Author Spotlight Interview: Ramona Flightner
This week, we continue our series of author spotlight interviews by talking to Montana-based romance writer Ramona Flightner, who pens beautiful tales of rugged men and fierce women finding love on the extremes of the American frontier.
HG: Hi Ramona! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed. Okay, first question – who are you? How would you describe yourself to readers who might not be familiar with you – yet!
RF: I am a historical romance author who loves to write about her home state of Montana. All of my novels have to do with Montana in some way. Although I spent fourteen years working as a family nurse practitioner, I now work solely as a writer. Spending time with family and friends as we tell great stories, fly fishing, or escaping into the mountains are ways I love to spend my free time.
HG: I set a portion of one of my novels in Montana because it looked like the most incredible state! Sadly the closest I’ve come is to Wyoming, which also took my breath away. The people out there are so amazing. Or maybe that’s just because I live in New York. So how do you get into writing? Have you always been a writer?
RF: Well, if you ever have questions about Montana, and a “What would a Montanan do” sort of thing, feel free to ask me!
As a kid, I was always writing in my journal. I loved writing! I’d always dreamed of being a writer, but I had believed it was just that– a dream. In 2010, I decided I would write, but just for me. Soon, I’d told close family and friends, and I realized I wanted it to be more than a dream. I found my courage and published my first novel in 2014. I’ve since published 25+ novels and counting.
HG: 25+ is AMAZING! How did you go about getting that first one published? And how does that journey differ from the process of Pioneer Longing?
RF: The first one was an odyssey in so many ways. I thought I would be traditionally published, but after 18 months and little interest from agents, I was already writing Book 3 in the series and knew I needed to forge my own path. So, I buckled down and learned all I could about self publishing. I found an editor, made a webpage, learned about marketing and a newsletter. This was in 2013, and there wasn’t as much out there to help authors then. But, I was like a sponge and I loved the entire process. I made so many mistakes, and I continue to make them, but it’s all been worth it.
As for what makes Pioneer Longing different from my first book, Banished Love–With Banished Love, I went out to celebrate its release with a fancy dinner with friends. Now, I don’t go out with friends and family every time I release a book. I did the dinner celebration for book 1 and book 20, which just happened to be the last book in the Banished Saga, Triumphant Love. I know I should celebrate in a small way, but I need to find that tradition to start. It’s never too late, right? However, with every release, there’s still so much that’s the same. I can’t wait to read what my fans think, I’m excited and edgy as I push “publish”, afraid I’ve uploaded the wrong file or something will go wrong. I hope my readers will love the characters as much as I do, laugh where I laughed, cry where I did. It’s a very personal experience, putting your stories out into the world.
HG: That’s a wonderful answer! I feel the same way and I’ve written 15 novels, I think. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing on this journey?
RF: 15 novels- that’s so great! (and I totally get the “I think”! I remember when I first started writing, I never would have imagined I’d not know the exact number off the top of my head!)
The biggest thing I’ve learned on my journey as a writer is that I must love the story for the reader to love it. I have to feel an emotional connection to it, or no one else will. If I feel in my gut that something is off, so will my reader. It’s also important that I love the story because I’ll have to read it over so many times with editing and polishing it before publication.
HG: I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to keep up my volume of writing if I wasn’t passionate about my stories. Brilliant stuff! So what’s the process of writing with you? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
RF: When I first started writing, I was a complete pantser. I had no idea where the story was going, and I wasted so much time. So many wasted scenes. Now, I’m still mainly a pantser, but I have the “high points” figured out. I write romance, so that means I know who will fall in love, what will keep them apart, what’s in their past that haunts them and brings them trouble in the present, who in their present will bring them problems and when in the book will they get married. I also try to know the ending as I’m starting, but that doesn’t always happen. But, other than that, it can all be a surprise. For example, I was on a drive today and I saw a beautiful field of wild flowers, and I thought, “wow, that would make a great scene for the book I’m writing.” So, now that will be worked in somewhere. Or, a character will say something and take the book on a tangent. I’ve tried plotting out chapter ideas and my imagination dies, so this is what works for me. I’d never be able to plot out a book scene by scene– my imagination just doesn’t work that way.
