Your Cajun series has really taken off. What do you see on the horizon for your writing?
More of the same in regards to the genre type, the romantic suspense/mystery/thriller I’ve become known for. My Cajun series, or The Degrees of Darkness series, following my main characters Detective Remy LeBeau and Cody Lewis has wrapped in four books. The final book, Reckoning, releases March 31 during a special promotional event for my second book, Retribution. It was bittersweet to finish this series, since the characters have been with me for a long time and I spent many years trying to sell the series idea. When my publisher Crimson Romance picked it up in late 2012, they wanted all four books, which shocked me and made me happy, too. Now it’s all over and it’s time to move on. Though I do have an idea or two for some of the secondary characters in the series, but right now they’re going to wait.
I’m moving on to another book that is really pushing me out of my comfort zone, but not so much. I’ll tell you more about later.
Tell us a little about your family.
I’m the wife of a National Guardsman turned Ag teacher/FFA advisor, teaching, ironically, in the same school where I went to school. I’m the mother of 4; two of which happen to be teenage boys; a daughter, who I call Cowgirl in Training; and our youngest son, who is the copycat of his father. Add in the bevy of pets we have and that’s us.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
Not as much. If anything about it has changed, it’s that I seek out authors who write in the same genres as I do, and I glean from them.
What are you working on right now?
A new book for a possible new series. Right now I’m calling it Atonement, same mix of romance/suspense/mystery/thriller as my Degrees of Darkness series, but the focus is more on the heroine this time. I’m really stretching my writing muscles on this book because I’m delving deeper into something I’ve only scratched the surface of in past books, and that’s the topic of PTSD. And I’m playing with the idea of someone taking it to the extremes when you break the Ten Commandments.
What outside interests do you have?
Well, in my other life I’m a volleyball coach, which I really enjoy doing. Working and training my players is fun for me, too. I enjoy watching some great movies and TV shows with my husband, we’ve gotten into Doctor Who and Justified. I LOVE to cook and bake. While it tends to be time consuming it’s therapeutic for me, especially since I have to make everything we eat from scratch and with whole/real/organic foods. On any given day you can find a slow-cooker prepping homemade yogurt or different foods fermenting in my kitchen, or some kind of meal being made in a crockpot or the stove/oven.
When I can I ride horses. And it appears this summer I’m about to delve deeply into the life of a 4-H/FFA mother/wife and spend many days and nights at county fairs and other shows.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
My characters usually do it for me, with their background and who they are. For instance my hero, Remy LeBeau is a Cajun, which meant I went to Louisiana. Heroine Cody Lewis was from the Fort Worth area of Texas. But with this new book, I’m going home, literally. Atonement is set in rural Iowa in the very area where I grew up and have returned to live. It’s kind of freeing setting a book here because I don’t have to do as much research.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Simply because I’m watching him now, but I’d love to spend an evening with Red Skelton. I’ve always loved watching that man, he could make me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe and I enjoyed watching him laugh at his punch lines before he even delivered it.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
How to better schedule myself. It’s taken too long to figure this out and getting on a good writing rhythm. It would have been helpful when the deadlines started looming and all the editing that took place in-between. I’m getting the hang of it now—among my personal and working life—and the schedule is working itself out.
And if there was one other thing, having a good idea how to market my own books. It wasn’t until after I signed with my agent, Amanda Luedeke, that this all feel into place, but she was able to teach me how to get it all up and going before the first book released.
What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
1.) Do not box yourself into one kind of genre or market. I started out with the intent of being an author in the Christian market, and that never turned out how I expected. My agent and I decided to switch to the general market, and BAM! contracts. You can still be Christian in the general market, I’m still able to sprinkle in my character’s faith and it was well received by my readers.
