In The Mind of Nancy Herkness – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

This week we’re jumping over the hump with our featured workshop presenter and fabulous romance author,Nancy Herkness! Nancy will be giving a workshop at our conference in October, Sell Your Book, Not Your Sould: How to Write a Commercial Book of Your Heart, just one of many fabulous workshops we have scheduled.

For more information on our conference, how to register, and other popular questions, please visit our website at

Please welcome Nancy!

How did you come up with the idea for the Whisper Horse series?

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of West Virginia, so that seemed a natural setting for my series. Thinking of my younger years reminded me of my pony Papoose, who was my constant companion back then. So I decided to put horses in my series. As I strolled down memory lane, I remembered telling Papoose all my troubles, especially when I was an angsty teenager. I always felt better after I did. That was where I got the idea that in my fictional town of Sanctuary, people find a special Whisper Horse who helps share their burdens.

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy the first Whisper horse novel TAKE ME HOME?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I’ll have to ask her. LOL! I do remember her mentioning she was blown away by the pacing and the emotional depth. She loved the payoff of Claire and Tim’s first kiss after all the build-up.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing your most recent release THE PLACE I BELONG (coming June 3rd)?

I hated how much I had to make my chef hero Adam Bosch suffer. He’s a recovering alcoholic so he had a dark road to walk before he could believe himself worthy of Hannah and Matt’s love.

How much research did you conduct for THE PLACE I BELONG and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

My research encompassed three major elements: veterinary medicine, alcoholism, and being a chef. Quite a mix! Researching what it was like to be an executive chef was the most fun. I was forced—forced!—to eat at the fabulous Barcelona Wine Bar in Greenwich, CT, where my critique partner’s son is the area director. I sat at the chef’s table and peppered the poor head chef with question after question as he was handling all the crises of a busy night’s business while serving me exquisite food. I was so stuffed by the end of the night that I practically rolled home.

Why did you decide to write contemporary romance?

While I love reading historical romance, I like the edge that contemporary romance offers. And I’m much too lazy to do all the research required to be historically accurate.

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I pants. I start with the two main characters, their conflicts both internal and external, and an ending scene. I think about those three elements a lot before I write a single word. Then I sit down at the computer, type Chapter 1, and go straight through from there. Although it sounds very logical and efficient, I take many detours and sometimes get lost which is why it requires a good nine months for me to write a full-length novel.

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?

Chocolate, a thesaurus, and walking the dogs. Chocolate is self-explanatory. The thesaurus is a necessity because my mental retrieval system is not what it used to be; I know there’s a perfect word for my sentence but I have to see it to remember it. I walk the dogs to get my brain unblocked. Literal forward motion seems to help when I can’t figure out what comes next. Physical movement breaks through the psychological barrier.

Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?

My first draft is very clean, but as my critique partners will tell you, I generally need to amp up the conflict because, as I mentioned in question 3, I am soft-hearted when it comes to my characters. Those conflicts are what generally gets added during revisions.

How do you make time to write?

When I had children at home, I wrote every morning right after I dropped them off at school. Now that my daughter and son are both out on their own, I appear to have more time to write, but feel like I have less. I blame Facebook.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

Writers are control freaks so I am almost always in the driver’s seat. However, there are a few wonderful moments when a character shows some new facet of himself or herself I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes that takes the plot in a new direction. Those are gifts from the Muse and to be honored.

Who has had the most influence on your writing?

My college creative writing teachers, who were all working poets. They showed me how to handle criticism constructively and without taking it personally. They also taught me that it doesn’t matter what I think I said; it only matters what the reader thinks I said.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Read both in your genre and outside it. Absorb the structure of story into your bones so it comes to you without conscious thought. When you set out on the first draft, have fun and write it just for yourself. You can think about pleasing editors, agents, and readers when you do the revisions. Finish the book; it’s amazing how many people don’t. Then write another one. If you want to succeed as a published author, you have to be able to produce good books regularly.

