Anne's muse, Calliope, is very opinionated and isn't shy about sharing.
Every writer has a muse, though some are too stuck-up to admit it. I am Calliope, Anne Manning's muse and I'm going to dish the secrets behind Anne's (and my) books.
Anne's first book...well, the first one she finished...was Rustler's Bride. She had discovered Dorothy Garlock, that author of fabulous western romances and others set in early America. Dorothy wrote with grit, and I think that's what attracted Anne to her. See, she also loves Vince Flynn novels, where tough guys do what they do and they don't really give a sh... oops, almost said something that I shouldn't...they don't really care what anybody else thinks.
Anne was also reading Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rebecca Brandewyne, and Julie Garwood. These ladies' historical romances were a treasure trove of inspiration. She also read some romances that weren't that great. I'll bet lots of you have read books and tossed them against the wall and declared, "I could write a better book than that!"
With the help of her trusty Commodore 128 (this was 1990 or so, after all), Anne sat down to begin her first book. And I was right there with her. Since she loves westerns, I gave her a nudge to go in that direction. What if a woman is trying to hold onto her family ranch with only her sister to help? What if a villain is trying to get her land away from her? What if a tall, handsome stranger rides up offering to help her get her cattle to market? And so, Rustler's Bride began.
Since she knew absolutely nothing about writing a novel, I nudged Anne toward places where she could get the skills she needed. She joined Romance Writers of America and got in with a great group of writers, published and not-yet-published. The published members of this group were so generous with tips, advice, and guidance to this newbie.
But I was supposed to dish about the book, wasn't I? Rustler's Bride became her writing school, where she put into practice all the things she learned from her mentors: stuff like point of view, show, don't tell, setting, characterization, how much naughty language is too much, when to dump a secondary character who is taking over the story, when to cut scenes that she loved, but they slowed things down. It took years, but by 1999, it was finally finished and she was ready to send it to a publisher. I will never forget the day that she received a rushed email from the editor who said she was offering a contract for Rustler's Bride and she hadn't even gotten to Chapter Six!
It was published in late 1999--things moved a lot faster in those days--and it's still available in paper or eBook.
Yeah, it was a tough grind, but the story is still one of my favorites. I just love Jake Bowman, the lawyer-turned-outlaw hero who shows up in the nick of time. He's tall, wields a Navy Colt revolver like a gunslinger, and can also talk himself out of any tough spot...or shoot his way out. Martha MacLannon, our heroine, can rope, brand, and handle a Henry rifle as well as any man, but on the wrong side of thirty, she believes the chance for love and a family of her own has passed her by. Thankfully, Jake proves her wrong on that one!
I hope you'll take a look at Rustler's Bride. While we both know she could write it better now, it's still a hell of a yarn.
Well, that's all from me this time. I'll be back to dish on another of Anne's books.