I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the “Death & Damages” box set anthology with a stable of talented bestselling authors like the one you are about to meet.
These amazing writers have graciously agreed to let my blog readers share in an exclusive interview AND get a sneak peek at the book they have contributed to the Death & Damages box set – 25 stories for 99 cents!
Today, we sit down with Kerry Donovan, author of “Lucky Shores: The Long Road Home”
DAN: Tell my readers briefly about the story you are contributing to the Death & Damages anthology.
KERRY DONOVAN: Lucky Shores: The Long Road Home is the long-awaited sequel to the smash hit romantic suspense story, On Lucky Shores, although it can be read as a standalone novel.
When newly qualified doctor, Chet Walker, interrupts his return to Lucky Shores after a four-year absence, he finds himself embroiled in a desperate fight to save two teenagers from their abusive father. His simple act of bravery unleashes a fight for survival that puts everything he holds dear in danger—including the life of the only woman he’s ever loved.
What inspired this story?
Pure whimsey, and I wanted to set a story in the Colorado Rockies.
How long of a piece is it?
Lucky Shores: The Long Road Home is a full-length novel of over 72,000 words.
Tell me a little bit about you. Where do you do your writing?
I write in a tiny garret in my attic, which I access through a small hole in the skirting board created by a family of mice.
During the day, the mice have free range of my house, but at night, they stand guard over my quills and parchment.
What does ‘writing success’ look like to you?
Typing “The End” to my latest flight of fiction is always a real buzz.
Do you ever collaborate with others?
Never. I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer the agony of working with me. My editor and proofer have enough problems dealing with my ridiculous ramblings. They’d flip out if they had to deal with a collaborator, too.
Tell me a little bit about your process. What is the path from idea to finished story? Do you use critique partners? Do you have a favorite editor?
Process? You think I have a process? If only. I simply sit at a desk and hit the keys. The characters in my head tell me what they do and say, and I just act as their scribe.
As my grownup sons keep saying, “Dad makes stuff up for a living.” Only they don’t use the word ‘stuff.’
Nicole, my editor is harsh but fair. Darn it.
What do you do for your cover? It’s always hard to find a good cover. How do you find yours, or the artwork?
My editor and I come up with a cover idea. I acquire the stock photos or take them myself. My web designer creates the draft cover design according to our specification, and a very talented graphics artist in the Philippines smooths out the wrinkles, blends the images, and joins in the dots. The results are surprisingly good, I reckon. What do you think?
What about your blurb and tagline? What is your process for arriving at a really killer tagline and then a blurb that makes readers want to buy the book?
When I find a process that works perfectly, I’ll let you know.
Writing a killer blurb is the Holy Grail, the Arc of the Covenant, the Elixir of Youth, the fount of all that is … you get the picture, right?
What is the working title of your next book?
Lucky Shores: Home for Good.
No prizes for guessing the name of the series. Teehee.
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
How do you choose character names?
They tell me their names, I laugh and make up pseudonyms to protect the innocent—and the guilty.
When you need help in a story/are stuck/need to know what a man or woman would say/do in a situation, who are your go-to people?
My characters, but if they are a little reticent, I’ll go out for a cycle ride or a jog and commune with nature. That usually works.
Does a big ego help or hurt a writer?
Wouldn’t know. I’m too perfect to have a big ego. And who listens to Sigmund Freud anymore? J
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Background noise. I need complete silence to work.
How many unpublished or half-finished manuscripts do you have?
Around a dozen. Most will never see the light of day, but three are all but ready for publication.
Are all writers socially inept or is that a misunderstanding?
Let me go to the toilet before I answer that one.
What a dreadful thing to say.
BTW, do you think my Day-Glo orange swimming trunks go with my ivory tuxedo jacket?
How often do you write?
Daily, except when I don’t.
Do you have a set writing schedule?
Yes, er … no.
Do writers have a muse?
Of course not. I mean, these days, who has the space in their garden or time to maintain a maze.
Oh, muse. You said muse? Er, dunno ’bout that.
