Meet Debut Novelist Audra Harders

Audra Harders writes “rugged stories with heart” featuring cowboys who haven’t a clue about relationships, rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. She began writing soon after her second child was born and sold her first book to Steeple Hill Love Inspired mere months before he graduated from high school. Surviving those years in between reminds her God does have a plan for her life . . . and that He has a tremendous sense of humor. Her debut novel, Rocky Mountain Hero, will be released in January 2011.

In real life, Audra lives just north of Denver along the Front Range in Colorado, where she’s surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching, and cowboys. She’s married to her own patient hero, a painting contractor whose talent is more along the lines of artist than house painter. They have two teenagers graduating this year, a daughter from junior college and a son from high school. To round out the household, they have a rotund Corgi and a baying Coonhound. Their extended family includes a variety of pigs, sheep, goats, chickens—the quantity varies from year to year depending on what 4-H projects the kids are working on.

Audra’s family is immersed in the 4-H life, so when an opportunity opened for her to work at the County Extension office as the 4-H secretary, she snapped it up. When she’s not working, writing, or caring for furry and feathered friends, Audra loves to read and sew. Regarding her sewing she says, “I grew up helping in the family drapery business so when I say sew, I mean straight seams on commercial machines that go fast. Piecing quilts and table runners are my favorite—not clothing.” Crocheting, beading, scrapbooking all have a place in her life, depending on her mood.

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Audra considers herself “plain Jane” when it comes to favorite foods. You can judge for yourself, because I’m offering a selection of them: sauerkraut and brats, chocolate, salads with fat-free Italian dressing, chocolate, fresh fruit, chocolate, coffee, and—you guessed it—chocolate. Grab whatever virtual fare suits your fancy and join me as we learn more about Audra and her journey to publication.

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Audra’s Journey Begins

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•When did you fall in love with romance novels and decide to write your own?

I’ve always loved historical romances ever since I discovered Kathleen E Woodiwiss back in the late seventies. I devoured the works of cornerstone authors like Mary Jo Putney, Laura Kinsale and Leigh Greenwood, loving the effortless way they drew me into the story and kept me coming back for more.

When my second child (my son) was born, the idea of writing my own romance began niggling in my head. While the kids were napping, I begin typing my thoughts, convinced I was creating the next NYT bestseller. Little did I know….

Fast forward to May 2010. My son is graduating from high school this year—a real milestone when you consider I began writing when he was born and just sold my first book in time for him to graduate!!

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•How have your education and experiences served you in your writing?

I’ve always loved English classes, probably because I grew up speaking Lithuanian and had to learn English if I was going to communicate with my friends. Literature, composition, writing, you name it, I took it in high school and college. I toyed with the idea of majoring in Shakespeare until my dad tossed a newspaper at me and asked me to show him all the employment opportunities, you know, the stuff that keeps a roof over my head. Point taken, Dad.

For the past years, I’ve concentrated on online classes, workshops and lectures on writing whenever time and funds permit. I absolutely love taking online classes. Very doable at your own pace and you have the benefit of downloading the lessons, the exercises and the comments everyone posts. Talk about reviewing with all the details!!

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Audra’s Milestones

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•You experienced your first contest win in 2002, and that was only the beginning of some serious success. What have been some of the highlights of your time traveling the contest circuit? Are there some wins that stood out and had special significance? Why did they?

Oh my goodness. Contests? My husband will be the first to tell you I almost broke our budget many times over the years due to contests with to-die-for final judges!! I began writing in 1993, won my first contest in 2002 and it all went up from there. I need to point out the years from 1993 to 2000, I wrote for the secular market.

I began writing inspirational romance in 2001 and the good Lord has been gracious to me along the way. I won the ACRW Noble Theme contemporary romance in 2004, the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis historical romance in 2006, and the Genesis contemporary romance in 2007. Those were three huge milestones for me knowing the caliber of competition I faced.

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•You spent several years seeing your name on contest finalist lists. During that time, you met a very special group who formed a blog that has become immensely popular. Please tell us how you came to be one of the members of Seekerville and what it’s meant to you to have the support of your Seeker sisters.

Competition can get intense, especially when you have a pretty good idea who will be entering the inspirational category in contests. There was a year, maybe two, Missy Tippens and I traded winning first and second in contests – bless her heart, LOL! Actually quite a few names became regular finalists on the contest circuit. We bumped heads, entries and winning placements in contests for years until God declared Enough! He brought us together to work as a team, to share the joys and pitfalls of contests and publication.

Fifteen writers having gone from contest entry rivals to the best of friends and confidants. Our bond is special and deep—a real gift. The Seeker blog came to be about a year later and now we share our joys, insights and book giveaways with anyone who is interested. We have fun and we hope our visitors and fans do, too.

