On Tour for Release Day of What Heals the Heart (Cowbird Creek Book 1) by Karen A. Wyle and Meet the Author

The cover is so sweet!

What Heals the Heart (Cowbird Creek Book 1) by Karen A. Wyle releases today in the Western Historical Romance genre.

Joshua Gibbs survived the Civil War, building on his wartime experiences to become a small town doctor. And if he wakes from nightmares more often than he would like, only his dog Major is there to know it.

Then two newcomers arrive in Cowbird Creek: Clara Brook, a plain-speaking and yet enigmatic farmer’s daughter, and Freida Blum, an elderly Jewish widow from New York. Freida knows just what Joshua needs: a bride. But it shouldn’t be Clara Brook!

Joshua tries everything he can think of to discourage Freida’s efforts, including a wager: if he can find Freida a husband, she’ll stop trying to find him a wife. Will either matchmaker succeed? Or is it Clara, despite her own scars, who can heal the doctor’s troubled heart?

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Well, that was a first. Freida had come bearing gifts, generally edible, and she had come to him or asked him to come to her when she felt poorly, but never had she asked him for an actual favor. “One of my customers, a widow, so sad, still so young. She’s been so eager for her new dresses, hers are worn to rags, but the neighbor who was going to bring her into town, he got too busy, I hate to make her wait. Would it be too much trouble, you could take me there tomorrow morning, maybe you have a patient to see on the way?”

He could in fact go see the old woman with a leg abscess, which shouldn’t take too long to drain and bandage. Her son’s place was considerably farther away than the young widow’s farm, but Joshua could deal with the abscess first, and then swing by to deliver the dresses on the way back to town.

Freida took her knitting along — “It’s a lovely day, I’ll be all right in the buggy, finally I’ll get some work done on this shawl” — and they set out, a well-rested Nellie-girl taking them quickly out of town. Freida hailed almost everyone they passed, calling out questions about their news and well-being even though those greeted had little time to answer before they were left behind. She did not, Joshua noticed, greet Clara Brook, apparently out for a walk on the outskirts of town; Joshua took it upon himself to wave instead, tipping his hat and receiving a grave nod in return.

Soon they were out in farm country and passing corn growing tall and green, with tassels stirring in the breeze, and here and there the vivid red flash of a Summer Tanager, all accompanied by the sweetly varied chirps of meadowlarks. Freida kept up a stream of chatter, with the rumbling buggy wheels as counterpoint. Quite a bit of it concerned the customer in such need of new clothing. Joshua’s vague sense that Freida was up to something soon yielded to the glum conviction that the whole errand was orchestrated to bring Joshua and the customer together. Joshua paid as little attention as he could manage, determined to form his own opinion.

The old woman’s leg was more swollen, the old bandages more saturated and odorous, than Joshua had hoped. She had probably ignored his instructions to stay off it as much as possible and keep it elevated. He repeated the orders she had already flouted, drained and cleaned the abscess again, bandaged the leg, and left with a dour sense of futility.

Back on the road, the fresh breeze and birdsong helped put him back in a tolerably good humor by the time they pulled up to a neat little farmhouse with flowering bushes lining the front. It did not look familiar. If the husband had taken ill after Joshua came to Cowbird Creek, it was possible they had called the doctor in Rushing for some reason, or that Joshua had been on one of his infrequent trips out of town.

Joshua helped Freida down and then retrieved the large linen-wrapped bundle that must contain the dresses. As they approached the door, Joshua could hear the murmur of a woman’s voice, the steady rhythm suggesting she was reading aloud. At Freida’s firm knock, the murmur ceased, and shortly afterward, the door opened to reveal a woman holding a little girl in her arms.

The woman was of less than medium height and seemed entirely composed of curves, from the loose curls allowed to escape and hang around her face, to her arm holding the child, to what he could see of her figure, to her gently welcoming smile. He must have seen her before, and probably more than once — in fact, she looked vaguely familiar, more than, say, Clara Brook had at first — but he had never noticed her face and figure. Perhaps he had encountered her only in winter, when she had been muffled in an overcoat.

