Joanne Kennedy is the author of three previous contemporary Western romances for Sourcebooks. She brings a wide variety of experience, ranging from chicken farming to horse training, to her sexy, spicy cowboy stories. She is a 2011 finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of American RITA© Awards, for One Fine Cowboy. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she is working on her next book, Cowboy Crazy (June 2012). You can find visit her at her web site or her Facebook Fan Page.

PonyTails (PT): Tall, Dark, and Cowboy is your 4th Contemporary Western Romance to take place in Wyoming. How did you choose Wyoming for your setting?

Joanne Kennedy (JK): To me, Wyoming is the heart of the West. It’s the least populated state in the US, mostly because there’s so much wide-open, inhospitable land here. It’s tough to make a living off this land, so you have to be absolutely committed to the cowboy way of life to make it work. That’s why the symbol of our state is a cowboy on a bucking horse. You can’t get much more cowboy than that!

PT: Except for Jodi in Cowboy Fever, all of your heroines are City Girls who discover the joys of country living. Is that a dynamic that is close to your heart?

JK: The fish-out-of-water experience comes straight from my own life. I wasn’t a city girl, but I was a suburban one. The only crop my family grew was grass, but when I was in my twenties, I decided I wanted to be a farmer. The learning curve was pretty darn steep, and so many funny things happened along the way that I have material for lots and lots of books. Then I got interested in horses, and of course they’re an endless source of inspiration.

PT: Why do you write about cowboys, i.e. personalities, code of ethics, etc?

JK: I really admire the commitment and courage of modern-day ranchers. It’s not an easy life, and those who choose it have to survive a lot of hardship and take a lot of chances to live in a time-honored, traditional way. So being a cowboy is about commitment, passion, and traditional values. What more could you ask for in a man?

PT: Your second book published, One Fine Cowboy (which is my personal favorite), was a Romance Writers of America RITA Award Finalist this year. Has that affected your writing? If so, in a good way? Do you feel under pressure to produce another RITA Nominee?

JK: It was an amazing honor that I didn’t expect so early in my career. The nomination gave me a lot of confidence in my writing and made me more willing to trust my heart rather than thinking so much about the “rules” of romance. My books are a little different from other cowboy romances; I think my West is less idealized and a little grittier. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. The RITA nomination told me it was good.

But the main reason I’d like to produce another RITA Nominee is because it would mean I was again creating a book that really spoke to readers.

PT: With the release of Cowboy Fever we learned about one of your favorite organizations to support, the Cheyenne Therapeutic Equestrian Center. Are there other organizations you support? If so, why those organizations?

JK: CTEC is such a great organization because it brings kids with disabilities together with rescued horses and everybody wins. I have a friend whose daughter has autism, and their journey has taught me so much about love and commitment and courage. I also admire the endless patience and dedication of the people I’ve met who work with kids with autism. It’s a surprisingly common disability and right now we’re learning so much about it—I support any organization that works toward a better understanding of people whose minds work differently. I think we can learn a lot from the way they perceive the world.

PT: Do you plan your stories or do you just put pen to paper and see what happens?

JK: I work with a very loose outline that tells me what problems the hero and heroine have to overcome, the major turning points along the way, and the resolution. Other than that I just set the characters loose and let them live their story. Sometimes they surprise me, and the outline often changes quite a bit along the way.

PT: What are your go to resources when you write? Favorite books, websites, technology, etc?

JK: My favorite resource is other writers. I read romances and other books voraciously. I like to know what’s out there so I can do something different, and I’m inspired when I find a book that really works. I’ve learned so much from writers like Nora Roberts, Linda Lael Miller, Jodi Thomas, and so many others. I also have wonderful writing friends. We meet for coffee or lunch and talk writing – it always revitalizes me.
Another great resource is the customer reviews on bookstore websites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. After I read a book, I think about what worked for me and check to see what other readers thought. I discover a lot of pet peeves and problems I otherwise might have stumbled into, and let me know what matters most to readers.

PT: If you were a writer entering the industry today, what is the most important advice you’d give yourself?

JK: Remember what really matters about your writing: you have stories to tell, and you want to connect with readers. Don’t worry about where you are in your career compared to other people. Don’t get caught up in sales numbers and bestseller lists; just keep writing the very best books you can, with characters readers can fall in love with and stories they can’t put down.

Thank you to Joanne for visiting PonyTails again! I love having you here! Also thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for sponsoring the giveaway!

Sourcebooks Casablanca has generously donated 2 copies of Tall, Dark, and Cowboy for a giveaway. This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. Please fill out the form at the end of the post. I will close the sign up on Friday November 25, 2011 at 11:59pm EDT. I will use to select the winner and will announce the winner here on Monday November 28!

About Tall, Dark and Cowboy:

She’s looking for an old friend…

In the wake of a nasty divorce, Lacey Bradford heads for Wyoming where she’s sure her old friend will take her in. But her high school pal Chase Caldwell is no longer the gangly boy who would follow her anywhere. For one thing, he’s now incredibly buff and handsome, but that’s not all that’s changed…

What she finds is one hot cowboy…

Chase has been through tough times and is less than thrilled to see the girl who once broke his heart. But try as he might to resist her, while Lacey’s putting her life back together, he’s finding new ways to be part of it.

If you click the book image it will take you to my review of Tall, Dark and Cowboy.

Tall, Dark and Cowboy is available from Amazon in Print and Kindle editions. Also from Barnes and Noble in Print.

UPDATE 11/25/2011: Since there are only 2 entries, I am extending the giveaway until December 2nd!