[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Claire! Can you describe yourself in five words or less.
[Claire McEwen] A quirky, nice, driven, day-dreamer.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about A Ranch to Keep?
[Claire McEwen] A Ranch to Keep is the story of a woman who’s put a lot of effort into making sure she has a very uneventful life. She really wants predictability, order, and security. One way she keeps herself feeling safe is to try to be very independent – she doesn’t want to rely on anyone for anything. Then she inherits the family ranch and many of the problems she faces can’t be handled alone. But it makes her crazy when the gorgeous cowboy who owns the ranch next door keeps offering to lend a hand!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Claire McEwen] So far, when I write, I imagine the characters, and then the plot evolves from what I know about them.
The heroine, Samantha, came to me first. I had this image of her standing in her office in San Francisco. A man walked in, closed the office door behind him, and broke up with her! I wrote about that on my first day of writing. Although that exact scene didn’t make it into the final story, something like it did!
I knew Samantha needed to go on a journey. She really needed something to happen that would shake her out of her predictable life. But it couldn’t be too far away because I needed her to be able to return to San Francisco. I love the Eastern Sierras so I picked that area as her destination. And once she got there, Jack Baron, handsome, swaggering cowboy, showed up, leaning on his truck in front of the local store as she walked by.
Once I had my characters and setting, the story just grew from there.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
[Claire McEwen] I loved the rapport between Samantha and Jack! They were funny together and they have a lot of chemistry. And I really enjoyed the secondary characters. Walt and Betty are two older people who provide a lot of wisdom and humor. Tess and Jenna are Samantha’s two best friends. They both have really strong personalities. So much so that they are now the heroines of my next two books!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with this story?
[Claire McEwen] I think endings are very challenging to write. I want my characters to find their happy ending, but I also want it to feel as realistic as possible and fit with who they are. Samantha has a big decision to make in this book and I wanted her to make it in an empowered, positive way. That took me a long time to figure out and I got some help from my wonderful editor!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?
[Claire McEwen] Pennies from Heaven. I feel like I’ve been blessed with a lot of good fortune lately!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Claire McEwen] Well, I’m a mom, so I don’t often leave the house without a gigantic purse. I try to have a few small toys, something to clean hands with, snacks, water, maybe a book or two. We recently took a dream vacation to Italy and I bought a beautiful navy blue leather tote bag. It holds all my mom gear and still looks pretty classy, I think!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Claire McEwen] 1 ~ A binder with all kinds of information about my son’s school, because I serve on their advisory board.
2~ A box set of all kinds of previously-unreleased music from one of my all-time favorite bands, The Pogues.
3 ~ A small, marble lion paperweight that belonged to my father.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Claire McEwen] I would love to trade places with someone who was a lot more adventurous than me. Maybe a professional rock climber, or a racecar driver? Or, since it’s almost the winter Olympics, maybe a ski jumper or a snowboarder? Of course, I’d need all of their courage, ability and talent for the day too!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
[Claire McEwen] I have been reading some great romances by my fellow Harlequin authors lately! Barb Han just came out with her debut Intrigue, Rancher Rescue. It’s really well-paced and fun. Rula Sinara has a gorgeous book called The Promise of Rain out for Heartwarming that I loved. And my fellow Superromance writers are amazing. I just read Jennifer Lohmann’s The First Move, which is very touching, and Jeannie Watt’s Cowgirl in High Heels. I really enjoyed that! I have so many books lined up on my Kindle, ready to be read, but I need more time!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Claire McEwen] I’m a homebody. I love to just hang out with my husband and son. We play games, go to the beach, ride bikes, meet up with friends - just simple stuff. I also love to garden and lately I’ve been refinishing old furniture. When I’m not being a homebody, I love to travel, ski, hike, camp and go out dancing.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Claire McEwen] I really enjoy connecting with other readers and writers!
I’m pretty active on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/CMcEwen.writer
and Twitter @clairemcewen1.
I’m pretty new to Goodreads, but am trying to connect with fellow readers there. I love that there’s a whole site dedicated to talking about what we’re reading!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
About the book:
What she planned…or what she wants?
Samantha Rylant’s life is coming together as planned—promising career, awesome friends, perfect boyfriend. Then she inherits her grandmother’s ranch and sweet childhood memories come rushing back to her. Now this city girl is torn, wondering where she truly belongs. And the gorgeous cowboy down the lane is only complicating matters!
Jack Baron and his handsome, aggravating self are around every corner offering a helping hand, sharing his unwanted opinions and in general messing with Sam’s heart. The logical thing to do is to sell the ranch and return to San Francisco. But maybe this is one decision that requires the heart, not the head….