Please welcome our Friday Friend, Nancy Herkness. A graduate of Princeton University, she majored in English literature and Creative Writing. Her senior thesis was a volume of original poetry.Working first in retailing as a buyer at Lord and Taylor and then in data processing, Nancy finally took the plunge: she quit her job and penned the romance novel she’d always wanted to write. She put her literary career on hold when her first child was born. Once her youngest child was settled in first grade, Nancy returned to the word processor and wrote A Bridge to Love which was published by Berkley Sensation.
Chosen as one of three “Best Up and Coming Authors” for 2003 in Affaire de Coeur’s Readers’ Poll, Nancy’s work has won several awards, including the Golden Leaf, the Write Touch Readers’ Award and the Aspen Gold. A member of Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers, and Novelists, Inc., she also writes book reviews, press releases and newsletters. Nancy lives in a Victorian house with her husband and two mismatched dogs and cheers loudly for the New Jersey Devils hockey team.
Changing the scenery
I live in suburban New Jersey, only twelve miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel to New York City (and right in Hurricane Sandy’s path, alas.) However, I grew up in a very different place: a tiny town in the mountains of West Virginia where my friends and I rode our ponies around town the way some kids ride their bicycles. When I moved to New Jersey, I adopted my new state wholeheartedly (except for the Jersey accent—I’ve never lost my West Virginia twang).
I even set my first three books in the New York metro area. A Bridge to Love unfolded in a suburban commuter town much like the one where I live now. That book’s climactic scene took place on the iconic link between New Jersey and New York, the George Washington Bridge. My second book Shower of Stars moved between a small village on the Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania’s beautiful Pocono Mountains, and the grit and glitter of New York City. Music of the Night, my foray into romantic suspense, was firmly entrenched in the culture of the classical music business in Manhattan, where I took readers backstage at the famous Carnegie Hall.
However, there comes a time when a writer needs a change of scenery. It might be necessary to re-inspire her Muse or to recharge her career or just because she reaches a new stage of life. Honestly, I’m one of those people who looks steadily forward, never back. My parents still live in West Virginia so I visit regularly, but, as I mentioned, I embraced my new identity as a Jersey girl (no pumping my own gas!) without reservation. Yet suddenly I felt the creative need to go back to my roots in the state John Denver calls “almost heaven”.
Take Me Home (released Nov. 6) sprang from that urge. It is a book set firmly in the rhythms and scenes of my childhood. I use the names of the families I grew up among, jumbling up first and last to avoid involving any real folks, of course. I wanted to convey the particular ethnic mix of those who settled there and bequeathed the distinctive music of their proper names to their descendents. I sprinkled a touch of the country accent into their speech, just enough for the reader to know she has journeyed to a slightly different world.
In the background of the story, the beautiful, ancient Appalachian mountains stand ever present, their soft blues and greens draped over them like velvet. They offer my characters what they always gave me: strength, peace and a sense of perspective.
And there are horses, because I spent so much of my childhood on horseback. Even after shoveling my pony’s manure every day, I still think of horses as magical creatures. It seemed right to create a “whisper horse” in my story, a special creature who is happy to listen to your problems and help you carry their burden.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about going back to my roots since I’m all about moving forward. However, it’s been strangely moving to conjure up the sights and sounds of my youth. Places and events I hadn’t thought of in years are surging to the front of my brain. Some of them I get to change for the better in my novel. The darker memories provide fuel for the obstacles my characters face.
Equally wondrous has been the challenge of capturing these flickering memories in words, knowing that I will be preserving my (slightly fictionalized) impressions forever. Us writers love the whole concept of our words being immortal, you know.
As for my Muse, she’s loving the change of scenery. She dances over the mountains like she was born there. Come to think of it, I guess she was.
Nancy is delighted to report the news that Take Me Home is the first in a series of Whisper Horse books set in the fictional town of Sanctuary, West Virginia. For more information on Nancy’s books and to read an excerpt from Take Me Home, please go to http://www.nancyherkness.com/
When Claire Parker left Sanctuary, West Virginia, she thought it was for good. But now she’s back, reeling from an ugly divorce.
Devastated by his wife’s death, Tim thought he’d never find love again. The stoic, sexy doctor was sure he’d left his heart behind when he came to Sanctuary. But Claire stirs up emotions he thought he’d buried long ago. For the first time, the doctor tries to see past his grief.
When Willow falls gravely ill, Tim and Claire must work together to save the horse’s life and to find a love so encompassing, so intense, their lives will never be the same again.