Friday, May 22, 2009

Interview with Kate Welsh

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Kate Welsh. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a recent release out called Questions of Honor. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Joshua Wheaton returns to Wheatonburg, Pennsylvania to run his family’s coal mines. Violence surrounding mining has increased and has resulted in Josh’s father being crippled. The night Josh arrives he overhears information. His closest childhood friend is going to be framed for murder by his father and his father’s friend. The man is also the guardian of Helena Conwell, a young woman who is also a guest in his father’s house. The only way Joshua can keep an eye on her guardian and his meetings on the subject is to agree with Helena to a pretend engagement for three months until she reaches her majority. As far as he knows Abby Kane married his enemy years, earlier a few short months after he left town, so having a pretty young woman on his arm in those first few weeks home sounds like a plus. Then he learns the truth about Abby’s marriage and that her son is his. Now Josh’s hands are tied because his friend is Brendan Kane, Abby’s brother. Josh must keep silent, trying to protect everyone involved until it is safe to make a move to correct the past.

Questions of Honor is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

Actually a friend, author Gail Link, is a title genie. I told her the story and she—as she often has when I’m title stumped—said, “Well the title has to be…” Since this book is about honor. His and hers. She suggested Questions of Honor. Of course she was right. It is about two honorable people whose honor has been called to question. She, because it was common knowledge that her son was not her dead husband’s, and his, because he left town after dishonoring Abby.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I love writing historical romance because I love history. I love research and the way I can weave actual happenings into my books. All of my published work until Questions of Honor is contemporary but my first publishing credit was an unpublished award given by Romance Writers of America called the Golden Heart and it was for a historical.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

The story was actually inspired by an old family tale. As a young boy, my father often had to visit his grandfather. His grandfather was a mine owner and owned a town in Pennsylvania coal country. My father was a gentle spirited man who never wasted time on hate. He hated what he saw as the inequality afforded the locals and he wasn’t too crazy about his grandfather, seeing him as the cause of their misery.

I got to thinking what it would be like if he’d been the man’s son. I wanted to write a book where a father had wronged his hero son--Joshua. Keeping him from his child was about the greatest offense I could come think of. So I added a secret baby into the mix, his father having made sure Joshua never learned that he’d left a child behind. In researching the time period I envisioned for the book, I found information on the Pinkerton Agency and what role they’d played in keeping miners in their pigeon-hole of poverty.

I thought the late 1800’s was the age where lack of available communication networks made this work but I didn’t want my characters facing Civil War so I went with 1875 when there was a good deal of unrest in the area. I also wanted a reason for the heroine not to fall gratefully into the hero’s arms when the truth came out. That is where Abby’s dream of going west came in. There her son would be able to escape the shame of his birth and she would be just another widow. She and her brothers have almost paid off their debt to the company store–a nearly impossible task—and are saving to leave by spring.

What are your favorite historical research books and why?

Time Lines of History, by Grun. It helps pinpoint just the right time and often place to set a story. After that I go digging on the internet and at our local library. I also use The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800’s by McCutcheon. I take nothing for granted. Not food. Not money.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I, of course, loved my hero and heroine but my most favorite was actually Abby’s brother, Brendan, the man Josh is trying to save. He is in love with Helena Conwell, the young woman Josh is pretending to be engaged to. Brendan gave her up because he feels he will never be able to give her the life she is accustomed to. That man opened his mouth and out spilled this incredible personality. Irish accent and all, he just was. And he was a scene stealer. His book and Helena’s will be the third in what I hope to make a series for Harlequin Historical. Their wedding scene in Questions of Honor was one of my favorites.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

I try to always place my characters in history when writing historical romance. I try to make them a product of their times then give them forward thinking values so they will resonate with twenty-first century readers. I honestly don’t know in what order I do things. The story and characters often come to me at the same time. Sometimes I have characters in mind then they do something unexpected because they’ve somehow come alive in my mind. I will always change the plot to reflect that ‘real’ person who has emerged. As for character sheets, I don’t do a lot of analysis but when I create a character I have forms I fill out on them even if I don’t describe them or use all the info at the time I name them. I write in their name, hair color and style, eye color, height, body type, age, occupation, and relationship to the hero or heroine. This way if I draw a blank on what I said about them or if I’m not sure I’ve ever even described them, I have it written down and don’t end up searching for that previous mention within the already written pages. It’s a time saving, continuity factor I feel is necessary to have at my fingertips.

