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Eye On Romance
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Ann Major

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Marriage at the Cowboy's Demand
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Anne Gracie
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Anne has always loved stories. Family legend has it that she used to spend hours playing in the sandpit, with a dog on either side and Rocka, her pony, leaning over her, his head just touching her shoulder, while she told them stories. According to Anne, dogs and horses are great audiences — apart from their tendency to drool occasionally. But people are even nicer.

Once she learned to read, Anne spent her days outside playing with the animals (including her brother and sisters), and when inside she read. They didn’t have a TV, so books have always been a big part of her life. Luckily their house was always full of them.

Anne has loved Georgette Heyer’s novels since she was a kid. What she particularly loves in her books is the combination of romance, history, and humor. So those elements were inevitable when Anne wrote her first book, Gallant Waif, a story with a brooding hero, a spirited heroine, and a cunning old dowager. That book was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America RITA Awards for Best First Book.

One of the things Anne loves about writing is the way that characters can simply leap into being. Sometimes she wakes up with a scene in her head and has to go and write it down immediately, or she forgets it. It doesn’t matter what time it is — middle of the night or crack of dawn — if she doesn’t get it down, it’s gone.

So Anne blearily gropes for the light and scrawls it down, or crawls to the computer and types it in. Usually that’s how she begins a new book — a really strong scene pops into her head and that’s either the start of the story or a really pivotal scene.

History is full of wonderful stories and her own family history is full of great romances. Her Scots great-grandfather, who was a nautical type, jumped ship in Australia in the 1880s after falling wildly in love with the girl who later became her great-grandmother. Another grandfather wooed his lady with poetry and horses, and Anne has several old musty books with the most beautiful, loving inscriptions in them. With ancestors like this, how could she not write romance!

Another thing Anne inherited from her ancestors is keeping bees. Her grandfather (the nonpoetic one), as well as her father, always kept several hives of bees. For many years Anne was mainly interested in the eating honey side of things, which she did very well.

But then a few years ago a swarm of bees landed on a tree in her garden and Anne knew the bees were telling her to get her act together and start keeping them. Having none of her dad’s equipment on hand, Anne improvised by draping herself with old lace curtains (protection with elegance), climbed the tree with a smoking dog-food can of pine needles in one hand (smoke calms bees), and moved the swarm into a cardboard carton.

The next day Anne bought herself a bee box and transferred them over. She enrolled in a beekeeping course just to be sure she was doing things the right way. At the end of that year she had her first magical harvest of honey. Bees are wonderful creatures.

Anne works in a room full of books and computers and piles of paper. All the walls are taken up with shelves, so on the door (and floor) she keeps notes about her current book. Also on the door is her favorite poem, a 15th-century Chinese poem called "The Joy of Reading" by Wen Cheng-ming, which never fails to move and inspire her.

She’s had a number of different jobs, but because reading has given her so much, Anne has been a teacher for most of her working life, teaching English and ESL, working in high schools and colleges. She now teaches adults to read and write, where each step is cause for celebration.

Anne has lived in many different places and countries but her home is in Melbourne, in a small wooden house she will one day renovate.

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