Sit Down Saturday With Julianna Morris

Hi, everyone!

My July Harlequin Heartwarming release, TWINS FOR THE RODEO STAR (cover text below), had a long journey, beginning when I first started writing.  Rodeos were popular in romances, but to be honest, I simply wasn’t interested in writing about them.  After all, how could I craft a good story if I didn’t genuinely appreciate the setting?

On top of that, riding bulls and broncos sounded dangerous. I’ve known people whose passion for something was greater than anything else in their lives, including their partner and children.  Putting myself in a character’s shoes, I knew how painful it would be to love someone who was willing to risk their life for the thrill of  winning…to know you’d always come second.

Nope, I wasn’t ever going to write a rodeo story. 

That was before I saw my first rodeo.

The Junior Rodeo is just as
much fun as the one for 

Moving to a community where the annual rodeo is the BIG EVENT was an eye-opener.  Anticipation permeates the air.  Weeks ahead of time, stores put up displays and decorate their windows with a Western theme.  Even the antique shops get into the spirit.  Over-the-street street banners adorn the main thoroughfare.  A special edition of a community events publication is released and the week leading to the rodeo has entertainment for all ages.

Getting ready to compete

Some of the contestants' horses
The family decided to see what all the excitement was about and I quickly saw how wrong I'd been to avoid rodeos and the people involved in my writing.  What a great setting for a book!  It’s amazing to watch the talent and focus of the performers, some professional, others eager amateurs.  I was able to chat with some of them and startled one contestant when I correctly identified her horse as an American Paint, rather than a Pinto.

My educated guess about the American Paint was based more on research than experience with that particular horse breed.  I enjoy research.   My interests aren’t just limited to a manuscript in progress, because I never know when an obscure piece of information will become useful or spark another idea.  I read non-fiction on every imaginable subject, watch a broad range of documentaries, travel, visit specific locales whenever possible, and use the internet.

I also call state and city tourism offices, local historical societies, along with businesses to verify/elicit information.

Book One of 
Bridal Fever series

While researching my Silhouette Romance Bridal Fever series set in Alaska, the State of Alaska and City of Fairbanks even sent me books and videos.  Their generosity still makes me marvel.  When I invented names of locations, my state contact cheerfully checked her databank to make sure they didn’t match existing words in one of the Native American languages (e.g., Inupiat, Haida, Tlingit, etc.).

But despite all my research and experience with the annual town rodeo, I still had the challenge of how to write about a hero or heroine who would put their life in danger that way.  After all, they aren’t first responders or in the military, they’re competing in a very risky sport. I also didn't want the entire story taking place at a rodeo, including a ranch setting seemed important. 

A story began evolving.  It's no surprise that some of my original concerns became central to the conflict, and to the heroine‘s back story.  I actually wrote the first chapter and a short synopsis for the Canadian Blitz event offered on the Harlequin website some time ago.  Though invited to submit a full proposal, I was working on a contract for Harlequin SuperRomance and needed to focus on my deadlines. When I finally had some breathing space, I submitted a proposal to Heartwarming.  The wanted it, along with two other stories for a series called Hearts of Big Sky.

Tragically, while working on the proposal (the working title was Twin Lassos for Dad), a real bull rider died during competition.  It was a sobering reminder that my fictional characters and invented world of “Shelton, Montana” had a very real root in reality.

My first book

I never want to take being published for granted.  TWINS FOR THE RODEO STAR is my twenty-fifth published novel, but I’m still excited when offered a contract, and each domestic and foreign edition has a special place in my heart.  I also look forward to seeing each cover.

Collectively we are going through a difficult period in history.  Being able to write a story that provides entertainment and a brief escape is a privilege.  My mother read boxes of romance novels in the months after my father passed, and she would be particularly pleased to know I’ve found a new home with Heartwarming.  Actually, I’m sure she does know and is cheering me on.  While in the beginning Mom discouraged my writing (she knew that relatively few prospective writers become published and hated seeing her children disappointed), she became my most ardent fan.

I recently finished working on edits for my second book in the Hearts of Big Sky series, CHISTMAS ON THE RANCH (December 2020), set near Yellowstone National Park.  Bears and wolves have a special place in this story about a wildlife photographer and the cattle rancher who rents her the unused foreman's cabin to use as a home base.  Trouble is in the air when Gideon discovers Alaina is the widow of a wolf biologist and she’s searching for wolves to photograph. 

Currently I’m writing the third Hearts of Big Sky manuscript, but I have many more thoughts for the series.  I’ve always had more ideas than time and right now I have enough to keep me going until I’m at least two hundred years old.  Obviously I need to stay healthy for a long, long while so I can write all of them, along with the new ones always popping in my imagination.

