Margaret Brownley is a New York Times best-selling author who has written more than twenty-five historical and contemporary novels. Her books—from thrillers, to mysteries, to suspense, romance, and even one non-fiction—have won numerous awards, including the Reader’s Choice. A Lady like Sarah was a Romance Writers of America RITA finalist.

A successful general market author, Margaret made the decision a few years back to write inspirational fiction, leading to her Rocky Creek Series. Her latest novel, Dawn Comes Early—the first in her Brides of Last Chance Ranch Series—releases this month.

Margaret and her husband, who is her “real life hero,” have three grown children and live in Southern California.

Your Rocky Creek Series was set in Texas, and your latest book, Dawn Comes Early, is set in the Arizona desert. How did a girl from Southern California develop a love for Western fiction?

I love writing about the old west because that’s when women came of age. The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian mores and rid themselves of confining clothes. The gun may have won the west, but it was the women who tamed it. They brought churches, schools, newspapers and helped build community. These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer. It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories.

I also like writing serious themes with a touch of humor and the old west lends itself nicely to laughter, don’t you think? Since people lived so close to the land it’s also a perfect setting for an inspirational novel.

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

My writing certainly took a detour following the loss of our son. I was writing for the secular market and now I’m writing inspirationals. Going through a crisis of faith resulted in a closer relationship with God.

I’m so sorry for your loss. How does your faith play into your writing?

Faith is an essential part of who we are and that shows up no matter what you do. One of my frustrations in writing for the secular market was not being allowed to explore a character’s faith (or lack of it). I don’t think it’s possible to fully develop a character without including his or her relationship to God.

Everything that happens to us changes our faith in some ways, sometimes for the better, but not always. The same is true of our characters. We know to hold a protagonist’s feet to the fire, but sometimes forget to show how the experience affects spirituality.

Let’s talk about Dawn Comes Early, the first in The Brides of Last Chance Ranch Series (Thomas Nelson, March 2012). Please tell us about it.

Dawn Comes Early

Brides of Last Chance Ranch

Heiress Wanted

Looking for hard-working, professional woman of good character and pleasant disposition willing to learn the ranching business in Arizona Territory.

Must be single and prepared to remain so now and forever more.

Her latest dime novel banned, twenty-nine-year old Kate Tenney finds herself without a publisher or other means of support. An advertisement for a woman willing to learn the ranching business seems like the perfect solution for a displaced western writer who has no intention of getting married—ever.

Trouble begins the moment she steps foot in Arizona Territory. The west is nothing like she wrote about in her books. Not only does she have to deal with a hard-nosed ranch owner, and nefarious outlaw, but a traitorous heart. Deserted as a child by her father, grandfather and others—even God—Kate does not trust men and has no intention of falling for Luke Adam’s charm. She’s determined to learn the ranching business and prove to the doubting ranch owner that she’s up to the task—if it kills her. If only she could stay away from a certain handsome blacksmith and his two matchmaking aunts.

What sparked the idea for the story?

The idea for the Brides of Last Chance Ranch Series came to me after reading an old newspaper article in the New York Times dated 1891. A group of fifty ladies of the First Church of Millford formed a society of old maids in 1861. Each member vowed she would not marry. Each woman paid five dollars on admission with the principal going to the one who remained unmarried the longest. Thirty years later all but fifteen of the original had married. I was never able to find out who won the prize—and sincerely hope no one had—but the concept intrigued me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What advice would you offer to writers—young or older—who are just starting out?

Enjoy the journey! Being published comes with its own challenges, so you really have to enjoy each step of the way or you won’t survive. Surround yourself with a support group and celebrate every success. Celebrate when you finish a chapter; enter a contest; pop a query in the mail; or sign up for a writing workshop. This is what kept me going the five years it took me to sell my first book and it will keep you going, too.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Anything I don’t have to cook is comfort food, but no celebration is complete without chocolate. It comes from the cocoa bean so that means it counts as a vegetable.

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

I’d be a high-kicking Broadway tune.

Are you a major or a minor chord?

I guess it depends on the day of the week. On my major days I can’t get enough of people. On my minor days I just want to hide in my shell and write.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I write about strong independent women and I guess that fits my personality to a T. I also prefer high heels to sneakers—truly!

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

I’m in between pets at the moment, so all my pets are imaginary. Luke Adams, the hero in Dawn Comes Early, has a delightful wolf dog named Homer. In the second book, Waiting for Morning, Dr. Caleb Fairbanks owns a little dog named Magic, modeled after the winner of my “Your Dog in My Book” contest.

That sounds wonderful! I love dog characters! Thanks so much for stopping by DivineDetour.

Thank you for having me!

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For more information about Margaret and her books, visit

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