KD: When and how did Olive's story come to you?
HB: I'm not sure how to explain this without sounding odd but I see my characters in my head. They lodge themselves there. I saw Olive seated on the train west to Ohio, purse strings looped over her arm, bonnet tied and traveling coat buttoned-up, staring out the window at the passing landscape. She was very consciously not engaging other passengers and dreaming her dreams about raising her niece and nephew in her family home in Philadelphia. I didn't have a clear picture yet of why Olive had to rescue these children, only that she did. (I removed this entire opening chapter and worked bits and pieces into the current first chapter having decided it was too much back story and that the story really began as Olive waited impatiently for the sheriff to speak to her.)
KD: For romance novels, it is very common for the man to be older but Olive is ten years older than Jacob. Is there a reason why you went this way?
HB: I'm not sure I consciously decided that. A young Jacob working in the field was who I saw when Olive crested the hill and had her first view of his home. But after thinking about it I thought it added an interesting wrinkle to Olive's dilemmas. In the spirit of full disclosure, my husband is quite a few years younger than me.
KD: The story takes place in 1891, how did you go about your research of the time period?
HB: Much of my research I was able to do on the internet in college library sites and on history web sites like history.com. I'm also fortunate to live in a county with three colleges and The Strasburg Rail Road Museum. These folks are willing to share what they know which is plenty. I actually picked the year 1891 because I identified a Singer sewing machine I owned by the serial number on the machine. Knowing that year made me think about who used it and why.
KD: Can you tell us about your choice to set the story in Ohio in 1891?
HB: Philadelphia was one of the most sophisticated cities in the country in the late eighteen hundreds so having Olive come from there made sense for her character. Ohio was still very rural and agriculturally based. The U.S. was past the Civil War and innovation was beginning to change how Americans lived. I think it was a very exciting time in our history.
KD: Was there any scene or chapter that you enjoyed writing more than others?
HB: I don't think so but there are certainly times when I'm writing that the dialogue really works or something descriptive I write resonates for me and those moments sometimes send a chill up my spine. It's like hitting a home run, I think. All the preparation and practice that leads to a sweet spot where everything fires on time and syncs together with a healthy dose of luck in the mix. There's a line at the end of the first chapter of Romancing Olive that was one of those moments for me. ''This weathered house, with its' patterns of crops, looked clean and new and righteous.' Readers may not identify that sentence as a stand out, although some have, but I did and it stuck in my head for a long while.
KD: What drew you to the historical romance genre?
HB: My sister managed a book store and got me hooked on some of her favorite authors. I like reading and writing about a time that appears to be less pretentious and a more proper in many ways. I'm glad I live now with penicillin and sewage systems but sometimes think we could all stand to be less informal in our dealings with others. There are things in life meant to be thoughtfully considered.
KD: If you could do a one on one session with any author who would it be?
HB: Mary Balogh. She makes me love her characters.
KD: How long have you been writing? Did you always want to write?
HB: I've been writing about fifteen years and have six complete historical romances. My next book is about a woman named Julia Crawford and her arranged marriage that doesn't go quite as planned. I'm giving Julia's story a close look and a small rewrite before she heads to the editor. I'm hoping to have her available for sale near the middle of February.
I never planned to write but the writing found me and I'm glad of it.
KD: What is your ideal writing environment?
HB: Small room in my upstairs with good natural light, a new desk and a door that closes!
KD: Are you currently working on anything?
HB: In addition to the rewrite on Julia, I'm writing a women's fiction novel based in my home town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.