2.) Write what you love, not what the trend tells you. Had I listened to people telling me to stop writing my romantic suspense books and do X Y or Z I’d hate it. You don’t have to limit yourself to one genre, if you like to write in others shoot for it. But just remember …
3.) Never stop learning and growing. Pay attention to things going on in the industry. Those set in their ways are the ones left in the dust. And arrogant people seal their fate the moment they claim they don’t need this or that, or that they’re brilliant writers. Oh, and forget what people say, you NEED an agent if you have bigger plans. Good luck trying to get a good contract without one.
Tell us about the featured book?
Relentless is book 1 of The Degrees of Darkness series. Backcover blurb says it all:
Dallas homicide detective Remy LeBeau trusts no one. He hides from a past that could kill him and anyone involved with him. What he’s not prepared for is the return of an elusive serial killer . . . and an unwanted desire to protect a witness at all costs.
Professional barrel racer Cody Lewis’s dream of being top in the nation is within reach until she discovers a murdered woman in her horse trailer. The event pulls her into the sickening world of the Rodeo Sweethearts serial killer—a madman who terrorized Dallas’s rodeo circuit five years prior and is now back for more. But what’s worse is that Cody fits the profile of the Rodeo Sweetheart victims. . . .
As Remy dives into the investigation, he uncovers secrets of a botched investigation and a tight-lipped boss, while attracting unwanted attention from the killer. Battling his partner, his attraction to Cody, and the demons of his past, catching the killer could cost Remy everything. Even Cody’s life.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Of all the witnesses, in all the homicides, in all of Dallas, she would have to be one.
Detective Remy LeBeau stared at the cowgirl sitting in a chair in the far corner of the Stanton Enterprise Stadium meeting room. Cody Lewis hugged her body, gnawing on her lip. A coiled red lock slipped from her right ear and fell against her cheek. Lifting a trembling hand, she tucked the strand behind her ear and let her hand fall limp in her lap.
This wasn’t the same confident woman who strode into the homicide offices three days ago to hand him a pair of tickets to the Dallas Roundup. A rodeo that had now become a crime scene. Remy hated off-duty calls. The lieutenant better have a good reason for dragging him away from a hot bowl of gumbo and out of his dry condo.
Cody bowed her head and seemed to curl up on herself. Remy knew the disjointed sensations she was experiencing, the need to withdraw from the real world in order to maintain some kind of control.
He tugged the detective cloak about him and inhaled a long breath. No need to return to that place and time. Exhaling, he approached the unfortunate redhead.
His partner, Detective Heath Anderson, glanced up, fatigue circling his blue eyes. Another late night on the job. He combed his fingers through his sandy-blond hair, making a mess of it. “LeBeau.”
Cody’s head snapped back like she’d taken an uppercut to the chin. Pink stained her cheeks. “Detective?”
“Hello, Ms. Lewis.” He looked at Anderson. “Grab a coffee, I’ll take it from here.” When they were alone, Remy crouched in front of her. Close up, he compared her features to those of the victim’s. Why hadn’t he noticed the freckles on her nose and cheeks when they first met? Her scent, a mixture of spice and sweet — vanilla maybe — combated with the sharp odor of wet men and manure.
Her green eyes locked with his. “Guess you didn’t need those tickets.”
What is your book rated? Who is your target audience?
For this one, I’d say it’s a PG to PG-13, depending on your level of comfort with the violence and language. It is a book written for the general market, so treat it as such, but it’s intended for those who like a grittier edge to their romantic suspense and like continuancy series.
Winter Austin was once asked by her husband if he could meet some of the people who took residence in her head. She warned they weren’t all characters he wanted to meet, as killers walked among them. Needless to say, that conversation ended abruptly.
A lifelong Mid-West gal, Winter swears she should have been born in the South, Texas or Louisiana preferably. But then she’d miss the snowy winters.
Dividing her day between her four children and their various activities, a growing pet population, and her Beta-with-Alpha-tendencies Hero, Winter manages to find time to write chilling thrillers between loads of laundry.
Don’t worry. You won’t find any of her mouthwatering culinary dishes poisoned. Unless you’re one of her fictional creations.