Meggie’s Remains, my first completed manuscript and fourth sale, is near and dear to my heart. The title changed from Columbine Captive—for obvious reasons—to Day Dreams ~ Haunted Nights, but at the end of the day, became Meggie’s Remains. You might ask what this means, and well you should. Is Meggie dead, buried six feet under, never to take another breath, or is Meggie so shattered, it’s hard to take the next step in life? Number two is closer to the truth. My focus and interest rests solely in the nineteenth century, the Victorian Era. For the average romance heroine, life wasn’t easy. I can’t imagine the challenge to have lived and tried to love during such a restrictive, repressive time. When I first thought of writing romance, I thought of Jane Eyre and its classic romantic themes, wanting to pay tribute to this quintessential romance novel. What makes us root for Jane? Why do we care about her, and about Edward? How did the pair overcome impossible obstacles and find their happy ending?
Living in the West, in the Colorado Rockies, I realized the beauty all around me was a character befitting any romance novel. My first heroine would have to be a woman trying to make it in the rugged west. I decided to bring Jane Eyre to the American West and see what might happen if I took Jane’s situation and made it worse … and then worse. Ever curious about how a nineteenth century heroine might have dealt with sexual trauma and upset, I wanted to peel away the pretty layers in classic romantic theme and character, and show the not-so-pretty events that can happen—the dark, complex, emotional path a heroine’s life can take, suddenly, without warning, and with no guarantee of survival. In Meggie’s Remains, Meggie’s life mirrors Jane’s in many respects, but the mirror shatters when Meggie’s life takes a turn away from romantic conflict, toward dangers that Jane Eyre never faced. Beyond the suspense, I wanted to capture the romance, the moment when passion ignites between heroine and hero. Such is the stuff of which romance novels are made!
My love of old-fashioned theme and character led me to create my heroine, Meggie McMurphy, and her hero, Ethan Rourke, stumbling upon each other on the streets of Denver, Colorado Territory, October, 1874. Their path to find true love is most definitely not an easy one. Let’s take a closer look at the pair, to perhaps find out why.
Meggie is complex and I wanted to do justice to her character in the writing of Meggie’s Remains. I wanted to show how she must walk that fine line between day dreams and nightmares, between what is real and what is not—forced to run for her life when the fiend so long stalking in her nightmares, surfaces in the light of day. Meggie is a pretty young woman, twenty-five when the story opens, slender, five foot two, with a full, rosy mouth, violet eyes that can turn passionately dark, a peaches and cream complexion, and long rusty-red hair. But she’s forced to hide her good looks, not wanting to gain any man’s attention after the painful, sinful episode in her past. No one must find out, no one! Tainted by her past, she’s deathly afraid of men, so much so pulls her hair up to the point of pain, wears baggy dresses, her only adornment a nun’s cross, hides behind spectacles, and steps away when any man comes near. In times of upset, Meggie turns to her most trusted companion and friend, Jane Eyre, treasuring the worn pages of her favorite novel above all else in her pitiable life. Escaping into its pages, Meggie can become Jane, falling in love with Edward Rochester over and over again, imagining that moment of passion when Jane and Edward first meet, when they first touch, imagining such a moment for herself . . . such sweetness . . . such desire . . . such impossible bliss— Quickly checking herself, Meggie throws off such wild imaginings and does her best to deny her buried desire for love and happiness, knowing she’s not destined to live any kind of a normal life. She doesn’t desire any man. When the handsome, formidable westerner, Ethan Rourke, stumbles upon Meggie on a snowy Denver street, it’s as if he’d stepped right off the pages of Jane Eyre! Safe to encounter such a man on the page, it is certainly unsafe, even deadly, for her to encounter such a man in the flesh. Men belong . . . six feet under, six feet away . . . where to stay safe, the devil must stay!
Ethan is handsome all right—tall, dark, and handsome—standing six foot four, well-built, with dark hair cropped at the shoulders, and intelligent, slate eyes that can seduce with one look. Though perhaps better looking than Edward Rochester, Ethan is the classic brooding hero, wealthy, with society at his feet, yet given to dark introspection, silent on the things that matter most, keeping his true feelings buried deep. Haunted by his past, Ethan isn’t interested in committing to another woman, and finds satisfaction enough in the arms of his mistress of five years. Save for his mistress, he keeps women at a distance. In his lifetime he’s already seen enough rejection, death, and dying—enough to kill any Faith he once had—and won’t let any woman close. The moment he stumbles over the odd baggage fallen at his feet on the snowy Denver street, he’s struck through by the curious female; no woman ever looked at him like that before. He wants to turn away . . . but can he?
Joanne Sundell’s first sale was in 2005, to Five Star, Gale, Cengage Learning. The prime market for Five Star Expressions is the library market, but Five Star’s books are also available on-line at Barnes & Noble and all bookstores. The Five Star Expressions line is a combination of romance and women’s fiction. Joanne’s particular interest is in historical romance with suspenseful elements.
To date, Joanne’s sales to Five Star include: MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER (06), A…MY NAME’S AMELIA (07) also out in Large Print, THE PARLOR HOUSE DAUGHTER (08) also out in Large Print, MEGGIE’S REMAINS (09), & THE QUAKER AND THE CONFEDERATE upcoming series (5/10, 9/10). Joanne’s first sale was reviewed nationally by Booklist, her second by Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and her third by Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist. A…MY NAME’S AMELIA garnered a top 4&1/2 star rating from Romantic Times Magazine.
History is always a strong character in Joanne’s books, with her first four stories set in colorful, turbulent Colorado history and her next, a two-book series set in Civil War Virginia. As important as it is for Joanne to convey a strong, credible, historical flavor of the time, it is equally important for Joanne to portray strong, credible heroines and heroes. A strong, determined heroine deserves an equally strong and determined hero. Joanne grew up reading romance, historical and contemporary, falling in love with heroes and heroines from Regency England to the American West, from London’s pubs to Colorado’s ski slopes, loving that moment when the hero and heroine meet and fall in love. That moment to Joanne is the moment when Jane Eyre meets Edward Rochester, when Elizabeth Bennett meets Mr. Darcy … that’s the heart-stopping, passionate moment for Joanne in romance. That moment is what led her to attempt traditional, old-fashioned historical romance.
With her three, Colorado-mountain-raised-children grown and off on their own adventures, Joanne lives part-time in Colorado and California, with her husband and their entourage` of felines and huskies.
Joanne is a member of Colorado Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Los Angeles Romance Authors.
e-mail Joanne: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: Pick up your copy at Amazon here!