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Character Interview: TJ McKendrick from Elizabeth Noyes’s Imperfect Wings

Imperfect Wings cover concept5Today’s guest is TJ McKendrick, the heroine from Elizabeth Noyes’ wonderful novel, Imperfect Wings.

TJ, thank you for being with us today.

Hello, Fay. Thank you for this opportunity.

You have a very fascinating story to tell us, but I want to know a little about you. Where are you from? What type of work did you do before the story began, and what led you to the place where all the trouble started?

Well, I guess you could say I’m from all over. You see, my dad was a lifer in Army-talk, meaning he planned to stay in for a full twenty years or more. I was born in the Army Hospital in Nuremberg, Germany, but we moved around a lot. Lexington, Kentucky, Richmond, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia are some the places I remember best

Dad was a highly decorated marksman who’d qualified for the Olympic team twice. He traveled extensively for the Army and was away more than he was home. When my mom was killed in a car accident, we didn’t have any close relatives to take me in. Dad couldn’t very well drag a teenage girl with him all over the globe, so he gave up his career. We were still in Atlanta at the time.

After high school, I enrolled at Georgia State University, earned a degree in Economics, and got a job after graduation with one the Big Four accounting firms there.

When I went off to college, Dad moved to Honduras. He’d become involved with Central American missions through our church and wanted to help improve the economic and living conditions in the underdeveloped areas. He fell in love with the people of La Cruza and stayed on to teach in the school he helped build. He was killed there. Murdered.

I didn’t find out for almost four months. The story of how he died didn’t make sense. There were too many holes, too many inconsistencies. I went through the first four stages of grief—denial and isolation, anger with their government and ours, bargaining with God, and an awful depression—but without a body to bury, I couldn’t accept that he was gone. It took me three long, grief-filled years to realize why. He’d chosen those foreign kids over me. I needed to know why. I needed answers to how and why he died.

You faced some loneliness in your life from a mother and father who were both distant in different ways. How did that strengthen you for the journey that you had to take?

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to go to my friends’ homes or have them over to ours. Dad was gone a lot and Mom didn’t do well left all alone. Conversely; too much stimulation would set off one of her ‘nervous’ attacks. After she died, I learned she’d been diagnosed as bi-polar. She was never good about taking the prescribed medication.

You have to understand, this was my childhood, my normal. I had no other point of reference. I figured out later how wrong those early years were, but all I knew growing up was that someone had to be the adult. I was more of a mother to my mom than she was to me.

You do what you have to, no matter the cost. It’s that or you break. I was lucky. I might be damaged, but I didn’t break.

In the course of your story, you travel quite a bit from the Deep South to south of the border and back to the Deep South again and then you end up in Idaho. How do you feel about the places God has taken you both physically and emotionally?

I once heard things don’t just happen, they come to pass. God won’t put anything in your life that He can’t handle. The trick is to let Him. My journey through all this was hard. It took a physical, mental, and emotional toll. I despaired every single day and gave up more times than I can count, but God always came through. He sent me to Senora Ramirez. He provided that crazy helicopter pilot, who turned out to be the best thing in my life. The military team that rescued me, Ed, David and Carrie Anne, Sheriff Evers, the Camerons—every step of the way, God sent the people I needed to lift me back up and help me take one more step.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” When God says, “all things” I believe He means even the bad things that happen to us. Did you discover this on your journey, and if so, how?

Not at first. Actually, not for a long time. You see, I went to Honduras seeking justice when I really wanted vengeance. The moment I knew Castillo wanted me dead, I panicked. All I could think was run. Get away. So I did. Somewhere along the way though, I realized how insignificant my needs were. The bigger picture was so much more important—stopping the drugs and destruction, giving the people of La Cruza and other unprotected villages a chance at freedom, bringing the corruption in our own government to light. That’s when my personal demons faded away.

And this is one question I have to ask. After getting to know Garrett better, do you find this tough cowboy has some soft edges?

Garrett Cameron is like no other. He’s tough as rawhide, bossy, arrogant, demanding, prickly, and opinionated. He’s also the most honorable man I’ve ever known. He’ll give you the shirt off his back or whatever else is needed—but you can’t take it. I’ve seen him nurse a baby eagle with a broken wing back to health, and stay through the night with a foaling mare just to comfort her. Do you recall the cougar he killed to save me? The man went back to bury the remains.

He won’t compromise on right and wrong, but yes, he most definitely has a softer side, though he tries to hide it. God blessed me big time by sending this man to sweep me off my feet, and I thank Him every day. But don’t tell Garret that!