Which of your protagonists do you relate to the most?
I should say Chet Walker, the main hero of the Lucky Shores series. Like me, he’s a doctor (although I have a PhD), he plays guitar and sings beautifully, he’s ruggedly handsome, honest, true, and an all-around nice guy.
Okay, not at all like me then.
What makes you so damn interesting anyway?
Me? Absolutely nothing.
My books, though, are pretty damned good, even if I do say so myself.
What is the best part about being an indie (or traditional) author for you?
Writing and publishing books. It’s my life and I love it.
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Ride my motorcycle really fast. No-no, I take great care on my bike and always obey the rules of the road. Honest I do.
I also jog, cycle, swim, and play the occasional round of golf.
How has you experience with editors been (you can name names if you liked you editor)?
I’m an editor and I’m the toughest editing dude on the planet.
My editor, Nicole, it the most generous and patient person I know.
In a story we are often asked to create images for the reader that we may not have experienced ourselves. When have you had to do that?
Every time I kill a character in my books.
What’s a favorite quote of anyone besides you, and one from you?
Irish comedian, Spike Milligan’s epitaph, “Told you I was ill!”
Is tea a big deal over in England like they make it seem in Downton Abbey? (My wife watches, not me.)
Although I’m Irish, I spent a large portion of my life in the UK, and I love tea. Loose leaf, properly brewed, not teabags! Don’t drink coffee, although most of my characters do.
What’s a piece of advice you can give to a new author just starting out?
For once, I’ll be serious. Even if you have to take out a new mortgage to pay the fee, hire yourself a decent editor and listen carefully to his/her advice.
James Patterson says outlining eliminates most writers block. Agree or disagree?
I’d never disagree with anything someone as successful as JP ever said. ON the other hand, I never outline.
* EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK *
Lucky Shores: The Long Road Home
Q: What do you call the student who graduates bottom of his class in med school?
Q: What do you call a man who graduates second from top of his class in med school?
A: Dr. Chet Walker
“Top off that coffee for you, honey?”
The curvy woman in the tight uniform held up the carafe and leaned over the stainless steel counter, making sure Chet Walker didn’t miss her guaranteed-to-increase-the-tips assets. Her smile appeared genuine, and the setting sun through the plate glass windows brought a sparkle to her dark blue eyes.
Despite the location—a diner attached to a gas station—and the lateness of the hour, she looked fresher than she had any right to be. A homespun girl-next-door type with a clear complexion to match the freshness of all outdoors and easy on the makeup. If the woman’s welcoming smile said anything, Wyoming must be a great place to live.
After spending the better part of two days driving through a dust-dry Midwest, tasting nothing but rest stop food and road grit, Walker appreciated both the change of scenery and the aroma. Through the polished windows, the foothills of the Rockies promised his journey’s end.
He couldn’t wait.
“Thank you, Ma’am. Can’t remember the last time I refused a decent cup of java.”
He pushed his empty cup forward.
She poured and ran a red-polished nail over the name embroidered on the pocket of her apron. “Honey, people hereabouts call me Shirley.”
He returned her smile. “Well, Shirley. You make a fine cup.”
Her smile warmed. A good smile, it improved his mood, and no doubt the mood of all her patrons. Although not quite the best he’d ever tasted, her coffee was good. If he bothered to keep a personal Billboard Coffee Hot 100, it might have made his top ten. At least the top twenty.
The top dog, number one status in the coffee charts, belonged to a different diner. The place he’d take his next breakfast, all being well. A diner owned by the most beautiful woman on the planet—bar none—and looking out on perhaps the third prettiest view in the world. Not that Walker was biased in its favor, of course. Oh no. Not a bit of it. His decision was scientific in its scope and permanent in its nature.
The proximity of the Lucky Shores Diner had everything to do with Walker’s current state of being—his happiness, and his growing excitement and optimism.
He’d make Lucky Shores by morning even if he had to drive through the night to do it. Hence the additional cup of coffee.