Why did you decide to become a romance author?

I fell in love with Mr. Rochester in JANE EYRE at an early age, then moved on to Georgette Heyer and Kathleen Woodiwiss. Romance has always been my comfort read. When I commuted to New York City, I read romance on the PATH train, running through all my favorite authors rapidly and finding it difficult to discover more good romances. So I decided I would write the kind of romance that I wanted to read.

Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”

I was in the car with my husband and two children, driving south to celebrate Thanksgiving with my extended family when my cell phone rang.
Back then, only the babysitter called my cell so I had to really dig to the bottom of my pocketbook to find it. When I answered, I was shocked to hear my agent’s voice. She told me Berkley wanted to buy A BRIDGE TO LOVE. I have no idea what I said in return, but after I got off the phone, there was a lot of “I can’t believe it!” and hyperventilating. My children were young and had no idea why mommy was behaving so oddly. It was a grand Thanksgiving.

What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?

Walking into my local Barnes and Noble and seeing my book on the shelf was a major thrill. It made the whole publishing experience concrete. My husband took a photo of me standing next to my book right before a Barnes and Noble clerk told us photography was not allowed in the store. To this day, that rule puzzles me.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

Dancing with the New York City Ballet. (If only.)

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?

That publishing is a strange combination of commerce and art. You have to write great books that are also commercially viable. I’m giving a workshop called “Sell Your Book, Not Your Soul” about combining these two aspects of publishing because that was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.

With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going?

If only I had a crystal ball! I think more and more books will be published, by publishers large and small and by authors themselves. Therefore, the name of the game will become that awful word “discoverability”. Anyone who figures out how to make their books stand out from the crowd will be successful. So I’m always trying to imagine what that amazing new marketing idea will be, because it changes all the time.

Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

A Kindle Paperwhite. I love it because I can enlarge the print and read easily after a long day at the computer.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

I snorkeled with sea lions, penguins, and hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos. The coldest and scariest thing I’ve ever done is fall out of the raft while whitewater rafting in Alaska. I’m not really an adventurous person, so those two situations were way out of my usual comfort zone.

Tell us your latest news.

My second Whisper Horse novel COUNTRY ROADS was nominated for a RITA™ award! Right after that, I signed a two-book deal with my publisher Montlake Romance for a new series about three sexy billionaires who meet in an exclusive New York Club and make a wager about finding true love. It was a good couple of weeks!

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite writing quote is by Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Where do you write?

I write in a small room on the third floor of my house, right up under the eaves. I call it my garret, as in artists starving in their garrets. It has a lovely arched window that looks out over my backyard. The rest of the room is a mess.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing all my life, but I date my writing career as beginning the year I sold A BRIDGE TO LOVE, so that would be 2001. It was published in 2003. Boy, was that a long wait!

If you were a millionaire would you still write?

It’s a terrible addiction.

Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? 

Favorite color: Purple, it’s regal.

Favorite number: I’m a writer so I have favorite words, not numbers.

Favorite Actor: Tommy Lee Jones.

Favorite Actress: Cate Blanchett.

Wine or liquor? Champagne.

Tea or coffee? Peppermint tea.

Decaf or caffeinated? Decaf.

Boxers or briefs? Boxer briefs.

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate, preferably dark.

Donald Duck or Goofy? Never been a classic Disney cartoon fan.

Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Frozen.

Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Hugh Jackman.

Want to meet or attend Nancy’s workshop? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at and register! 



2 thoughts on “In The Mind of Nancy Herkness – 30 Years of Happily Ever Afters

  1. Great interview! But it should say Nancy’s workshop at the end. I am enjoying the Whisper Horse series! Nancy, did you ever read Mary Stewart’s “Airs Above the Ground?” A horse (a Lippanzer–not sure of the spelling) was featured prominently in that classic romantic suspense novel.

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