Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Author Marsha R. West Discusses TRUTH BE TOLD, Writing, & Work-Life Balance (+ Giveaway)

Kinky Vanilla Romance is pleased to share Truth Be Told by Marsha R. West, a romantic suspense released on May 16, 2014 from MuseItUp Publishing. You can check out my review of the book here. Marsha R. West agreed to answer some interview questions for me. I hope that you enjoy her responses as much as I did.

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Marsha will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click here to see the other stops on the tour. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances to win.

Truth Be Told by Marsha R. West


SWAT member teams with brother's former homicide detective partner to stop a blackmailer.

Falling in love wasn't one of their strategies.


Needing a peaceful visit with her Fort Worth family for Christmas, Meg Bourland is shocked to discover someone is blackmailing her father. When he rebuffs her offer to help, the Atlanta SWAT team member enlists the help of her brother and his former LA police officer partner to uncover the truth. She fights her attraction for Scott and the immediate tug to her heart. But her life is in Atlanta, and his is in California.

Scott McClaine, medically retired, came to Fort Worth to recuperate from life-threatening bullet wounds he received saving the life of Meg’s brother. Hard enough to accept his new physical limitations, but in Scott’s mind they make him unacceptable for a strong Meg. Regardless, he commits himself to helping her stop the blackmailer. Working closely with her, a bond forms. Could she feel the same?

In the search for truth, Meg and Scott uncover pieces of the puzzle, which threaten to ruin her father’s career as mayor and destroy the family she holds dear. Will Meg and Scott find their way through the maze of family secretes? Will they find the strength to make the sacrifices required for real love before the blackmailer kills?



Before she reached the bottom of the stairs in her parents’ house, Meg Bourland jerked to a stop. Her fingers tightened on the banister. The spit in her mouth dried up like the Texas fields in August. A figure in a long overcoat skulked through the study doorway. Meg reached toward her waist. Damn.

Her weapon lay in the lock box in her Atlanta condominium. Packing it in her bags with the clear marking on the outside, begged someone to steal it. Too great a risk for a flight to Fort Worth for Christmas with her family. Hindsight is everything.

Meg sucked in a deep breath before she eased her head around the study door. Relief buckled her knees, and she staggered back into the hall. She whooshed out the breath she’d held.

“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.” She slammed her hand on her thigh in time with the whispered words. The psychologist was right. She was close to losing her grip. Not as fine as she claimed, or she wouldn’t have overreacted.

Her father in the shape of the tall, dark figure came home earlier than expected and hadn’t taken time to remove his coat. She rubbed a hand over her eyes, drew more air into her lungs and stepped through the doorway into the study.

“For a moment, I suspected someone had broken in, Dad. Glad it’s just you.” Her voice wasn’t as strong as she intended. Her father didn’t respond. Didn’t he hear her? He threw a crumpled paper across the room, and then he sank into the chair behind his desk. His head cradled between his hands.

Author Interview

What came first for Truth Be Told, the characters or the story itself?

Almost always, a setting comes first for me. Locations intrigue me, and I wonder about the people who live there. Even before writing, my husband and I would travel through various places, and we’d both think, “Who lives here? What could they possibly do?” Locations affect the way people live. In Texas, people tend to live more expansively; there’s more space to spread out. I watch a lot of HGTV, and I’m always amazed at the sizes of house and their prices compared to what we get here. From observation, people in NYC appear to be thinner than people in Texas and the South. Running up and down to get to your five-floor walk-up will do that for you, plus walking to buy stuff in your neighborhood or catch the subway. J In Texas, we get in a car for everything. The setting plays a big part in how people act.

Tell us a little more about Meg Bourland.

Meg had a picture perfect upbringing, a brother and sister, supportive parents with enough money to see that all the kids got opportunities to do what they wanted. She and her brother had both gone in to law enforcement in Fort Worth. After her father was elected mayor, they both chose to move away. The former mayor had unethically steered favors and promotions to his family. Meg and her brother wanted to make sure there was no way someone could make that kind of claim against their father.

She worked very hard to earn a spot on Atlanta SWAT and is justifiably proud of that position. She can take care of herself, thank you very much.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) of Truth Be Told to write and why?

Well, this was a tough question! LOL But after some skimming and thinking, I chose Chapter 6. Meg’s parents have an annual Christmas party with 300 or so of their closest friends at their home. Catered food. Lots of glitz and glitter. Valets handle the cars. Her father is the mayor of Fort Worth and before that served on the City Council. Mom’s big in social circles with lots of volunteer work. They are connected. In this chapter, we see all of the main characters and get to see how they relate. Not only her brother, but her sister and her family and small children come down from Oklahoma City. Meg’s best Fort Worth friend attends with her small child. Even the antagonist manages to insert himself into the home. Meg and Scott try to avoid each other and the tension spiking between them. The chapter ends on what I think is a great page-turner.

Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?

