I’m having over a friend of mine for an interview today. She’s a fellow author who I’ve become friendly with and whose writing I love! She writes contemporary romance set in Arkansas.
Before we get to the interview though, I’d like to share her prologue.
Copper Moon by Donna Taylor
10 Years Earlier
My family was really good at keeping secrets, big ones, small ones, and everything in between. Today, I was going to add another one to my own personal list.
My gramps was the best. He totally got that at fourteen, I was old enough to make it to the movies by myself. It was only three streets over from where he’d be hanging out at the feed store. What could happen in three blocks? Besides, it wasn’t like Copper Ridge was a huge city or something. Sure, there were plenty of strangers in town, as summer was in full swing, but most of them would be at the lake or on one of the rivers during the day. Tourists didn’t waste sunshine hanging out at the movies, especially on a weekend. Matinees were pretty much locals only on a Saturday. Which was great, ‘cause that made it the perfect place to meet friends.
“Now Sis, you go straight to the show and don’t make no detours. As soon as it’s over, you get that skinny hinny back here. Your dad will skin the hide clean offin’ me if anything happens to you.” Gramps winked as he finished talking.
Gramps planned on sitting in the storage area of the feed store with all the other men, young and old alike, who showed up to swap stories and share the latest gossip. He said it was better than any newspaper for finding out what was going on with anyone who lived within a fifty mile radius of town. I was tickled when he volunteered to pick up the salt blocks for the cattle so I could catch a ride into town with him instead of Dad. Gramps had a million stories which made the thirty minute ride a blast.
If Dad ever found out even half the stories Gramps told me it would get ugly. Moonshine, revenuers, shootouts, and fast cars. Best. Stories. Ever! Gramps knew what he was talking about, too. He was a fifth generation moonshiner, and dang proud of it. Dad had broken with tradition and become a cattle rancher. He had taken the few cattle the family owned as a cover for the real business of moonshine and expanded the herd, until now it wasn’t just a front but an honest to goodness ranch. Gramps said that made him even prouder, ‘cause times were changing. Said making shine had always been a dangerous business, sometimes deadly, and he was glad to know his son was walking a different path to make a living.
I waved at Gramps, not sure he even saw. He was already swapping tales with a bunch of old guys, walking toward the open bay doors that gave access to the shaded interior. With a grin I turned and headed out for the theater.
Cutting through a back street to knock off some of the distance, I‘d just entered the alley that ran alongside the theater when a truck thundered past me. Music screamed out the open windows. The bright red four-by-four with monster tires made it easy to identify who the owner was—Billy Wayne, the sheriff’s boy and schoolyard bully. The truck came to a screeching halt at an angle just past me. Typical for BW and his crew. Big time showoffs. The music cut off as the doors opened and the boys spilled out, laughing and knocking into each other the way guys do. All the boys were older than me but I still knew each one. I wasn’t too worried about them, since they’d never paid any attention to me at school or anywhere else I ran across them. I kept walking; doing my best to ignore them.
As I went to pass where they were all horsing around, BW stepped in front of me, bringing me to a halt. The other two guys maneuvered to flank me on either side. I felt the first stirring of nervousness at being surrounded by the likes of BW and his buddies. They were still talking trash to each other, but I knew it would soon be me they turned on to tease. They’d probably talk some dirty crap, impressing nobody but themselves.
Boys had started paying more attention to me this summer. Grow some boobs, have the braces come off, and guys suddenly started seeing you. Whatever, I’d been learning to do a pretty good job of tuning jerks out. But this time it felt different. Uglier. Staring at BW I tried out the best mean look I had.
“Get out of my way.” My stink-eye didn’t seem to have much effect other than to set off hooting and mimicking of my words by the two on either side of me. BW just smiled. He had a better mean look than me, even when he was smiling.
“Ain’t you Moonshine’s granddaughter?”
“Don’t call him that!” Nerves fled and anger took its place. Now I knew how this was gonna go. I’d been dealing with it ever since I got old enough to have guys start trying to get me to sneak booze to them. Sometimes they just wanted to taunt me about what my grandpa did.
“What? Ain’t that what everyone calls him?” BW spread his arms wide and shrugged like he was surprised by my anger.
