Friday, April 15, 2011

Making Characters Real

I like to welcome Joanne Kennedy back to Over Coffee.  Joanne believes in Romancing The West. She's a bonafide denim and lace western girl who writes about hot cowboys.  Her believable stories have towns and critters, romance and love, along with danger and suspense.  She is also a RITA finalist for One Fine Cowboy

What draws us to cowboys? Maybe a touch of the rebel, for sure a bit of bad-boy, but there is also the image of tradition, respect, and moral strength. The strength to fight against the odds.  At the core, they're men and women of the land. 

They're almost larger than life, aren't they?

Still, cowboys are everyday people with quirks, foibles, good and bad. If you're writing cowboys or any character you have to make them realistic and three dimensional. After all, you are telling a story about people which your readers will love, hate, like or dislike. Give them personalities they can to relate to.

Joanne chats a bit about her characters, two and four legged, and the world they inhabit.

A compelling plot and great writing draw us into a story—but what we stay for is the characters. Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy; Jane Eyre and Rochester—what’s a romance without great lovers who come alive on the page?

Giving life to characters is the best part of writing. I love creating a small town of my own, peopled by characters who hopefully come alive for the reader. They’re certainly real to me!

I spend a lot of time in my fictional universe, and my characters become like friends—or maybe more like family, because much as I love them, they sometimes drive me crazy. Demanding, difficult, and determined—they’re just like real people!

Teague and Jodi have been with me a long time, waiting for their story to be told and gradually revealing who they are and what they want. By the time I actually sat down to write the book, they’d taken on so much personality that it was all I could do to keep them under control. It wasn’t easy to keep them out of bed, either. These two were definitely made for each other.

The best part about having a new book released is knowing that my characters are out there in the world, living in readers’ minds as well as my own. I’m thrilled when readers love them as much as I do, and reviews that praise them warm me up with the kind of pride you feel when your kid gets a straight-A report card.

And it’s not just the hero and heroine I love. Every one of my books has a whole community of characters, animal as well as human. Here’s a partial roster of the cast of Cowboy Fever:

  • Teague Treadwell is possibly my favorite cowboy hero ever. He’s a good man overcoming a rough past, working hard to turn his life around and earn a place in his community and the heart of the town’s golden girl. He’s turned his alcoholic father’s played-out ranch into a first-class roughstock operation, raising bucking horses and bulls and competing in rodeos.
  • Jodi Brand is a former Miss Rodeo America who’s been back East modeling and earning a degree in special education. She once promised to return and make her hometown a better place, and she’s keeping that promise by starting a therapy riding program for children with disabilities. She’s also coming back to see Teague, but that’s not something she’s ready to admit to herself.
  • Troy Treadwell is Teague’s older brother and Jodi’s inspiration for working with the disabled. He has Down’s Syndrome, but his disability doesn’t define him. Troy wants to live an independent, fulfilling life of his own, but it’s hard for his brother to let him go; it’s taking care of Troy that inspired Teague to turn his life around.
  • Courtney Skelton never really had a chance. The daughter of difficult but wealthy parents who bought her everything she wanted but paid little attention to her, she’s spoiled, self-involved, and accustomed to getting whatever she wants. Right now, she wants Teague—and that’s where the trouble starts.
  • Cissy is Jodi’s best friend. She married her high school sweetheart only to discover he’s abusive. Now she counts on Teague for protection—but can he keep her safe without risking a return of the rough streak that made him the town bad boy?
And then there are the animals. In my books, they’re almost as important as the people, and a big part of my hero and heroine’s lives.

  • Vegas is Teague’s old horse. He plays a part in all Teague’s best childhood memories—and Jodi’s, too. Now nearly blind, he’s ready for a new life as a therapy horse.
  • Luna, Teague’s bossy border collie has one goal: getting Teague and Jodi together.
  • Beelzebub, a.k.a. Beelzy, is a goat who’s supposed to keep Vegas company, but he spends most of his time dreaming up devilment.
  • Honeybucket, Courtney’s teacup Pomeranian is a pocket pet who wants to be a real dog.

That’s just a partial list of the dramatis personae of Cowboy Fever. There’s a small town full of people who help Teague and Jodi’s story spin out, but in the end what matters most is the love they’ve had for each other all along. It’s not easy to leave the past behind, but I think you’ll agree that these two deserve a new future—and they deserve to spend it together.

Animals play a big part in my books.

Do you have a favorite animal hero or heroine from romance? 


Miss Rodeo Wyoming Jodie Bryce is back from the big city to find that her childhood friend Teague Treadwell’s rugged cowboy charm never looked better. But Teague thinks Jodie’s success lifted her out of his reach, and now he’s got to shed his bad boy image to be worthy of the girl next door. Excerpt.

Buy:  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Indiebound  Format: paperback and e-book


After 25 years in the business of selling books, Joanne finally decided to sit down and write one. Five years and a lot of hard work later, came Cowboy Trouble.

A member of Romance Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Joanne Kennedy won first place in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest and second in the Heart of the Rockies contest in 2007. Her first novel, Cowboy Trouble, was released by Sourcebooks Casablanca in March 2010, and will be followed by One Fine Cowboy in September 2010. Two more contemporary western romances are scheduled for release in 2011. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming.



~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome back, Joanne! It's always grand to have you visit.

I'm a person who identifies strongly with animals, so yes I do include animals in my writing. They're so much a part of my life that I can imagine not including them.

Off the top of my head, I liked: Ruath, The White Dragon, Livingston, Wild Blue Under. No doubt I'll think of others before the day is over.

Judi Fennell said...

so, um... where's the comment about being a Rita finalist????


Congrats, woman!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thanks Judi! I fixed it.

