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This week we welcome guest blogger Nancy Herkness! A multi-published author from New Jersey who grew up in West Virginia, Nancy has a new release hot off the press–“Take Me Home.” I personally can’t wait to read this book since I’ve read all her others and really loved them. Reading, Writing and Ruminations sat down with Nancy and asked her some questions. If you have others, let us know and she’ll answer them!
What kind of romances do you write?
I write mostly contemporary romances with one foray into romantic suspense (Music of the Night). My first three books were set in the New York metro area, but I’ve gone back to my roots in the mountains of West Virginia with my new series. (I love saying “series” since Montlake Romance bought all three of my “whisper horse” novels. It’s my first series ever!)
Do you plot out your novel or write by the seat of your pants?
How I wish I plotted out my novel! But no, I have to noodle around, go off in wrong directions, change characters’ motivations mid-book, etc. I tried very hard to plot a book once but it killed all the joy for me and I never got past the fifth chapter. It has to be a voyage of discovery or I get bored.
So I start with the two main characters, often developing the hero first for some reason. I build in at least one conflict as I flesh out those characters and add other obstacles as I write. Generally, I have an ending in mind and I write toward that.
What I love about my method are the moments of revelation. In my current WIP (nearly finished now), my heroine has led a very sheltered life before she arrives in Sanctuary, WV. I had some superficial reasons why but I was missing something profound. One day I was working on chapter seven or thereabouts when it just burst into my brain. I jumped out of my chair, leapt around my office a few times, crowing at my cleverness, then sat down to rework the prior six chapters to include it.


You have a done a lot of research for your novels—for example, researching meteorites for “Shower of Stars.” Do you do research before writing or while writing or both? Do you enjoy this aspect of the writing process?
Doesn’t every writer love to do research? It’s the best kind of procrastination because you can justify the time you spend on it by saying it’s necessary for the book. I’ve done such fun things in the name of adding authenticity to my books: walking the George Washington Bridge, spending two days in the Smithsonian’s meteorite exhibit, sitting on stage for a rehearsal at Carnegie Hall.
My West Virginia series is a different kind of research: I’m mining my memories of my childhood in the mountains—and layering in a few new additions, of course.
I also do research on the fly when I’m writing. When I decide to introduce a new element into my story, I instantly check it for accuracy before I get too far down the road in the plot. Google is my friend.
Tell us a little bit about your new series—how you got the idea, what you’re most excited about, and your plans for the series!
Oh, thank you for bringing up that word again…and I didn’t even have to pay you! My new series is set in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia where I grew up. The town of Sanctuary is fictional but it strongly resembles my real hometown of Lewisburg.
In addition, I came up with the concept of a whisper horse. A whisper horse is the special creature you can tell all your troubles to so you don’t have to carry the burden alone. You can’t talk to just any horse; there’s one meant for you. A character in each of the books finds her/his whisper horse in Sanctuary at Healing Springs Stables.
The idea came from my real pony Papoose who was my constant companion all through my younger years. When I was upset or angsty, I would pour my problems into his ears. If you know horses, you’ll know their ears are very eloquent, so I felt I had a sympathetic listener.
Right now the series is three books long: Take Me Home (Nov. 2012), Country Roads (nearly finished), and The Place I Belong (merely a germ of an idea). I hope it will continue on past those three, although I’ve nearly run out of John Denver lyrics for my titles.
I’m having a blast revisiting characters from the first book in the second book. As I reader, I’ve always enjoyed that, but I’m finding it even more exciting as a writer. I was delighted when one of my critique partners read a scene from Country Roads in which the lead characters from Take Me Home appeared and commented, “It is so great to see Claire and Tim again! Now I understand why readers get hooked on a series.” Music to my ears!
THANK YOU Nancy!

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