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Historical Love
Author Kaki Warner

photoAuthor Kaki Warner of Carlton broke into the published world in 2010.

The Methow Valley is home to a successful western historical romance writer named Kaki Warner. She has six published books plus more pieces under her belt and is steadily writing at her home near Carlton.

Kaki Warner says she didn’t get a book published until she was eligible for Medicare, but it’s been a successful string since then. “It’s never too late,” to work on a dream she said, and waiting to write has advantages: “You have to live some life before you can write about it.”

Kaki Warner and her husband retired to the Methow Valley in 2001. She served at the front desk at Sun Mountain Lodge for a couple years and then decided to get back to what that she had wanted for a very long time: to write and be published.

She worked over a book she had been composing over the years. The publishers liked it and wanted to know if she had more. She bluffed her way into a triology, assuring the publishers that she had a couple more under way: truth is she did in the end, but she wasn’t that confident at first. Her first historical western romance, ‘Pieces of Sky” came out in January 2010. She’s been cranking out a book every five or six months since then.

The Berkley Publishing Group of Penguin Books, LTD, which has offices in London and New York, has put out the two trilogies she’s written so far. The Blood Rose Triology contains Pieces of Sky, Open Country and Chasing the Sun. And there are the The Runaway Brides novels: Heartbreak Creek, Colorado Dawn, and Bride of the High Country.

The books in her trilogies were published in two sizes, first a ‘trade’—6 ½ inches by 8 inches—and then, about a year later, as mass-market paperbacks—4 inches by 6 ¾ inches. Warner says that electronic publishing is taking over, the book trade is changing. She has written a novella, published only digitally, for Christmas. Her future books are likely to be printed mass-market sized and then electronically published: her print-published books are available electronically already.

photoThe trade copies of the books (top two rows), published first, are larger than the mass market paperbacks (bottom row). Warner has six published books so far and more on the way.

Warner’s first triology was set in New Mexico between about 1868 and 1873. Her more recent books are set in Colorado. She said she loves to include history, and also the physical setting. “I put the setting in the forefront,” she said. “It’s like another character.”

Warners’ books are not aimed to be bodice-ripper soft pornography like many paperbook romances. “I do believe in love stories,” she said, and her books include love and relationships, but they also have accurate and interesting depictions of the old west, and how it might have been.

When she writes, she says, “I start with the people….what’s lacking for this person, what’s he going to have to do….and then I throw stuff in his way.”

“Characters have to have flaws,” she said. “They have to adapt to reality.” Her characters have problems like dyslexia, fear of heights, bossiness, and flightiness, non-communicativeness, and so on.

She doesn’t steer away from the racial problems that were part of the old west. Her first heroine has a beautiful, talented and beloved half-sister, who happens to be half black. The white sister is legitimate but from a very troubled and un-loved white wife and mother. The half-black sister is the product of a long-standing and loving relationship between the father and a black slave woman. “In my mind, I played down the racial stuff,” she said, but the western scene was racially mixed, with red, black, yellow and white skins intermingling. So she writes it that way, focusing on the individual and all their problems, including racial ones.

The brag spots on the cover of her most recent book quote USA Today—“Kaki Warner’s warm, witty, and loveable characters shine,” and the Chicage Tribune—“flawlessly written.”

Editors haven’t changed her words very much she said, but she doesn’t have control over the covers or the titles of her books. She is irritated by the “sleazy covers” that Penguin (and other publishers) put on novels like hers. She doesn’t like the images that shout ‘hunk’ or ‘sexy babe’ when her book is actually about people that could have been real, working through tough problems on a frontier, trying to become better people and form healthy relationships. She says she much prefers to have “no half-naked people on my books.”

photoBehind His Blue Eyes is the latest published book by local author Kaki Warner.

Sometimes editors strain to put her in a romance box: one of her books opens with a man having to kill his horse. The editor asked point-blank “is this a romance or a western?” Well, maybe it was a more realistic book that included interesting characters and a story that might actually have taken place.

Another problem for the rather reclusive author is the demands of promoting her books—talking in front of groups, meeting people, traveling. “I can break out in a rash” at the thought of it all, she said.

Kaki Warner earned a combination English and history degree from the University of Texas, with a minor in psychology and she applies her studies to novel writing. She said what she learned about psychology has allowed her to write up bad guys bad enough that the reader actually wants them to die.

Warner said a lot of true western history has been lost in the hazy romance of the movies and story-telling. For instance, she recalled the ‘epizoodic’ (of 1872) that swept through the country, infecting and even killing millions of horses, and bringing a lot of industry and businesses to a dead stop.

She wants her books to be truthful, but she also wants them to entertain, edify and elevate the human spirit. She wants her heroes and heroines to show accountability, and she said she does not want to elevate the dark side of life.

Her most recent books is “Behind His Blue Eyes.” Some of her work is coming out in an anthology in January with historical romance authors Jodi Thomas and Jo Goodman. This summer her next novel “Where the Horses Run,” should be published.

Kaki Warner and her husband built the house they’re in, on Vinton Road above Carlton. That house now includes an office for Kaki—a narrow room with a desk, a stove, bookcases and a lot of windows: she tends towards claustrophobia. She and her husband have two children, two grandsons and three grand daughters. She grew up in the Southwest, but spent many years in the Pacific Northwest with her family before retiring to the Methow.

“I’m the luckiest person I know,” she said. Authors who are published aren’t all “fabulous intellect and right decisions,” she added: there is that factor of being in the right place at the right time.


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