Seems to me it’s time to answer a few of the questions I’ve received in my email in recent weeks. Everyone gets personal responses, of course–and yes, that’s really me answering them–but some of the answers might interest the rest of you, too.

1–I just read One Mountain Away, and I loved the book, but did it really have to end that way?  It was so sad.

I understand this response completely, because it’s always hard to let go of a character we’ve grown fond of.  But there are all kinds of happy endings.  To me, the happiest is when the character is able to achieve everything she most desires.  And I think Charlotte does.  Plus she leaves an important legacy, which the other books in the series will explore.  And I promise, Charlotte’s an important part of everything to come.

2–I’ve just read Prospect Street for the second time and I’m hoping there’s a sequel.  Is there?

I’ve always thought that Hope, Faith’s sister (and no, there IS no Charity in the story) needed her own book.  But the opportunity slipped by as other books emerged.  At this point, I think Prospect Street will remain a stand-alone novel.  But I’ve been wrong before.

3–Did I miss the promised sixth novel in the Shenandoah Album series?  And why can’t I get these books any way except as ebooks now?

You didn’t miss Summer Winds because I’ve yet to write it.  But I plan to write it, and promise you’ll know when I do.  How it will be published is up in the air but I do have WONDERFUL  news about the series.  My publisher will be reissuing Wedding Ring, Endless Chain and Lover’s Knot in trade paperback editions with brand new covers next spring!  I just discovered this and I am so excited.  And who knows what will happen if the reissues do well?  Stay tuned for more news on that front as it happens.

4–You’ve mentioned moving in your blogs and on your Facebook Page.  Where are you now?

We are smack in the middle of Indecision, Anyplace.  Since our summer cottage is BADLY in need of renovation, that will start soon and we’re trying to figure out when we’ll be needed here for decisions and when we can start our trek south to find a permanent home.  Since so much’s going to be done to the house, I’ve decided to bore you with before and after photos, my own HGTV style special, here on my blog.  Watch for that soon because I may be asking for advice.  I think I’ll need it.  Right now we’re clearing out all the rooms so the workers can get in.  The neighborhood loves us.  The stuff we can’t use disappears the moment we put it on the curb.  Since some of it came from other people’s curbs, I’m delighted.  The best kind of recycling.

Want a question answered here?  Just let Emilie know.  You can email through her website or you can ask your questions under comments here at the blog.

Recently I had the joy of receiving this email from one of my readers, Joyce in Maryland.  The story of Aunt Verdie is so lovely that I asked Joyce if I could share it with you.  My fondest wish for everyone reading this is that you have or have had an Aunt Verdie in your life.

Dear Ms. Richards

I’m an avid reader of inspirational novels and after reading each one have a new appreciation for something or someone in my life. 

To be honest up until this time I had not read any of your books but now I can’t seem to put them down. I can tell by your video on your website and from your books you are very spiritual and have unending love for your family. Because of this, I thought you might enjoy how I came to learn about you as an author and your novels. 

Recently, I stumbled, quite accidently, on your novel, Wedding Ring. About two years ago, my great aunt, Verda, passed away at the loving age of 106. As you can imagine she had seen a lot in her life time and kept journals of her life experiences. She was a loving mother to one daughter, Etta Jane, and son-in-law, Gale. Etta Jane and Gale never had children.  Although Aunt Verda  never had any grandchildren of her own, she had hundreds of children who thought of her as a grandmother. 

Aunt Verdie, as many of us called her, was one of the most inspiring people in my life. She was all of 85-90 pounds, extremely talented, and had more love to share than anyone I have ever met. Her talents went far beyond making quilts, reading, and collecting dolls but these were her passion. She never met a stranger and always had a kind word, hug, and sweet smile for everyone. 

After the passing of Aunt Verdie’s husband and children, she came to live with my mother. Her house was sold to a neighbor and many of her items came to be stored at my mother’s home. This past fall, my brother and I started going through some of Aunt Verdie’s possessions at the request of our mother. We found trunks and totes full of material she used for quilting. As we continued to go through her possessions we found quilt pattern pieces stuffed in old envelopes, tins, and behind picture frames. The pattern pieces were made out of cardboard, plastic, or any other viable material she could use. In one of her trunks, were several books she obviously had read at some point. One of them was a copy of your novel, Wedding Ring in your Shenandoah Album Series. Our mother had told us prior to sorting through the items if we saw something we wanted to take it as she knew we would cherish it. The book looked very appealing so I picked up the book and put it with a pile of other books I had collected. Later that day the books went home with me. In the few days that followed, I picked up the Wedding Ring book and began reading. I literally could not put the book down. Helen, the character in your book, reminded me so much of Aunt Verdie, that I thought I was reliving the past. Although, Aunt Verdie’s personality was a bit different than Helen’s, however, the love and passion for quilting were not. She was quick to share her finished labors of love with others. 

Many of Aunt Verdie’s quilts now cover the beds of family and friends or adorn the walls in their homes including mine. Each time I look at them, it reminds me of the old saying, “A family is quilted and bound with love and grace.” 

 Many thanks to Joyce for sharing Aunt Verdie’s wonderful heritage with all of us.