Before leaving Shirley’s Place—the name hanging over the rest stop eatery—he’d get her to fill his two-pint thermos, and the emergency reserve would to see him through the final leg of his journey. After that, he’d pick his way along narrow back roads and make it safely to his new home.
Home. Sounds good.
The foothills of the Colorado Rockies started a few miles out back of the gas station and cast an imposing shadow over the diner.
The thought of seeing Josie again, this time without a ticking clock to mark the end of her brief visits, made his spirits soar. The four-year wait would soon be over.
Josephine Dolan, his pint-sized, feisty, mountain goat, dream of a girl. His muse, his love, and his fiancée. He patted the outline of the jewelry box in his jacket pocket, inside which sat a modestly expensive diamond ring. Although they’d been engaged for nearly four years, he’d never done the “down on one knee” thing, nor had he presented her with a ring. He’d correct that omission the minute they were alone.
God he’d missed her.
Walker blew gently across the top of his drink, sipped, and smacked his lips.
Shirley straightened and pulled her assets away from his face, an act for which Walker was truly grateful as he needed the added room to breathe. He’d seen plenty of full-bodied women in his former life spent on the road, and that was fine. But his head had been turned and his heart won by an elfin creature with a slim frame, a stunning smile, and the fighting spirit of an Irish banshee.
Shirley tilted her head in appraisal. “You look kinda beat, honey. Been on the road long?”
Walker scratched his two-day stubble and stifled a yawn. “Six years, give or take, but a day and a half for this particular trip. It shows, huh?”
Shirley nodded and the blonde fringe drifted over her blue eyes. She tossed her head to clear her vision. “A little. You from New York State?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Didn’t think my accent was that obvious.”
“It ain’t, but the Empire State tags on your Ford gave you away.”
He took another pull of coffee before responding. “So, as well as griddling a decent burger and producing this elixir, you’re a detective in your spare time?”
“Not particularly. Just observant. Helps to pass the time. Don’t get that many out of state visitors in these parts. Not at this time of the year. We’re not what you’d call a tourist destination. Where you heading?”
Walker took a second before answering. Apart from the two of them, the diner stood empty. No truckers fueling up for the overnight delivery, no cops on a donut run, just Shirley and Walker in a quiet little tête-à-tête. Despite the come-hither welcome, she gave the vibe of wanting nothing more than to pass some time, which was fine by Walker. He had as long as it took to finish his drink ad use the rest room.
A few minutes chatting to a lonely woman at the end of her shift couldn’t hurt. He stretched his back and rolled the crick from his neck before resting his elbows on the counter, hands cradling the coffee cup.
“Left Syracuse at eight thirty yesterday morning. Aiming to reach home by breakfast tomorrow.”
Shirley climbed onto a stool next to the till, keeping a decent distance between them, and poured herself a cup of the brown stuff. She added creamer and three sugars, demonstrating how she maintained her comfortable figure. Walker wondered what her cholesterol count might read.
Leave it, Chet. You’re off duty.
Shirley took a delicate sip. “Where’s home?”
“Tiny place in the Colorado Rockies you’ll never have heard of.”
“Try me,” she asked, looking over the top of her coffee, eyes bright, full lips still stretched in a smile.
She sat up straight. “You’re kidding, right? The city on a lake where they’re building a ski resort?”
Walker couldn’t prevent his brows arching to his hairline. “You have heard of it.”
“Shoot, honey. Everyone in this part of the state’s heard of Lucky Shores. City’s finally living up to its name.”
Walker resumed his default expression—noncommittal—and added a shrug for good measure. “Lucky Shores hardly rates the title ‘city.’ A few dozen streets, a fishing dock, and that’s about it.”
Shirley frowned. Confusion painted her mobile face. “The place is booming, honey. Just about the biggest construction site in Colorado. Hadn’t you heard? Thought it was your home?”
Walker nodded. “Excuse the cliché, but home is where the heart rests. I’ve been away four years.”
