Laura has always been a storyteller. She began on her front porch, telling ghost stories to the neighborhood kids. They ran screaming, but kept coming back for more. If she wasn’t telling a story, she had her nose in one, bumping into students in the halls on her way to classes. Her settings are Western, but Laura grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit. A tomboy, she’s always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into their Pintos and moved to California, sight unseen. There Laura met her husband, a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie, and her love affair with the West began.
She rode a hundred thousand miles on the back of her husband’s motorcycle, propping a book on his back and reading on the boring stretches. But you can’t read all day and after awhile, her brain would empty of the day-to-day thoughts and cast about for something new to think about.
Then one day, riding into the small town of Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of the bike. After a gut clenching scare, it trotted back the way it came and they rode on. But she started thinking. What if someone came along and hit the dog? And what if a girl riding a motorcycle came along . . .
You can’t outrun nightmares on a motorcycle. Samantha Crozier knows, because she’s tried. Following the death of her father, Sam, an itinerant building contractor, sold everything and hit the road on her motorcycle, ‘flipping’ houses on her way across the country. One rainy day on the coast of California, she runs out of road – and luck.
When an accident leaves her afoot in Widow’s Grove, the nightmares catch up. But can a derelict Victorian house, a stray dog, and a small town mechanic convince her to stay long enough to face them?
I hosted Laura on the blog earlier in the summer to celebrate the release of THE SWEET SPOT, the first novel in Laura’s Sweet on a Cowboy series. It’s wonderful to have her back today to talk about the debut Widow’s Grove novel, HER ROAD HOME. And so, with no further delay, on with the questions!
I know from our previous visits that you grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and that you’re a big fan of motorcycles and rodeos. Could you tell us how a city girl fell in love with the rodeo?
I married a Texan! On an annual pilgrimage to Texas, he took me to a rodeo, and I feel in love. I liked the bull riding best. There’s just something about the courage of a guy who has the guts to strap one hand to a one ton animal who wants to stomp him. Oddly enough, it reminds me of a violent ballet – the riders have more in common with gymnasts than weight lifters. After all, there’s no way a man is going to overpower a bull, no matter how strong he is.
And also…when did you start riding motorcycles, and do you have a favorite one (a specific motorcycle or a type) that you love to ride?
Again, the Texan. He’s ridden since he was 16, when he borrowed money from his sister and snuck off to rent a motorcycle (his mother would have killed him if she’d known.)
He wasn’t over his divorce, and spent our whole first date talking about it (yawn.) The only reason I agreed to a second date was because he offered me a ride on his motorcycle!
I rode 100k miles behind him before I learned to ride my own. Now I have 100k miles on my two; a BMW R100M named Elvis, and a R1100 named Sting.
Since we ride long distances, we need dependable bikes, so we ride Beemers!
I actually wrote them as Women’s Fiction! My agent, Nalini Akolekar with Spencerhill Assoc., thought they were WF too. The editors we submitted to were split, 50/50. They sold to Grand Central, who saw them as romances. It took some editing to bump them into line, but not as much as I’d feared.
Samantha Crozier, the heroine of HER ROAD HOME, is a builder by profession and a motorcycle rider by avocation. How did you create such an unusual romantic heroine?
Um, because I’m odd? Ha! I’m not sure. Who knows where these ideas come from? Surely not a pantser like me! Of course the motorcycle chick wasn’t a stretch for me, but building? I know exactly zero about that!
Do you have a favorite movie? What is it, and why?
Okay, you’re pushing all my ‘odd’ buttons today. Or maybe I just have more of them than most? I’m probably not qualified to answer this, because I don’t watch TV (except bull riding and an occasional football game,) and the last movie I saw at the theatre was probably Jurassic Park. Oh no, wait! I saw Hunger Games.
But I’d probably have to say, Pretty Woman. It wasn’t very realistic, but I got caught up in the wonderful romance, and was able to suspend disbelief. The heroine was like mine tend to be – complex, with lots of baggage.
What did you find most challenging about writing HER ROAD HOME?
Oh jeez, everything! This was the first book I ever wrote, begun probably 18 years ago. I knew no craft, nothing about genre, or just about anything else. All I had was a feel for storytelling forged by being an avid reader, and idea that wouldn’t let me alone. That’s probably why it took me 4,758 separate edits to get it right!
Nick, the hero, went from a redheaded vet to a mechanic that looks like a young Bruce Springsteen. Sam, the heroine, went from a pudgy brunette to a leggy blonde. The dog went from a husky mix to a bulldog that drools like a waterfall and farts like cannon-fire.
And it is now more what I meant to say than any other iteration, thanks to my amazing editor, Wanda Ottewell.
If you couldn’t pick motorcycle riding or rodeo, and money was no object, how would you choose to spend a week’s vacation?
I have on my bucket list to take a paddlewheel cruise down the Mississippi. It starts in Memphis, and I want to fly in early and see Graceland. Then I want to read some great Southern Fiction as we roll down to the gulf; Savannah, Naches, New Orleans…
Doesn’t that sound like heaven?
Do you have a favorite scene in HER ROAD HOME? If so, what makes it stand out for you?
Oh yes, the night that Nick invites Samantha over to cook for her. It’s very romantic (he’s Italian, and cooks like a dream!) But the evening takes a dark turn, and Sam’s secrets are revealed – not willingly, and not easily. I slaved over that scene for weeks. I’m very proud of it!
And now, the speed round:
Beef, chicken, or fish?
Chicken! Unless it’s deep fried perch…yum!
Tattoos or hair dye?
Neither, I’m an old lady! I don’t even cover the gray!
Beer, lemonade, or scotch?
Iced tea. I killed way too many brain cells in the 80’s. You never know when that brain cell you kill next will be the lynchpin, and everything will unravel! I need every one of the few I have left.
For breakfast: eggs, waffles, or oatmeal?
Oatmeal. But I covet any kind of donut – especially bear claws.
Thank you, Laura, for joining me today! It’s always a pleasure having you here, and I wish you the best of luck with HER ROAD HOME (as well as THE SWEET SPOT!)