More About Imperfect Wings:

Evil stalks TJ McKendrick. Three years after burying her father, TJ visits Honduras where he died. While there, she witnesses a murder and is forced to flee.

Don Castillo dreams of power. Funnel the drugs into the States and it’s his. First, he must kill the woman who dared spy on him.

The last thing Garrett Cameron needs is another woman interrupting his life, but when the feisty vixen that blew his mission two years ago shows up at his ranch running for her life, what can he do?

As attraction ignites between TJ and Garrett, she lets go of past betrayals and allows him to protect her. He’s lived a life of violence. Love isn’t for someone like him. Does he dare reveal his soul’s dark side and risk driving her away?

Only faith in God and trust in each other can overcome the deadly odds they face.

ENoyesAbout the Author:

Elizabeth Noyes is recently retired and resides in northeast Atlanta where she now writes full time. A world traveler, avid reader, and self-professed dreamer, she draws on her life experiences to create the many “real” characters in her stories.

You can connect with Elizabeth at her website, on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Author Interview: Elizabeth Noyes

ENoyesToday’s guest is Elizabeth “Betty” Noyes, author of Imperfect WingsElizabeth is recently retired and resides in northeast Atlanta where she now writes full time. A world traveler, avid reader, and self-professed dreamer, she draws on her life experiences to create the many “real” characters in her stories.

You can connect with Elizabeth at her website, on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Betty, I’m so excited to have you with us here at Inner Source as I feel that this has been a culmination of prayers on the hearts of several of us who have known the talent you possess and were anxious to see your work in print.

First of all, I want to know about your writing journey. Would you mind sharing this with us?

Thank you, Fay. Journey is the right word.

First, I have to explain that I’m an introvert by nature, a bit of a loner. I’ve also come to realize that I’m a very private person. I mention this because although I’ve been writing my entire life, it was only ten years ago that I first shared my work with anyone.

Like TJ, the female protagonist in Imperfect Wings, I too am blessed to have a strong man in my life. I showed my husband, Paul, a few short stories, vignettes, and devotionals I’d written, and he immediately wanted to share it to the world. As you can guess, I wasn’t having any of that!

I’m not sure when writing a book became a project, but one day I realized I had a ton of pages for a story that had long been germinating in my head. I completed it and then decided to see if it was any good.

Instead of going through the submission process, I went to a conference…and became the poster child for the old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Imagine my surprise when I heard the term ‘word count.’ Imagine my consternation when I learned the word count range for a fiction novel was 80,000-100,000 words. Mine was approaching 200,000.

Not being one to shy away from hard work, I decided to educate myself. I read a ton of how-to books, some good, some not so much. I took some classes, looked into more, and studied up on writing organizations. That’s when I found ACFW and the Scribes critique loop.

I joined ACFW, wound up in a small critique group, made a few false starts, learned the hard way to take well-intentioned critiques with a grain of salt, joined a second critique group, and discovered how much I’d learned from critiquing my group members’ work and reading what the others had to say about everyone’s writing. I’d found a home. Actually, two homes.

The idea for Garrett’s and TJ’s story came about by accident. I had a story underway, this one about Cody and Cate, Garrett’s parents. But he kept stealing the spotlight. I would put the story aside to get Garrett out of head and try again later, only to have Garrett sneak back in. This happened several times before I gave up and tried to get the man out of my head. Eight months later, Imperfect Wings was delivered. Cody and Cate still linger and I hope to revive them one day.

What really captures my imagination in your writing is the fact that you are so experienced or researched on modern weaponry, espionage, technology, you name it. You write these thrilling romantic optimum suspense novels with what seems like little effort, yet they grab the attention and keep me riveted there. (I’m going to confess, I’ve read through Imperfect Wings at least four times, and I’m captivated each time). Where did you gain this research and/or experience?

You have to do your homework. It might be fiction, but it still has to be believable. An author walks a fine line between convincing those familiar with your subject that you know what you’re talking about versus not overwhelming (boring) those unfamiliar with the subject.

Mr. Google has become one of my best friends, complete with Wikipedia, Google maps, You-Tube videos—you name it. Anything can be researched. I had one critique partner tell me there were no Quik Trip gas stations in the little town in Mississippi. I found the Google page I’d researched, took a screen capture complete with picture and URL, and sent it to her. I strongly advise researching even the smallest details.

