Where’s your hometown?
I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. I like writing about small towns, and Lawrence always felt both bigger and smaller than it actually was. As the University of Kansas is there, it had more variety, culture, and opportunities than other towns its size. But to my brother, sister, and me, Lawrence could feel very small. Our mother and her partner were the only two pediatricians in town so everyone with children knew her. No other local families had our last name so the three of us were used to be visible in the way of a much smaller town. When my brother reached the then-legal drinking age of eighteen, he proudly displayed his I.D., only to have the bartender exclaim, “Oh, you must be Dr. Gilles’s little boy.”
Do you still live there?
No. My husband and I raised our daughters in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. Our suburb is a wonderful place for families, and D.C. is an exciting, but manageably sized city. I have lived here twice as long as I lived in Kansas, but I will always think of myself as a Kansan. Romances are suffused with longing. Our characters long for love, and as the book unfolds, they ache for this one other person. When I write a book, I also need to long for the setting. In the winter I write books set in the glorious colors of the summer sunflowers and late sunsets. In the summer I write about the coziness of warm houses on a snowy night. I do have a hole in my heart in the shape of my hometown and that nostalgia urges me to write about small towns with the softly sentimental focus that romance readers love.
What else do you long for?
I am a widow, and so my husband’s loss is an even bigger hole in my heart. He expressed love by providing for us. He was not a hearts-and-flowers guy; he didn’t come home from work, telling me that I was beautiful and the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. As a writer I missed those words. It was always a bit of a struggle to accept him on his own terms. But had he been different, the gifts and compliments would have stopped at his death. He continues to provide for us. Our daughters and I have very secure, comfortable lives, and I still feel very loved.