Sharon Mignerey

Sharon Mignerey
Cassidy's Courtship

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
September 26, 2002

1. Who is Sharon Mignerey?

I'm married to my best friend, and have been for more years than seems possible. Our two daughters are grown and on their own. Along the way I've had a few careers: selling cameras, owning a secretarial service, being a technical writer, and a short stint as a professional development manager. Of these, I was a technical writer the longest and wrote software documentation for mainframe computer programs. The rulers of my house are two lhasa apsos (both rescue dogs) and a cat.

2. How long have you been writing?

Forever, or sometimes that's how it seems. I've always wanted to write novels from the time I was in second grade and learned stories could be made from the sentences we had to write that demonstrated we knew what the spelling words meant. Through the years I was raising my children and pursuing other careers, I always wrote on the side, and I always had my dream focused on being a published novelist.

3. What inspired you to write the novel "Cassidy's Courtship?"

My inspiration was a classic case of working through my frustration about a personal situation. I had a business that failed, and in the middle of all that turmoil, an aha! came to me--what if a man and a woman on opposite sides of a bitter lawsuit were destined for each other? It was clear to me that my personal situation wasn't going to have a happy outcome--at least not for me. But I'm always looking for a way for good to manifest itself. Two things did for me. First, I'm a lot wiser. Second, I was given the idea for this story--and the good that has come out of that far outweighs the negatives I was encountering at the time.

4. How did you come about the plot for "Cassidy's Courtship?"

For me, the core of any book is always character. I see plot and character as two sides of the same coin, and they evolve together. After I had the initial idea, I asked lots of questions, which is basically the process I go through for any book. Most important for me are to know why a character holds the particular core values and beliefs they do. Then, story evolves to put those values and beliefs to the test. From the beginning, I had the idea that Brenna and Cole, the attorney for the man suing her, would fall in love, and I also knew that she would lose the lawsuit against her. That presents a pretty big obstacle in the relationship. But that wasn't enough to sustain a whole novel. The process of developing back story and conflict enough to sustain a story is partly employing tools (such as questions like: what is this character's most powerful dream? Greatest regret? Most valued possession? Worst memory, and so on) and mostly magic where odd bits come to you while you're doing dishes or walking the dogs.

5. How did you come about the title for "Cassidy's Courtship?"

I have my editor to thank for that title. The working title for the book was "Small Deceptions." I like "Cassidy's Courtship" a lot and I think my editor's instincts were good.

6. How did you come about Brenna James character?

My answer to this question will also include the answers to several of the other questions. In the process of brain storming, I knew I needed something special to keep this woman, who was being sued, from being a victim and from looking stupid for getting herself into the situation. Out of that idea, I had a flash that she was illiterate. Immediately, I realized that what I knew about illiteracy was filled with misconceptions and stereotypes. To make Brenna a functioning adult who was hiding this thing that shamed her, I needed a back story that made sense--hence the military family that moved around a lot and where the kids went from school to school to school. The kid who falls through the cracks and is able to get through school without being able to read is all too common. And every one of those kids has coping mechanisms. I found all that research fascinating and incorporated into Brenna's character as much realism as I could manage within the frame of a romance novel. I also liked the idea of her being part of a family where excelling was expected--a circumstance that would make her choices all the more difficult for her.

7. How did you come about Cole's character?

In building a romance novel, a central question a writer must ask is: why are these two people perfect for each other and why is a happily-ever-after impossible? If that happy ending is possible, then there's no conflict and no novel. So, as I'm developing characters, there's a give and take in finding things that draw them together (compatible values, for instance) and in finding things that keep them apart. Since Brenna was a drop out, it made sense to me that Cole should be a well educated man. Since she had grown up moving all the time, he should have deep roots. Since she couldn't rely on her father to provide her with love and respect, he should have that from his father. And most importantly, he needed to be tough enough and strong enough to protect her but with absolutely no threat ever directed toward her.

8. How did you come about the relationship with Brenna and her father?

I'm not quite sure how that all evolved--part of the magic of the creative process. I did know that I wanted there to be a hint that he was redeemable at the end of the book. An important point to remember with all secondary characters is they are the heroes of their own stories. So, I needed reasons for him to be the way he was, and the context for his need for perfection came out of putting him in a situation where men could die if less than the best was given. The difference between being a hero and a villain is often a matter of degree. A hero is strong, whereas the villain takes that strength to the next (unacceptable) level of abuse or absolute control.

9. Why didn't Brenna's mother have any control over how her husband treated Brenna?

All the research I did indicates this is commonly the way it is, and I've seen it that way for myself. Sad, though, and something (as a society) we're gradually becoming more aware of.

10. Is romance the only genre you write?

So far. The next question that follows is why? I've always been most interested in the way relationships between men and women come about, so it's a natural that I'd be drawn to romance. For a long time, romances were the only genre in which women were the heroes of their own stories without being the side kick or the object of lust/love/attraction for the male hero. Only in romance did she get her dream ... and the guy, too. The evolution of stories within romance over the last fifty years have been very much a reflection of women themselves, how they view themselves in the world, and the kinds of opportunities open to them. When you look at many of the New York Times best selling women authors today, they have their roots in the romance genre, even if they are no longer writing romance. And those books share in common a legacy of romance: the heroes are often female, and the outcome of the story depends on them. I love being part of that, and I'm very proud of the legacy.

11. How many book have you written?

I've just finished my sixth novel, tentatively entitled IN TOO DEEP, and it will be released in June 2003 from Silhouette Intimate Moments.

12. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

You can usually find me in my office at the computer with the music blaring, two lhasa apsos asleep at my feet, and clutter on my desk. When I get stuck, I'll take my notebook (not a computer, but an old fashioned notebook and a pen) to the library or the food court at the mall or the coffee shop. A change of pace and scenery usually does the trick in opening up new ideas.

13. What message would you like readers to receive from reading "Cassidy's Courtship?"

I'd love readers to come away with one of my core beliefs. Dreams can come true when you're willing to work for them .. so always hang onto the dream, always believe.