Please welcome Brenda Gayle author of The Doubting Heart. Brenda will award one commenter at every stop a a free digital download of Father of the Bride?, a short story being released by The Wild Rose Press, and one randomly drawn commenter on the tour will receive a $50 Amazon gift card. Also, a signed copy of the first book in the series, The Hungry Heart (US/Canada Only), or a digital copy if an international winner, will be awarded to a randomly drawn host.
Please leave a comment for a chance to win.
The Doubting Heart
by Brenda Gayle
A woman determined to prove her friend was murdered questions her sanity when his look-alike appears.
When Shelby Holt convinces a friend to work at Wildhorse Pass tourist ranch, she never imagines he will die there. The police say Michael's death was accidental, but Shelby doesn't believe it. Haunted by guilt, she puts her academic career on hold to investigate.
Just back from the Middle East, Chad Graham is guilt-ridden over Michael's death too. He poses as a ranch hand at Wildhorse Pass to investigate the woman claiming his cousin's death is suspicious. Were the police wrong? Or is Shelby hiding something?
Shelby knows she can't trust her heart, but when it comes to Chad, she can't trust her head either. He looks uncannily like Michael. Yet even as their distrust deepens, sensual attraction simmers between them. The closer Shelby and Chad get to answers—and to each other—the closer they get to danger…and to a killer who will stop at nothing to avoid discovery.
Hi Christine, thanks so much for inviting me to visit your blog.
1.What or who inspired you to start writing?
That’s a tricky question. Some people come from families of doctors or lawyers; I come from a family of writers. My grandmother kept a journal for most of her life, my father is a journalist, and my sister and cousin are both published authors, so I guess it’s in the genes. However, if I had to identify one person who inspired me to think of my writing as more than just a childish hobby, it would have to be my high school English teacher, Catherine MacGregor. She is one of those very special teachers who is able to really connect with her students. Her encouragement of my creative writing endeavors gave me the confidence to consider making writing my career—first in media/corporate communications and now writing fiction. The Doubting Heart is dedicated to her.
2.How did you come up with ideas for your books?
That’s a great question. Usually a random thought or idea pops into my head and if it sticks, I slowly weave a story around it. For example, The Doubting Heart was originally called Wildhorse Pass. The idea and the title came to me when I misread a sign while driving along a highway on the Bruce Peninsula, in Ontario. I thought “hey, that’s a neat name for a place,” and started to wonder about what type of place it would be and what would go on there. I don’t know what sort of mood I was in but I kept thinking about doubting your senses and mistaken identity, and slowly a plot formed. The title of the book changed, when I realized there was more about this group of people that I wanted to explore. The Doubting Heart became the second book in my Heart’s Desire series.
3.What components are necessary for the genre of this novel?
There is a lot of satisfaction in writing (and reading) romance because you know the ending before you start. The books follow a traditional path: two people meet and fall in love (okay, some subgenres may have more than two), something keeps them apart, and they overcome the obstacle and live happily-ever after. You’d think the format would be limiting, but all you have to do is look at the number of romances written and the statistics that show it’s the most-read genre in fiction to realize that all kinds of combinations and permutations are possible. I like adding a bit of suspense to my stories, others set their stories in the past or in the future—or in a galaxy far, far away—and some involve non-human creatures or partly human creatures. How the author uses these elements, and many more, is what creates uniqueness for each story, and that’s what is so exciting about the genre. Pretty much anything goes.
4.If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?
I really like the minor character of Carmelina Hawke. She is in only one scene of The Doubting Heart (but it’s an important one) and is a recurring character in the series, playing a larger role in the first book, The Hungry Heart, and the almost completed third book, The Forsaken Heart. Carmelina is a smart, intelligent, well-organized woman who provides great insight and advice—all things I strive for, but fear I fall short on. Even though she is going through her own trials in her marriage (which could be resolved in a future book
), she is a great and considerate friend.
5.Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?
A few years ago I belonged to a structured critique group. There were originally five of us, and then four, and then we all moved in different directions. One is writing screenplays, one is writing non-fiction, and I’m the only one still writing romantic fiction. This group was crucial to my ability to complete my first few books. They kept me focused and kept me writing—I didn’t want to be the one who showed up at our meeting with nothing to present. At the moment, I don’t have a critique group, but I do have one person I consider a critique partner. She isn’t actively writing fiction herself, but she understands what I’m trying to do with my stories and she keeps the work honest. She reads the first draft of my chapters as I’m writing them and if something isn’t working she lets me know. It’s a great help.
6.When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step?
As I said before, I have always written and wanted to pursue that as a career. After getting a graduate degree in journalism, I worked for many years in corporate communications where my days were spent writing speeches, magazine articles, press releases, annual reports, web content—you name it, I wrote it. But over time, I found this type of writing less inspiring; my creative muse was shriveling up from disuse. I took a romance-writing course and almost immediately felt my love of writing returning. Even my business writing improved. But with two kids, a husband, and a full-time job, the opportunity to write for myself was scarce and it was a low priority. A friend told me I was looking at this all wrong. I was a writer by profession. My job required me to write to deadlines with the idea that my work would be read. She suggested I take the same approach to my fiction writing. It was great advice.
