The moment Martha noticed Raymond on the train, everything her mother warned against erupted – romantic notions, palpitating heart, the desire to write it all in a novel and tell the world. Martha lived and wrote that love story until the day Raymond handed her a sketch. “Want to see a picture of the girl I plan to marry?”
The penciled profile resembled Martha… But when Raymond went away, she knew. She wasn’t the girl he planned to marry. David was her father’s apprentice, everything Martha’s mother said made a good husband - hardworking, no romantic tendencies, no tolerance for writing about it. Martha added a fictional happy ending to her and Raymond’s story and published it. Cleansed herself of romantic love, ready to marry David.
Until a copy of her book appeared. Full of sketches, Raymond’s version of their love story, drawings that enticed her heart to beat once again.
Before we head off to the Maine Romance Writers' annual retreat, Wild Women Authors is pleased to feature Colleen L. Donnelly and Martha Cole from Colleen's latest release, Love on a Train. Per our usual routine, Martha is up first.
Where are you from? Kansas City, Kansas.
Tell us a bit about Love on a Train. Funny how you can be in a story and writing it at the same time, but that’s me! Mama raised me under the warning to stay away from romance stories – don’t read them and don’t expect to live them. And most of all, don’t write them! Well, I never did read those stories, but when I first saw Raymond Haynes on that train going in and out of Kansas City, Mama’s warnings vanished. I began to live what she forbade, and the writer in me couldn’t help but put it on paper. Love on a Train is my story – how I fell in love on that train, and then how I lost that love on the very same train. I wrote my heart into that book, and when I came to THE END I thought my heart would recover enough to marry someone other than Raymond. Mama thought so, too. But hearts don’t always stay between the covers of a book. In fact my book brought my heart out and beyond.
What did you think the first time you saw Raymond Haynes? I knew there was a God, and God meant for that man to be with me.
We often experience that same feeling, but not for the same reason. What was your second thought? He was so handsome that he could have any woman he wanted. In this post WWII era, where there was a shortage of men and every woman was trying to present herself as the perfect mate, it was hard to stand out. We all looked the same and unless I did something to stand out from the crowd, I didn’t have a chance of catching his eye.
Did you feel it was love at first sight? I knew it was.
What do you like most about Raymond? At first, it was the way he looked. I nearly fell, he was so striking. But then it was the way he saw life – he’d survived the war and he smiled at the future. And he expressed his thoughts through art. He drew and I wrote. I saw his heart in his drawings and I loved what I saw.
How would you describe him? Just like me at his core. Enthusiastic about life, eager to love at every level.
How would Raymond describe you? Maybe a bit reserved. I was so careful. I kept my eagerness to myself because I wanted him to make the first moves. It was a strain on my patience as I waited. I had no idea what sort of wait it would turn into.
What made you choose secretarial work for a career? I loved words. They tumbled around inside of me. Mama said it wasn’t proper for a young woman to be writing stories so I kept my words to myself and wrote what others said, instead. Until I met Raymond, then my own words erupted.
What is your biggest fear? Marrying the wrong man and not having the heart for him.
How do you relax? With my best friend, Karen. She’s everything I’m not, yet she does it so carefully even Mama’s radar doesn’t pick up on the corners Karen cuts.
Sounds like she's a good mix for you. Who is your favorite fictional character?
Mama was strict about what I could read, but I was aware of Scarlett O’Hara, Lizzie Bennett, and Hester Prynne. I loved Lizzie, but Hester was likely my favorite. She suffered and she survived.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Never settle, always select. That saved me in the end.
Great advice for all parts of life. Thanks for spending time with us, Martha. Now it's time for Colleen.
What movies or books have had an impact on your career as a writer and why? The Help – I loved the tone of that book and used that in my first book which became an Amazon #1 bestseller, Mine to Tell. And I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but the first Sex in the City movie captured such emotional conflict that it’s my go-to movie when I go flat with my writing.
What event in your private life were you able to bring to this story and how do you feel it impacted the novel? Finding myself with the wrong person because there were so many right reasons to be with him. Not a good formula for lasting harmony. They say, “Write what you know,” and I did know how that felt – he was so right on the outside, but inside of me where the relationship counted, he just wasn’t there.
Tell us a bit about your publisher: how did you hear about them and what influenced your decision to submit to them? I very happily write for The Wild Rose Press. I heard them speak at a writer’s conference when they were strictly a romance publisher and I was a literary fiction writer…and not a very good literary fiction writer at the time. I loved their philosophy and kept my eye on them in case they ever branched beyond traditional romance. They did! I was quick to submit and they took Mine to Tell. I’ve stayed with them ever since.
What project[s] are you working on now? My publisher suggested an arranged marriage story, and I took the bait. It’s written, and I go home from my day job every evening and edit. And edit. And edit. My goal is to have it to my publisher in March.
What's up next for you? Have another novel in the back of my mind waiting for the arranged marriage story to be off my plate. Impatient little idea! It can’t wait to spring forth.
Colleen brought an excerpt from Love on a Train. . .
“Want to see a picture of the girl I plan to marry?” Raymond’s face appeared, forced its way into my mind—the way he’d looked when I first met him, and the way he looked again when he asked me that question, both of us riding the train into Kansas City for our respective jobs.
“Just got back from doing my part for the war,” he said in our very first conversation, and he meant the big war, the Second World War. “I build bridges. Right now I’m working on the Madison Bridge, not far from downtown. I’m building bridges for the city and building a whole new life for myself at the same time.” And then he smiled, looked at me in a way that told me there was so much more to what he’d said than just that he worked and built.
We were the same inside, and I knew it that very moment. Hearing his voice and seeing his expression ignited tiny flames inside me. Flames that had flickered quietly far too long, done little more than lick the surface of my imagination.
Until that day. Each time he spoke after that, something in me flared to life and heated me up from within, bringing what Mama called an unladylike glimmer to my eye. A glimmer that was identical to the one I saw in his eyes, but she never knew that. I never talked about Raymond to her. I didn’t dare.
“I love words,” I said back to him that first time we spoke. “I have a secretary job, and sometimes I take dictation. Mr. Arnold, my boss, says I’m good at it.” I didn’t tell him Mama said it wasn’t proper for me to write my own words and stories, and that’s why I just copied everyone else’s.
Copied everyone else’s until I met him. After that, my own story erupted in full force. I couldn’t stop it. That’s when it finally began to grow.
To learn more about our guest and the stories she creates, go to:
To purchase Love on a Train, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Train-Colleen-L-Donnelly-ebook/dp/B019YHFBI0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1456267984&sr=8-2&keywords=love+on+a+train+books