The waitress dipped her head and took another sip, regarding him from over the top of her cup. “You’ll notice a difference, for sure.”
He nodded. “Guess so.”
During Josie’s all-too-sporadic and flying visits, she’d deliberately avoided discussing the changes to her home town; the two of them had other things on their minds. But he’d felt her tension as the years passed. Wouldn’t be long now before he found out exactly what had happened to Lucky Shores in his absence. Despite the slight concern, he couldn’t wait.
“Dwight, my husband, is a civil engineer. Been working up there ever since they started building the ski lifts. I’ve never seen the place, but he says we’ll take winter breaks up there when it’s done. Don’t think that’ll happen any time soon, though”—she waved her free hand at the pristine little eatery—“this place takes up most of my time, but the way Dwight tells it, Lucky Shores is a peach of a town.”
Walker couldn’t disagree. “Most beautiful place I ever saw, and I’ve seen a few.”
She cupped her mug in her hands and stared into the dispersing foam. “Dwight says when the construction’s done and the resort’s open, Lucky Shores is gonna rival Breckenridge, maybe even Aspen.”
She sipped some more coffee and added a heavy sigh.
“That don’t help me none, though. Hardly see Dwight for weeks on end. And when he does come home, he spends most of his time asleep. Long-distance relationships can put a strain on the strongest marriages.”
Tell me about it.
Her head snapped up and her eyes met his, wariness dulled their shine. “Darn, didn’t mean that to come out the way it did. Me and Dwight are solid and that wasn’t no pickup line.”
“That’s okay, Shirley. I didn’t take it that way, and I’m already spoken for. My fiancée”—he added a little emphasis to the word—“and I’ve been living apart for about four years, but that all stops tomorrow.”
That’s it, Walker. Lay the “fiancée” card on her. She’ll keep her distance.
He took another sip and stared through the window once more. The sun shot orange flames into the pale sky and looked to melt the snow from the peaks.
“Your fiancée lives in Lucky Shores?”
Walker pause before nodding. He really needed to get moving. “Sure does. Owns a place not unlike this one.”
Although the view in the Lucky Shores Diner—both behind the counter and through the windows—was a million times better. No offence to the comely Shirley.
“You kidding. Ms. Dolan’s your fiancée?”
It was Walker’s turn to sit up straighter. “You know Josie?”
Shirley shook her head. “’Course not. Never set foot in Lucky shores, not yet. But Dwight says the townsfolk call her Joey.”
“Josie’s my name for her. Rest of the town knows her as Joey.”
Shirley arched an eyebrow. “Understood. Dwight says she’s the brightest woman living in that town. Fair tweaked my jealous bone when he first started talking ’bout her. But he said I didn’t have no cause to fret on account of her being in love with some trainee doctor from back east. He says the guy’s going to take over the town’s medical center the moment he gets himself qualified. I’m guessing that’d be you, huh Doc?”
Heat rose to Walker face. His brand new title still had the power to make his stomach flip and his face flush warm. “Guilty as charged.”
She pushed out a water-reddened hand.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Doctor …”
“Walker, Chet Walker. Likewise, Shirley.”
They shook hands.
“According to Dwight, just about everyone in Lucky Shores speaks highly of you. They say you and Ms. Dolan saved the town from bankruptcy.”
Walker shrugged. “That was all down to Josie. I didn’t do much more than cling to her shirttails.”
She scoffed. “Mr. Google and the local media tell it different.”
“Don’t believe everything you read in the papers or see on the news. All hype and bull-jerky.”
She gave him a look that said she didn’t believe him but was happy to let it pass.
“Seems there’s a picture of you behind the counter in the Lucky Shores diner and another behind the bar in the saloon. You don’t look like the way Dwight describes you from the photo, mind. What happened to the long hair and the beard?”
Walker rubbed the back of his head and grimaced at the still-unfamiliar cropped style. “The consultant on my last rotation frowned on residents who turn up on ward looking like the member of a rock group.”