Trey was quick to chime in, as though he was puzzled, “Man, you mean that ain’t his name?”
Not to be left out, Robbie snickered, “Shit, I’m pretty sure that’s what my old man calls him.”
Standing as straight as possible, trying to make myself look taller and tougher, I glared at each of the morons in turn. “If you don’t let me by I’m gonna start screaming. Someone’ll hear me. Then you’ll be in big trouble.”
“Whooo, that’s scary, boys. We better back off or we’re gonna be in big trouble.” BW pitched his voice high on the last three words, mocking me. He stepped aside and waved me through. Guess I should have known he was letting me go too easy, but all I could think about was getting the heck out of there. If I made it to the end of the alley there’d be people around and these jerks would have to leave me alone.
Taking a cautious step forward, I kept a wary eye on BW. He still had both hands in the air, as though he honestly meant to let me go. I flicked a quick glance at Robbie, then over to Trey, to see if they were also gonna let me get away. They both had puzzled looks, as though wondering why the heck BW was letting me leave, but they didn’t appear to be getting ready to grab me. That was all the encouragement I needed. Gathering myself I went to dart around BW, ready to make a run for it. I moved quickly, but BW was quicker. His arm snaked out as I passed and a hand tightened painfully around my upper arm.
Jerked to a halt, BW dragged me up against his overgrown teenage body. I knew I was trapped when his other arm wrapped across my chest, pulling me in tight. I let lose a scream, which was quickly cut off by the hand that had first grabbed me. I exploded into a mass of kicking, twisting fury.
BW was spitting out the f-bomb and yelled at his two hooting and laughing partners, “Grab those damn legs.”
Eager to jump into the tussle, Trey and Robbie maneuvered into position. Trey bent to make a grab for my right leg, which gave me a perfect shot at his face with my foot. While I’d been busy trying to kick him in the head his buddy, Robbie, went for my other leg. The feel of blunt nails scraping a trail down my shins, as their hands tried to get a firm grip, ignited real fear in me for the first time in my life.
I managed to land a heel to Trey’s chin, but Robbie had gotten control of my left leg. His fingers dug in savagely. BW’s beefy hand more than smothered my screams, it cut off what little air I managed to pull into lungs squeezed tight by the arm he’d wrapped across my upper torso. All the fight in me was slowly being crushed, along with my ability to breathe. I knew it was just a matter of time before Trey would get control of my one remaining flailing limb. Fear jacked into terror as BW’s arm began to shift across my chest until he was able to grab one of my breasts and squeeze painfully. One second of frozen shock was all Trey needed to capture and give a vicious twist to my leg. Payback for the face kick.
“Carry her over behind the truck.” BW ordered, a sick excitement threading through his words. I continued to buck as best I could, but that only seemed to slide my short tee higher and expose more of my body by the second. There was no real thinking involved on how I was going to escape what was happening. All that kept firing off in my thoughts was I had to keep fighting.
“Turn her lose you sons-a-bitches.” Barely controlled rage thrummed through the bite of those words.
Whoever was coming to my rescue scared the crap out of Robbie and Trey. They dropped my legs in their scramble to back away. My sandals had been lost in all that wild twisting, when my legs were dropped my bare feet scraped the broken ground. BW released me so quickly there was no time to catch myself to keep from falling. Pitching forward, my knees smashed into gravel. Luckily my hands slapped the ground before my face did.
The meaty thud of a fist contacting flesh registered as background noise, my brain was fighting off terror and my lungs were dragging in huge gulps of oxygen.
My mind was screaming at me to get up. Trying to push to my feet ground small rocks deeper into the palms of my hands and the tender flesh of my knees. Gritting my teeth, determined not to let the bastards know I was scared and hurting, I managed to get to my feet. Trying to get it together gave me time to watch Jase Rydan pull BW up off the ground. Staring at Jase, I now knew who had saved me. The blood streaming out of BW’s nose also made it pretty obvious who’d received a face full of fist.
Little chicken shit wasn’t even trying to fight back. Jase looked disgusted at the fear in BW’s eyes as he growled at him, “You, and your little fucked-up friends, need to get your puckered asses out of here before you end up having to scrape them off the ground.”
