Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Joanne Kennedy | Starting Trouble

February 26, 2010

Cowboy Trouble started with a chicken, a cowboy, and an act of rebellion.

I’ve worked in book selling all my life, but a few years ago I decided it was time to escape the rigors of retail and get a job where I could sit down once in a while. I decided to try medical transcription, which meant I was sitting in front of my computer for hours at a time, tapping away at the keys.

The trouble was, what I was churning out was mind-numbingly dull. Doctor’s reports are hardly the stuff of literature, and the ones that are interesting are generally tragic. The typing was good. The sitting was great. But the work? Not for me.

In a vague act of rebellion, I shut off the dictation one day and just started typing whatever came into my head. Here’s what came out:

A chicken will never break your heart.

Not that you can’t love a chicken. There are some people in this world who can love just about anything.

But a chicken will never love you back. When you look deep into their beady little eyes, there’s not a lot of warmth there-just an avarice for worms and bugs and, if it’s a rooster, a lot of suppressed anger and sexual frustration. They don’t return your affection in any way.

Expectations, relationship-wise, are right at rock bottom.

I kept on going, and before long, I had a character who was unlucky in love and decided to go off on her own and start a chicken farm. I’d had chickens years before, and I think chickens are the funniest animals on the planet, so I was having a pretty good time. Then the cowboy showed up, and I just had to know what happened-so I had to keep writing.

I’ve always read a lot, and I’ve worked in bookstores all my life, so I had a fairly good idea of what works in a book, and I also knew the market. At the time I started
Cowboy Trouble, the “chick lit” trend was beginning to fade. I loved the fun, saucy tone of writers like Sophie Kinsella and Lauren Weisberger, but I was tired of reading about city girls. What the world needed, I decided, was some rural “chick lit.” I wanted to read about a character who didn’t care much about hairstyles and high heels–someone who’s idea of high fashion was wearing her Wranglers in slim-fit instead of cowboy-cut.

A character who was more like me.

I’m a Massachusetts native who moved West a few years ago and fell in love with the wide-open spaces and the quirky individualism of the people here, so I made Libby an east-coast transplant, too. I love animals and farm life, and I have a habit of plunging into absurd projects without calculating the odds of success, so I had Libby start a chicken farm in Wyoming.

The book was going to be a mystery, but Libby and I had one more thing in common: I’d taken some knocks in the romance department, and found love just when I’d sworn off men forever. Like me, Libby met an irresistible stranger at the very time she least wanted to fall for a man–and gradually, without my realizing it, the book became a romance.

When I started Cowboy Trouble, I had no idea how difficult it was to get a novel published. All I knew was that I was supremely happy hanging out with Luke and Libby in the fictional world I’d created. Deep down, I knew I’d found what I was meant to do–but I also knew that if I wanted to keep doing it, I needed to treat it like a job.

I started reading books on fiction writing, going to writing conferences, and begging friends to read and critique my work. I gave up watching television, among other things, so I’d have more time to write. Once I finished the manuscript, I started submitting to agents and editors, and I struggled to swallow my pride and learn from my rejections.

And finally, two days before Christmas in 2008, I found out that Sourcebooks Casablanca wanted to publish my book. Now Luke and Libby are out there getting to know the rest of you, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Like Libby, I’ve found my happily ever after.

I never did medical transcription again, and I was a little disappointed in myself, because I’ve never been a quitter. But really, I did reach the goal I set out to achieve: I finally have a job where I get to sit down!

As a bookseller, I partly wrote Cowboy Trouble to fill an empty niche in the market. What kinds of books do you think are missing out there? Do you long for romances set in Dark Age Ireland, or mysteries featuring handicapped heroines? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll stop back often and see what I can learn!


Fleeing her latest love life disaster, big city journalist Libby Brown’s transition to rural living isn’t going exactly as planned. Her childhood dream has always been to own a chicken farm–but without the constant help of her charming, sexy, cowboy neighbor; she’d never have made it through her first Wyoming season.

Handsome rancher Luke Rawlins is impressed by this sassy, independent city girl. But he yearns to do more than help Libby out with her ranch…he’s ready for love, and he wants to go the distance. When the two get embroiled in their tiny town’s one and only crime story, Libby discovers that their sizzling hot attraction is going to complicate her life in every way possible…

Joanne Kennedy has worked in bookstores all her life in positions ranging from bookseller to buyer. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and won first place in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest and second place in the Heart of the Rockies contest in 2007. Joanne lives and writes in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For more information please visit

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