What better way to launch Romancing The West than with two talented and wildly successful authors, Kat and L.J. Martin! They're here today to talk about the one and only book they wrote together, Tin Angel. (Jacquie's note: I read this book last week and it kept me up way past my bedtime, so be warned! Because you will fall in love with Jake.)
Purchase links: Amazon (Print and Kindle) * Nook * Smashwords
Kat Martin: http://www.katbooks.com/
L.J. Martin: http://www.ljmartin.com/
RTW: In 100 words or fewer, tell us about your book.
Kat: It was a book I didn't want to write, but L. J. did, and wrote ten pages and handed it to me and I had to answer. He did the basic set up, a young Boston schoolgirl inheirits what she thinks is a restaurant, comes west, and finds she owns a brothel. It was so funny that I had to sit at the word processor and answer. He wrote the man, Jake Weston, and I wrote the girl, Jessica Taggart.
L. J.: I love the gold rush era and old San Francisco, where gold seekers from the world over came to find their fortune in the Gum San, gold mountain. And I know that time frame really well, it being one of my favorites. It was easy for me to get lost in it. I used to go to a saloon in S.F. in the sixties, which is where the name came from.
RTW: If you were on a cattle drive, which of you would be the best choice for the cook and which would get stuck riding drag?
Kat: L. J. would cook and ride drag.
L. J.: No question in my mind that that's the way it would come down. Besides, even though Kat's a great cook, I love to cook and get most the duty at home. I have lots of cooking videos on youtube, at ljmartinwolfpack. I've cooked since I could reach the stove, was a fry cook in college, a camp cook, owned a couple of restaurants, and am still cooking. Besides, Kat wouldn't look good with dirt between her teeth.
RTW: A writer is a writer in any age, but if you had to use quill and paper, and write by lantern light, how would that affect your writing process?
L. J.: I'd go fishing.
Kat: I'd find a way to write in the daylight. And a quill pen is rather elegant, don't you think?
RTW: Are there any common errors in westerns that bug you? If so, please set us straight.
Kat: (laughing) I've seen lots of time when romance writers have their hero climb in a stage, tying his trusty stallion on behind. Well, a stage went in about 15 mile increments, changing teams and drivers at stage stops, but moving steadily for hundreds of miles. By the time they got where they were going they'd be dragging a dead stallion.
L. J.: Too many mistakes to mention. Mostly weapons and time and place, but lots of language as well, the T.V. series Deadwood being the worst example. Western readers are really knowledgeable. I once used a cigar in a novel set in 1872 and got a letter from a reader who said, "that cigar wasn't on the market until 1875."
RTW: Was it different writing together. I know this is the only novel you two have written together out of 75 or so.
Kat: Like I said, I didn't want to write one together. We're both pretty set in our ways and I thought it would be a constant battle. As it was, it was really fun. It was like writing and reading at the same time. L. J. does things totally different than I do, and writes really unusual characters, really creative stuff, so it was fun writing then handing it over, and getting back something that zinged off in a totally different direction.
L. J.: The truth is, romance was Kat's genre, and as soon as I made up my mind that she knew what she was doing, we got along fine. She was raised in a rodeo family and knows her western stuff, so was easy to work with in that regard.
RTW: Why is Jake perfect for Jessica? (and how did you get away with using two “J” names???)
L. J.: If we were to write it today we probably wouldn't have used two "J" names, however the single sylable and the three sylables seem to work okay.
Kat: Jake was a headstrong take charge sort of guy who met his match in Jessie. The book had them banging heads lots and lots of making up, and in the end he finds he needs, and wants, her, and she knows she needs him, in more ways than one.
Excerpt from Tin Angel by Kat and L.J. Martin:
Jake Weston dropped his long, booted legs from the roll-top desk and stood up. Digging a coin from the pocket of his breeches, he flipped it to the towheaded boy from the Wells, Fargo telegraph office.
“Thank you, Mr. Weston.” The boy grinned at the generosity of the tip and backed through the open office door. The etching on the frosted glass identified Jake as the proprietor—only a slight exaggeration in the past, and a fact now that Henry Taggart had died. Just two days ago, Willard Jensen, Henry’s lawyer, had come to Jake with the news that Henry had left him half interest in everything he’d owned. Well, forty-nine percent. That was almost the same as half.