I want people to know that second chances do happen. That love is possible at any age. Sometimes a person has to step out in faith to reach for something, not knowing if all will work out. But if the person doesn’t reach out, then she’s slammed the door in her own face. Nobody can stop you, but you. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior unless you let them.” I like the power of that statement.

What are the most important elements in good romance writing, in your opinion?


I’m afraid I have a bias for romance that has suspense included. It doesn’t have to be half and half, but just romance and no suspense or just suspense/mystery and not romance, doesn’t get it for me. Let’s remember we’re talking about a personal opinion, here. Doesn’t matter what anyone else says. A reader likes what she like. Thank heavens, there are enough of us writers out there to guarantee that readers can find something that appeals to them. Other than that, I look for a good story line. Something with several levels of complication and that makes sense. I like great supporting characters, ones I’d like to get to know better another time. I also like a striking setting. Carla Neggars has a series set mostly in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. If I’d never been, I could see it from her descriptions. Since I’ve been fortunate to travel there, I go, “Yeah, she nailed it.” That’s what a good writer does, not necessarily with paragraph upon paragraph of description, but dropped in lines that shine a bright light on the scene.

One of your former "hats" was teaching high school theater. Does that experience influence your writing style or choice of writing subjects?

I based the first book I wrote on my experiences serving on an urban school board. I hate that my craft skills were sooooo underdeveloped then for what was a good story line. L Since then, I’ve written two books with a theatre as the focus for the story. So yeah, I guess the answer to your question is yes. Frankly, I started to say no until I thought more about it. Even more than the story lines, I think my theatre experience influences how I write. I see the scenes in my head as if they’re on a stage or screen. I sometimes get out of my chair and act out what I’m trying to say on the computer screen.

I saw that you recently sold your third book, Second Chances. Congratulations! How did you celebrate the sale of your first book, Vermont Escape?

Thank you. SECOND CHANCES is the first of a series about four middle aged-friends. This is one of the stories with a theatre theme. Gosh, how did I celebrate the release of VERMONT ESCAPE? One of my good friends hosted me on her blog. I seem to remember we had wine and cheese. J That night was the birthday of one of my SsIL. He kindly tipped his hat to me during the speeches. Very, very nice. J And I did a blog tour. I hadn’t been doing my own blog for very long and I was whipped by having 3 blog stops a week, plus my own. It was exhausting. This time, I’m more in control and much better with all the technology! J For TRUTH BE TOLD, I had a giant Blog party with guest authors and give away. Something like people do on Facebook, but on my blog. We had lots of eats and drinks and prizes, and folks were wonderfully supportive.

You launched a new web site in February 2013, with weekly blog postings each Tuesday and Thursday. How do you manage/balance your author duties (writing novels, writing blog posts, social media, etc.) with your "other" life?

This is the question I often ask my author guests, because I’m desperately searching for the answer to that question. I’ve cut back on the Tuesday Author Chats, doing them only when someone asks, but not searching out folks. I love blogging, but something had to go. I didn’t want to cut back on my Thoughts on Thursday Blog. That’s just so fun for me. We don’t talk writing (except around book release time J), but life topics that anyone might have a thought about.

“Other” life consists of a lawyer husband, three grands and their mommies and daddies who live in town. I hesitate to say that our two daughters live five minutes from us because I know how bad that will make the poor folks feel, whose grands are across country or in another country entirely. We’re very blessed, and we know that. So babysitting is a part of that other life, dinners with the kids, Pilates at my daughter’s studio twice a week, walking with DH several mornings a week, church, super with friends, some theatre, especially if our daughter has choreographed, and my RWA chapter where I’ve previously served as president. (Didn’t do much writing at all that year, for sure.) Reading of course. I’m a huge fan of TV drama. Blacklist, Bones, Blue Bloods, Elementary. (Thank heavens for Elementary! It seemed I only watched shows that began with the letter B!) J Dancing With The Stars is top of the list and, aside from HGTV, is the only reality TV I watch. I mostly record and fast forward through the commercials to save time.

The quick answer is I don’t balance. I do what is most urgent. Not a good Covey student, I’m afraid. LOL

What project are you working on now?


What I’m working on is my 7th book, unnamed as yet, but it’s the 2nd in the friends (all in their mid-forties) series and is set in fictional Griffin Harbor, Maine. All are romantic suspense. The four friends are in each story, but each story focuses on the problems of one of them. I have to get crackin’ on this book.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I tend to lean more toward the left than the right, so most folks are stunned to hear I have a concealed handgun permit. I inherited the gun from my mother, who was a good shot. I was working on my second and unpublished book, and the heroine needed to use a gun. I figured I ought to find out what that was really like. Research. Sometimes you can do it on-line, but sometimes you need the real thing.

Thanks so much for having me. You do your research, too, and you ask tough questions! Made me think. Always a good thing. J 

About the Author

Marsha R. West, a retired elementary school principal, is also a former school board member and theatre arts teacher. She writes “Romance, Suspense, Second Chances. Experience Required.” Her heroes and heroines, struggling with life and loss, are surprised when they discover second chances at love.

