Virginia author Inglath Cooper fell in love with reading as a little girl, devouring most of the books in her elementary school library. At some point, she decided she wanted to pursue a writing career, creating romance fiction that did for others what her favorite books have done for her. Inglath most often writes stories about love and life that are set in small Virginia towns like the one where she grew up.
Inglath has been chosen as a RITA® Award winner for best long contemporary romance novel given out each year by Romance Writers of America. Her books have been described as a combination of Danielle Steel meets Luanne Rice.
Welcome, Inglath. It’s a pleasure to get to speak to you today. To begin, will you tell us a little about the book’s title Good Guys Love Dogs and why you chose it?
First, thank you so much, Tyler, for the opportunity to speak with you and your readers! Colby Williams, one of my main characters in this book, is a veterinarian with a deep love for animals. She’s a small town girl who never imagined falling for a big city guy. But her first encounter with Ian McKinley takes place when he brings his son’s dog to her clinic. Some people might judge a book by its cover, but Colby? She judges people by how they treat the pets in their lives. Ian gets off to a good start.
The main character, Ian McKinley, moves from New York to a small Virginia town in the novel. What motivates this move and how does his teenage son feel about it?
Ian’s son Luke has gotten into some trouble in New York. After Luke gets arrested on a drug charge, Ian realizes that he’s at a turning point with his son. And if he doesn’t do something drastic, he’s going to lose him. Ian sways the judge deciding Luke’s fate with a commitment to moving his son out of the city and away from his current influences. Keeling Creek is where they end up.
What is it about Ian and Colby that attracts them to one another?
On the surface, Colby and Ian lead very different lives. She spends most of her working days either talking dogs into trusting her or convincing cows that she’s the one to help them deliver their calf. Ian, on the other hand, has spent his days in a suit, behind a desk, assessing investments. Not a whole lot in common here. Except that they are both struggling to raise rebellious teenagers, and they discover they may have something to offer one another after all. And then there’s that chemistry thing.
Do Luke and Colby’s daughter Lena find they also have something in common?
Yes, they do! A few streaks of rebellion at first, but as time goes on, they help each other to see that their resentment of their parents is pretty much unfounded.
Inglath, something always comes between lovers in a romance novel. Could you tell us a little about what conflict or issues the characters face in the story?
Ian arrives in Keeling Creek engaged to a woman in New York who is Colby’s opposite. Rachel is the kind of woman Ian imagines will fit in his life. Until he meets Colby. And suddenly the life he thought he wanted no longer makes sense.
Colby is cynical when it comes to men. Lena’s father had left her pretty much convinced that love almost always comes with hurt. The last thing Colby wants to do at this point in her life is go on another date. Her best friend has fixed her up countless times, each candidate more discouraging than the last. She’s perfectly content with the life she has with her daughter. Until she meets Ian. And she begins to wonder if she has ever really known true love.
On your website you talk about the importance of writing character-driven stories. Would you tell us what your secret is for creating such great characters so they become memorable and live in the readers’ minds after the book is finished?
I can’t think of anything more gratifying as a writer than to hear that a reader would want to spend time with the characters again. I appreciate that so much. When I start a book, it’s always with a character who has come into my imagination at some point. Most of the time, they grow from a name into a person before I actually start writing about them. I’ve kind of figured out where they live, what they do and what kind of person they try to be. I can’t really write about them until they have dimension to me. As a reader, I like to meet characters who have qualities I can admire, do things I would like to do, see them in situations that end up defining who they are.
I think in real life we grow as a person when we are forced out of our comfort zone. A lot of times that involves doing scary things, things we can’t imagine we will ever be able to get through. Seeing characters go through this same process is what I believe allows us to form attachments with them. Watching them navigate the waters of change and difficult situations gets our hearts involved, and hopefully, we start to care about what happens to them. Maybe even grow to admire them.
I guess I would have to say I hope that I accomplish some small piece of that in the characters who come to life in my books.
Would you consider writing a sequel so readers can spend more time with your characters in Good Guys Love Dogs or have you written sequels in the past to other books?
I haven’t written a sequel before, although I am currently writing a series of Nashville stories that I’m very much enjoying not being able yet to see an end to. I do have a bit of an idea for a sequel to Good Guys Love Dogs. I’ll have to see how persistent it is in wanting to be written.
