Joining us from Colorado is author Leslee Breene and her book Starlight Rescue. I automatically want to know what it's about because of the beautiful horse and setting on the front cover. So why don't we let her tell us more about her books and the inspiration behind Starlight Rescue. Welcome Leslee!
What can you tell us about yourself?
First of all, thank you so much for hosting me today, MK. Well, I always loved western history and I also loved romance… The historical genre seemed the logical place to be for some years while I was learning the craft. I’m a Denver native, so that played a part in the setting of my first book, FOXFIRE. Now I’m changing horses, so to speak, and venturing into contemporary western settings.
Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
Short stories by the early greats—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Somerset Maugham—were magnets for me. I ventured into writing short stores at the beginning and have had some luck with them. The short story format is a great guide for a writer. Every sentence counts. White River Phoenix was a finalist in the 2011 Women Writing the West LAURA Competition and may be found in the LAURA Journal at www.womenwritingthewest.org.
When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?
I had completed three novels, won awards, and was tired of “waiting for the call.” So, I made the call. Ah, holding that first published book was sweet! FOXFIRE, 2001(www.authorhouse.com). The Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek, Co., carried my book, but wouldn’t allow a book signing as it was “self-published.” Admittedly self or subsidy publishing was verboten at that time. Now, quite a few published authors are taking that route. I’m proud of the leap of faith I had to take to put the book out there. FOXFIRE was a national RWA chapter award finalist before it was published. It is still available through my website: www.lesleebreene.com. I’m sure my husband bought me roses on that occasion.
If you had to sum up STARLIGHT RESCUE in 30 or less words, what would you say?
A Wyoming veterinarian fights to keep her rescue ranch. A footloose filmmaker offers her an opportunity. But, can she trust him with her animals…and her heart?
What inspired the idea behind your book?
So many animals are abandoned and/or abused these days. PBS airs some amazing documentaries on the plight of wild horses. A story idea of how one young woman might make a home for abandoned horses, and other animals, intrigued me greatly.
Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Kimberly is going to get through her biggest challenge.
Kimberly Dorn, the heroine of STARLIGHT RESCUE, is a recent grad of vet school, and has inherited a Wyoming ranch due to her mother’s sudden death. The ranch is in debt, but Kimberly is a determined spirit. She carries guilt from a childhood accident that rescuing animals seems to ease. She has watched her dad succumb to alcoholism which has only made her spine stiffer and her goals more worthy.
What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
The message of sparking an interest in adopting abandoned animals. The Denver Dumb Friends League takes in thousands of horses, dogs and cats annually, many of them not spayed or neutered. The loving example this shelter and others make in adopting out four-legged critters is awesome!
What is your favorite scene in Starlight Rescue?
The birth of a baby llama, called a “cria” in technical llama terms. It comes quickly and at the wrong time, at night. I give credit to Jerry Dunn, Colorado llama expert, for her gift of sharing a true experience of her own with me.
What kind of research was involved for STARLIGHT RESCUE?
A family of llamas emerged in my storyline. These regal and intriguing animals I had only seen from a distance. I turned to Jerry Dunn, llama expert and owner of Bear Track Farm, Golden, CO, for my research. At her invitation, I spent a magical day at the farm observing about twenty llamas. The males were quartered in a large rear stable,females on the side property. She informed me that too much male rivalry would occur in keeping them together. Jerry’s personal experience with breech birth lent specific details to the birth scene in STARLIGHT RESCUE. Her sharing of recorded llama behavioral sounds was definitely enlightening.
Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?
The opportunity to speak to various groups, and donating to animal charities such as the Horse Protection League of Golden, Co., while participating in the Colorado Cowboy Classic event, Lakewood Cultural Center, Lakewood, Co.
What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m looking into offering a new short story, “Carpenter’s Crib,” on Amazon.com soon. My next contemporary western novel, JOURNEY TO SANDCASTLE, starts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The heroine Tess, a divorced teacher, becomes the unwitting guardian of a bi-racial orphaned girl. She takes the child from New Orleans to the Colorado San Luis Valley hoping to meet her grandfather, who is estranged from the child’s missing mother and has no knowledge of his granddaughter. Tess’s journey becomes a spiritual quest to find her life’s path.
What type of hero do you like best?
A straight arrow kind of guy. Somewhat flawed, but a man who will “be there” for the heroine when the going gets tough. It helps if he’s easy on the eyes, but what’s inside is really what counts.
Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again?
Although my last three books have been published through traditional publishers (Five Star/Gale-Cengage and Treble Heart Books), my first book was an Indie experience.