7.What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
The best advice I’ve ever received came from literary agent Steven Axelrod at the Romance Writers of America conference a few years ago. He said the best thing an author can do for her career is to write the next book. I don’t think this advice is unique to him, but at the time, my first book had just been released and I immersed in the promotion and marketing game. His point is that while authors need to promote their work, they need to realize that time spent promoting is time away from their main job, writing.
The worst advice is something “everyone” likes to tell you: write what you know. Most of us lead pretty mundane lives. Sorry, but that’s not what I’m looking for when I pick up a book. I want something different, something exciting. One of the things I love most about writing is the opportunity to learn about new places (coming from Canada, it’s almost always some place warm), and getting into the skin of personalities totally unlike my own. I live my life every day. I don’t want to read about it in a book.
8.Do you outline your books or just start writing?
When I start a book I generally have an outline of where I want to go and some key things that need to happen. I fill in the rest as I’m writing. More often than can be pure coincidence, I’ll get to a point where I need something to happen in a book in order to propel the story forward—something I hadn’t thought I’d planned for. Then I’ll realize I’ve already set in motion all the elements I need to create the very situation I need. Whenever that happens, I wonder if I’ve subconsciously got the whole story written and my brain is slowly releasing it to me so I can have the same enjoyment of discovery as a reader.
9.Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?
At the moment, I am finishing the third book in the Heart’s Desire series, tentatively titled The Forsaken Heart. This concludes the original story arc and wraps up a bunch of loose ends from The Hungry Heart and The Doubting Heart. This story focuses on Anna Graham, the cousin of the heroes in the two other books. My working blurb is: When Anna Graham marries Callum Hart she’ll finally receive her uncles’ agreement for her to take over the family ranch. Will the return Jackson, of Cal’s brother and her first love, throws it all in jeopardy?
I was a big fan of Survivor right from the very first season. After about 10 seasons of the show, however, my interest waned and I stopped watching it. Then, a few years ago, my kids began to watch it. I joined them and was struck anew by the genius of the show’s premise: in order to win, you need the support of the very people you’ve beaten. You can gain a lot of insight into what makes people tick by watching Survivor; it’s been the catalyst for some very interesting family discussions.
11. If you were a casting director for the film version of your book, who would play your lead roles?
My husband always jokes that he and I were the models for the cover of The Doubting Heart. It’s true, we do somewhat resemble the artist’s rendering—or at least we did many years ago. In terms of casting for a movie: Chris Hemsworth has the size and intensity to play the hero, Chad Graham. For Shelby Holt, I see Emma Stone in the part, although at 5’6” she’s a little tall for my petite heroine. But that’s what Hollywood magic is all about, right?
12. Anything else you might want to add?
I mentioned a secondary character, Carmelina Hawke, earlier. I often find myself drawn to minor characters when I read books and really enjoy writing them. Carmelina is almost too perfect—beautiful and smart and wise. In The Hungry Heart, the hero’s grandmother, Libby, is irreverent and irrepressible almost to an extreme, and she has a lot of fun at the hero’s expense. I think you can get away with making secondary characters a little over-the-top because they don’t have to carry the book. I’d love to know what others think. Who are your favorite secondary characters and why?
“Don’t…say...a…word,” Chad spat out between clenched teeth. He grabbed her chin and turned her head from side to side. And then, satisfied, turned away and spoke to Pete. “Get up, you. Go wait by the horses for the rest of the group to return.”
Pete obeyed, scurrying through the brush as though he couldn’t get away quickly enough.
“Just what in hell do you think you were doing?” Chad turned back to Shelby, anger still distorting his face.
She felt the prickle of tears behind her eyes. She was so relieved—and so mortified. She shook her head, unable to speak.
“Do you have no sense, woman? You can’t spend the evening drinking and flirting with a single man on vacation and expect he’s going to leave it at the door. Not to mention the fact he’s a guest at the ranch. No fraternizing with the guests, remember?”
Shelby’s humiliation was quickly being replaced by her own anger. “Who do you think you are to lecture me on my behavior? You and Charisma can’t even keep your hands off each other for one evening—and in front of all the guests and their children. Besides, I could have handled Pete. He’s just a little drunk, that’s all.”
“Really? Well then next time, I won’t bother,” he said.
Neither moved as they locked eyes, each daring the other to look away first. Finally, Chad turned. “Let’s go.”
Shelby wiped away a traitorous tear with the sleeve of her jacket. Who was she kidding? She couldn’t have stopped Pete by herself. Chad was right. She had allowed a situation with an unfamiliar man to accelerate out of her control. She didn’t want to consider what would have happened if Chad hadn’t come to her rescue.
Oh, God! It’s starting all over again.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
A writer all her life, Brenda Gayle returned to her love of fiction after more than 20 years in the world of corporate communications—although some might argue there is plenty of opportunity for fiction-writing there, too. She holds a Master's degree in journalism and an undergraduate degree in psychology. A fan of many genres, Brenda is drawn to contemporary romance and enjoys creating deeply emotional stories with elements of mystery and suspense.
You can visit her at www.BrendaGayle.com or find her on
The Wild Rose Press:
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