Author interview: Kara O’Neal

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

Writing, for me, relieves the stress from my job. I am the Special Education Campus Specialist at a middle school in Texas. I adore my job and the people I work with. But I’m needed often. I start at 7:30 in the morning and don’t stop until 5:00. And I’m a worrier. So, for me, writing is a beautiful form of release that can leave me blessedly exhausted with joyous emotion!

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I like to answer the question, “What if?” Sometimes I think of a certain kind of person and, knowing the weaknesses of their personality, I wonder, “What would happen if Character A got stuck with Character B?” And then it begins to play like a movie in my mind. Sometimes people think you need a complicated plot to have a good book. This is not true. Sometimes the simplest of problems can be all that is needed. When developing characters and a plot, don’t throw everything and the kitchen sink at it.

If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?
Jane Austen. Hands down. The second would be Pamela Morsi.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

I would choose Levi Crockett. He makes his appearance in Book 13, MAGGIE’S SONG. He’s an apprentice to the hero who is a blacksmith, and Levi is just hungering for a girl of his own. He’s sixteen, too young for marriage at that time, but he’s ready. And I really want to give him a happy ending.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue could play ANY of my characters as long as they play a couple that ends up together. Annette Benning would play Bonnie Davis. I would adore it if Phylicia Allen played Aletta Williamson, and finally, if Amy Adams wanted to play Sherry Forrester, the heroine in THE RANGER’S VOW, and Josh Duhamel wanted to play the hero, Luke Calhoun, I’d be tickled pink.

What advice would you give to help others create plotlines?

Give your main character a flaw and a problem to work against. And make them work for it. If your main character doesn’t change by the end of the story, you DON’T have a story. And don’t give them EVERY problem under the sun. Give them a good villain to work against, and make sure the villain does more than just spout off snarky comments. Start the fight and keep the fight going until your hero is victorious.

What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?

Honesty. The hero/heroine doesn’t have to start out being honest. They have to have flaws, but when push comes to shove, I personally need the characters to be honest. To take the hard path. To be selfless. This, for me, is best embodied by how Captain America was written in the Marvel series.

What are your favorite series or series authors?

The Slightly series by Mary Balogh is a favorite of mine. Mary Balogh actually has several series that I love. The Simply series is another good one.

What characters in your book are most similar to you or to people you know?

This makes me smile. Because I do pattern characters after people. My first heroine, Emma Prescott, is like my sister, Kendra. My second, Alice Parker, is like my sister, Kristen. My third, Angelique Morgan, is like one of my best friends, Catie. Willa Kramer, in book 7, is like another best friend, Anne Margaret. Finally, the hero in book 7, Lonnie Davis, is like my husband, Mick. I’ve got other people who are similar to some of my characters, but these are the most similar. I had to do this, especially when I first started writing, to give myself a gauge. And yes, my sisters, friends, and husband all know that I patterned characters after them. In fact, I dedicated the books to them.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

THE RANGER’S VOW was immensely fun to write. The scene where Luke and Sherry first meet was the absolute BEST! He comes upon her skinny dipping, and their banter is exciting. After that, the next best scene is when they discover who the garter thief is. I laugh every time I think about it!

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