A romantic hardened by reality…
Evelyn Lancaster turned her back on her love for ranch hand Jesse Greenwood when she was sixteen to pursue a career and marry into wealth that could save her father’s struggling ranch. Now twenty-three, she works hard to keep the property afloat, but no suitor has stirred her heart the way Jesse did. After her father falls ill, she needs all the help she can get to keep the ranch running.
A cowboy returning to what he left behind…
After making his fortune, a newly wealthy Jesse has returned home to see his younger sister married. Still smarting from Evelyn’s rejection, he finds the tables have turned, and now only his investment could save the ranch that he vowed to never step foot on again.
When he agrees to help her salvage her family legacy, they must overcome their pride and painful past to work together. As long-held emotions rekindle, Jesse pretends indifference, only to admit his true feelings in an unsigned letter left on Evelyn’s porch.
Evelyn finds the missive and writes back, beginning a furtive correspondence. She dares to hope her mystery admirer is Jesse, but then another man comes forward to claim the letters as his own. Will one last letter give them the courage to say yes to love on the wild Texas plains?
When did you first start writing?
I've written stories for as long as I can remember. Even in second grade I was penning down plot ideas - which never ended up having endings, but they were still beginnings! The first full story I wrote (with an ending included) was in fourth grade. My teacher, Mr. Mason, read my story and encouraged my love for creative writing. I was extremely fortunate to have him as my teacher.
Tell us a little about the story behind your current project.
One Last Letter was inspired by reading Lorraine Heath's Amelia and the Cowboy. It was the first book from Heath that I picked up and I was hooked. I've read historical romances before, but there was something about the American West that seemed a perfect backdrop for romance. I knew I wanted my story to take place in Texas, but I've lived my entire life in California. Lots of research was required!
Southern California is a lot different than 1800’s Texas. What’s the biggest challenge involved with writing about such a different environment and how did you overcome it?
I ran into so many historical restrictions while writing the novel. Since finishing One Last Letter, I have much more respect for historical fiction writers! Extensive research is required at every step of the way. At the same time, it’s exciting to create new worlds and travel back to long-forgotten times. I brushed up on written research, but I also watched a lot of modern Western movies. I love The Love Comes Softly Saga from Hallmark Channel (adapted from books by Janette Oke). Binge-watching historical dramas definitely helped.
What is the single most important thing you've learned about managing your career?
Don't give up. The road to being an author is paved with rejection. You have to possess a thick skin when you’re an writer – when querying publishers/agents, requesting reviews, or even reading reviews – there’s so many opportunities for others to criticize or reject your work. But if you know creative writing is what you want to pursue, nothing can hold you back from it in the long run. It’s all about just sticking to what you feel passionate about and moving forward.
They say you make your luck...what have you done in your career that has resulted in what other people might think of as being lucky?
Being published so young. I’ve been fortunate enough to publish my first novel (a New Adult thriller) The Innocent Assassins and my second novel (a Western romance) One Last Letter while I’m still eighteen. It’s a blessing to begin my journey of being an author so early in my life. Of course, there are lots of authors who have been published even earlier than I! I’m currently living out the years I’m writing about. All my characters in my works have been between the ages of 17 and 23, and I’m fortunate enough to express the age from someone who’s living it out.
Do you write every day? Every week? Odd times?
Since I’m still in college, I mainly write during breaks. Winter break, spring break, and summer break all provide perfect opportunities for writing. Once I’m at college, there’s so many other projects and events going on that make it hard to write every day during the school semester.
Any advice you can give to other young writers?
Trust that everything happens for a reason. Every rejection letter you receive is just more time for you to improve your craft and experience more in the world. Don't be too starry-eyed, but don't ever be disillusioned. Publishing is a business just like any other - there's competition and intimidation. But there's also camaraderie and community and creativity. Just keep writing and don't lose hope; that's all you can do.
Favorite writing quote?
“In order to write about life, you must live it,” by Ernest Hemingway. He’s completely right. Experience is the best source of writing material. Whether it’s relating to a character’s first heartbreak or first kiss or even watching a beautiful sunset, authors can only write about emotions after they’ve experienced it for themselves. That’s one of the many wonderful parts about writing: the ability to relate to so many other readers through our shared emotions and experiences.
Pema Donyo is a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where people wear flip-flops instead of Stetsons and ride in cars instead of carriages. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and… college.
Visit Pema on her website at pemadonyo.wordpress.com
Follow her on Twitter @pemadonyo