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I can't remember there being a time I didn't want to be a writer. As a three year old I mounted covert operations just so that I could read at night – like pretending to be asleep when my dad checked on me, then grabbing the pile of books stashed under my bed and reading them under the hall light from the moment I heard him start snoring, until my mum got home from work at three in the morning.
This nefarious undercover career continued in elementary school where I wrote stories and poems in a jillion spiral notebooks, naming all the chapters to come... and rarely writing beyond chapter three. My first 'novel' was on a ranch that I gave the inauspicious name Carrion. (Hey, I was only in third grade, and it was a chewy sounding big word! So what if I didn't know exactly what it meant?) In third grade, my parents were summoned to school by an irate teacher after I insisted that I didn't need to learn my times tables. After all, I was going to be a famous author when I grew up.
Throughout my high-school years, my parents became increasingly alarmed by visions of their daughter as a starving artist (i.e. living in a rat-infested garret, eating stale cornflakes and mumbling to myself about voices I heard in my head). At one of those grim but loving 'come to Jesus' meetings at the kitchen table, they convinced me that I needed to be able to support myself once I graduated from college. I became an elementary school teacher because I adored kids, and for a few years I toyed with writing children's literature – until some wise soul told me to 'write what you love to read.'
An incurable romantic, I sallied forth into romance – both historical and contemporary. For my twenty fifth birthday my husband Dave presented me with an electric typewriter and a gift of time, saying 'You have five years before Kate starts school. If you publish a book by then, you can stay home and be a writer like you've always dreamed.'
So my first book was written during Sesame Street, Kate's nap times, and from ten o'clock at night until two in the morning. Hearing of Sandra Brown's trick of bribing her kids to give her a little writing time by promising to put their names on every page of the book, I took the pseudonym Kimberly Cates.
During this time I started running into another aspiring writer/mom at free day at the Zoo, swimming lessons and preschool pageants – the woman who would become my incredibly talented partner-in-crime and critique partner, Susan Carroll. What history-nut, book-crazy person could resist someone who didn't mind a phone call at midnight with a lunatic in a frenzy of delight over some tidbit of research she'd found? (Such as the fact that King Charles II of England took a stick of wood to bed with him like a teddy bear when he was a child. Honest – he really did!)
When I attended my first RWA conference with the first hundred pages of a novel in hand, I chose an agent appointment in the most professional, logical manner imaginable: I picked the one who had my hero's last name. What became Sky of Ashes, Sea of Flames sold within a week, and I had to face the exhilarating yet terrifying consequence – actually having to finish a book. To make it all the more challenging I'd set this book in the most romantic time period ever known – the Irish potato famine.
Twenty six (completed!) books later and I am still thrilled to be doing something I love so much for a living.