I’m delighted to welcome one of my best friends and fellow writers to my blog today. Emilie Richards is the author of over sixty (!) books. Emilie’s written everything from sagas to romances to mysteries to women’s fiction, but the one thing that always remains the same is the quality of her writing and her ability to connect with her readers. Her latest novel, Sunset Bridge, comes out today, so I invited her over for an interview. Please join me in making her feel at home!
- Welcome Emilie! Can you tell us how you’d describe Sunset Bridge to someone who’s never read your books before? What sort of reader do you think would enjoy this story?
Sunset Bridge is a friendship novel about very different women who find they aren’t as different as they’d thought. All my novels are about relationships, but the Happiness Key trilogy, of which Sunset Bridge is the third and last, are the first books I’ve written that explored friendship among women in such depth. I think readers who value novels about connections, relationships, and the human heart and condition will enjoy mine. Which means your readers, of course.
- I loved the first two books in the Happiness Key trilogy—Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor. Would someone who hasn’t read those books be able to understand what’s going on in Sunset Bridge?
They were carefully written to stand alone, but that said, books in a series are always best read in order, because relationships and challenges grow and change over the course of it.
- You’ve also written what you call a “novellini”: a very short novel, Treasure Beach, that takes place between the end of Fortunate Harbor and the start of Sunset Bridge. Where is Treasure Beach available to read?
Readers can find the novellini on my blog under Treasure Beach in “categories”. On the final Tuesday of each month I include a pdf of all that month’s sections, which total a chapter. It will end in July.
- Do you have a favorite character in Sunset Bridge and if so, what intrigues you about him or her?
Well, one of the hazards of our profession is falling in love with the people we create. But Wanda was the most fun to write because I was never quite sure what would come out of her mouth. Her opinions were so different from my own, she astonished me.
- The theme that runs throughout Sunset Bridge is the importance of friendship. How have your personal feelings about friendship influenced this story? Are there lessons your characters have learned from one another?
My women friends, particularly my writer friends who seem to understand me best, have supported and challenged me in unique and wonderful ways and convinced me that friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. I think my characters learned, as I have, that nothing can replace it.
- What was the most challenging part of writing Sunset Bridge and what part came most easily to you?
Plotting the action scene at the end was the most difficult since there are several plots unfolding at the same moment and timing and believability are key. The easiest part was the continuation of relationships I’d painstakingly set up at the beginning of the series, because by the third book, I knew these characters so well.
- As someone who grew up in Florida, you probably didn’t have to do much research into the setting for this trilogy. What elements of the story did you have to research?
Palmetto Grove and Palmetto Grove Key are fiction but set on Florida’s Gulf Coast in Southwest Florida, an area I know well having grown up in St. Petersburg and as a huge fan of Sanibel Island. Most of my research had to do with environmental regulations, arranged marriage, Hindu customs, building of bridges, and on and on and on. . .
- I know some of the readers of my blog are avid quilters and that you are as well. Can you tell us about the quilt that was inspired by Sunset Bridge?
Love this question. Pat Sloan, a wonderful quilt and fabric designer, and I collaborated on a block of the month Christmas quilt in the past. I designed blocks one month, she did the next. This time she wisely suggested that I write a novella (Treasure Beach) which I’m more adept at doing, and as I released chapters each month, she’d release a portion of an original Happiness Key wallhanging, so that when Treasure Beach ended, the wallhanging would be finished, too. The quilt is absolutely adorable, and we’ve had so much fun with it. You can find instructions for it here. I’m madly working on mine and I’m almost caught up. Can’t wait for the final part and already foresee doing another.
- How did you decide on the titles for these three novels?
Since the first book is about the key to happiness, Happiness Key was a natural. The others were a bit harder. I wanted titles that conveyed the themes but were geographical, too. Fortunate Harbor is about the way we’re sometimes harbored by friends and even strangers when we’re in trouble. Sunset Bridge is about endings as well as connections to the future.
- The fact that you not only wrote three books in this series but the “novellini” as well makes me wonder if you are ready to let go of these characters and their stories! Are you ready to do that, and if so, what can we expect from you next?
One of the problems of a series like this one is that if it goes too long (think television soap operas) the author has to begin destroying what she’s set up in other books. I wanted these relationships to stay intact and be solidified with each book, and three books makes that possible. While I’ll miss them, I feel pretty sure my characters will now be fine without me. However, that said, I’m working on a new series, Goddesses Anonymous, in which friendship is key, although the stories and thrust of the series will be different.
- I happen to be a poetry lover and I’m so happy to see that you’ve been featuring the work of poets weekly on your blog. Why did you decide to do this and how have your blog readers responded to this change of pace?
Oddly I am NOT a lover of poetry, which is how the Sunday Poetry blog began. My husband told me about taking a phrase or even a word from a poem and using it to meditate on during the week, and I fell in love with the idea. I didn’t have to analyze or probe. I knew if I began featuring poetry every Sunday with this in mind, that I would slow down and begin to understand and enjoy reading poetry more. Which is exactly what has happened. So Sunday Poetry exists just for me and anyone who wants to come along for the “read.” Clearly it’s been important for those readers who are joining me each week.
- So many readers adored your Shenandoah Album Series and I know your publisher made the decision to have you write something else before you or your readers were ready to let go of those characters. However, if you hadn’t stopped writing the Shenandoah Album Series when you did, we wouldn’t have this engaging Happiness Key trilogy. I wonder how you feel about that decision now? Do you think you’ll ever return to the Shenandoah Series?
I think the final book in the Shenandoah Album series is a must, judging from the huge volume of mail I’ve received and from my own unease with leaving it hanging. If my publisher continues to want other things from me—their right and privilege—I may well publish it myself in the future, something that’s becoming increasingly easy and acceptable to do. Then we can all be happy.
- You’re the wife of a minister and, like myself, a former psychotherapist. How have your own life experiences influenced the stories you create and the characters you write about?
I rarely accept anything at first glance, know the world is complicated and heartbreaking , and also strongly believe in (but don’t necessarily expect) happy endings. I am profoundly grateful for every act of kindness and moment of joy, and hope to give some of that back in my writing.
- You love to cook and quilt and often share your recipes and your quilting expertise with your readers. I’m always amazed by how you find the time to write as well as indulge in your hobbies. What’s your secret?
Exhaustion? No, seriously, I’m trying very hard not to become so obsessed with writing and promotion that I let go of the other things that matter to me. I am successful occasionally and live for those moments.
- How have the internet and social networking changed your work life?
I make it a firm rule only to do those things I enjoy online, and for the most part, I stick to that with my blog and Facebook Fan Page and occasional tweets. So while networking is time-consuming and occasionally hair-raising, I really love my connections with readers and my chance to express myself. All in all, it’s a positive. But please, no new applications or platforms for awhile, okay? I’m platformed out.
- Many authors, myself included, are making our hard-to-find backlist books available as e-books. Do you have any of your older books available as e-books and if so, how can people find them?
I wrote two contemporaries with an interesting “twist” for Avon Books in the mid-nineties, which I’ve recently put online. Once More With Feeling and Twice Upon A Time are available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other venues, and it’s an absolute joy to know readers have access to them again. My talented daughter-in-law did the covers and it’s been a great learning experience for both of us.
- Is there anything else you’d like to share with my blog readers about yourself or your novels?
Thanks for having me, and now, speaking as your fan, write faster, okay?