Andrea Downing currently divides her time between the canyons of her native New York City streets and the wide-open spaces of Wyoming. Her background in publishing and English Language teaching has transferred into fiction writing, and her love of horses, ranches, rodeo, and just about anything else western, is reflected in her award-winning historical and contemporary western romances
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Hello Andrea! I’m so glad you’ve joined us on the Spotlight!
Oh come on you can trust Coop! Hello beautiful lady and welcome to the Spotlight!
Can I first say, Jeny, many thanks for having me here. It’s much appreciated.
You are so welcome, I’m very excited to have you here! I know the readers would love to meet you so why don’t we start with how many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
If this is just the published ones, then it’s three full-length novels and six novellas. I have another full-length western historical romance just about ready to go off to my editor. Asking which is favorite is sort of like asking a parent which child they favor! But if I have to answer, Loveland continues to stay with me and I’m hoping to perhaps go back to it one day and finish the story of the whole family and others on the ranch.
That is always one of the hardest questions to answer, isn’t it? I’m just now working on my first novella and they are different. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Many, many different places. My first book, Loveland, evolved from learning about the huge British involvement in cattle companies in the Old West; numerous so-called remittance men ran these companies, sons of the aristocracy. A couple of books just came to me when someone asked me to write something for an anthology—just, BINGO. As I said above, Always on My Mind evolved from reading about a fight between ranchers and hippies in my local dancehall in Wilson, WY, during the ‘70s. I thought you couldn’t really get two such diverse groups. So, what if…?
That’s fantastic! hippies and ranchers… that almost sounds like two completely separate eras! How do you do research for your books then?
Like most people, I do a lot of research on the internet but I also insist on knowing my setting. So, to that end, for Loveland, I visited the Loveland area and tried to picture what the prairie was like at the time of the book by going to the Pawnee National Grassland about 35 miles from Loveland, CO. For Dances of the Heart, I went down to San Antonio and the Hill Country where part of the book is set; it is also set in Philadelphia, NYC, and the Hamptons, all of which I know pretty well. Nowadays most of my books are set in Wyoming where I live part-year.
I totally agree you have to go there and be a part of it, there’s only so much Google Earth Satellite and the internet can do for you. There’s nothing worse than someone, in the know, saying that couldn’t possibly happen like that here. How do you handle literary criticism?
An author really can’t—or at least, shouldn’t—respond to criticism on the various sales sites, otherwise, you get into a spiraling argument. But I have to say, there have certainly been a couple of times when I felt like answering. One reader gave me one star because she had trouble downloading Lawless Love. I have nothing to do with formatting and she may have got the book off an illegal site for all I know, so I thought that was rather annoying. But I tend to ignore criticism of my writing. However, snide remarks really annoy me. A reader criticized Bad Boy, Big Heart in a very snide manner just because the hero, a cowboy and bronc rider, tries out a skateboard. Maybe she thought this was a historical book, but I’ve seen cowboys try out skateboards; I’ve heard them discuss golf and so on. I wish people would criticize in a constructive manner and know what the heck they’re talking about.
You are definitely not going to please everyone. Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If not is that in your future?
Both Lawless Love and Dearest Darling are in audio. This was handled by my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, so I didn’t have much more to do with it other than listen to the audition and okay it, and then correct whatever I wanted to, on the tapes. Narrators never read the way the author has it in her head, so it’s always slightly disappointing, and the corrections take a really long time, so I’m not sure I’ll do it again.
I haven’t turned mine into audio, because I’m an audio snob, and I think you’re right it would be hard to hear it read incorrectly. That being said, I hope to one day try it. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
People don’t say what’s in their hearts, they say one thing and perhaps mean another, they hold back, maybe from fear of hurting others, or they’re afraid of repercussions, or just can’t get the words out. But also, the words one person does say can be easily misinterpreted by another person, or even just your actions can be misconstrued. And then, we may be thinking of another person, and they may be thinking of us, but neither makes a move so you don’t know. In the ‘70s, when the book is set, we didn’t have all these things you have now, Facebook and smartphones and so on, so there really were very few ways to find someone and get back in touch. But now you have various chances of letting someone know you’re thinking of them and it can make a whole world of difference to them.
That is so important. What a great message. Is there a significance to the title?
Of course, it’s a famous song title but it represents that these two people continue to think of each other with never really doing anything about it. We don’t want spoilers here, however!
Hear that everyone, you have to READ it to find out! What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
It’s funny you should ask that because a reader recently asked me that; she said she got so invested in the book she wanted to know what happened next. No, there’s no sequel I’m afraid, not yet anyway. You have to use all the signs along the way in the book and your own common sense to figure out what happens next!
What a great compliment though! What book is currently on your bedside table?
I’m just finishing Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. It’s translated from the Polish and won the Nobel prize. Not what you’re expecting, huh?!
About the Book
Always on My Mind
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Editor: Nan Swanson
Cover Artist: Kim Mendoza
1972 – Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies. Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.
Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop’s inability to express his feelings. Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, “You were ‘always on my mind’?”
We know you’ve got some steamy scene’s in this book. Are you willing to share?
He didn’t answer but shoved in another forkful of eggs and studied her. “You do want to go, don’t you? You want to join them? All I’ve heard about is dang San Francisco.”
“You guess what, for goodness’ sake? Do you or do you not want to go with them?” He tapped the fork three beats by the side of his plate.
