I am always inspired by women who after having children, find a path for creativity and success. Keira Dominguez, a friend and author, is just one of those inspirations. In the midst of raising 5 children, she published her first of what fans hope will be many regency romance novels.
Since I am so fascinated by the inner workings of all entrepreneurial-minded women, I had to get some inside information on this up and coming Portland, Oregon based author. We talk about life, love, photos and of course writing:
1. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
In 2009 I began a blog (The Uncrushable Jersey Dress) with my sister about mid-century British author Betty Neels (who wrote her first book after she turned 50). Over the course of several years, we posted fun long-form reviews of each of her 130+ books, which often focus on a poor British nurse being carried off by a rich Dutch doctor. (In this imaginary world, calories mean nothing.) It was a profoundly specific topic. But, lo and behold, we began to gather a really passionate, intelligent community of readers from Pakistan to Yorkshire to Minnesota who liked sweet romance. After years of meeting deadlines and writing for an audience, I began to think that maybe I could write something longer than a book review. It was the spirit of Betty Neels and this community that gave me the courage to try.
2. What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have a fantastic critique group (the Klickitat Writers) who meet once a week to give feedback and support. Marianne is great for giving me a sense of “of course you can do this”. Afton gives me little thumbs up signs across the table when she thinks I am nailing the romantic tension--a must if you’re the only romance author in a group that does other genres. And if I have plot holes, Christine is going to drive a truck through them. They are there to help me get to my best work and learning to take criticism in this environment has made being an author much easier.
3. If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
A recent book I just loved was ‘Code Name Verity’ by Elizabeth Wein. It’s about two girls in World War II, one is a spy and the other is a pilot, and just blew me away with the level of research and detail. I closed that book excited to learn that women were playing roles in that era that I hadn’t been well acquainted with and was enormously moved by their sacrifices and courage.
4. Do you have real people you base your characters off of in your story?
I don’t really base characters off real people but did find, after it was mostly written, that I used ‘Her Caprice’ to have a conversation with myself about having a child with special needs and how I, as his mother, need to allow him the freedom to be the captain of his own life.
5. What inspired you to write this specific story?
I love reading Brandon Sanderson (high epic fantasy) and was really interested in his rules-based magic systems. Eventually, I got to thinking about how magic might really complicate the life of a Regency-era young woman. I enjoy the constraints of writing historical time periods and thought that the rigid social norms would be a good foil for a girl who can’t, quite, control her magic. Also, I come from this crazy-huge family (28 kids. This is not a typo.) with a ton of siblings who have special needs and I liked the idea of exploring how one member’s (magical) special need might ripple out and effect the whole family in good and hard ways.
6. How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
I have this antique cast-iron bell in my office with a cute little partridge on top. When I make a major publishing milestone, I ring the heck out of it.
7. You are a mom, how do you find the time, energy, inspiration in your busy life to write?
Oh gosh. I started writing at the wrong time. My youngest was 2 and into everything, my next oldest was in occupational and speech therapy. The three oldest really wanted food...every night if you can believe it. (So selfish.) I ended up writing at Fred Meyer while the littlest was in the one-hour daycare, or in the church nursing mothers lounge while the 8-year-old was in Cub Scouts, or on the couch at the speech therapist. The truth about time is that, if you’re ready to write (and I wasn’t for a lot of years), you will find the time. It helps to turn off the phone, drink plenty of water and take time to stretch. Inspiration is the easy part. Being in a busy family gives is never boring. One of my favorite scenes in the movie 'Auntie Mame' is when she's trying to write her memoir and the ghost writer is punching it up by saying, "How bleak was my puberty in Buffalo!" To a writer, everything (even when the kids destroy a perfectly innocent linen closet to use as a fort) becomes material to be used later.
8. How much of writing do you consider a legacy that you pass on to your children?
I think about legacy a lot. My mom died when I was 9 and one of my favorite memories is of her pounding out short pieces on an ancient typewriter. She wasn’t ever published but it made an impression on me at the time that, even in the deep canyon of motherhood, I should poke my head out. I want my kids to know I had interests that had nothing to do with them. Also, I like to write about worthwhile people who deserve good things and I hope that my kids recognize that the loyalty and kindness and grit my characters exhibit are values that can see them through hardship, leading them toward their own happy endings.
9. Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your book?
Oh yes. Again, lots of ‘Her Caprice’ has to do with a mother who needs a good talking to about handing the reins of her child’s life over to her child. I was reading late drafts and slapping my forehead. “I am this mother.”
10. On your social media and blog posts, how do you make sure to include images of yourself?
I make sure to post images of my life as it really is--the child crying in front of her birthday cake, the grape juice explosion on the white cabinets--and also more bookish pictures--me holding my book for the first time, me being the other half of a book cover featuring the face of Tsar Nicholas II… I am much better doing Instagram stories where I can talk at the camera about shifting topics (I once spent a week chronicling how I felt about reading ‘Anna Karenina’ and how much pleasure I felt every time Tolstoy brought up Count Vronsky’s bald spot.). People go to social media to make connections with friends, family and favorite authors and the connection they want is human. I have to let them see who I am. So I try not to be too critical of my appearance and looking absolutely perfect. (But I always try to wear eye-liner. You are welcome, America.) Keira’s Instagram
11. As a photographer, I believe the best photos tell a story. If you could only have photos to tell the story of YOUR life as a mom, wife, author, human...what are five pictures you would be sure to have?
I want a picture of Christmas morning. Our family tradition is to meet in my bed (a queen mattress which feels tight for a family of seven) in the morning and open stockings. It’s a mess but it’s also one of those times I feel like someone is just handing me a parenting paycheck. Cha-ching!
I wish I had a picture of the first moments after giving birth the first time. I remember such an overwhelming, life-altering love that rushed over me and it was as though I had not only given birth to a child but somehow to a mother as well. I know I looked tired and sweaty and disheveled but knowing that, and wanting the visual record anyway, is like a giant billboard sign reading “TAKE THE PICTURE, KEIRA”. It’s a good reminder.
I want a picture of me and my (step) mom smiling at the camera. When I was a teen and inclined to put my hands over my acne-laden face (Like I was the monster from the Blue Lagoon, or something) rather than be in a picture, she taught me that we look our best when we smile for cameras. This wasn’t a lecture she gave me but an example she set. My mom is a woman who likes to be put together but, failing that, won’t cringe or grimace but will smile, presenting her best self.
I want a picture of me and my husband on bikes. (In my dream picture, I look amazing in a bike helmet.) I’m a bit of a homebody but my husband loves to travel and one of the things we love to do is join bike tours. We have made our way through the back streets of Paris on bikes, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, cycled Central Park in spring and biked down a lava cone in Central Oregon. I was talking to my dad once about a trip I was taking with my kids and he said something like, “Don’t just be the mom. You go be a kid too.” Biking always lets me be a kid.
I would love a picture of when my husband finished my book the first time. He’s not really the demographic for Magical Regency Romance but he was really committed to finishing it. When he finally did, I was working on my laptop downstairs. He comes down, slaps the book on the table, repeated the last line and kissed me into next week. My kingdom for a picture of that!
If you are interested in following along with Keira as she tells her story and publishes more books, go find her website here: Keira’s Website; see her on Instagram here: Keira’s Instagram; and most importantly, purchase her book here: Buy Her Caprice.