I’d no plans on sticking around to see what was going to happen next. Turning around, head up, back stiff, I started limping back in the direction I’d just come from. Praying the whole time…please, just let me get out of here. The humiliation of being caught in a situation like that, piled on top of the fear and anger, had my eyes burning from holding back tears. My throat felt like I’d eaten crushed glass but I couldn’t stop swallowing compulsively. In my desperation to flee the spot where my childish illusions of safety and invincibility had been shattered, I didn’t even stop to thank my rescuer. Though Jase called my name, I just kept on walking.
The sound of boots thudding behind me, then a hand landing gently on my shoulder had me whirling and knocking the light touch away.
* * *
Jase tried to look as non-threatening as possible. Charlotte Donley, the young girl standing in front of him, had her teeth bared and the wild look of a cornered animal. He had the feeling one wrong move would have her tearing down the street away from him.
Her ponytail was a bedraggled mess of barely contained scarlet strands. Furious blue eyes dared him to take a step closer. He had to admire the fact she was obviously still in defense mode and not quivering in terror.
Hell, she’d been fighting her three attackers with the ferocity of a feral kitten as he drove by the ally. Jase had a feeling she was damn lucky he’d noticed what those little bastards were up to. He scanned down her thin frame, trying to determine if there was any real damage.
Blood oozed sluggishly from a dozen tiny scrapes on both the palms of her hands and caps of her knees. There were four nasty looking scratches on her left shin. The sight of them had him regretting having let those three little cocksuckers run off. Her bare feet reminded him he was holding her sandals in his hand.
“Charlotte, I’m not going to hurt you. You know me and my family. We’re the closest thing you’ve got to a neighbor in our neck of the woods.” Jase tried to calm her. “All I want to do is help you get back to your parents. Are they here in town? Bet they let you walk to the movies all by yourself, right? Kid, you can’t run off without your shoes. At least hang around long enough to get your shoes and let’s see if we can clean you up a bit.” His voice was low and soothing, lips curled at the corners in a tiny smile. Hands in the air, palms up, in a non-threatening show of peace. Sandals dangled by their straps from one of his fingers.
* * *
I wasn’t an idiot. Of course he wasn’t going to hurt me; he’d just saved me. And duh, everyone knew who Jase Rydan was. It kinda surprised me that he knew who I was, since he was so much older. But right now the thought of anyone touching me was a no-go. I felt pretty desperate to get out of there before I started bawling right in front of him.
All I could focus on was getting back to the feed store, climbing into the truck without anyone seeing me, and then coming up with a believable story as to why I had shredded hands and bleeding knees. Last thing I wanted was my gramps or my parents finding out what had happened.
It was the sight of my shoes held aloft by Jase that had me really taking a good look at myself. Crap! No way was I going to come up with a story to cover the way I looked right now.
“Come on, Charlotte, let me help you. I’ve got some old towels and water in the truck. We can knock some of that blood off you.” Jase’s cajoling tone brought my attention back to him. “Then we’ll go find your parents.”
Taking a deep breath, I realized I was going to have to take his offer of help to clean up but that was it. Afterwards, I needed to figure out a way to keep him from telling my gramps what had happened. I still had hopes of lying my way out of this.
“Thank you.” Why was it so hard to grit that out? Trying to choke back sobs I held out my hand. “Give me my shoes. Please.”
Jase handed over the sandals. “Wait here. I’ll go wet a couple rags. You’ll need to clean off those feet.” He took off for his truck parked at the entrance to the alley.
I sat down in the middle of the alley and began brushing at the bottoms of my feet. I tried to bring my jack-rabbiting heart under control, as well as slow my gulping swallows of air.
Jase was back quicker than I’d expected. Instead of handing over the wet cloth he squatted beside me and took the foot I’d been examining in one of his large, warm hands. Looking up at him warily, I reluctantly let him clean the sole of my foot. He was extremely gentle, and when he’d completed the rock and dirt removal he picked up the appropriate sandal and slid it on. Jase then turned his attention to my other foot.