“Shame. I reckon you’d look pretty cool with long hair and whiskers. ’Specially with those silver streaks flashing at your temples. Not that it’s any business of mine, y’understand.”
As though to emphasize her point, she stood and loaded her cup into the dishwasher. Then she grabbed a tray and started bussing the tables, which wouldn’t take long. It was a small place with only ten tables, eight of which were already spotless.
Walker let out a breath. Shirley’s words brought some relief. Although he didn’t consider himself God’s gift to the opposite sex, he’d been sidestepping the amorous advances of women ever since his voice broke. For some reason, things had gotten worse during the four years of his residency. He never could figure out why certain people found doctors a romantic challenge when most medics spent their time overworked and out on their feet, living zombies. Most days he fell into bed, asleep before he’d face-planted into the pillow, and was awake five hours later with all the energy and charm of a ten-day-old cadaver.
Since passing his medical boards and becoming a fully qualified medical practitioner—six days earlier—Walker had done nothing but stay at his parents’ house, sleeping, wrapping up his affairs, packing his meager possessions, and preparing for his new life.
While Shirley cleared the final table and Walker finished his coffee, the last arc of the sun slipped behind the razor-tipped mountains and the western sky changed from orange to blood red. Over the hills lay a new home and a new life. He’d left the old one behind with excitement for the future, but sadness in the leaving.
Looking back from the perspective of a two-day road trip, the parting scene with his parents held a comical stiffness.
As Walker expected, his dad, Brigadier-General Atlee Walker, took his son’s departure in his default, stiff-backed, hide-all-emotion manner. An old soldier, he refused to let his emotions show. Mom, the harried and exhausted Chief of Surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital, had been shiny-eyed from the moment Walker returned home and started packing. On the morning of his final day, she was in pieces, and her tears fell in a steady stream.
When he’d left for his musical odyssey, Walker disappeared without warning and she’d missed out on the exquisite, teary departure. Walker wasn’t going to do that to her for a second time. She’d earned her sad parting, and he was determined to let her wallow in it.
“Lucky Shores isn’t the other side of the world, Mom,” he told the top of her head as they hugged beside his new-to-him car for the final time.
“That’s true,” Dad said, “but we’d be able reach to Sydney, Australia in half the time it takes to make it to Hicksville, Colorado.” He counted off the journey on his fingers. “Drive from here to Hancock National. Take the red eye to Denver International. Cool our heels for seven hours waiting for the connecting flight into Aspen or Grand Junction, whichever’s open depending on the weather and the time of year. Hire a car and drive the rest of the way to the Boonies on two-lane blacktops that aren’t passable during the winter months. Two days minimum if the connections all work. Did I get that about right, son?”
Walker gazed at his old man, trying to swallow past the growing boulder stuck in his throat. “Who taught you how to power up the laptop and use Trip Advisor?”
Dad tucked in his chin. “Yes, well, you don’t expect your mom and me to drive across the country for the wedding do you?”
Walker shuffled his feet. “Don’t go getting your hopes up, Dad. When I left Lucky Shores, Josie and I let things slide a little. I haven’t asked her formally, and we haven’t set a date.”
The retired soldier snorted and drilled Walker with a look that would have had his former subordinates melt into a puddle of military flop sweat.
“What planet do you think we live on, boy?” he said and rubbed his grizzled gray flattop. “Just ’cause your mom and I are a couple of old codgers doesn’t mean we walk around with our eyes closed. That’s girl’s a keeper, and—”
Mom waved her hand at him. “You speak for yourself, old man. There’s only one pensioner in this conversation.”
Dad scrunched his face into a mock scowl and deferred to the only person on the planet he’d allow to interrupt him. “Well, we’ve seen the way you look at each other. Josie and your mother have been doing that video calling thing and planning the shindig for months.”
Walker turned to his mom. “You’ve been what?”
She smiled. “Never you mind, Chet. Just be careful driving all those miles. Take plenty of time and rest up along the way. Josie won’t be happy if you have an accident on the route.”
“Neither will I, Mom. Bye, Dad. Take care of yourselves.”