The boy turned to leave, and Jake closed the door behind him, shutting out the plinkity-plink of a cheap piano that mingled with the din of boisterous voices and high-pitched female laughter.
Jake had occupied the office above the saloon for the last four of the five years he’d been Henry’s manager. Of course, the word manager was a bit misleading. Ramrod would probably be a more accurate description. Jake smiled at the thought.
He didn’t hurry with the telegram. He knew who it was from. Instead, he casually sliced open the ivory envelope with the edge of his pocket knife. Returning to his swivel chair, he propped his feet back up on the desk and leaned back.
I am stricken with the news of Father’s death. Though we have never met, I am confident of your ability to watch after my affairs until I arrive. Please do not inter my father until I reach San Francisco.Warmest regards,Jessie Taggart
Jake ran a hand through his wavy black hair, then took a cheroot from his waistcoat pocket and bit off the end. Damned fool woman, he thought as he dragged a match across the bottom of his boot and lit up. The last thing he’d expected when he wired Jessica Taggart to inform her of her father’s death was that the woman would come all the way from Boston to San Francisco. Now that she had inherited fifty-one percent of Henry Taggart’s holdings, she was his partner—there was no denying that—but surely she didn’t expect to get involved in the business!
Rupert Scroggins, the bartender, opened the office door and stuck his head in. “Hey, boss. You look like a fellow who just found out he was the guest of honor at a vigilante party.”
“Worse, Rupert. Henry’s daughter is coming to town. The last thing we need is a schoolgirl telling us how to run a saloon and bawdy house.” She couldn’t do any better with the freighting company or fleet of harbor scows they owned, he added to himself.
“Don’t worry about it, boss.” Scroggins gnawed on the stub of a cigar. “You can handle a schoolgirl.”
“I’m heading for the telegraph office, Rupert. You keep an eye on things till I get back.”
Jake followed the stocky little bartender down the stairs, worked his way through the gambling tables, and stepped through the swinging doors of the Tin Angel onto the streets of San Francisco.
Dodging a beer wagon clattering behind a team of matched grays, he weaved through throngs of Chinese coolies in long black robes, Italian immigrants, Sydney Ducks in canvas breeches, Peruvian miners with puff balls dangling from the brims of their flat hats, and myriad other minorities that made up the booming population of California’s fastest growing and most prosperous city.
At the Wells, Fargo office Jake carefully composed a return telegram to Jessica Taggart.
Dear Jessie,Impossible to preserve your father until you arrive.Will manage your affairs until then but your presence is not required. It is a difficult trip. Too much for a woman. Will be happy to sell your father’s assets and forward funds to you. Please advise.Jake Weston
The answer arrived before midnight. Jake sat at the bar, his expression grim as he scanned the wire.
Dear Mr. Weston,I will arrive in twelve days. Have retained Horace McCafferty, Esquire, of your city to manage my affairs. Do nothing, repeat, do nothing until I arrive. Pack my father in salt and charcoal and store him in the icehouse. I will, repeat, will be in attendance at his funeral. I hope my father’s trust in you was not misplaced.Your employer,Miss Jessica Taggart
Rupert Scroggins leaned over Jake’s shoulder. “I suggest you circle the wagons, boss. Looks like an ambush to me.” He chuckled softly until Jake stood up.
“Don’t you have some beer mugs to scrub?” Jake took the stairs up to his office two steps at a time. Sitting at his desk, he gnawed angrily on his thin cigar. Then he smiled. By the time that eastern bit of fluff got beaten and bruised on the twelve-day train ride through hundred-degree deserts and ten-thousand-foot peaks, she’d be softened up to jelly. She’d sell to the first man with gold in his pockets— and Jake would personally have enough ready to buy out her fifty-one percent of the Tin Angel and the other holdings Henry Taggart had left behind.
Jessica Taggart lifted the hem of her black faille traveling dress and climbed the iron steps to the train. Around her, the Boston station echoed with merchants hawking their wares, small children scampering excitedly toward the puffing engine, and uniformed baggage clerks hauling cartloads of luggage.
