Today I am so excited to have author ANDREA DOWNING visiting me. She’s here to promote her newest release DANCES OF THE HEART! I grew up in the Texas Hill Country which is one of the settings, and already loved her previous release, Dearest Darling, so I’m looking forward to this book. Please help make Andrea feel welcome!!
Wow, Abigail—Thanks so much for taking the time and trouble to interview me here today. I know it’s difficult for all of us to do this sort of thing, so let’s not waste any more time!
I love the double romance story lines of mother/father and daughter/son from two different families. Was it fun to write that dynamic? Anything surprise you?
It definitely wasn’t my idea of fun—in fact, what surprised me was how difficult it was to keep four main characters going. In the end, I had to let the offspring recede a bit, although one of them is definitely the pivotal character of the plot—difficult to explain without giving too much away. But to keep the interactions between 2 sets of lovers as well between 2 very different families/parents and their offspring was quite a task. I hope some readers may let me know if I succeeded.
I saw on your website how traveled you are (so jealous!). Did you travel to all of the many locations in Dances of the Heart? What’s your favorite of the locations in the book?
The only traveling I actually had to do was to Hill Country, Texas, where I’d never been. I feel strongly you have to have been in a place to describe it correctly. I live between East Hampton and New York so those locales weren’t a problem, and my daughter actually attended University of Pennsylvania in Philly, so that was another one under my belt. The only places I didn’t go to were the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass, Texas, on the other side. I want realism but I don’t want to die obtaining it! It’s a bit dicey down there at the moment and, anyway, many years ago, while it was still safe, I’d been to Tijuana and Juarez, so those had to suffice, along with my imagination, for the descriptions of the border. Of all those places above, Hill Country is the most fun, and I’m looking forward to going back sometime.
It sounds like the military aspect will be more prevalent in this book. Have you always wanted to include military elements in your writing? Why is it key in this book?
Oooh, this is difficult to answer without giving away too much again. I can’t say I’ve always wanted to include military elements; I’m a big fan of our warriors but I don’t think I really know enough to write about them at length. That said, it’s not too difficult to imagine the hardships they face emotionally when they return home and reintegrate into family life. In Dances of the Heart, this is a key element, but what is even more important, as far as the book is concerned, is how the slightly wild, small town boy can put all that pent up energy to something good in the wider context of the theatre of war.
What genre would you like to write that you haven’t tried yet?
I’d love to write a long family saga. Unfortunately, nowadays, the publishers find it easier to sell such things as a series of books and I’m not sure I like that idea.
What’s your favorite part about being an author?
Meeting fellow authors! I’ve met an absolutely wonderful bunch of people both in person and via email through both my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, and organizations such as Women Writing the West. My daughter and I are doing a cross-country road trip this summer, planned and saved for, for many years, and I’m hoping to meet a few more fellow authors in person.
What’s your least favorite part about being an author?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PROMOTION. Hate it, hate it, hate it!
If you could travel to another time, which would you choose? And why?
I love the idea of the Belle Epoque/ The Gilded Age—all that glamour and invention, new ideas in technology and design, the blossoming of America as a world power, and the West just losing enough of its ‘wildness’ without losing its wilderness.
What line or book do you wish you wrote?
All of John Koenig’s The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
You wouldn’t be caught dead where?
On a large cruise ship. I’ve done small ship sailing, like 100 or so passengers, up the inland waterway to Alaska and around the Galapagos Islands—my daughter’s graduation present after college, but the thought of being stuck on a large cruise ship with thousands of people makes my skin crawl.
The photo below of you is interesting. What’s the story behind that?
That was actually taken on my research trip to Hill Country, Texas; it was taken in Fredericksburg. I had it as my main photo on my website for quite a while but then began to think that perhaps having so-called ‘designer’ sunglasses on with the Stetson wasn’t quite the look I wanted representing me! Not quite ‘cowboy’ enough…
Now for the speed round (ala Actor’s Studio). One word answers:
- What turns you on? Beautiful hands and a great sense of humor (whoops, sorry….)
- What turns you off? Arrogance
- What is your favorite word? Mama!
- What is your least favorite word? Fart (it’s really a harsh word, that!)
- What sound or noise do you love? My daughter’s voice
- What sound or noise do you hate? Loud television
- What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Rancher
- What profession other than yours would you NOT like to attempt? Trapeze artist
- What is your favorite swear word? F#@$-it
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter the Pearly Gates? “Turn around and start again.”
DANCES OF THE HEART
by Andrea Downing
Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.
“DANCES OF THE HEART by Andrea Downing is a fabulous Texan romance with plenty of action to keep you entertained.” Linda Green, Fresh Fiction
“You know how to Texas Two-Step?” he asked.
“No,” she said, laughter just below the surface.
“Well, sweetheart, you have come to the right place. Or at least got yourself the right man. By the time I finish with you, you’ll be the best dang stepper on the floor.”
Carrie looked around. “There isn’t anyone else on the floor at the moment, Ray.”
“Well, heck, I know that. That’s perfect for learning.”
As soon as his hand closed around hers, the leather of his palm a strange glove over her own fingers, a sudden frisson of connection ran through her she hadn’t known in a very long while. He moved her to face him squarely on, a small smile tipping the edges of his mouth, the dark, impenetrable eyes shining with his captured prize.
“Just follow me,” he said as his right hand went to her back. A cover of a Vince Gill ballad started, the mournful tune setting a moderate tempo. “Perfect.” He held her right hand high and applied slight pressure to move her backwards. “Fast fast slow slow, fast fast slow slow.”
Carrie felt a light bulb go on. She got it. It was good. It was fun. And she relaxed in his embrace. He was an excellent teacher, a fabulous leader on the dance floor. Would wonders never cease?
“You’re doing well. You’re doing fine,” he assured her. “We’re gonna try a little promenade now, and then a twirl, so get ready.”
Carrie couldn’t stop herself from smiling, anticipation bubbling for just a second. And then out of the corner of her eye she caught Ty watching them, beer half-raised in salute and a smirk plastered on his face. A moment’s hesitation and she missed the step.
“What happened there?” asked Ray, oblivious to the effect the on-looker had on her.
Other couples were finally joining them on the dance floor, but despite the company, Carrie’s discomfort increased. “That boy, that Ty,” she told him. “He was watching us. It made me feel…uneasy.”
Ray scanned the sidelines, but Ty had gone, nowhere to be seen. “Oh, don’t pay him any mind. He’s harmless enough.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK. She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit. Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC. She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 20 ranches throughout the west. Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards and placed in the 2014 International Digital Awards Historical Short contest. Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and came out Oct. 8th, 2014, and Dances of the Heart, her first contemporary novel, came out in February, 2015.