The old soldier dipped his head in a curt nod. “Always.” They shook hands, gripping tight.
Mom kissed his cheek, wiped off the lipstick with a snick of her thumb, and hugged tight to Dad’s arm while Walker slid behind the Ford’s steering wheel and reversed off the drive onto the road.
He blinked back a tear of his own as his parents grew smaller in the rear view and disappeared when he rounded the first corner.
Walker smiled at the happy reminiscence and refused Shirley’s offer of yet another top off. Instead, she filled his thermos to the brim and he sealed the lid ready for the trip. After a quick visit to the rest room, he sidled up to the counter. “I’ll be on my way now. What do I owe you?”
Shirley rang up the ticket, and said, “Lucky Shores is a good six hours from here. You planning on driving through the night?”
He nodded. “I’ve been away long enough.”
“Take it slow on the switchbacks when you reach the high mountains. Does your Ford have four-wheel drive?”
“Sure does. It’s the main reason I nearly bankrupted myself buying the beast. I’ve seen what happens to drivers who take liberties on those mountain roads, especially in winter.”
He shivered at the memory of his first arrival at the outskirts of Lucky Shores. On the positive side, the tragedy had ultimately led to his meeting Josie, and for that miracle he would be eternally grateful. He tipped his hat to Shirley and made to leave.
The roar of a high-revving diesel engine shattered the quiet of the evening. Shirley stared past Walker’s shoulder through the huge window. “What on God’s green earth’s he doing?”
A beat-up old station wagon—a late ’70s GMC—screeched to a halt behind Walker’s car, burning rubber and throwing up a cloud of dust. Blue-black exhaust fumes shrouded the forecourt. A diagonal crack ran across its windshield. Body panels half-eaten by rust, a thick layer of mud probably held the old wreck together.
The driver’s door wrenched open. Hinges creaked. A young man—no more than a kid—jumped out. Scrawny, wide-eyed, and bathed in sweat, blood spotted his grubby shirtfront.
He raced into the diner and leaned against the counter, holding tight to the edge as if to hold himself upright. Desperate bloodshot eyes ignored Walker and latched onto Shirley.
“Help … p-please help!” he cried between gasps. “I-I n-needs a … a … am-bul-ance.”
About The Author
#1 Amazon bestselling author with the US-based Lucky Shores thriller series and the Ryan Kaine action thrillers, and creator of the popular DCI Jones Casebook series of crime novels, Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin.
A citizen of the world, he currently lives in a stone cottage in the heart of rural Brittany, which he took five years to renovate with his own gnarled and calloused hands. The cottage is a pet-free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and a family of red squirrels).
He has three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in England.
As the owner of a pristine Honda NC750X (whom he calls Nancy), you’ll often find him touring the less well-known regions of Europe in search of interesting locations for his novels.
A life-long sports enthusiast and open-water swimmer, the moment Kerry catches a glimpse of the ocean, it’s off with the bike leathers and on with his trunks and goggles.
Gang, please join me in thanking Kerry for sharing these authorly insights with us.
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Including Stories From…
- New York Times bestselling author Patricia Loofbourrow
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- USA Today bestselling author John Ling
- Award-Winning author Alexa Padgett
- Siera London
- USA Today bestselling author Shereen Vedam
- Multi-Award-Winning author, Deborah Shlian
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- USA Today bestselling author JB Michaels
- Maggie Carpenter
- USA Today bestselling author Tiana Laveen
- Angela Sanders
- Award-Winning author Karen M. Bryson
- Aime Austin
- Lisa B. Thomas
- USA Today bestselling author Fiona Quinn
- Kerry J Donovan
- Jane Blythe
- Bestselling author Dan Alatorre
- USA Today bestselling authors Muffy Wilson and Dariel Raye
- Ja’Nese Dixon
- USA Today bestselling author Terry Keys
- Bill Hargenrader
- Wall Street Journal bestselling author Judith Lucci
- Award-Winning author Maria Grazia Swan