I had so much fun answering questions a few months ago that I decided to ask for more on my Facebook Page to go with some I’ve saved from emails.   In the future, if you have a question that’s not answered on my website at my FAQ (under Bio at the top), please email me to ask directly.  You should see FAQ when you pass your cursor over Bio.  If you don’t, the Internet gods are playing tricks.  Sometimes I see it, and sometimes I don’t.  My webmaster is trying to fix this.  If you don’t see it, please shoot me an email to forward to him so he’ll know I’m not crazy–which he doubts.

Which brings me to question number one.

What drives you absolutely, blooming nuts, and how do you deal with it?  Funny you should ask.  Technology!  My Internet’s going on and off, and Comcast not only has no idea why, they, too, think it’s in my head.  Then to add insult to injury, the new DVR we got from them comes with no instructions.  They assured me we need none, even though it’s not working.  I won’t go into my manifold past problems with my phone company–you can see them in a prior blog–except to say that after complaining to everyone in the entire Northern Hemisphere, I’ve been asked to testify in Richmond at a hearing about the company’s poor service record.  I plan to be there. 

Are you as vindictive as you sound?  Nope.  I just think things I’m paying for should work.  Call me. . . nuts (someone’s already done that, see the question above.)  BTW, Comcast techs are some of the nicest people out there.  We’re practically on a first name basis.

Both Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor have long sections about the pleasures of pie.  You have pie recipes on your website.  Is pie one of your favorite foods?  Oddly, no.  But cupcakes–a real weakness of mine–were already well done (no pun intended) by others.  And pie is so versatile.  I am inordinately fond, though, of any pie with chocolate in it.  And occasionally, Key lime.

Do you write in your PJs?  I’ve been known to go to the computer in the morning wearing my bathrobe.  It’s that kind of job.  Ideas come at all times and in all places.  Of course, it’s hard to explain this to the UPS man when I have to sign for a package.

Do you plan to write a sequel to Prospect Street?  Most likely that will not happen, but I never say never.  Just discovered that a series of three novels I’m finishing now (Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr) was followed up many years later with more in the same series.  It can happen.

Which of your characters do you admire most and why?  Wow, great question, but then it comes from the great Casey Daniels, author of thrills, chills and mystery.  If I spent hours on this, I might come up with a different answer.  But the first character who comes to mind is Grace Cashell of Sister’s Choice, book five of the Shenandoah Album series.   Grace sets aside plans for her life and pitches in to raise her nephews, surmounting great difficulties without complaint.  Along the way she pursues her own creative agenda and lives life fully, despite all obstacles.

And finally for today:  How do you choose character names?  I blogged about this nearly a year ago right here.  In addition to the five major points I made then, there’s one more I can make now.  A name has to be unique enough for the reader to remember, and (usually) common enough that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.  Sometimes you need a sore thumb, but you must have a good reason.  Naming characters is just as difficult as naming children.  And let’s not forget I don’t want to use the same names in book after unrelated book.  So my store of possibilities is narrowing.  Maybe we’ll have some polls here when I begin my next series.

Thanks for asking.  I’m always up for answering more questions in another IAQ blog.  The more colorful (as opposed to embarrassing) the better.

Victorian Mailbox from iStock.jpgDear Ms. Richards,

Recently I found your Shenandoah Album books and read them all.  Sure I had found an author I could admire and trust, I went back and read some of your other novels. I found several words that I don’t even want to “think.”  I am now ashamed to be seen with your novels. I hope you are happy.

Disgruntled Reader

Dear Disgruntled,

After a rough calculation, I’ve determined that I’ve written and published more than 6 million, three hundred thousand words in my career.  If you have found only a few words that offend you, I am truly flabbergasted.

PS: While I , too, get tired of an abundance of profanity, I make no promises that the occasional profane word will not slip from a character’s lips when it’s really needed.  Rare, but there.  I do understand and appreciate what offends you and try not to do so.

Emilie, who wonders how you “bought” the novels that offended you, since right now they are out of print.

Dear Ms. Richards,

I read your novel Endless Chain, and I want to say it’s a left wing propaganda piece favoring illegal immigration.  Furthermore, I KNOW you wrote it so that “those” people will start reading your novels. 

Perceptive Reader

Dear . . . Reader,

Had you really read the novel, you would have noted that both Elisa and her brother were US citizens.  However, far more important?  I wrote the novel to explore what happens as communities change when people of a nationality new to an area begin to settle there–as we have done in this country for centuries and as your own ancestors probably did.  If I garnered new readers, I am delighted.  All people of good will are welcome to read my novels, and we don’t need to agree about everything or anything my characters proclaim.  This is fiction, topical, yes, but fiction, a chance to visit new worlds and think new thoughts.  Sometimes new thoughts are worth having.

Emilie, who feels enriched by the contributions and talents of all nationalities and requires no litmus tests for readers

Dear Emilie,

I have read and loved all your novels, and I am so glad I found them to keep me company.  I hope you plan to write many more.  Write faster.

Grateful Reader

Dear Grateful Reader,

I am the one who is grateful.  Sometimes you call me on mistakes.  Sometimes you take me to task for a character’s actions, but you continue reading my novels.  Where would I be without you?  I’ve watched from my side of this computer as some of you have dealt with frightening and life-threatening illnesses.  I’ve given permission to have my work read at funerals of your loved ones or even your own.  I’ve been teary-eyed when you’ve told me what my books have meant to you in times of personal darkness, or how a character helped you understand someone and make peace.

There are few jobs better than this one.  Thank you for allowing me this privilege.  I promise you, no matter what I write, I always take you seriously.