Welcome today to Sharon McGregor, an author with Prism Book Group.
Tell us a bit about you and your background.
I ‘m a prairie transplant to the West Coast, trying to run away from winter. I am moving this month to the warmest spot I can find and still live in Canada- on Vancouver Island, where I will be a block away from the beach. I grew up on a quarter-section farm on the prairies and attended a one-room country school of the sort where Maggie has come to teach in Autumn Dreams. Unlike Maggie, I have always loved horses.
What are your hobbies away from the computer?
I’m a history buff. My favourite period is the time of the Plantagenets. I want to do some travelling if I can ever get away and I plan a trip to the UK with friends next year. I like watching my grandchildren with their sports. Any time I spend with animals is time well spent. I love horses, dogs, and my cat Zoey as well as any others that cross my path.
Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?
I would say the two main characters first. Some of the other characters just show up as the plot develops. In Autumn Dreams, I wanted to start with a teacher of the sort my aunts were when I was young. Then Maggie just walked in and said, “This is my story.”
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
I do about sixty percent planned and the rest freestyle. I don’t feel comfortable without a structure to work within. Then I often change things as I go and the outline goes out the window. An outline is sort-of like your reserve parachute-it’s comforting to know it’s there even if you don’t use it.
Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?
I lived the location. Maggie was just a little before my time but close enough that the farm, the people the school and the families all seem to be familiar on a personal level.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
The first thing I try is take the dogs for a long walk. That usually clears my head and I find on my feet is the best way to think. Second best is my Lazy boy, but sometimes I goof that one up and doze off. If I am stuck for too long, I set the story aside for a couple of days and tackle something else-maybe a short story or plotting another book. Then some little thing hits you and you’re back on track with your work.
Autumn Dreams takes place on the prairies in the late 1940s.
Maggie arrives at her new teaching job, to board with a family she’s prepared to like. What she isn’t prepared for is her landlady’s brother Marshall who seems to hate her on sight. She is captivated by Ellen’s six year old daughter Emma who is having identity problems when faced with the arrival of a new baby. Then Ellen goes into labour in the middle of a storm and Maggie must face her fears to help. Along the way she helps a family grow closer together but what about her hopes for the future? Can she get past the wall Marshall has set up and does she really have a future here amongst the people she has grown to care for?
From a 5-star review:
This charming story weaves little touches of 1940s history with romance and endearment. The story is so well written, with delicate description, a great storyline and believable characters. The heroine, Maggie, not only has to adjust to a new life and job, but overcome her fear of horses and find romance along the way, a true inspiration to us all.
Maggie stood in the barn doorway watching for a moment as Marshall threw forkfuls of soiled straw onto the stoneboat. It was a warm day and his shirt hung on a wooden peg on the wall. Maggie wasn’t used to seeing a man’s naked torso. When her father came home from the hardware store, he might take off his jacket and loosen his tie but that was as casual as he got. She watched in admiration as each muscle moved and realigned when Marshall lifted. She could feel an unfamiliar warmth in her own body as she watched. She knew from the way his shoulders tightened that he was aware of her presence.
“Ellen says supper will be ready in a half hour,” she said.
“I figured.” He stopped briefly and stood, fork in hand, one foot resting on its shoulder, a slight smile pulling the right side of his mouth upward. “Is there more?”
“You used to live here, right?”
“It was our family farm.”
“Your parents aren’t still living?”
“No.” He pointed through the open north door to a hillside. “My father was cultivating that hillside when the tractor wheel hit a large rock and threw it off balance. The tractor rolled over on him. He was dead before help came. Mom died a year later. Farm life isn’t all baby calves and collecting eggs, you know. It’s a hard life.”
“Why didn’t you stay on the farm?’
He picked up the fork again. “Do you always ask so many questions? If you want to make yourself useful, grab a fork.” His eyes travelled over her from head to toe sending a shiver down her back. “On second thought, you’d better not. Those shoes weren’t made for shovelling manure. Wouldn’t want to soil them.” He turned dismissively back to his work.
She flushed as she felt her anger rise at his off-handedness.
She marched past him skirting the flailing fork handle. She knew she’d seen a pair of rubber boots earlier by the corner stall. She pushed her feet out of her shoes and into the boots. A little big but they’d do. She reached for a fork hanging on the barn wall aware of his stillness as he watched her.
“Not that one; that’s a hay fork. Take the one next to it.”
She lifted the shorter heavier manure fork and tentatively shoved it into a pile of damp, smelly straw. As she lifted, most of it fell off but she managed to fling some of it onto the stoneboat. The second forkful went better. Marshall had turned his back but she knew by the way his shoulders moved that he was laughing at her.
I’ll show you she thought. She closed her nose to the stench and wondered if you ever got used to the smell of manure. ‘Oh Dora, if you could only see me now.”
Maggie bit the side of her lip and plunged in, partly because she wanted answers and partly just to say something to cover her confusion. “So why didn’t you stay on the farm? Don’t sons usually take over?”
He gave her an amused look. “You never give up with your questions, do you? Well, let’s see if I can satisfy that curiosity bug of yours.” He leaned back in his chair balancing it on the rear two legs and closed his eyes for a moment. “When our parents died, Ellen was already married to Ray and I was turning eighteen. That was when the war came. Ray couldn’t join up; he’s always had weak lungs. That’s why he keeps getting those bouts of pneumonia. But I was young and idealistic so I enlisted. Ray and Ellen moved in and ran the farm. When the war finally ended I was restless like so many others and I wandered around the country for a bit before coming back to Timber. Ray and Ellen had put so much into the place and I wasn’t really anxious to become a farmer, so they bought out my share. I started the lumberyard with a friend and here we are.” He bounced the chair back to an upright position with a bang. “Does that answer all your questions?”
“All but one.”
He stood and set his cup down as if to show he’s given her all the time he would allot her and said “What might that one be?”
“Why do you dislike me?”
He gave her a long slow look. “Yes, I can see where you’re one of those people who needs to have everyone like them.”
She flushed and was about to protest when he moved closer and said, “The short answer is I don’t dislike you.” He put one arm around her shoulder turning her to face him and leaned down to kiss her, gently at first and then with a ferocity that shook loose all her feelings for this intriguing man and replaced them with sensations she had never felt before. Warmth swept through her very essence. Just as she felt she was going to fall over the edge of a cliff he released her, swung around so quickly she couldn’t see his expression and walked out the door.
Sharon McGregor is a west coast transplant from the Canadian prairies. Her imagination and story weaving got its start when she was an only child living on a farm. She’s moved on from cowgirl dreams to romance and mystery, but hasn’t lost her love for horses.
In spite of her eternal quest to escape the cold, she does spend time at ice rinks watching her grandchildren figure skate and play hockey.
When she can summon up the nerve to get on a plane she likes to visit with her son and grandchildren who are still knee deep in the prairies.
Sharon loves endings with happy resolutions which is why she enjoys writing romance.
Twitter name: @sharonmcgr