Meggie’s Remains – author interview – Joanne Sundell

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Meggie's RemainsJoin Joanne Sundell, author of the historical romance novel, Meggie’s Remains (Five Star, Sept. ’09), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in September on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion!

About The Book:
Meggie’s Remains is a romantic suspense unlike any other. Meggie struggles with far more than meeting the man of her dreams. In fact, she’s scared to death when she does. This story could happen to any woman, in any time. It is you. It is me. It is private … but must be told.

Afraid of men, afraid for her sins, afraid for her sanity, and right now afraid for her life, Meggie McMurphy flees Boston once the fiendish terror–so long stalking in her nightmares–surfaces in the light of day. She escapes west to Denver in the wild Colorado Territory, hoping to lose herself among the multitude of townsfolk. The year is 1874.

Twenty-five years old, alone, and near penniless, Meggie struggles to find honest work and to keep the dark secrets of her past just that: a secret. Not so easily done when the handsome, foreboding westerner Ethan Rourke, stumbles upon her on a snowy Denver street. Why it’s as if he’d stepped right out of the pages of her beloved romance, Jane Eyre! Safe to encounter such a man on the romance page, it is certainly unsafe, even deadly, for her to encounter such a man in the flesh. Men belong … six feet under, six feet away … where to stay safe, the devil must stay!

Hired as a teacher, not in Denver, but in an isolated mountain town in rugged Ute country, Meggie is determined to make a home for herself in Hot Sulphur Springs. There she keeps up her masquerade as Rose Rochester, yearning for a normal life–for companionship and even love–all the while knowing it’s only a matter of time until the monstrous changeling from her nightmares will find her, killing any possibility of a life at all.

Hi, Joanne,

Welcome to Paperback Writer.

Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
Meggie’s Remains, my first completed manuscript and fourth sale, is near and dear to my heart. The title changed from Columbine Captive—for obvious reasons—to Day Dreams ~ Haunted Nights, but at the end of the day, became Meggie’s Remains. You might ask what this means, and well you should. Is Meggie dead, buried six feet under, never to take another breath, or is Meggie so shattered, it’s hard to take the next step in life? Number two is closer to the truth. My focus and interest rests solely in the nineteenth century, the Victorian Era. For the average romance heroine, life wasn’t easy. I can’t imagine the challenge to have lived and tried to love during such a restrictive, repressive time. When I first thought of writing romance, I thought of Jane Eyre and its classic romantic themes, wanting to pay tribute to this quintessential romance novel. What makes us root for Jane? Why do we care about her, and about Edward? How did the pair overcome impossible obstacles and find their happy ending?
Living in the West, in the Colorado Rockies, I realized the beauty all around me was a character befitting any romance novel. My first heroine would have to be a woman trying to make it in the rugged west. I decided to bring Jane Eyre to the American West and see what might happen if I took Jane’s situation and made it worse … and then worse. Ever curious about how a nineteenth century heroine might have dealt with sexual trauma and upset, I wanted to peel away the pretty layers in classic romantic theme and character, and show the not-so-pretty events that can happen—the dark, complex, emotional path a heroine’s life can take, suddenly, without warning, and with no guarantee of survival. In Meggie’s Remains, Meggie’s life mirrors Jane’s in many respects, but the mirror shatters when Meggie’s life takes a turn away from romantic conflict, toward dangers that Jane Eyre never faced. Beyond the suspense, I wanted to capture the romance, the moment when passion ignites between heroine and hero. Such is the stuff of which romance novels are made!

Q: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as you write it?
Drawn first to the history, I know that after I dive into research, my story and characters will be born out of that history. Once my characters begin to form, I’m led to more research, of course, and then I begin to plot out story and character in more detail. It’s ever a dynamic process as I never quite know where the story will take me once I begin the day’s writing.

Most of my time in writing historical romance is spent on the research side. I usually spend three to five months collecting and organizing my research, making charts, working on timelines and plotting out my storyboard. It’s a magic moment when I know that I can stop looking for my characters and story because suddenly the story begins unfolding in front of me, born out of the history found. I do have to keep my research close as I ever need to look up this date or that name or factoid. Research gathering is definitely the fun part of writing for me.