Since your book is about single parents with teenage children, what age group do you think will most enjoy it?
Inglath: The story would probably be most interesting to adults but Luke and Lena, the teenagers, also play a big part in the book.
I mentioned in your introduction that your works are like a blend of Danielle Steele meets Luann Rice? What do you think your books have in common with those authors, and also, what makes your books uniquely different from theirs?
That was a very kind comment from a reviewer, and I’m honored to be compared even minimally to either of those writers. If my books have something in common with theirs, I would say it’s the strong relationship thread in the story. I read and loved Danielle Steel’s early works because they were such compelling love stories. And one of my favorite books is still Luanne Rice’s Cloud Nine. I think her work very much gets our emotions involved. Cloud Nine certainly did that!
Inglath, when I introduced you, I mentioned that you wanted to write books that would do for others what your favorite books have done for you. How would you define what that means? What do you want a book to do for a reader — what kind of response to do you hope the reader will have when reading and after having finished the book?
For me, books have always represented a chance to step into another world, get to know characters that I might actually wish I knew in real life. Stories are so much a part of my life. I have always carried a book with me wherever I went because I’m not very good at being bored, and with a book in your purse, you don’t ever have to be! These days, I can read on my phone’s Kindle app while standing in line at the grocery store. Mark of an addicted reader, I guess! As for my own books and a reader’s response to them, I hope to provide a few hours of stepping into another place with characters the reader will want to root for, identify with, and maybe even miss when the last page is turned.
You also like to set your books in small towns in Virginia. I set most of my books in Marquette, Michigan, the small city where I live, so I’m interested in hearing what about small towns appeal to you for a setting. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a setting?
Small town life is very much a part of who I am. I speak the language, know the terrain the way I know the roads I travel in every day life. I grew up knowing the people we would see in town on Saturday and at church on Sunday. I don’t have to think about whether my setting will come across as authentic when I’m writing in this territory because it is as much a part of me as my southern accent.
So, basically, you’re saying to write what you know. Have you considered writing in other genres that are not based on your real life experiences?
I’m most comfortable telling stories that involve two people finding each other at a critical point in their lives. I’ve learned to never say never where my imagination is concerned, but so far, it hasn’t ventured too far from this type of story.
Inglath, I understand you’re involved with dogs in other ways besides just writing about them. Will you tell us a little about that involvement and how it influences your writing?
I have always had a heart for dogs. I grew up with a Grandpa who would take me with him to our county pound to pick out a dog in need of a home. At the time, it was pretty much an awful place and when I became an adult I couldn’t bring myself to go back there. But I never forgot about it, and when I learned that the euthanasia rate there was 95%, I could not stop thinking that I had to do something to help change that. At the time there were no rescue groups working to help our pound, and I was basically told it was an unfixable situation. Of course that made me more determined than ever. I started pulling dogs from the pound and boarding them at a local veterinarian’s clinic while trying to get them adopted. Along with a couple of friends, I just kept trying different things, and for every one we found a home for, I couldn’t wait to get the next one out. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure how I ever had the courage to get involved. I’ve learned things in rescue that I really wish I didn’t know, but the positive is that I’ve been able to be a part of bringing a no-kill adoption center to our county. Over the years, many people became involved at the pound and today it is a very different place. I am grateful for that.
In Good Guys Love Dogs, this is Colby’s dream for the homeless pets in her town. To build a place where dogs in need can wait for a family of their own. A dream that Ian might just help her make reality.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Reading, of course, is the first and most important recommendation. I think with every book, we absorb some piece of why it worked or why it didn’t. Our understanding of what makes a good story grows with each book we read. Read from different genres and types of books. The next thing I would recommend is to keep a journal. Young writers can really develop their voices by journaling. The relaxed way in which we jot down our thoughts and observations from the day can bring out our natural writing style and help hone our writer’s fingerprint: our voice.
Good advice. Thank you again, Inglath, for the opportunity to interview you today. Before we go, would you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there?
Again, thank you so much, Tyler! It was really fun to answer these questions. Excerpts from my books along with information about new releases can be found on my website. I can also be found at Facebook where I regularly post on books and dogs. I also do frequent giveaways!