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, another great interview.

Joanne, one reason I enjoy your books so much is that you do bring the characters to life. You give them traits that you can find in people you know and you find yourself wanting to visit where these characters live because it seems so real. Another great cowboy story.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

Good to meet Joanne. That is a long time to be in the business yet not write a book. Best wishes for her success!

Jo said...

I've never been one to read about cowboys, but maybe I will.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Sia, thanks so much for having me, and I love the introduction you wrote for my guest blog - thanks!
And I agree - I loved Wild Blue Under!

Joanne Kennedy said...

Judi, thank you:) I'm glad I have you looking out for me!

Joanne Kennedy said...

Mason, thank you! Sometimes I feel like I can't really take credit for the characters because they seem to come from somewhere beyond myself (hopefully that doesn't sound too crazy!). I so appreciate the nice comment, and all you and Sia do for the romance genre with your blogs.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Stephen, you're right. I don't know why I didn't start sooner! But being around books and bookstore customers all day and reading anything and everything made it easier once I took the leap.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Jo, I hope you'll give it a try.

Carolyn Brown said...

Okay, everyone get ready! I'm going to crawl up on the old oak stump out in the yard and speechify about Joanne's Cowboy Fever! It's absolutely great. It will touch all your emotions and leave you with a sigh at the end. You'll love the characters, the animals and the whole ball of wax. Just be sure to have all your chores done because when you pick up the book you won't put it down!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Joanne. I'm small potatoes as far as my small ranch goes but when you face life, death and rebirth, it changes your views of things somewhat.

Congratulations, btw, on finaling on the RITA.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey, Carolyn! Good to see another Western loving woman. Love your comments on Cowboy Fever.

Btw, Carolyn is another author who writes towns and people you'd love to visit. If you could just find them on the map.

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Wonderful interview as always! I really enjoyed it but I had to read it twice because the first time I tried I kept getting pulled away to look at Theo!!! OMG...yummy eye candy for sure! I had to take him home!

Hawk *waves at Judi!*

Joanne Kennedy said...

Hey, everybody, Carolyn Brown is about to publish her 50th book! That's why all that praise she keeps heaping on Cowboy Fever means so much to me. If you haven't tried a Carolyn Brown book yet, pick one up - I guarantee you'll laugh yourself silly and it'll touch your heart, too.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Sia, you might think you're small potatoes, but critters somehow take up whatever time and heart you've got, whether there are five of them or 50. I agree, it changes the way you see things. That's one reason I love writing about the West - there's an element of struggle in making a living from the land out here that makes everything a little more of a challenge.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Houston - a.k.a. Hawk - nice romance novel name!!!

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Well thank you's my real name...just worked out like that. LOL

BTW - I love western stories - I WILL be buying your book!

Big cyber hugs

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hawk, Theo is hot. Love those eyes, too. One of these days I'm gonna find out what the A.W. stand for. Good to see you sweetie!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I remember Joanne!

Houston A.W. Knight said...


I thought you knew...

Alexandria Winona

Wait...he has eyes? I haven't made it up that far yet. ;-)

I know...I'm bad!

xoxox darlin'

VA said...

Oh my. Cowboys are like kryptonite, I know better than to mess around with them. The strong, quiet, utterly capable types drive me insane.

I love the Rockies, visiting friends recently and went horseback riding up there--gorgeous. Did some whitewater rafting--amazing.

As far as animal characters go, I know this is really corny, but...Charlotte and Wilbur from "Charlotte's Web" rip my heart out. I still cry when Charlotte dies and Wilbur thinks he's all alone. Honestly, I'm getting misty-eyed just typing it. If we're talking non-personified animals then I gotta think some more.

Just read the excerpt and Teague is dangerous. One line and I'm sinking fast.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Hawk, does that mean I can turn you into a cowboy and use you in a book? Such a great alpha hero name!

joanne kennedy said...

Alex, we met at a conference, I think! ***waves***

Joanne Kennedy said...

VA, thanks for the title idea! "Cowboy Kryptonite" - hmmmm....
And I agree about Charlotte and Wilbur. I also really love Mole from "Wind in the Willows." Not a fan of Mr. Toad, but Mole is kind of the Bilbo Baggins of the book and I love him!
I cry reading MY OWN books, so obviously I'm a soft touch - Vegas the horse gets me every time.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Sia, I love being on your blog! Your friends are fun:)

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Well I thank you for the complement but like I told Angie Fox when she wanted to do the same thing, and in fact did turn me into a character in her book 'A Tale of Two Demon Slayers', you can use the name 'Hawk' but you can't use my legal name...Houston A.W. Knight because I'm a working author and I write under my legal name and I own it...

As I told Angie...if she used my legal name the publisher would then own that name (as a character) and that could then cause me problems when it comes to my publishing romances and other books under my legal name.

So as flattering as your offer is, I can not allow my name to be used as a character.

I hope you understand...but I've spent a lot of years building my career and making a name and reputation for myself....with my name.

I've made my name known in Literary Mags, and published articles and built my blog into a very successful promotional tool for my advancing writing career...I don't want to run into any legal problems when I go to publish in romance using my legal name. So I have to turn you down...sorry.


Joanne Kennedy said...

Sorry, Hawk - I would never really steal your identity! I just can't help seeing a name like that and thinking, "hmmmm...." But I love Angie Fox! I think I remember that character!

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Thanks for understanding and I'm with you...I love Angie too. She's such a sweet woman! I'll be having her on next weeks blog...come by and visit us!


Joanne Kennedy said...

I will, Hawk! Thanks!

Talli Roland said...

Thank you, Sia and Joanne. Sounds like a great cast of characters here!