Today, I’m happy to profile romance writer Elizabeth McKenna. McKenna is a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company who never read romance novels until she received a Nora Roberts bestseller from her sister one Christmas. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits, she was hooked from the first love scene).
McKenna always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, she felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her first novel Cera’s Place. She recently released a short story titled The Gypsy Casts a Spell.
McKenna lives in Wisconsin (Packers, Brewers, and Badgers – oh my!) with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.
Q: Why did you pick historical romance as your genre? Do you consider yourself a romantic person or does this complement your nature?
A: I picked historical romance for several reasons. I love to research and was even studying for a Masters in Library Science before my babies got in the way. I fell in love with romance novels because of the required happy ending. In my twenties and thirties, I read “serious” novels full of angst and unhappy endings. When I hit my forties, I decided enough already. If I was going to invest the time in a book, everyone had better be happy in the end. So, when I decided to write a novel, historical romance made sense. I don’t consider myself overly romantic. In fact, when one of my friends read Cera’s Place, she said, “How did this come out of you?”
Q: Can you talk about how you came up with the idea for Cera’s Place?
A: When I starting writing Cera’s Place, I read about the history of California and picked San Francisco because of the turmoil going on there – things were ruthless as the city grew. I wanted my heroine to be strong. There weren’t many jobs for women, but I read about a few saloon owners and how tough the women had to be to survive, so Cera became a saloon owner. I wanted my hero to be a rugged cowboy somewhere in the West but in the end, he became a soldier to honor the service people who find it hard to go back to a normal life after serving in a war.
A: I wrote it on and off for about 4 years. Some of that time was spent waiting for rejection letters from various agents/publishers. I also had it critiqued and edited by numerous writers. Probably the biggest challenge was deciding what to change based on the edits. Despite all of the rules, writing is a subjective business. What I love, you might hate. Which one of us is wrong? Neither. We’re both right.
Q: Who do you see reading your books? Do you have an intended audience, a so-called “perfect” reader?
A: Originally, I imagined a middle-aged woman in the US, but most of my fans on Facebook are teenager girls from Mexico and India. It kind of threw me for a loop…
Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer and, if so, when did this knowledge hit?
A: My life growing up wasn’t always easy. My tag line became “This is going to make a good book some day.” I guess I always wanted to be a writer.
Q: What do you normally read? What are you reading now? What have you read that you’ll never forget?
A: I normally read romance or young adult. I often like to read what my teenage girls are reading so that we can discuss the novels. The last book I read was Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. (I don’t read a lot when I’m writing and I’m trying to finish my current WIP.) Though I can’t count on my memory, I hope never to forget Romeo and Juliet. Every time I read it, I think “this time they will live.” But they don’t.
Q: What’s up next in your writing life?
A: I’m working on another historical romance, Venice in the Moonlight, set in 1753 during Casanova’s time. It is a story of vengeance, forgiveness, and love and should be available later this year. Here is the description: After her husband’s death, Marietta Gatti is banished from the family’s villa by her spiteful mother-in-law. With nowhere to go, she returns to Venice and her only kin – a father she hasn’t spoken to since her forced marriage.
Hoping to make amends, she is devastated to find he has died two months earlier. When his lover insists it was under suspicious circumstances, Marietta retraces her father’s last days only to learn someone may have wanted him dead.
When the prime suspect is the father of the man she is falling in love with, Marietta faces a heart-breaking decision. Should she risk her future happiness to avenge the death of a man she has despised for the past five years?
Cera’s Place Summary
In 1869, San Francisco saloon owner Cera Cassidy offers redemption to any woman looking for honest work. At Cera’s Place, men can get a decent hot meal with a whiskey, but if they want anything more, they have to take their desires elsewhere. One summer night, a distraught Chinese girl bursts through the swinging doors with a shocking tale of murder, kidnapping, and prostitution. Outraged, Cera vows to set things right.
Jake Tanner, a scarred ex-soldier haunted by the horrors of the Civil War, is on a mission to fulfill a friend’s dying wish. The trail has brought him to Cera’s door. Captivated by her Irish beauty, he wants to join her fight – but will she let him?
McKenna’s debut novel is a fast-paced adventure filled with memorable characters that will leave you wanting more. Get lost in a time gone by and fall in love today.
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