While he went carefully from one blood, dirt and rock encrusted area to the next I studied him. His dark hair was short with not much peeking out around the edge of his sweat-stained ball cap. I couldn’t see the color of his eyes because of the way his head was lowered while he concentrated on cleaning dirt out of cuts, but figured they were the same gray color his brother’s were. His eyelashes were crazy long for a guy, but they didn’t make him look like a sissy. Looking at his lips made me feel kinda funny. To be honest I’d never really looked at a guy’s lips, or thought much about them. But Jase’s sure were interesting. Kinda full without that gross puffy look.
He wasn’t pretty, like a few guys at school, and he wasn’t handsome like my dad. Somehow he was just more and better than either pretty or handsome. I was tall for a girl my age. Even taller than a lot of guys in my class, but Jase was way taller than me.
He wore a t-shirt that hugged his arms and chest. Man, he had some big muscles in his arms, and though I couldn’t see, I’d bet my next week’s allowance he had what the kids at school called a six-pack. Heck, Jase probably had a twelve-pack, and I wasn’t even positive that was possible but if anybody could do it I bet he could.
I knew to him I was just a kid, what with him being twenty to my fourteen, but the way my heart had started picking up the pace sure didn’t make me feel like a kid. Where BW’s hands on me were revolting, Jase’s were having a weird effect. Goosebumps were dotting my arms and legs while a heat I’d never felt before rolled into my stomach. A flush was creeping up my neck, spreading a pink tint across my cheeks.
“There, not great but at least it doesn’t look as bad as it did.” He settled back on his heels and gave me a once over, as though checking to see if he’d missed anything. “Now, let’s go find your parents.”
“No.” That came out a lot louder than I’d intended.
Jase cocked his head sideways not saying anything, just stared at me.
“I really am glad you came along, but please, don’t tell anyone about this.” Well that certainly sounded a lot like begging. Okay, I was begging, but if that’s what it took to keep this a secret between us, that’s what I’d do. Since Jase had cleaned me up I figured I had a real shot at making my family believe I’d tripped and got skinned up. All I needed was to add back a little bit of the dirt Jase had washed off.
“Don’t you think your folks should know what BW and his buddies did?” Jase sounded curious, not like an adult trying to guilt a kid into doing the right thing.
“No. It would just make my folks mad, and Gramps might do something crazy that could get him in trouble. Besides, I don’t want anyone else knowing what happened.” Yeah, lots of pleading going on now. “This could just be our secret.”
Jase kept staring at me for a long minute. His eyes narrowed to slits as though he were thinking things through.
“If I don’t tell your parents you have to let me tell Evan, so he can watch over you for me. Make sure those kids don’t pick on you because of what happened here. That’s the only way I keep my mouth shut.” The firm words and hard look let me know there would be no compromising on this.
Him wanting to tell his brother, Evan, had me squirming. Evan was a couple years older than me. He was younger than BW and crew, but not by much. Not what I wanted to happen, but if Evan could be counted on to keep his mouth shut, how bad could it be? At the most he might check up on me for a couple weeks once school started, then he would let it slide.
“Can you promise Evan won’t tell anyone?”
“Yeah, it won’t be a problem. I’ve got enough crap on him to keep him in line.” Jase flashed a wicked smile at me. Seeing that look made me happy not to have an older brother.
“You can tell Evan, but you can bet your ass I won’t ever let those three catch me alone again.” Guess it was my cussing that had him trying to hide a grin.
I started to push myself up, but Jase got a hold of my arm and pulled me up as he stood. It was hard hiding my grimace as abused skin stretched over skinned knees. My body felt more than a little stiff from the frenzied struggle I’d put up.
Jase got a real mad look on his face when he saw my expression and worried me that he might try to renege on the deal.
“I’ll drive you to wherever your parents are.” Yep, his voice sounded pretty darn angry.
“You can’t. I came into town with my gramps, and he’s at the feed store. If he sees you driving up with me he’s gonna ask a million questions. I’m fine now. Really. I’ll walk back to the store and wait in the truck.” There I was. Back to begging.
Jase’s lips tightened, making it obvious he didn’t like it one bit. His curt nod had me breathing out a sigh of relief, but I’d been a little hasty thinking I’d won this point.
Turning away, I once again began limping back to the feed store. Jase’s truck fired to life behind me and to my annoyance he kept a slow pace as he trailed me. At least he stopped before actually getting to the feed store. He parked about a block away, and I could feel his eyes follow me until he was satisfied I’d reached the safety of Gramps’ truck.