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•Your Seeker pals joined you for a cyber celebration of your First Sale in January, which was a blast. For the benefit of those who didn’t party hearty that day, you can read the account here.

Several months have passed since your announcement in Seekerville, but I have a hunch you can recall that afternoon on January 26 when The Call finally came with amazing clarity. How did you react when you checked the answering machine and heard Melissa’s voice? Were you still breathless when you called her back, or were you cool, confident, and composed?

LOL, Keli! I barely remember what I said to Melissa, but evidently I didn’t run her off!

I usually come home to have lunch with my husband when he’s not working far from home. The phone rang during our meal and after glancing at the Caller ID, he shrugged and said he didn’t want to talk to a roller cover salesman (you’ll have that when you’re a painting contractor, lol).

We finished eating and I had time to spare so we plopped down in front of the television to catch the news. As Gary flipped through the news stations, I clicked on the messages left on the answering machine. My heart practically stopped when the second message began, “Hi, this is a message for Audra Harders. This is Melissa Endlich…” Gary had mistaken THE CALL with a roller cover salesman!!! We’ll be chuckling about that for years to come. 🙂

I called Melissa back and I think we had a wonderful conversation. All I really remember is laughing, nodding my head and saying yes over and over again. Melissa is so sweet, so patient, so nice…and I’m thankful she followed up our conversation with an email. If Gary hadn’t been there with me, I would’ve sworn I’d dreamed the whole thing up until my revisions came later that day making me realize my dream had come true.

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•Will you hold a launch party? If so, what do you plan?

I will blog all about it in Seekerville, the first Thursday in January. Be there!!

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Audra’s Inspiration

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•Who or what are your sources of inspiration?

I’ve lived in Colorado almost my entire life and writing stories based on the mountain ranches surrounding me comes second nature. I wear blue jeans, raise animals, and ride horses. I’ve always loved the mystic of cowboys, especially as they’re portrayed in country music.

My major source of inspiration?? Every single song Chris LeDoux ever wrote and sang. I can listen to his music for hours, each song offering a different glimpse into a simple cowboy’s life. I guess God loved his music too because He called him home in the prime of life. Chris LeDoux is sorely missed, but hey, George Strait, Toby Keith and host of other artists keep the storylines jumping in my head with their winsome lyrics.

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Audra’s Determination

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•Sixteen years passed between the time you began writing and your First Sale. What kept you going despite bouts of doubts and a growing rejection collection?

My grandmother served as my living inspiration of God’s love and faithfulness. She taught me to believe when I prayed that God would hear my prayers. I think people often mistake “Wait” with “No.” I refused to believe God would place the desire to write books so deeply in my heart, affirm my faithfulness with contest wins, and surround me with friends and family who encouraged me every step of the way only to keep me from ever realizing my dream.

If there was a time for me to wash my hand of writing, it would’ve been during my early secular romance phase because every time I thought my “aha” moment had come, I’d be shot down by dismal contest scores and scathing critique groups. Once I stopped running from God’s will for me, my path didn’t become rosy overnight, but I knew I no longer walked it alone.

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Audra: Lover of Past, Present . . . and Gypsies

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•Your debut novel is a contemporary, but you’ve written award-winning historicals as well. What eras appeal to you, and why?

Eighteen/nineteenth century England, but no way would I write a Regency!!! The authors who tackle that brief time in history are gifted storytellers well-acquainted with every minute detail of the period. I love Regency era historicals, though.

As a young girl during World War II, my mom ran from Russian occupation of Lithuania to make her way across Europe before ending up in England waiting for passage to America. During her year in England, she became enchanted by the customs and culture of the Brits. Whenever I’d ask her about her childhood, she never mentioned the tough, ugly times in Lithuania, but rather painted a magical time in London, York and Liverpool, telling me of afternoon teas and perfect manners. The memories of those stories are alive and well in my dreams. I’ve never traveled to England or Lithuania. I think I’d like to sometime : )

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•What aspects of writing historicals do you most enjoy?

I love research, yet find doing justice to a location beyond my visitation limits a bit daunting. The Internet is a gift to the writer. Still, reading descriptions and viewing photos is no match for the touchy feely of the real thing.

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•And what’s this about an obsession with gypsies? Do tell.

Isn’t everyone fascinated by gypsies?? The mystic of gypsies ranks right up there with the mystic of cowboys. Independent and enduring, they’ve learned to live with the cards life has dealt them with cunning and prowess. Just imagine being scorned and loathed your entire life, and all the while boldly thumbing your nose at society and scheming your next ploy. This is great stuff here!