“Well, I thought I did. I mean, everyone’s going to San Francisco. Haight-Ashbury. It’s supposed to be where everything’s happening. And you don’t want me.”
“Jeez, Cassie. I’m not the only alternative. Get a job, for goodness’ sake. What was all your college education about anyway? You did go to college, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but…I went to an all-girls’ college. I don’t think they expected much of us beyond doing secretarial work and becoming wives.”
“So find a husband. I don’t care.” He turned back to his paper.
“I know you don’t care. I don’t expect you to.”
He let his fork clatter to his plate, and his gaze met hers. “Cassie, you’re like…you’re like…” He watched as a tear made its way down one cheek. “Oh, for gosh sake.”
He met her sorry stare across the dinette, eggs congealing in the kitchen warmth. Outside was the screech of tires as a car pulled up, followed by the laughter and clatter of a group of people, sliding doors hitting the metal of the cab, shouts of “Cassie, Cassie, where are youuuuuuuu?”
He pushed back from the table at the same time as she and went to the window to look out. He swiveled to look at her, see her reaction. Then, with a gentle hand, he pushed her toward the back door.
“There you are!” Dave’s voice had a note of happy surprise, which faded as he noticed Coop standing nearby. The boy stumbled as he went to her. “We had to ask that shit Ty where this guy lived and got directions here. Are you okay?”
Cassie faced Coop, her bare feet curling in the dirt in front of the ranch house as he stood on the steps and watched, arm up against a pillar, his own socked feet crossed. Part of him wanted his peace and quiet, his solitude back, but he already knew he would miss her, be sorry to see her go.
She turned back to Dave. “Of course I’m okay. I’m just—”
“Well, get your shoes or whatever and we’ll go off. We should get to Salt Lake City this afternoon and stop there before heading west again.”
“She doesn’t want to go with you.” He heard the reluctance in her voice, came down the steps, and stood in front of Dave, challenging. “She’s changed her mind.”
Cassie pivoted to glance at Coop. Surprise mixed with uncertainty faded as a small smile turned up her lips. For a moment, the others were silent, standing there, stupefied. “I…” she began again. “I’m staying here.” She felt bolder, more self-assured.
“You must be joking.” Dave’s shifty glance skimmed from one to the other. “Cassie?”
Needing reassurance, she turned to look at Coop, then turned back to Dave. “I’m fed up with traveling in that bus and I like it here. In Jackson.”
“She’s staying here,” Coop said. “At least for now.”
Perturbed at this news, the other two friends started to turn back toward the bus. Steve drew out a satchel, then scribbled something on a piece of paper before handing both to her. He nodded before he disappeared into the confines of the van.
Dave stood there gawping. “You’re gonna stay here? With this guy? On a ranch? You’re not coming to Frisco?”
She glanced back at Coop for confirmation.
He stayed stock still.
She turned again to Dave. “Yes, that’s right. I’m staying here with Coop on his ranch. I’ll follow along when I’m ready.”
“How you gonna do that? You haven’t any money.”
“I have money. At least some left. When I’m ready I’ll come. It’ll be fine. Honest, Dave. I’ll be along shortly. I’ll hitch.”
Dave’s face folded into a picture of doubtfulness. “I guess it’s your choice, Cassie.” He eyed Coop, then turned back to her. “Just be careful, Cass. Don’t fall for this jerk. He has no real interest in you.”
She stood next to Coop, doubt and insecurity filling her like water flowing into a jug. The VW bus pulled out, friends waving, and she knew she was on her own.
“Now what?” Her voice was just a whisper. “Now what?”
“Go back to bed, Cassie. Before something happens we’ll both regret.”
“How do you know I’ll regret it?” She balanced herself on the edge of his bed, modestly crossed her legs. “I can’t sleep,” she murmured once more. “All those animals making noise.”
He threw his head back and laughed so loud Cassie jumped up. Ty’s words about sticking with ‘his own kind’ floated through his mind.
“What the hell’s so funny?”
“You are.” He pushed himself up in the bed, unbuttoning the top of the pajamas and wiggling his arms out. “Here. Put this on, for chrissake. Cover yourself up, will ya.”
She pulled the top out of his hand, a frown furrowing her face. “I didn’t come in here to seduce you. I just don’t like—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know—the animal sounds. Get in.” He threw the cover back and shuffled over to the side of the bed to make room for her. “What did ya undress for, anyway?”
“I was hot. And that old, worn nightie you gave me was itchy.”
He rested his head back on the pillow, cupped in his entwined fingers. He stared at the ceiling as Cassie tried to snuggle up to him, but he did nothing to encourage her. As she tried to rest her head on his chest, he gave up, wanting the feel of her velvet skin, the silk of her hair. “Oh, come on then, come here.” And he wrapped his left arm under her and pulled her to him.
Let’s finish with everyone’s favorite… Speed Dating!
Room full of snakes or a room full of spiders? Spiders! STOMP
An endless summer or an endless winter? Winter. Snow!
Constant nagging pain or a constant itch? Pain
Always be an hour early or be constantly twenty minutes late? The early-bird & all that
Live in a haunted mansion or live in a un-haunted cottage? Cottage. I once lived in a 16thC cottage so….
Tea or coffee? Both
Hot or cold? Cold
Movie or book? Book
Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi
Toilet paper – over or under? Over
Morning person or Night owl? Night owl
Shower or Bath? Shower
City or Country? Country
Social Media or Book? Book!
Paperback or E-book? eBook (instant dictionary)