From that moment on, Jase was my hero. The subject of countless fantasies, where the ending turned out far differently than it actually had. As I grew older I tried to put that silly childhood crush out of my mind.
But as with all heroes, Jase proved to be a hard man to forget.
Q: Give us a quick overview of your book Copper Moon.
A: I’m never good at doing anything ‘quick’ but I’ll give it a try. The story is set in Arkansas. It centers on a young woman, Charlotte (Char), and a family secret that she’s grown up with. Her beloved Gramps is a moonshiner; a long standing tradition in his family. Char is fearless and that lands her in trouble more often than not. Fate brings Jase into her life when she is a teenager at the right moment to save her from three teen bullies. When the story picks up ten years later, a chance encounter once again brings Jase back into her life. This time he is determined to stay, whatever the cost. Tragedy strikes and Char becomes caught up in the search for a killer. Jase has his hands full trying to prevent Charlotte from becoming the next victim.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your heroine.
A: Charlotte is a resilient woman. I like to think she is a fair representation of the type of women you find in the south. They handle whatever life throws at them with courage and more likely than not a whole lot of attitude. She’s smart, a little hot headed at times but when she loves it’s an all-in kind of deal.
Q: How about the hero? What’s he like.
A: Jase is the kind of man that isn’t afraid to take on a woman that has a mind of her own. He knows what he wants and he wants Char. When it becomes clear that helping her could place him on the wrong side of the law, Jase doesn’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
A: One of my favorites is by Char’s gramps: We have a long history of not playin’ by the rules in our family, might as well be proud of it.
There’s a lot of rule breaking in Copper Moon, so Gramps did a pretty good job of summing up the whole book in that one sentence.
Another quote that means something personal to me, and my family and friends who know me, is this one: “Hell, maybe they went through my recipe boxes because they heard about that fucking amazing blackberry cobbler I make.”
I don’t like to brag…okay, I’m bragging…but I make a heck of a great blackberry cobbler from scratch.
Q: Is there one scene that was especially fun for you to write?
A: Actually, there are a few scenes more fun than others to write, but would have to say my favorite takes place in Chapter 16. It starts around the middle of the chapter and takes place in the parking lot of a backwoods bar called Skeeter’s. Char lets her temper get the best of her (looking back I think Char may have had anger management problems) and she pulls a stunt that ends in not only Jase having to save her hinny, with his brother, Evan, pitching in and a whole bunch of─yeah, not going there. I laughed more than once while writing that scene.
Q: Is there one scene that was especially hard for you to write?
A: When you have to break someone’s heart, even if it’s a character in a book, it’s a hard thing to do. Necessary, but hard. Writing the love scenes weren’t actually difficult, it was the thought of my family and friends reading them that freaked me out. I even told my daughter not to read the chapter that had the really hot and heavy sex in it.
Q: Are you working on anything right now?
A: Right now I’m working on the next book in the Copper Ridge series. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone but one of my main characters for this book was introduced in Copper Moon. Sawyer is as rough as sandpaper and could peel the paint off the walls with his cussing. He’s domineering, arrogant and sexy as heck. My readers love him and I think I’d have a lot of disappointed women out there if his story wasn’t next. Told my daughter that she may have to skip more than one chapter when I tell Sawyer’s story. The woman I have lined up for him is not one he would normally waste his time on. But, hey, when lust..er…love strikes even the most opposites of personalities find a way to make it work.
Q: Do you have a date in mind for when it will be published?
A: I’m hoping to have it completed and ready to publish sometime around the first of February. Keeping my fingers crossed and trying to keep my butt in the chair so I can get it written.
Donna Taylor has one book signing under her belt at a local Hastings and has another one scheduled October 10, 2015 in Blytheville at That Bookstore in Blytheville. She will be there from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm and would love anyone in the area to come by and visit with her.
Here are the links to some radio and television interviews for anyone who would like to hear more!
Radio Interview: 15 minutes
Talk of the Town, Mountain Home, Arkansas
August 13, 2015
TV Interview: 8 minutes
XL7TV: 726 Mountain Home
September 4, 2015