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing contemporary settings featuring cowboys…I can do this forever. But, I do have a couple of completed manuscripts with wily, fun-loving gypsies stuffed under my bed just waiting for some historical editor to give them a nod.

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Audra’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Rocky Mountain Hero.

A Cowboy’s Chivalry

With a broken-down truck, miles to go and little money, single mother Melanie Hunter needs help. It comes in the handsome form of rancher Gabe Davidson. He’ll pay for the three-week repair job and provide lodging for her and her boy – if she’ll take coordinating the town barbecue off his busy hands. Melanie accepts, figuring she’ll soon be on her way to her new life. But as she gets to know the kind townspeople—and the hardworking cowboy her son adores—she realizes she’s found her home. Now if only her Rocky Mountain hero will ask her to stay.

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Audra’s Journey Continues

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•Your first book is in your editor’s hands. What are you working on now?

The setting for my debut book, Rocky Mountain Hero, was inspired by Crested Butte, a gorgeous ski town in the central Colorado Rockies where I love to escape for writing retreats. Fictitious Hawk Ridge has the potential to nurture quite a few plots as I work on cowboy settings with my hero’s brothers and townspeople.

The book I’m currently working on features Zac Davidson, the youngest brother of the Davidson clan who is a daredevil, carefree cowboy for all the world to see. He meets his match when he returns to Hawk Ridge and runs into his childhood friend Jennifer, who looks nothing like the tomboy he remembers. My patient nurse heroine needs to use all the finesse she can muster to coax deeply buried feelings out of my relationship-challenged hero. It’s such fun!

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Five Little Known Facts About Audra

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~ I can watch NCIS marathons weekends on end and never get enough.

~ I understand Lithuanian and speak well enough if involved in conversation with someone who speaks the language fluently.

~ I love baby goats.

~ My fingers are double jointed.

~ When I was in 6th grade, I had an opportunity to play my accordion on The Lawrence Welk Show.

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Audra’s Questions for You

Having grown up in Colorado, I’m partial to the mountains, ranching lifestyle and everything that goes with it. What’s your favorite setting and what makes it special to you?

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Audra’s Surprise Drawing for You

Audra, bless her generous chocolate-loving heart, left a comment in which she offered to give away a chunk of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolate to one lucky commenter, so I’m happy to add the good news. (See comment #4 on this post for the full story.) Note: Audra is not responsible for any chocolate meltdowns that occur in transit. 🙂

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Audra by midnight June 11 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On June 12, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to the winner of the chocolate, Donnell!

Note: Offer void where prohibited.

Winner must have a U.S. mailing address.

Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Audra

Visit her website ~ www.audraharders.com

Visit her personal blog ~ audraharders.blogspot.com

Visit her group blog ~ The Seekers

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Audra Harders

Follow her on Twitter ~ audraharders

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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29 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Audra Harders

  1. OMIGOSH … you love goats, gypsies and Lawrence Welk???? Is this one of those games where you have to figure out what all three have in common????

    AUDRA!!! Fabulous interview (great job, Keli!) because it’s SO much fun learning more about one of my favorite people. Gorgeous photo of you, too, girl, and I gotta tell you that it freaks me out when you call yourself “Plain Jane.” If you are plain, sweetie, then I bay at the moon. Get your eyes fixed, will you??

    Cannot WAIT to read this book!!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

  2. audraharders says:

    Morning, Julie!

    LOL! I am a Plain Jane next to you, toots!

    Actually, I prefer to think of myself as simple – you know, no make up, ponytail and jeans.

    Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to learn more about Audra. She’s a fascinating lady, but I don’t need to tell you that. 🙂

    I’ve held the drawing for the chocolate Audra so generously offered to give away to one lucky commenter, and the winner is Donnell.

    Congrats, Donnell! I’ll be in touch.

  4. audraharders says:

    Keli, I’ve enjoyed spending a couple of days with you and all our wonderful guests! I hope you enjoyed the time as much as I have : )

    If there’s any word of advice I can leave your readers with, it’s if you have dream, don’t ever give up. Don’t ever think you’re wasting time pursuing a passion that will never amount to anything. During my sixteen years of writing towards publication, I raised two outstanding children, encouraged my husband, raised and buried dogs and all other sorts of animals and pets, volunteered in my church and our local schools, volunteered for writers’ organizations both local and cyber.

    I’ve met countless people and forged treasured friendships, won contests, lost contests, and hopefully encouraged those needing it along the way.

    Every moment I spent chasing after my dream, my dream bestowed on me more cherished moments of memories than I’ll ever be able to recall.

    Give your hopes, dreams and aspirations to God. He won’t let you down : )

    Thanks and blessings to everyone!!

Comments are closed.