Kathleen Creighton believes the gift — or curse — of writing comes in the genes. While growing up in the vast farming and ranching country of Central California she spent many hours with her elbows propped on the old kitchen table in her grandparents’ house, listening to the tales her grandfather told. "He spoke with an eloquence that made your eyes shine and your pulse quicken," Kathleen recalls. "Papa could make you feel as though you’d been there."
"But Papa was an orator, not a writer. It was my grandmother who wrote everything down: lists, notes, diaries. I believe that those two gifts combined and got handed on to me, courtesy of my mother — who is, incidentally, far and away the best writer I know."
Kathleen discovered her writing gene not long after she learned to read, thanks to an early and constant exposure to books. "I wanted to read all the time," she says, "even though on the farm, reading was a luxury, something you did only after the work was done. And while writing was considered a normal part of living, it wasn’t exactly an occupation to which one could reasonably aspire."
Even so, she began submitting short stories to national magazines while still in her teens, and sold her first — for a penny a word! — to a "pulp" magazine called Ranch Romances when she was 18. That sale failed to catapult her into the literary career she’d dreamed of, however. "The poor editor kept pleading with me to do another like the first one," Kathleen recalls. "I tried, believe me. But since I didn’t realize that what I’d written was a romance, I could never duplicate the feat. It took me 20 years to figure it out."
Meanwhile, marriage and four children intervened, and for the next two decades, Kathleen was a contented full-time mom and PTA volunteer. The writing bug bit again, fatally this time, after she was injured during a training session for AYSO soccer coaches. Finding herself bedridden and out of reading material, she appealed to a friend who brought her a grocery sack full of old Harlequin and Silhouette romances. "As soon as I read the first one," Kathleen says, "I knew I’d come home."
Still, success didn’t come easy, and hasn’t been without its sacrifices. The birth of her writing career, with the sale of her first romance novel to Silhouette in December of 1983 and an appearance on Good Morning, America! coincided closely with the breakup of her marriage. The story has a happy ending, though. Subsequently, she met the love of her life and moved with him to South Carolina, where they’ve been happily engaged in building their dream house together. "As anyone who’s ever tackled even the smallest remodeling project with a spouse knows," Kathleen says, "if a relationship can survive that, it can survive anything!"
Although her roots remain deep in the mountains and deserts of California, Kathleen has developed a deep love and appreciation for her new home, the rural South. "I live in Paradise," she says, "on the shores of a lake with the man I love. Together we watch the squirrels build their nests in our great old oaks trees, and count the birds that come to our feeders. Thrilled as children we call each other to the window to see the great blue heron feeding, or a beaver exploring in our cove. Deer walk down our lane and browse on our camellias. How rich, how blessed we are!"
Even when she’s working to make a book deadline, Kathleen tries hard to find time to keep in touch with her son and three daughters, her mother and the numerous friends and family members she left behind in California. "It’s not easy to keep the bonds strong over such a great distance," she says, "but I believe it can be done if the love is there and both parties work at it. I try hard to stay a part of their lives on a day-to-day basis."
As for her daily life — "it’s pretty boring, actually," she says, "but that’s the way I like it." When not writing, she is usually either working on some project or other with her husband — most recently they built a whole wall of bookshelves for her office! — or gardening. Landscaping a chunk of Southern red clay carved out of a forest hillside is, she believes, every bit as great a challenge as writing a new book!