Meggie’s Remains was my first completed manuscript but fourth sold. I had a lot of re-writing to do to get it right. I understand that most “first” manuscripts need a lot of work. I’ve mentioned in an earlier answer that my love of Jane Eyre led me to create Meggie’s story, but in addition, I needed to research Colorado history. I live in the Rockies and was able to draw on first hand sights and sounds as well as visiting local libraries and historical societies. Meggie’s Remains is set in Denver and in Hot Sulphur Springs and I hope I’ve captured the all-important sense of place.

Q: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
I usually have an idea of the ending, at the beginning. When my heroine, in particular, begins to form, her story jumps out at me and doesn’t veer too much from those first thoughts, from the beginning of my manuscript to the end.

Q: Do you have a process for developing your characters?
I do meticulous research, storing every little detail I find, every one! Then, when my characters begin to “jump out” at me, I allow them to evolve naturally.

Q: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
I love old-fashioned romance. I suppose that’s me, even in this modern 21st century. You bet, when my heroine finds her passion and falls in love with her hero, I imagine myself in his strong arms, right along with her!

Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?
The threads of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, woven into Meggie’s Remains, presented a challenge which made the writing of this novel all the more fun!

Q: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
Meggie’s Remains, my first completed manuscript was a labor of love, years in the making. I would enter my synopsis in writing contests, join critique groups for feedback, send in the first three chapters to this agent or that publisher; expecting little from the process. Of course, I grew as a writer, gaining needed feedback, and of course, I didn’t like the rejection letters. Meggie’s Remains is my fourth sale, made only after serious re-writes, and helped along by my experience of selling three books prior to.

Q: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
I underwent many of the same struggles we all have in trying to become a published author. Rejection is never easy, never fun but … it helps us develop the tough skin we need in this tough industry!

Q: What has been the best part about being published?
Knowing that my characters will ever live in historical romance print!

Q: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
I would hope readers will appreciate old-fashioned theme and character in Meggie’s Remains, much as they already appreciate the quintessential romance, Jane Eyre. Historical romance, full circle.

Q: Do you have plans to write another book? Right now I have to turn my time and attention to my Civil War series, The Quaker and The Confederate, coming out next May and September, respectively.

Q: Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
I’ll be able to give you a better answer, after my September tour. I must say, so far I’ve enjoyed the easy communication and professional treatment I’ve received from Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

Q: Where can readers find a copy of your book?
Meggie’s Remains can be found at many libraries. If the book is not available, ask your librarian to order it and likely he/she will. Meggie’s Remains is available at and on-line at any bookstore. ISBN: 978 1 59414 788 3
If readers go to my website,, they can easily order. If readers would like to contact me,, I’d be happy to snail-mail a copy!

Q: Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Of course.

Thank you, Joanne, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.

Than YOU very much,

Joanne Sundell

About the Author:
Born in a tiny hospital in rural Virginia, tucked snugly away in a bureau drawer, Joanne ever cherishes her country beginnings. Fond memories of toddling along after her older sisters along the Appalachian Trail, catching tadpoles in the local creek bed, chasing after lightening bugs, or falling asleep to the evening hum of katydids, remain with her still, despite the family move to more urban Arlington where Joanne spent her formative school years, and then on to Richmond for college. Though nursing was her chosen vocation, her chosen avocation has ever been the romance novel. Joanne grew up reading romance, falling in love with heroes and heroines from Regency England to the American West, from London’s pubs to Colorado’s ski slopes, loving that moment when the hero and heroine meet and fall in love. That moment to Joanne is the moment when Jane Eyre meets Edward Rochester, when Elizabeth Bennett meets Mr. Darcy—that’s the heart-stopping, passionate moment for Joanne in romance. That moment is what led Joanne to attempt traditional, old-fashioned, historical romance. Her first sale was in 2005 and since then, she’s sold five more historical romances to Five Star-Gale, Cengage Learning, in their Expressions line. Her books have been reviewed nationally by such notables as Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and Romantic Times. With her three children grown and off on their own adventures, Joanne now lives part-time in Colorado and in California with her husband and their entourage` of felines and huskies. Joanne’s writing groups include Romance Writers of America, Colorado Romance Writers, Los Angeles Romance Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Women Writing the West. You can visit her on the web at

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This article was written by Rebecca

Rebecca is a book coach and editor. She guides aspiring writers, coaches, entrepreneurs and speakers to become self-published authors so they share their expertise, knowledge and passion. Thinking about writing a book? Contact her today to start writing your book.

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