1. The premise for your latest book, A Lady Like Sarah, is so intriguing: a preacher escorting a young woman to her date with the hangman. Tell us more about the book and the characters.

A disgraced preacher and feisty woman outlaw come together when he finds her handcuffed to a dying marshal on a dusty trail. As Sarah and Justin struggle to stay alive during their journey to Texas, Justin questions why God brought her into his life. Though Justin is the one with the formal Christian training, his work ministering to Boston’s upper class ill-prepared him for the challenges he now faces in the untamed west. Will the wild Texas town of Rocky Creek turn a mediocre preacher into a true man of God? Sarah has been raised by her three outlaw brothers, whom she loves dearly, but her loyalty to her family puts her in conflict when she must choose between the life she once knew and the uncertainties that lie ahead. To save her own neck, it’s imperative that she escape, but she can’t bring herself to leave Justin, whose citified ways make him ill-suited for the journey. Fearing for his safety—and the well-being of the baby they rescue–she stays with him, knowing that the closer they get to Texas, the less chance she has of staying alive.

2. I understand this is part of your Rocky Creek series. How did you come up with the idea for this series and what is your goal as it moves forward?

Each book was inspired by historical events. A Lady Like Sarah was inspired by Pearl Hart who robbed a stagecoach to pay her mother’s medical bills (Health care was highway robbery even in the 1800s). I got the idea for the next book in the series, A Suitor for Jenny (September 2010) after seeing a meeting notice in an old Kansas newspaper for an organization called The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Male Independence. What fun the heroine has breaking through that society! As for where I want to take the series: Rocky Creek is a pretty raw town in A Lady Like Sarah, but during the course of the three books, the town will grow and change as do the citizens.

3. You have written more than 20 novels, a nonfiction book, and numerous inspirational articles. Which “hat” do you prefer to don, that of fiction writer or nonfiction writer?

Writing fiction is my first love. Non-fiction tells the truth about things. Fiction tells the truth about people. I’d much rather write the truth about people.

4. Please share with our readers the reason you became a writer (which is so appealing!).

I’ve always been a writer but I never really took it seriously until I started writing for my church newsletter. After I made the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, my former preacher took me aside and said, “Maybe God’s calling you to write fiction.” Until that moment I never had the courage to follow my heart.

5. What inspires you as a writer?

Inspiration is such a magical thing. You never really know when that little light in your head will click on. Sometimes inspiration comes from a word, a song, or dialogue. In my Harlequin book Cry of the Seagull, I was stuck on the ending. While sitting in the dentist office, I picked up a Science magazine that just happened to have an article on seagulls. Voila! I found my ending. Another time, I was trying to figure out how to get a pregnant heroine down from a mountain. That’s when I met an old miner who told me about “walking the chutes.” Daring? You bet, but I had my answer. My most recent idea came from a book I was reading. Unfortunately, we happened to be in our motor home. Jumping up and down in an RV can be problematic, especially at 5 a.m. when your husband is trying to sleep. Thank God he’s got a sense of humor.

6. Describe a typical writing day for you.

It’s pretty boring. I’m up around 4 a.m. I turn on the coffee pot and computer, read the newspaper and then it’s work, work, work. A perfect day is 10 written pages, 3 miles on the treadmill, family, a good book and chocolate.

7. What do you think works best for you in regards to promoting?

Anything that’s publisher-driven. I’m so fortunate to be writing for a publisher that is actively promoting my work.

8. What do you love about writing? What do you dislike the most?

I love the art of writing. I love seeing the story take shape and the characters come to life. I love working in those little known historical facts that readers seem to love. The thing I least like is the business side of writing and promotion.

9. The Dames love romance, and your statement that your husband is your real-life hero is so sweet. How did the two of you meet and how long have you been married?

We met in church. We were introduced to each other by the youth pastor. When we announced our engagement less than six weeks later, our pastor made us take a written compatibility test, which we promptly failed. Being young and foolish, we married anyway and that was more than 35 years ago.

10. Tell us about Southern California, where you live.

I love Southern California. The desert, the ocean, the forest, the mountains—you name it and I can be there in less than an hour. My children once played in the snow and frolicked in the surf—all on the same day. We live at the foothills of the Santa Susanna Mountains where so many of the old westerns were made. (Talk about inspiration!) Nearby is Corrigan Park founded by stuntman Ray “Crash” Corrigan and which was once one of the busiest movie sets in the country. Between the ‘30s and ‘50s hundreds of western and adventure movies were made there, including Fort Apache, The Adventures of RinTinTin and my favorite, The African Queen. Today the park is used mostly for hiking but old movie buffs will still recognize the sandstone formations. If you look real close, you might even see The Lone Ranger or John Wayne riding into the sunset.

11. Do you have pets? If so, please tell us about them.

We have a big ugly dog named Butch that we take camping with us. A perfect pet. He doesn’t bark, doesn’t mess the floors, chew slippers or beg. Okay, so Butch isn’t real but it looks real and the other dogs have a fit when they see him.

12. What’s your favorite Southern expression?

Oh, wow! I love all Southern expressions. High on my list is “He don’t know diddly-squat.” I don’t know what a diddly-squat is, but everyone knows what it means. The one expression I heard a lot during my childhood and which I swore never to say to my own kids is: If you don’t stop your cryin’, I’ll give you somethin’ to cry about.” This leads me to one my own expressions: Promises made before parenthood don’t count.

For more information about Margaret Brownley: