Kathy Otten is the published author of multiple historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories. She is also published in contemporary romance and historical fiction. She is a Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star winner and Utah/Salt Lake RWA Hearts of the West finalist. A Place In Your Heart is her fourth full-length novel. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on a contemporary young adult novel.
She teaches fiction writing online and at a local adult education center, and is a regular presenter at area events. Kathy also does manuscript assessments and editing. She lives in the rolling farmland of western New York where she can often be found walking her dog through the woods and fields. She has been married for thirty-four years and is the mother of three grown children and one grandson.
Let's spice it up and do the speed round first!
Oxford Comma? Yes
Ice cream (Vanilla or chocolate)? Chocolate
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
What does your desk look like? Fairly neat.
Writing must haves: Assorted colors of markers, pens, pencils and highlighters. And notebooks.
Describe your perfect writing day. On a day when I’m not working and have no place to go… Up at 8 a.m., go to the fitness center, shower, breakfast, then go into my office. I do 1 hour sitting at the computer and 15 minutes moving around. Do some dishes, throw in a load of wash, etc. Then back sitting for another hour. Those hours I’m in my office, I check and answer emails, work on critiques/ or editing I do for other people, any online classes or workshops I’m presenting, my newsletter or blog. Then around mid-afternoon I take my dog for a walk, and spend my remaining hours at the computer working on my own stuff, writing, researching, editing, etc. I quit around 6-7 p.m. and make dinner. Clean up the kitchen, read or watch TV, and go to bed. Of course days like this are few and far between.
In an ideal world, right? (That sounds like my ideal day)
In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job? I'd be a teacher.
What’s your favorite place you’ve visited? I grew up in Vermont, so beautiful and favorite places equaled home. Now I live in a farm town, surrounded by woods and rolling fields, out on a road with horse and buggy traffic most of the day. I have lots of wildlife, beautiful views, a nice deck, and peace and quiet. So, I’m quite content to be home and have little desire to travel.
What do you like to do when not writing? Read and walk my dog.
Okay...that was fun! Now on to the more serious and traditional questions...
When did your writing journey begin? What drew you to writing?
I don’t know of anything specific which drew me to writing. I used to make up stories when I first learned to write. Lucky the Dog, I wrote in second grade I believe. The Lost Uranium Mine when I got a little older and The Mystery of the Old Yellow House in fourth grade. TV westerns were popular when I was a little older and I used to make up stories about my favorite characters, like Johnny Lancer and Heath Barkley. I guess they would be considered fan fiction today. That early hook for westerns became my comfort zone I guess, which is why I write romance in that genre.
What was your inspiration for A Place In Your Heart?
This novel takes place during the Civil War and during my early research phase, I came across Mary Ann Bickerdyke, a nurse at Cairo, Ill. She never let anything stand in her way with regards to the care of, “her boys.” She was in charge of the supplies which came from the Sanitary Commission, and guarded them fiercely. At one point she discovered the cook and his friends had been eating the fruit intended for the wounded. So she cooked up a peach compote, put in a purgative and left the pot on the stove. When she returned to the kitchen and found sick and groaning men, she told them next time she would add rat poison. Another time she tackled an orderly in the ward and sat on him while she pulled off his shirt, (which she’d discovered bore the initials for the North West Sanitary Commission) and whirled it around above her head while the patients cheered. She then stripped off his socks and slippers. She left his pants on, as they were his.
Because of her tenacity and dedication to the men she sent officers running in fear. I loved this woman so much, she became my inspiration for Gracie McBride, the heroine in my story.
Wow, what an interesting nurse to inspire you!! (I'm still laughing at the purgative)
Gracie McBride isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for respect. But in this man’s world of Civil War medicine, Gracie is expected to maintain her place changing beds and writing letters. Her biggest nemesis is the ward surgeon, Doctor Charles Ellard, who seems determined to woo her with arrogant kisses and terrible jokes.
Charles is an excellent surgeon. He assumed he would be well received by an army at war. He was not. Friendless and alone, he struggles to hide the panic attacks that plague him while the only person who understands him is a feisty Irish nurse clearly resolved to keep him at a distance.
But, Charles is sent to the battlefield, and Gracie is left with a wounded soldier, a box of toys, and a mystery which can only be solved by the one man she wishes could love her, both as a woman and a nurse.
Did you go the traditional route to publication?
I actually did submit this story to a couple of agents and traditional publishers, but didn’t hear back from any of them. Nothing for my rejection slip collection. Later, after the story won in the Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star writing competition, I had two requests from e-publishers for a full manuscript. I decided to go with The Wild Rose Press, as they have published most of my work.
What was the hardest part of the story to research?
The medical stuff was the hardest. My hero was really smart, but he couldn’t have medical knowledge which did not exist at the time. It was tough to find that balance. I read several journals from doctors who fought in the war, as well as medical books of the day.
Now for a short excerpt from A Place in Your Heart:
“No. I want you to go home before the death of that ten-year-old boy becomes so ordinary that one day you wake up and realize you no longer have the ability to feel.”
She squared her shoulders and stepped toward him. “Me own husband was a doctor, sir. I’ve birthed babies and stitched wounds. I stood by William’s side during surgeries and passed him instruments. I helped him clean the intestines of a man gored by a bull, before putting it all back inside that man’s belly. Me delicate sensibilities did not send me into a swoon then nor will they here. I thank ye for yer concern, Doctor Ellard, but ’tis who I am. And by the saints, as long as I have breath in me body, I will feel, and I will care.”
Their gazes locked in that moment and something flickered in his icy depths, overshadowing his usual cynicism with what she suspected might be admiration. The harsh lines of his face softened.
“Saint Jude must indeed be watching over you, Mrs. McBride.”
“That he is, Doctor Ellard, that he is.”
He gave her a brisk nod and opened the door. “You’re not going home then, are you?”
She turned. “Ye know us Irish, Doctor Ellard. We don’t know what we want, but we’ll fight to the death to get it.”
Thanks for joining us today, Kathy! Good luck on A Place in Your Heart!