She looked up at them, her round blue eyes lighting up as she stepped back to allow them inside. “Oh, thank you! I feared it might be days or even weeks before I could be decently dressed again.” Then she looked up at Joshua and said, “I’m Mrs. Arden. Thank you so much for bringing Mrs. Blum. Do come in.”


Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle’s childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9.

Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.

Hi Karen and thank you for being here today!

What inspired you to write What Heals the Heart?

Durned if I know! Some of my novels have grown out of news items, whether current events or accounts of scientific or technological advances. At least one started as a dream. But my earliest recollection of the seed for this book is a saved text file in which the protagonist was not a doctor but a private detective.

What led you to self-publish your novels?

Once I finished the rough draft of my novel Twin-Bred, I began reading every blog and Twitter feed I could find, as well as several books, about the publishing process. At first, I was learning how to query agents and publishers, and how to format a manuscript for submission. But the more I read, the more I realized two things:

–Self-publishing was eminently feasible and would give me much more control over content, marketing and timing.

–In the current state of the industry, there are serious risks involved in the traditional route. More and more agency and publication contracts include language that can seriously limit an author’s future options, while offering relatively little in exchange. Nor will the publisher who’s preparing your book for publication in eighteen months necessarily be in business that long.

Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter have inspired you?

Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God are brilliant treatments of the theme of human-alien communication difficulties, the subject of my Twin-Bred series. Like me, she started with science fiction and then turned to historical fiction. Her books inspire me even as their excellence intimidates me.

I have also tended to gravitate toward novelists who explore themes such as the irrevocable impact of actions and decisions, whether obviously momentous or seemingly trivial – novelists from the 19th Century author George Eliot to current YA author Caroline Cooney.

What do you like best about being a writer, and what do you dislike most about it?

I love it when the story decides to write itself! It’s a bit like being a medium and channeling some spirit. I also find it extremely rewarding when readers tell me that one of my novels has moved them or even helped them through a difficult time.

My greatest ongoing gripe is the amount of work involved in trying to increase my visibility in the crowded literary landscape. However, as that difficulty is inextricably connected to the greater opportunities for authors these days, I try to focus on the positive.

Do you plan to write more historical romance? More historical fiction in general? More about Cowbird Creek and its inhabitants?

Having taken the plunge into historical fiction – which I hope readers will consider an apt description of this novel, despite its belonging in the subgenre of historical romance – I think it likely I’ll paddle around for a while. First up will probably be a second romance set in Cowbird Creek, focusing on a couple of the secondary characters in What Heals the Heart. I’m also intrigued by the possibility of dealing more thoroughly and seriously with the impact of the Great Grasshopper Plague of 1874-1875, about which I learned only late in the process of writing this novel. After that – who knows?

I will, however, strive to finish editing another near-future SF novel, Donor, and may well publish it before the second Cowbird Creek book.

Why are most of your previous novels science fiction?

I’ve been reading (and to a lesser extent, watching) science fiction for so long that I tend to view experiences, such as walking my dog and wondering what she’s smelling, and new information, such as news stories about conjoined twins or womb twin survivors, through a science fiction lens.

Which of your previous novels are most likely to appeal to readers who enjoy What Heals the Heart?

I hope that even readers unfamiliar with science fiction will, if they give my SF novels a try, find a similar style, sensibility, and thematic focus in those stories. That said, perhaps the novel closest in tone to, and whose subject matter has most in common with, What Heals the Heart is Wander Home, a family drama with mystery and romance elements set in a re-imagined afterlife. This afterlife has features which lend themselves to the confrontation of lingering personal issues and unfinished business. For example, you can relive any memory in perfect detail – and if someone else who took part in the remembered scene is there with you, you can trade places and remember the events from the other person’s perspective. There are other aspects of the afterlife that, while serving this same purpose, are also just plain fun. You can be any age at any time, and visit any place that you remember or that anyone you meet – from any time in Earth’s history – remembers.

Wander Home concerns a mother who desperately wanted a child, but who left that child in the care of her parents and grandmother for unknown reasons. The child, grandparents, and great-grandmother die in an auto accident four years after the mother’s mysterious departure; the mother dies of stress cardiomyopathy (“broken heart syndrome”) some time later, and is reunited with the family she left behind.

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