Patricia McAlexander is from upstate New York, the setting of Stranger in the Storm, but she’s also lived in Colorado, Texas, and Wisconsin. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New York at Albany, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English. Patricia now lives in Athens, Georgia, with her Southerner husband, whom she met when they were graduate students in Wisconsin. After retiring from teaching at the University of Georgia, she’s had had more time to garden and travel while renewing her interests in photography, history, and, most of all, writing fiction.
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write? And why?
Patricia: I like to write romance. Why? Because love is something most of us need and hope for in our lives—look at the themes of songs, movies, literature. Also, romance can involve personal growth, something I’m interested in as a teacher. In my fiction, I portray individuals further developing their own values and identities as they discover love. But genres can be hybrids. Stranger in the Storm, my first published novel (actually a novella), combines romance with the thriller genre. There is often romance in historical fiction, which I also write. Research on my nineteenth-century immigrant ancestors brought their times, their courage, and their loves to life for me. I want to tell their story.
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Patricia: I think being a writer was in my genes, but family, friends, and teachers all influenced me. My father let me type on his typewriter when I was five years old. He never got it back. My sister and I co-authored stories as children, and she has always eagerly read and critiqued what I’ve written. My high school friends discussed my stories as they were in progress; I sometimes asked them to vote on alternate endings. When I was an English major at SUNY Albany, my creative writing teacher Shields McIlwaine suggested I “send off” stories, and I still remember a friend coming into my dorm room and saying, “Your story made me cry.” I had no time to write fiction during my academic career, but when I retired from teaching, these people and these memories were important in my decision to turn back to fiction.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Patricia: I wish I knew—I wish I could turn those juices on like a faucet. For me, inspiration is magic. It just comes—from reading a novel, watching an ancient magnolia being taken down, finding an old story that I wrote decades ago, looking at family photo albums.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Patricia: I’d have to say Walt Disney’s Cinderella in the film of that name. As a child, I loved that story of a fairy godmother and Prince Charming rescuing a beautiful young girl from her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. I guess that reveals my life-long love of romance.
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Patricia: After doing research on my ancestors, I would love to meet Rosa Jackle, the mysterious woman who came to America in 1850 with my great-great-grandfather, a widower, and his seven children. Census records show he married her, and they settled on a farm near Boonville, New York, where she raised his children and together they had three more. She fascinates me, and I’d love to learn the romance behind their marriage and how the real Rosa corresponds with my imagined version.
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day, what would you do with it?
Patricia: Since I’m now a retiree “sheltering in place,” every day is in a sense free. So I’ll answer by imagining a day where I could be magically transported to my sister’s lake house in Pennsylvania and spend a day with her swimming, kayaking, and hiking—and talking about books. Her lake house is our adult version of the cottage my parents had on Great Sacandaga Lake in upstate New York—the setting of my novel Stranger in the Storm.
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Patricia: I’ve almost completed another contemporary romance, this one set in Athens, Georgia. As you may have guessed, I’m also hoping to publish a novel based on my great-great-grandfather and his second wife, Rosa. I have visited the graveyard in Boonville where they are buried. It was quite an experience to see their gravestones, his at least amazingly well-preserved. Now there was an inspiration for writing!
Blurb for Stranger in the Storm:
After she discovers the abusive side of his personality, Janet Mitchell leaves the professor who has swept her off her feet. Is she about to discover the same darkness in Wes, the handsome young man who rescues her during a hurricane?
Wes Corbett has vowed not to get romantically involved again, fearing anyone close to him might be harmed by his brother, now an escaped felon. But when he finds himself riding out the hurricane with Janet and their mutual attraction becomes clear, will he be able to keep that vow?
Wes was patted down, then handcuffed with his hands behind his back. The covering deputy lowered his gun and walked to the truck. Reaching in, he turned off the ignition and took out the keys. He picked up Wes’s wallet and phone and returned to the sheriff.
Janet jumped out of her car and ran up to her side of the fallen tree. “Stop!” she cried out. “There must be some mistake!”
“No mistake, miss,” the sheriff said, sounding grim. “You’d best get away from here. This is one of the escaped convicts.”
Buy links for Stranger in the Storm:
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