What are some common speech terms, dress modes, transportation or housing facts that you found interesting for your time period?

Trains were now transcontinental; as was the telegraph. The west was opening up and more easily reached. Wanamaker’s department store was set to open. The centennial exposition was open in Philadelphia. Possession houses, which were the dwellings where the miners and their families lived, were not hospitable and cost too much to rent. Miners had to buy all supplies they used in the mines at company stores. Everything in the store cost thirty percent more than if they took a train ride to Philadelphia to shop but that was impossible because they were paid in script that only the company store would accept. GTT--Gone To Texas--was often scrawled on the doors or on wood planks nailed to trees in front of the homes of folks when they left their old lives behind and went pioneering. Dimity and calico were materials used by poor women for dresses. Quilts were often fashioned of old clothing or flour sacks.

I learned a lot of mining terms and a lot about the dangers miners faced. I also discovered chilling facts about child labor in the mines but couldn’t include it all without making the book depressing. I did include a bit which served to advance the story.

Do you have any authors who inspired you?

Linda Lael Miller, Nora Roberts, Mary Balough, Martha Schroeder

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

I am terrible at new promotional avenues. In the last few years, when all this technology was developing, I was inundated with the problem of taking care of my parents in their advancing years. Writing the best books I could became my best promotion. I have continued to speak at a romance readers group called Treasured Hearts. They meet at a Barnes and Noble in Delaware. I have also done other book signings when I could. I’ve managed to attend New Jersey Romance Writers conference most years and always do their literacy signing. I also continue to be involved on some level with my local RWA chapter—Valley Forge Romance Writers.

What do we have to look forward to next?

In the writing of Questions of Honor, I created a character who seemed to be a villain. He was working undercover among the miners for the Pinkertons. He thinks he is in love with Helena Conwell. Another character was Amber Dodd, who was Abby’s friend and close in general looks to Helena. Amber planned to travel to California to be a governess. Wearing Helena Conwell’s clothes, she agreed to travel at the same time as Helena but to New York where she would take a clipper to San Francisco. She hoped to lead Helena’s guardian a merry chase. Instead Jamie, the undercover Pinkerton, feels obligated to see to Helena’s safety as he’s come to mistrust her guardian. He winds up on the clipper with the wrong woman. Fireworks ensue!

And for anyone who reads Questions of Honor, they will know that Brendan and Helena’s book, which I hope will follow Amber and Jamie’s, should have more than it’s share of fire works, too. Just picture a prideful reluctant bridegroom and a slightly spoiled woman with enough money to make all his dreams come true. And she’s determined to do just that and have the man she loves. He’s the first desire every denied her.

Amber and Jamie’s book has sparked another hero in my mind. Jamie’s cousin Alexander Reynolds has a dark haunted past and enough regrets to drive him across the world in search of redemption. Now to think up a woman just right for him…..


To celebrate her book release, Kate is offering a free book of Questions of Honor to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Bio: A best selling author, Kate Welsh has penned 20 published novels for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, Love inspired Suspense and Silhouette Special Edition. Her 21st is for Harlequin Historical. She is a double RWA Golden Heart winner and has been a Rita nominee. The Faith Hope and Love RWA Chapter awarded their prestigious Inspiration Readers Choice Award in 2003 to Kate’s Love Inspired, Mountain Laurel. In both 2004 and 2005, 2008 she was nominated for Favorite Love Inspired of the Year by the Romantic Times Reviewers. Kate’s First two Special Editions were Waldonbooks Best Sellers. Her 06 and 07 SSE’s spent multiple weeks in the top 100 on Book Scan.

As a child, Kate often lost herself in creating make believe worlds and happily-ever-after tales. Many years later she turned back to creating happy endings when her husband challenged her to write down the stories in her head. A lover of all things romantic, Kate has been writing romance for over twenty years now. Her first published novels hit the stands in 1998.