One of my ferals. The most I've been able to 
do is lightly brush his cheek.

These are challenging times.  Though I write most of the day and evening, I also exercise, help take care of our animals, feed my feral cat colony (a fellow writer and I share that responsibility), garden (admittedly, the yard keeps getting ahead of me), take pictures, and read.  I recently finished a biography on Abigail Adams and the Ulysses S. Grant autobiography, interspersed with reading romances by fellow Heartwarming authors.   We don’t bother with cable, so our video library, largely yard sale finds, has also gotten a good workout the past few months.

Nature is healing
While writing I often put on DVDs with natural scenes and sounds.
  If anyone has recommendations to offer, I'll gladly take them. The ones I use the most are from the Ambient Collection (Waterfalls and Rainforest Creeks). 

Take care and stay safe.


CONTACT:  Julianna Morris Facebook


Cover description from TWINS FOR THE RODEO STAR:

From rodeo star to daddy…twice over!

Every cowboy makes mistakes, and champion bull rider Josh McKeon is no exception. But gorgeous Montana rancher Kelly Beaumont isn’t quite ready to forgive Josh for breaking her heart. Especially when she’s been hiding a secret—he’s the father of her twin boys! Now this rodeo star has one last chance to convince Kelly that they belong together…as a family. Only this time, he’s not letting go.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And a  few additional photos from my files...











  1. I've never been to a rodeo, but growing up I saw a horse show at my hometown's annual fair and loved the spectacle, that included jumping and a bit of lassoing as well. Your new release sounds like another opportunity for me to experience country life. Congratulations Julianna!

    1. Thanks! They didn't have horse shows at the fairs I attended as a kid, but I've seen plenty since then. I'd hoped to see the Lipizzaner stallions when I visited Vienna, but the timing wasn't right.

  2. I love the way your reservations about writing a rodeo story became the basis for the conflict in your Heartwarming novel. Congratulations on the release! Interesting, also, to see the earlier Silhouette covers (great books, by the way). Covers and books styles change. At one point I was doing a lot of research into old cookbooks, the kind published locally by churches, schools, granges, etc. I got to the point I could recognize the decade as soon as I picked it up--couldn't now, not in practice anymore. Anyway, your cover is beautiful, and your rodeo story is terrific.

    1. I've discovered that a lot of the things I think are problematic in a story can often be an opportunity. Covers have changed a good deal since I first started writing. By the way, I saw the picture used on one of your covers at the photo counter at Costco. It may have been reversed, but it was really interesting.

  3. My dad was the veterinarian for several rodeo families in southwestern Wisconsin. Barrel riders, bronco busters and bull riders so I've seen lots of rodeos. Love reading about your research process. Good luck with the new book.

    1. I'm sure your dad could have given lots of material to use. I wish I'd discovered rodeos earlier, but I'm sure enjoying them now. Thanks!

  4. It really is a privilege to write fiction that provides escape and pleasure, maybe especially during these challenging times. I completely agree with you. all the best with your new release.

    1. As I recall, a former editor at Harlequin wrote something published in a Chicago newspaper that said romantic fiction succeeded more often at its goal of entertaining, than material written to "enlighten." I think romance can do both, but right now I particularly want to entertain. Thanks for the good wishes.

  5. Hi, Julianna. As a member of your writing group, I've already seen your terrific cover and heard about some of the hard work and creative process you put into this book. It's great to see it's out now and read your blog. Best of everything with this month's release and your next project. I like the sneak peaks I'm getting.

    1. Hi! Love that you found the blog, even though romance isn't the kind of writing you're doing. Of course, almost all books have a little romance in them.

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  7. All, I just saw an erroneous word in the blog. I'm sure there are others. My apologies! Does anyone know if I can make corrections after the pose is published?

    1. Of course, just log back into blogger

    2. Thanks! I thought it might re-post, but delete everyone's comments.

  8. Love your post, Julianna. Before quarantine life, I used to go to public places to write. I liked the energy of being around people without interacting with anyone. On occasion, when people spoke too loudly for me to hear my own thoughts, I'd pop in my earbuds and listen to rain falling.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. I like my own yard, but also being around people. There was an incredible garden where I used to write once or twice a week (until the middle of last summer). It was attached to a business, so it was private, but everyone was invited. They had a small scavenger hunt for features around the garden and it was fun to watch visitors participating. Sadly, the company went bankrupt. I haven't gone near the place since, afraid of what I'll see.


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