Kathy Altman

For a change of pace, I left a trail of hearts and flowers and lured Kathy Altman, romance writer, into isolation.  Her first novel, The Other Soldier, hit shelves in early July.

Why writing?  What drew you to it?  Why do you continue?

I think it might all come down to positive reinforcement. When I was in the 1st grade I wrote about two bumblebees falling in love and my teacher so enjoyed the story that I promptly decided writing was fun. Who knows if I’d still be writing if she told me the story needed work. Anyway, as a result of her praise, during my school career I spent more time on my writing assignments than say, math or science or…well, just about anything else. But I didn’t write much outside of homework, and even when I was a teen and discovered a deep affinity for romance and resolved to write one of my own, I never did take that dream very far.

Then I turned 40. I’d like to say I was finally mature enough to realize that dreaming would never hook up with doing without a little matchmaking on my part. But really I think I was just desperate to distract myself from rubbing alcohol and reading glasses. I don’t remember how I discovered http://www.harlequin.com or where I found the chutzpah to not only join my local Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter but actually attend a meeting, but thank heavens I did! And after eight years, 5 manuscripts, 11 partials, countless contest entries, a handful of requests and two armfuls of rejection letters later, I finally sold to Harlequin.

If you were freezing to death and the only thing left to burn were the books in your library, what 5 books would you burn last?  (And yes, everything else burnable has been burnt.)

Whoa, you don’t fool around with these questions, do you?! Okay, let’s see. I guess I can’t do what they do in the express checkout line at the grocery and count 50 items as 1? There goes my Agatha Christie collection!  🙂  I’ll choose the Bible, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (a high school graduation gift from my bestie), Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (reading about Manderley on fire just might warm me up), The Riverside Shakespeare (it’s a hefty tome I can use to beat off anyone who won’t leggo my last Eggo), and of course my own book (as a reminder that miracles can happen and that somehow, some way I’ll be rescued before becoming freezer burnt).

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve done (in life or in writing (your choice))?

I’m an introvert all the way—aren’t most writers?!—so I’d have to say seeking opportunities to promote myself and/or my book. Whether it’s attending an RWA chapter meeting or a conference or joining online forums or scouting blogs willing to host me as a guest, it’s tough to put myself out there—even tougher than putting my writing out there! I do have to admit I’ve had it pretty easy—most people have approached me instead of the other way around. Writers are the most generous people in the world! Present company included, of course! Yeah, I’m shameless.

What’s one word or phrase that drives you nuts?  Why?

Has to be “I could care less,” which is meant to convey zero emotional investment or even disdain for something. But if you’re capable of caring less, that means you currently care somewhat. This should always be, “I could not care less.” Which you’re probably thinking as you read this!

Do you have a favorite character you’ve created?  If so, who is it and why?

Harris Briggs is hands-down my favorite character in The Other Soldier. He’s an older man, a former Marine, who helps the heroine Parker run her greenhouses. I love his gruffness and the tough love he shows Parker, I can relate to his approval of carrot cake (as long as it’s raisin-free), and I adore the odd pieces of advice he offers, especially “Don’t get your dress over your head.” My grandfather always said that and he’s the only one I ever heard it from. Every time Harris said it, I had to smile.

Creepiest place you’ve ever been?  Has it appeared in your fiction?  Why or Why not?

Huh. I’m thinking I live a fairly unadventurous life because creepy doesn’t occur very often. The last time I remember being creeped out—I mean, truly petrified—was when I was 12 and got left behind in the D.C. Capital Center parking lot after an Ice Capades show. We’d caravanned up, and after the show each vehicle assumed I’d caught a ride in a different car. So it’s dark, and cold, and spooky, because the lot is basically deserted, and I’m wandering around with no clue what to do and knowing full well I shouldn’t talk to strangers. Of course, I didn’t have a choice, and luckily the stranger I chose walked me to the security office. I hope never to feel that helpless again! And good point—I haven’t used that in a story yet, but I’ll have to see what I can arrange!

What’s the best rejection you’ve ever received?

I received my favorite and most helpful rejection back in March of 2007 from, believe it or not, the very same editor who ended up buying The Other Soldier! In her lengthy rejection letter, she informed me that although she found my writing engaging, she felt my plot relied too much on coincidence, didn’t provide enough real tension between the hero and heroine, and didn’t give the couple significant internal issues to work out. Best of all she provided specific examples, which helped me understand what I needed to fix for subsequent submissions. Although of course I was disappointed (okay, make that wrecked), I was also motivated to make the next story better. That’s a worthwhile rejection!

How did you get that scar?

LOL, how observant of you!  I was walking to school one morning—I guess I was 6 or 7—when a friend hailed me from my left. I turned and waved, paying no attention to where I was going, and I fell through the sidewalk! The manhole cover had been removed and the concrete was all crumbled up around the opening—apparently the state had been doing repairs and hadn’t bothered to barricade the site. Luckily I didn’t fall far, but I had to be helped out and found that I’d cut a big long gash in my leg. Ended up with 23 stitches. To this day I have to listen to lame “sewer-cide” jokes.

What song would precede your entrance into a room if we all had personal soundtracks?

LOL. Hmm, is there a procrastination song? Let’s see. How about “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” One sentence at a time, one page at a time, one scene at a time and suddenly you’re walking! Er…I mean, finishing your book!

Promote yourself and/or your writing

Hmm, let me refer you back to my answer for question 3.  🙂  Okay, how about I give you the blurb for The Other Soldier:

Corporal Reid Macfarland has one mission: to make amends for the mistake he lives with every day. That friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan that killed a fellow soldier haunts him. Maybe if he can help the widow, he’ll find some peace.

But amends are easier said than done. Just one meeting with the independent and engaging Parker Dean makes it clear that forgiveness is a little more complicated than offering money or an apology. If he really wants to help, Reid has to stick around for a while. The more their daily lives intertwine, the more he realizes her forgiveness isn’t the only thing he needs—he needs her.

So far the book has been well-received—yay!—and I was honored to be interviewed by USA Today for their Happy Ever After blog. You can find that interview here

Whew! Glad that’s over!  🙂

Any final thoughts before you run screaming for your life?

I’ll sign off with two of my favorite quotes:

Never never never quit.  –Winston Churchill

Don’t get it right the first time, just get it written!  -James Thurber

Thank you, Ms. Altman, for tossing a few rose petals around the corners.  The tank needed some sprucing up.  I hope being locked underground didn’t cause too many sewer flashbacks.

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