I had another critiquer I met at a conference, a gentleman who’d been a motor pool mechanic in the Army. He informed me the vehicle specs I listed in my second book were wrong. Another copy from Google brought me an apology and rave reviews. We still stay in touch, and he’s become one of my go-to resources.

Google is great, but people provide the most important resources in my opinion. My husband (best friend and ally) was a career Army officer with combat experience. We once spent a long drive from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta, talking about the combat scene in Imperfect Wings. I told him what I envisioned. He told me it wouldn’t work. For ten straight hours, we hashed out a “real” combat scenario. The only “real” part I refused to cave on was the language.

I have a wealth of resources I’ve learned to tap into: an anesthesiologist daughter-in-law, a sister who’s a nurse, two police officer nephews, an attorney friend, a paralegal friend, a martial arts/cowboy friend, a technology genius for a son, lots of specialty technology gurus at work, a colleague whose native language is Spanish, a retired FBI acquaintance, and the list goes on and on. A wealth of real-life information and experiences waiting to be tapped.

I’ve been dying to ask this question. Why do Garrett and his family live in Idaho? Is it because you have a special place in your heart for that area or is he just the sort of rugged hero that would live in and ranch in that part of our country?

My husband and I are avid travelers. We love going places we’ve not been. A few years back, we visited Yellowstone National Park and I fell in love with the beauty of the land—Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are amazing. I think what impressed me most, though, was the rarefied air. There’s a purity there not found in the more densely populated areas of the United States.

The people, too, made an impression—hardy, self-sufficient, no artifice. I had a strange thought that’s stuck with me since we visited—What if our technology-dependent civilization failed for some reason. The people there would survive. Would the city dwellers?

Why Idaho? There’s not much out there about Idaho. Montana yes. Wyoming, absolutely. I wanted to stray from the familiar and bring a beautiful, almost secret place alive. I wanted to make it my own.

The Camerons are tough, survivors, the kind of people who look after family, friends, and neighbors because it’s the right thing to do.

TJ is such a delight to follow. She’s a bundle of feistiness, beauty, and smarts. Is she purely imaginative or did you have one or two or three people in mind when you wrote about her?

Is any character a pure figment of imagination? I don’t think so. In TJ’s case, she’s a fusion of several people I know and admire, as well as a dash of who I want to be. She might be a little damaged (don’t we all have warts?), but she’s learned to deal with her shortcomings and vulnerabilities. Hers is a journey of self discovery, of learning to trust herself, others, and God.

Okay, I’m just not satisfied to read about Garrett. I want to know the stories of all three of his brothers and maybe a couple of his commando buddies. So, is there another project or projects awaiting us, and will you share a little about those?

One of my colleagues at work went off on me after reading the first ten chapters of Imperfect Wings. “I am so in love with Garrett. You need to fix TJ up with Wade or Jonas, not Garrett. He’s mine!” I laughed the rest of the day and still get tickled remembering how animated (and serious) she was. This is the reward a writer wants!

TJ and Garrett are made for each other. Wade and Jonas have their HEAs coming up. Imperfect Wings is Book 1 in the Imperfect series. Book 2 (Imperfect Trust) tells Wade’s and Lucy’s story. I anticipate sending the first draft to my publisher by yearend. Book 3 (Imperfect Love) is the story of Cassidy and Derek. I’ve already outlined and written a few scenes in that one. Book 4 (Imperfect Lies) belongs to Jonas and Shea. This one is also mapped out and partially written. Book 5 (Imperfect Truth), the one I’m dying to get to, is about Mallory and James. If I survive these, I hope to return to Cody and Cate in Book 6 (Imperfect Legacy). Their story is very dear to me since it kicked off this amazing adventure!

As a critique partner and an avid fan of your writing, I can’t wait to read each one of your amazing stories, and I’ll hope you’ll visit Inner Source after each release.

Imperfect Wings cover concept5More About Imperfect Wings:

Evil stalks TJ McKendrick. Three years after burying her father, TJ visits Honduras where he died. While there, she witnesses a murder and is forced to flee.

Don Castillo dreams of power. Funnel the drugs into the States and it’s his. First, he must kill the woman who dared spy on him.

The last thing Garrett Cameron needs is another woman interrupting his life, but when the feisty vixen that blew his mission two years ago shows up at his ranch running for her life, what can he do?

As attraction ignites between TJ and Garrett, she lets go of past betrayals and allows him to protect her. He’s lived a life of violence. Love isn’t for someone like him. Does he dare reveal his soul’s dark side and risk driving her away?

Only faith in God and trust in each other can overcome the deadly odds they face.