Feeling a thrill of excitement even under the grim circumstances, Jessie pushed open the heavy mahogany coach door.
“May I take your bag, miss?” A black-uniformed conductor hoisted her small carpetbag into a bin above her head as Jessie sank down on the plush dark burgundy seat. Her steamer trunks had been stored in the baggage car.
“All the way to California?” the man asked, perusing her ticket. “Quite a distance for a young lady.”
Jessie controlled a surge of temper. After all, the man was only making conversation, not passing moral judgment. “I assure you, I’m looking forward to it.”
The conductor just grunted, as if to say We’ll see about that. “If there’s anything you need, miss, just ask.” With that he waddled off toward a gentleman seated on her left.
Like the others in the salon car, the man was fashionably dressed and smiling. She glanced around, anticipating the journey ahead, then carefully tucked a strand of glossy dark hair under her narrow-brimmed, black-plumed hat.
With several shrill whistles and a bellow of steam, the Pacific Express rumbled from the station. Though Jessie had often traveled with her father as he traded goods and supplies along the eastern seaboard, and occasionally with her mother before her death two years ago, they had rarely gone in such grand style. Jessie ran her hand across the rich dark velvet seat. Why shouldn’t she indulge herself? After all, she could certainly afford it. Her father had been a wealthy man.
Thinking of her father made a hard lump rise in Jessie’s throat. The fact that she hadn’t seen him in almost three years did little to ease her feelings of loss. Although he’d been moderately successful in Boston, he’d made his fortune in San Francisco, the city he called home.
“I’ve come to love the West,” he’d once told Jessie. “I belong there. Your mother belongs in Boston. She wouldn’t be happy anywhere else.” In truth, Jessie knew the need for adventure was part of his nature—but also sadly, a means of putting some distance between himself and Jessie’s mother,
Although in Jessie’s opinion his letters were too few, she had read and reread the words until the pages were limp and torn. They were a symbol of her dreams—his adventures a way of escaping the prim and proper confines of Mrs. Simpson’s Academy, her stuffy Boston school.
Jessie missed her father terribly, but even more, she missed the freedom she’d tasted, the richness of life she experienced whenever she was with him. Although her mother had preached propriety, her father had encouraged her independence and taken her with him on his endless journeys—as far north as Maine and as far south as Charleston. He’d even urged her involvement in his business ventures. By the time she was ten, she could cipher better than her father’s bookkeeper, and she always had a new idea for turning a bigger profit.
Now, a month after her eighteenth birthday, only three weeks before her graduation, Henry Taggart was dead. Their dream of being together would never come true, but he’d left her another in its stead. She owned fifty-one percent of Taggart Enterprises. Although she wasn’t completely certain what the businesses earned, or even, for that matter, how they were run, she intended to find out—the sooner the better.
Jessie was sure that no matter what she discovered in San Francisco, with continuing good management Taggart Enterprises would flourish. It was a challenge she relished. She only wished her father could be at her side.
As the train gathered speed, Jessie pondered for the hundredth time the wire she’d received from Jake Weston amd a flood of hot temper surged through her veins, as it did each time she thought of it.
Of all the nerve! Did Weston think she was a complete fool? That she’d just lie down and let him run over her? Her father might have trusted him, but that didn’t mean she did. For all she knew, Weston could have been stealing from her father for years.
Jessie straightened her spine. If Weston had any notion of taking advantage of her, he was in for a big surprise.
One thing was certain. No matter what awaited her out West, Jessica Taggart was ready to take charge of her future. And no one—especially not a man like Jake Weston—would keep her from doing just that.
RTW: Thanks for the excerpt! What are you cooking up for us next? Tell us about your new releases, and any reissues.
L. J.: I'm about to come out with a book written with my internet partner, Mike Bray: Internet Rich: Your Blueprint to Book Sales. And I'm working on another thriller.
Kat: I'm continuing my series The Raines of Wind Canyon, my "Against" books, that began with Against the Wind, Against the Law, and Against the Fire. The next out is Against the Storm, in October. Outside the series, out July 1st, is a reprint of my very first novel, Magnificent Passage.
RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?
From both of us: Just to say thanks for the opportunity to chat with your fans and to say thank you to all who've picked up a Martin novel.