Kate was Valley Forge Romance Writers’ first president and currently holds the office of vice-president. She lives her own happily-ever-after in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband of over 30 years, her daughter, their one hundred bound Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Ecko and Kali, the family cat. Kali didn't want a playmate when the puppy moved in nine years ago and she’s still trying to coax him into moving out which makes for a happening household and great fodder for humor in her books.

Kate loves hearing from readers who can reach her on the internet at

Love Inspired/Steeple Hill
For the Sake of Her Child
Never Lie to an Angel
A Family for Christmas
Small-Town Dreams
Their Forever Love
The Girl Next Door
Silver Lining
Mountain Laurel
Her Perfect Match
A Love Beyond
Abiding Love
Autumn Promises
Joy in His Heart
Home to Safe Harbor
Redeeming Travis
A Time for Grace

Silhouette Special Edition
Substitute Daddy
The Doctor’s Secret Child
A Bargain Called Marriage
For Jessie’s Sake

Harlequin Historicals
Questions of Honor


Elizabeth Kelley said...

I loved hearing about your book and your characters. Historical novels are my favorite reads and I can't wait to read yours. Others have said it is wonderful. Nice blog!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading QUESTIONS OF HONOR-the story is appealing and I love the way you developed from your own personal (or should I say your father's) history. Thanks for sharing so much valuable information to writers and as always, thanks for sharing your gifted writing too.
Ruth Zavitsanos

Robin Kaye said...

Hi Kate~

Great interview. I can't wait to read Questions of Honor, it sounds amazing.

Carolyn Matkowsky said...


I love QUESTIONS OF HONOR, as you know. And I feel privileged to be one of your critique partners and to have read Amber and Jamie's story, VOYAGE TO LOVE, as it evolved. Great interview. I found the information on the history of the mines fascinating.

Kim Watters said...

Good Morning Kate. Thanks for joining us today. i know you're under deadline, but if you have a chance, what is the biggest challenge you've found in switching from writing contemporary to historical books and back again?

Judi Fennell said...

I love research too - sometimes it's hard not to get too lost in it! Congrats, Kate!

Lyn Cote said...

Hi Kate!

Sounds like a great story! (But don't enter me in the drawing. I want it to go to a reader, not an author.)

Hope you get to write the final in the series.

Carla said...

Congrats on the blog! We'll get you computerized yet! QoH sounds like another fantastic Kate Welsh book! We're so proud of you!

Laura said...

Hi, Kate!

Congrats on your first blog appearance! Great post. The historical details are fascinating. Can't wait to read QUESTIONS OF HONOR!


Kim said...

Great interview. I enjoyed getting to know more about you and Questions of Honor.

LuAnn said...

Super interview!
I loved hearing about the books you use for research. I also love history and plan to check them out.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Kate, I've been a fan since I read your first LI book and found a spark lacking in many other inspy books. I've followed you through the SSE's as you became an auto-buy for me. And to think you're writing historicals is almost too good to be true because those are my two genres - contemp and historical. Something big will have to happen to improve upon my day, now. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks to everyone who responded and for all the compliments and good wishes.

As to your question Kim, I find figures of speech the most difficult. They become so much a part of the language that sometimes making dialogue, especially if it's a character who is supposed to be someone from a lower strata of society. Recently the elderly Irish nanny in my work in progress says, "they're as alike two peas in a pod." It took me half an hour to track that darn saying down. Others are inventions that have been around for a long time. Some are not so new and not including them wouldn't be accurate. For instance cable cars were up and running in San Francisco by 1876, the time period and final setting for this work in progress.

Kate said...

I was the anonymous poster just now. Can you tell I'm new at this??

Kate Welsh

Katherine Welsh said...

Hi Kate! I started reading your books because my name is also Kate Welsh. I'm looking forward to your historical. My question: what differences do you find in writing for the Christian romance lines vs. the general lines?

Valerie Hansen said...

Hi, Kate!

I think I actually belong in the era you wrote about because I love steam trains and hate computers!

Looking forward to reading your newest books, as always.

And don't enter me in the contest because I'll be delighted to buy all your books.

Valerie Hansen

Adele Dubois said...

Sounds like a wonderful story. Good title too (your title genie did an excellent job)! Best of luck with your new release.

Best--Adele Dubois

Kate Welsh said...