Marsha, who loves to travel, lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. They’ve raised two daughters who’ve presented them with three delightful grandchildren.

Her first published book, VERMONT ESCAPE, was e-released by MuseItUp Publishing in the summer of 2013. The print version releases in June 2014 . TRUTH BE TOLD e-releases by MIU in May, 2014. She’s sold a third book to MIU. In SECOND CHANCES, the hero, Mike Riley, played a supporting role in VERMONT ESCAPE. SECOND CHANCES is the first of a planned series about four women who met when they were kids at summer camp. It’s scheduled for e-release in winter 2014/2015.

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  1. A great interview.

    I record & fast forward the ads too.

    1. Hey, Mary. Thank goodness for the record button and ff! Do you think the people who make commercials realize how much we do that? LOL Thanks so much for stopping and commenting and good luck in the contest!

  2. Welcome to Kinky Vanilla Romance, Martha. I am happy to have you here.

    Thanks for doing the interview. I hope that you have a great tour!

    1. Ah, Skeeter, you are KV. I didn't realize that and couldn't figure out what spacing issues you were talking about. over at the review. LOL Yes, sometimes the gremlins are in charge.

      Thanks for the lovely review. I'm so pleased you enjoyed Truth Be Told!

      I also have to say (with no offense to anyone else who does these interviews), you have the very best questions! You really made me think. Loved the interview!
      I'll be in an out all day!

    2. Aawww. Thank you! I really enjoy doing author interviews. It's one of the best things about being a book blogger.

      Yesterday, I used a different computer to access KV and the posts looked weird. Today, on my computer, things look okay. I dunno what happened.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks for setting my tour up. Sorry I got confused on the dates. Hope you had a great holiday vacation!

  4. I am a fan of Bones and Elementary too. I started watching Elementary at the end of season one. I am still a little out of step with the storyline.

    Blacklist was my favorite new show of the past TV season. I find Agent Keane really annoying and Red Reddington really fascinating. Don't get me started on Tom...

    I haven't seen Blue Bloods. I will have to check it out.

    1. Bones snuk (sneeked) up on me when I first caught it all those years ago. I mean there was blood and guts everywhere. Not stuff I usually watch. But the chemistry between the main and supporting characters snagged me. I'm so sad to see Booth leave the show. Don't know how it will proceed.
      I began with Elementary from the beginning. I knew Lucy but not the guy playing Sherlock, but as a kid I remember watching those old Sherlock Holmes movies on Saturday TV. Great stories.
      Oh my goodness, Skeeter! You haven't watched Blue Bloods with Tom Sellack? You must go search out the back episodes. Great story lines. The conflict is super! And it's Tom Sellack! LOL Guess you can tell I'm a FAN!

  5. Ugh! Blogger gremlins...

    Apologies for the odd line spacing. I can't seem to make the extra spacing disappear no matter how many times I delete the code.

  6. Enjoyed reading the interview as well as the excerpt. Meg, being a female member of a SWAT team sort of reminds me of Flashpoint, a now cancelled TV series and too short-lived, IMHO. It also had a female member on the squad and presented a great contrast between the small woman and the 4-5 larger than life men, one of whom she was in love with and he with her.

    1. Hey, Karen. I was certainly influenced by Flashpoint. What a great ensemble show. But I'd also met a real SWAT woman in Dallas and picked up from her that piece about representing all women and proving your stuff. Hated when Flashpoint went off. You can catch the lead playing a bad guy on Person of Interest. (I'm so bad with names, I have to run to the TV and check what's on record to remember Pof I and Tom Sellack. What kind of person forgets his name? LOL
      Thanks for stopping by, Karen, and good luck with the contest.

  7. Congratulations on the great review -- I hope you get many more.
    I also read interviews for clues as to how other author find time to do all that is required to research, write, publish and market a book.

    1. Hey, Kenneth. I'm just tickled about the review! Thanks for your kind words. If you figure out how to find time to do it all efficiently, you be sure to let me know. I sure don't have the answer.
      I once had a consultant who noticed I kept my principal door open all the time, comment she didn't see how I ever got anything done. It was, of course, difficult. But I figured the teachers' time was much more limited than mine. They could drop in during their planning period, or possibly lunch. If I happened to have chosen that time to close my door, they'd have been out of luck.
      With that attitude, it's not surprising that I have trouble fitting everything in now. The teachers are now other writers who want me to stop by their blogs or RT or Share something for them. And readers who I like to keep up with. My people-pleasing gene is a bit out of control. Thanks so much for stopping, Kenneth. I know you have other places to be and things to do. :) Good luck with the contest.

  8. Great review, Marsha! Congratulations! Also enjoyed this interview.

    Best wishes!

    1. Hey, Susan. I thought it was a great review, too. So pleased. Glad you enjoyed the interview. Skeeter really asked tough and unusual questions. Made it lots of fun. Thanks so much for stopping and commenting.