Thing. I shut him down forthwith, whereupon he actually had the nerve to say with a shrug, “Well, I think I deserve something for my gas.”
I thought for a moment then deadpanned, “Would you like change?” Needless to say, Pete and I didn’t work out.
Joyce: I don’t suppose you’d want to share a prom picture?
Heather: Sigh. That was another sucky date, but at least my dress was pretty.
Bonus question: What is the hardest thing about writing Christian fiction?
Heather: I have this little slogan: “I believe Christian fiction should be messy and gritty because the human condition is … and God loves us anyway.” Most of my stories are not sweet, clean romances. I delve into dark issues sometimes. Drug addiction, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, but I always end with a, pardon the pun, Happy Ever After. Christians don’t live in a bubble. At least we shouldn’t. I want to show God at work in the dirt and the muck, where most of us spend way too much time. And while he loves us just the way we are, he refuses to leave us that way.
What are you working on now?
Heather: You’ll have to ask me this one for real because the answer varies.