FOXFIRE was reviewed enthusiastically by Maggie Osborne, an RWA lifetime achievement award winner, and I had a chance to get my feet wet in the promotion arena. A challenge and a pleasure! I’m keeping my options open as to self-publishing.
If you could get anyone to read your book, who would you choose and why?
The editors of Hallmark Hall of Fame. Having my ms. produced as a Hallmark TV film is a dream and a goal I’ve imagined since I first began writing novel length fiction twenty some years ago. I believe there aren’t nearly enough insightful films with characters who truly care about each other and this planet out there as family entertainment.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your reader’s today?
Wyoming veterinarian Kimberly Dorn must fight to keep her rescue ranch from persistent land developers. She harbors a lingering guilt from a childhood tragedy that can only be eased by rescuing abused and abandoned animals.
Gabe Trent, an adventurous wildlife filmmaker, offers her a profitable opportunity to save her ranch. But can Kimberly trust him with her four-legged critters…and her heart?
“Starlight Rescue will make you smile, sigh, and fall in love—not only with the heroine who has a heart as big as the mountains she calls home, but also with the animals she rescues. Don’t miss this keeper!”
~ Deb Stover, Award-winning author of The Gift
Leslee is offering a copy of Starlight Rescue to one lucky commenter! Drawing will take place August 2nd.
Her current novel, STARLIGHT RESCUE, is set beneath the Wyoming Big Horn Mountains on an animal rescue ranch. It received an RWA PASIC Book of Your Heart Award in the contemporary, Single-Title category.
HEARTS ON THE WIND- Gale/Cengage (2008), a Denver bestseller, was Ms. Breene’s third published historical romance. Her second novel, LEADVILLE LADY – Thomson/Gale (2006), received the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers PEN Award. The RWA Valley Forge Chapter awarded second place to her debut novel, FOXFIRE- 2001 (Authorhouse.com.)
Her short fiction has been published in various magazines, won national awards, and was a finalist in the 2010 and 2011 Women Writing the West LAURA Competition.
“I’m a collector of animals,” Kimberly Dorn explained to her would-be renter, Gabe Trent. “Horses. Llamas. My horse came to me by accident. A farmer in the area had neglected her so badly that she almost died.”She winced at the memory. “Starlight could have been auctioned off to a glue factory. There was another older mare that I wasn’t able to rescue. Her ribs stuck out like a barrel. She had to be put down.”
His features held concern. “I don’t have much patience with people who mistreat animals.”
“I don’t either. Mostly it was because of dementia. The old man let me take her off his hands for half a dozen bales of hay and a huckleberry pie.”
“Sounds like a fair trade to me.” In the afternoon sunlight, Gabe’s collar-length hair shone a rich black. The kind of hair a woman would love to run her fingers through.
Her heart rate rising, Kimberly abruptly strode out of the yard. “The rental building is down the road,” she called over her shoulder. With long strides, he caught up with her and she slowed her pace. Okay, so this Gabe Trent was a free-spirited animal lover. But if she rented the place to him, she needed to find out more about his background. “Where are you from, Gabe?”
“Originally Montana. Been traveling around for a few years. I’m a wildlife photographer and filmmaker, and I need sort of a home office. My uncle Ty owns the Reliable Hardware Store in town. He told me he thought you had a room.”
“You’re Ty Trent’s nephew?” She sent him a sidelong glance. “You look kind of familiar. Do you visit much?”
“Not since my college days. Last time I remember, I helped around the store the summer after graduation.”
Her memory leaped back to one summer after her senior year. “Hmm, I remember a lanky guy who worked at the store and drove a flashy red pickup.”
“Yeah. That was my graduation gift from my dad.”
“A few of my friends bet on who would get you to ask them out first.” Kimberly nearly bit her tongue.
“Of course, I never did.” Not much you didn’t...you little fibber.
Gabe let out a spontaneous chuckle. “That was a long time ago.”
“We were just kids.” One thing was sure, he wasn’t a lanky kid anymore. He’d muscled up in all the right places. Changing the subject, she said, “Your work must be fascinating. You film the beauty of an animal and I try to heal them.”
His eyes shimmered with interest. “Are you a vet?”
Proud of her profession, she smiled. “I earned my degree last fall from Colorado State. Now I’ve got to build up my large animal practice—to keep the ranch going.”
He nodded and looked beyond the cottonwood trees, their newly bursting leaves rustling against a blue Wyoming sky. “That’s a tall order for one gal.”