Anita Mae,
Wow, thanks for the compliment. It was a difficult decision to branch out from LI but there were stories in my head just not right for the inspirational market.

Questions of Honor was one of those. Since I find the secondary characters I create compelling, they usually spark ideas for their own stories. My work in progress is the result of exactly that.

I cannot thank Linda, my editor in London enough for believing in this book. And I also have to thank my old editor Patience Smith who had faith that I would sell this book. It just took a while.

It will be a surprise to anyone looking for a sequel to Questions of Honor when this work in progress comes out. It's not the second book you'd think would show up. But you won't be disappointed.


Kate Welsh said...

So there's yet another one of us. The funny thing is I was always Kathy growing up until I started writing. I had teenagers. They aren't good with messages as you probably know. So I started using Kate--the nickname I'd always wanted. That way if a "Kate" call came in, they knew that was a message they'd better not forget. Editors call not write to buy your book, after all. I bet you're wondering wondering why I couldn't be Kate growing up. My maiden name was Smith. As I often say, you just don't hand kids that kind of ammunition.

As for the difference between inspirational and secular romance, there is a third plot to weave through an inspirational. That plot is the spiritual journey of one or both main characters. Of course if it's a inspirational with suspense, which I've also written a few times for LI, then there's a romance plot, a suspense plot, and a spiritual journey.

Of course, another difference are love scenes. I try to see that my characters are married before that happens. I always focus on the emotional connection the physical intimacy brings to the love story. My last SSE--For Jessie's Sake--just wouldn't cooperate as far as the marriage aspect and the timing within the plot. I wasn't happy about it but a contract is a contract. And I felt I owed it to my editors and my readers to deliver the best book I could. I don't think limiting myself to married love scenes limits my writing. I see it as a challenge to get those two to the altar before the bed. And actually about the most dangerous thing I can give myself is a challenge. I usually deliver no matter how crazy I make myself.

There are also stories that just won't work with the inspirational market so I sell those in the secular markets. My SSE Hopewell Winery series was one of those because of the business the three women were involved in.

Hope that answers your question.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Kate, thank you so much for your explanation. I'd wondered.

You said, There are also stories that just won't work with the inspirational market so I sell those in the secular markets.That's why I also write for the secular market, too, although a lot of people don't understand that. Actually, my inspy stories sometimes final in the regular contemporary category of contests whereas the Christian judges score the same wips much lower because the characters are too 'human' and 'people don't need that'. sigh

It's hard to find that right fit between the Harlequn judge who says too sensual and the one who says not enough sizzle, you know?

But, I'll keep praying for His timing. Anyway, I'm rambling. Thank you so much again. It really helps.

Kate Welsh said...

Anita Mae,

Now is actually a good time to sell to LI from what I've heard. They're going to 6 books a month and so are needing to expand their author base. They've asked for more romance in their books and frown on darker themes.

I do understand what you mean about rejections based on 'values' some see as wrong for the inspirational market. Christians face the same problems as the rest of humanity. Christians are tempted. Christians can let pride get in the way of a relationship. Christians suffer embarrassment and so do lie to hide facts from others. Wrong but no one said we were perfect just our savior. I know some of these are no no's at LI. They didn't used to be but times change. From what I've seen, CBA publishers are a bit more receptive to darker or more controversial topics so you might find your market there.

My best advice for selling to any particular publisher is to read their guidelines and several of their books by new authors. The reason I say to look for new authors is--let's face it--an editor is more likely to take a chance on a book outside her comfort zone by an established author. You don't want to step so far outside that comfort zone while establishing yourself because they aren't likely to take a chance on what they perceive as a chancy book by a new author.

I've heard "write the book of your heart" for years. Here's my take on that. See what's selling. Write a book you can invest your heart in that has a prayer of selling. Then write it--from the heart and make it your best effort. You can't fake fiction. Each one of us who write it are in those books in one way or another.

Best of Luck with your career

Estella said...

Nice post!
Questions of Honor sounds like a great read.
I enjoy getting to know a bit about an author.

Caroline said...

QUESTIONS OF HONOR sounds like an interesting story. And very special that it was inspired by something in your family. Very cool.

I also use The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life! I love it.

Thanks for the great interview.