This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: You can travel the world and across time through Julie Garwood’s books. The Kansas City woman has books set in medieval Scotland, in Regency England, the U.S. frontier and the present. Her novel “For the Roses” was produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame piece on CBS, and her next romance, “Hotshot,” comes out Aug 6.
Garwood will speak at the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 7. Before her visit, Garwood spoke with the Beacon about becoming a writer, how she discovers the times and places she writes about, and St. Louis’ chances of being the setting for a future book.
Beacon: You grew up in an Irish family in Kansas City where storytelling was always present, but didn’t start writing books until the youngest of your three kids was in school. What was happening at that time in your life that changed things?
Garwood: I always wanted to write, just tell stories, but I didn’t think in terms of getting published. I worked in an office, where I’d take the kids to school and go to work. But before that, I had gone back to get my degree and I was working part-time, so I was busy.
I was taking a couple of history courses that were a requirement for the four year RN program, and I didn’t think I even liked history. In high school I sure didn’t. But this one class was ancient medieval. I just loved it, and the professor was really awesome, so I ended up taking another, then another, and before I knew it, I was a double major in history and I started thinking about the middle ages, and how fun it would be to take a book and set it there. That’s kind of how it started.
Your books cover many periods of time, from medieval to regency to frontier to modern day, and also many places, including Scotland, England and the U.S. How do you learn about such diverse times and places in order to write about them with authority?
Garwood: First of all, the KU Library is incredible. The highest compliment I’ve ever gotten was from a student in Edinburgh who was having an argument with a friend. She thought I had grown up around some little place in Scotland, and the other one said, no, big city Edinburgh. And I said, Leawood, Kans., which I thought was kind of funny.
You can find what you need if you know where to look. I just wanted to make history painless, and I thought it would be fun to drop a family in the middle of, I don’t know, like the Norman invasion, and see how they would respond, what was going on, etc. That’s kind of how it started.
Please tell us about your latest romance, “Hotshot.”
Garwood: That was so much fun. It’s about a guy who, everything he does, he does exceptionally well. You want to dislike this guy, but you can’t. He’s adorable. He was an Olympian swimmer his senior year in high school.
Years later, he’s in the FBI. (Peyton Lockhart) lived next door to him when she was little. She’s kept track of him, it’s not an obsession, but it’s fun to watch his accolades.
It’s a story really about sexual harassment, and it’s kind of funny because it’s very relevant right now, if you look at the mayor of San Diego. It’s really a good story.
What are you reading right now? I’m curious, for someone who’s written so many different kinds of things, what you’re reading.
Garwood: It sounds awful, like a copout, I’m reading a lot of non-fiction for the book I’m writing right now. It’s about a politician who’s derailed by the hero. So I’m reading a lot about politics actually, which is not fun.
I’ve got a Ken Follett book I have on my nightstand I haven’t started yet, and John Sandford’s new book is out, and I want to read Tami Hoag's “The 9th Girl.” I just haven’t done it yet. Those are my treats.
Do you have plans for any more books set in the Show-Me state?
Garwood: I had the one, “Heartbreaker,” which by the way is going to be a movie, which is kind of exciting. I don’t know who is going to be in it yet, but that one took place in the cathedral in Kansas City, Mo. It starts out there and then goes to a town in Iowa.
St. Louis is one of my very favorite places; the kids and I go there to shop, to get away. I have two sisters who were in the convents for 14 years and Carondelet was the home where they went starting out. In high school, once a month we would drive down; and we got to see them for two hours when they were in the novitiate.
So I’ve known St. Louis forever and I have relatives that live there now. I gain five pounds every time I come in town and go to The Hill. I would love to do St. Louis, I really would; and I will eventually.