HG: I don’t think life works that way! I love that, though. It’s funny, I was working on a concept for a book set in India, and then I randomly went to India on another project and BOOM found the exact place my story needed to be set in, and it made me think how stories unfold in their own time.
So, what does actual WRITING look like to you? Do you schedule your writing time? Do you have a writing space or office? Or are you a laptop-in-starbucks kind of writer (not that we can be right now.)
RF: I try to write in the morning and early afternoon, almost every day. Thankfully, I can write anywhere, although I prefer to write at my desk with soft, instrumental music playing (I have an Irish music mix that signals my brain- “now is time to write”.) If I’m going on a camping trip or somewhere I won’t have my computer, I always bring a writing journal. I’ll either jot down ideas or write entire scenes. I do feel lucky that I don’t need perfect writing conditions- the world can be chaos around me and I’ll still be able to write if I have earbuds in.
Also- India sounds amazing! And I love it when a story suddenly comes together that way!
HG: I think to be able to write like that is a really powerful ability. Good for you. What is it you hope people get out of reading your books?
RF: On one level, I want my readers to be able to escape to another time and leave their current worries behind. On a deeper level, I believe that in our busy worlds today, so many are searching for connection. In my novels, it’s true that the overarching theme is a love story, but there is also the love of family, of friends, and of community. There is a connection to place and a loyalty to all those who are loved. So, my hope is that while they are lost in the worlds I create, that they have that sense of connection.
HG: Who is your favorite character from your books?
RF: Man, that’s a tough question! Each series has characters I absolutely adore. One of my absolute favorites is Sophronia Chickering from my first series, The Banished Saga. Sophronia was an outspoken suffragist who took all of the younger women in the series under her wing. She championed those she loved, spoke bluntly, and did not suffer fools gladly. She actually wasn’t a character in the original manuscript, but was added in on the fifth rewrite or so of the first novel. I was on vacation, and I was in that space between waking and dreaming, when this imperious voice started talking to my main character, with the scene writing itself. I woke up and quickly started scribbling and it was the easiest scene I ever wrote and the easiest character I ever created, too. She was always so real to me– every time I wrote her, I’d ask myself “What would Sophie do?” as though she were an old friend. It was invariably an easy question because she was so vivid in my mind. Sophie was in every book in the Saga, and I can’t imagine the Saga without her.
HG: Have you found your writing cathartic at all?
RF: I do find writing cathartic. Deep emotions arise, especially when a beloved character dies or suffers a misfortune. Writing about such events in a fictitious manner that have nothing to do with my real life somehow alleviates a bit of my own buried sorrow, if that makes any sense. I’ve also found that I can lose myself in the worlds I create, forgetting about my worries or my problems for a while. I have found that to be a tremendous gift.
HG: Oh, I totally get that. LOL, I told my friend that my last novel was a 110,000 word marriage therapy session! What are you working on right now?
RF: Oh, that made me laugh! And I imagine it was cathartic for you, too, right? I just finished my first big edit of book four in the O’Rourke Family Montana Saga, Pioneer Longing, and now I am writing book 11 in my Bear Grass Springs Series, Healing Montana Love. I’m about halfway done with it, and I’m enjoying being back in the late 1880’s as Montana is about to become a state. I’ll hopefully have it off to my editor in a few weeks.
HG: Ooooh, that sounds amazing. I was OBSESSED with cowboys when I was a kid. I knew I wanted to move to America before I was ten. You know, I think the only other thing I haven’t asked you is who your favorite authors and books are!
RF: That’s so neat! I find that for most people I’ve met, there is a certain mystique about Montana and the Old West.
Time permitting, I read a lot. Some of my favorite authors are Jojo Moyes, Isabel Allende, Kristen Hannah (especially The Nightingale). I also really love long, intertwining stories that go on and on, which is why I write the books I do. I love Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series. Sara Donati and her Into the Wilderness series is another favorite. A novel I fell in love with last year is What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. One of my favorite things is discovering a new author I love and reading through her catalog!
HG: That is BRILLIANT! Okay, final FINAL question – could you share all your links and social properties so I can direct readers to you? Thanks so much for talking to us!
If you liked the look of Ramona’s books, remember that subscribers to Hidden Gems got to read them for FREE as part of their subscription. If you want to pick and choose titles from any or all of over 15 genres, sign up today and get reading!