Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Heroine Interview aka Excon

Fresh out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary armed with a marketing degree, Kate Neilson heads to Wyoming anticipating an anonymous new beginning as a guest-ranch employee. A typical twenty-five-year-old woman might be looking to lasso a cowboy, but her only desire is to get on with life on the outside—despite her growing interest in the ranch owner. When she discovers a violent ex-lover followed her west, she fears the past she hoped to hide will imprison her once again.

 Heroine Interview:
1.       KATE NEILSON, tell me the most interesting thing about you.

This is embarrassing, but I have a feeling people who knew me in Pennsylvania would say the most interesting thing about me is the fact I spent five years in prison. I like to think I’m interesting because I’m a totally different person now than when I was first incarcerated. Don’t get me wrong! Prison was awful. I never want to return. Lots of bad stuff happened to me there. But some really good things also happened that changed my life—for the better.

2.  What do you do for fun?

Line dance! I had never tried line-dancing before I moved to the ranch. It’s loads of fun and great exercise.

3.  What do you put off doing because you dread it?

I avoid telling people what my life was like before I came to Wyoming. When I lived on the streets in Pittsburgh, I committed about every crime a person can commit, except murder. I know someday, somewhere, somehow, people here will discover I’m an ex-felon. I dread seeing their responses when they find out who the real me is, so I’m pretty vague about my history.

4.  What are you afraid of most in life?

I’m afraid my boss will find out about my past and I’ll lose the internship I’m doing at the ranch to fulfill requirements for the marketing degree I earned while I was in prison. Working on a guest ranch is a dream come true for me, something I’ve longed for since I was a little girl. Plus, I love the Whispering Pines ranch. It’s beautiful here and the people are really nice. It’s a great place to work.

5.  What do you want out of life?

I want to live a normal life and have a real family to call my own. I spent most of my younger years in foster homes and my teen years either on the streets or in jail. That’s why I need to keep my internship, which has the potential to become a permanent job. It’s hard for ex-felons to find work, especially work they like. With steady employment, I can be a productive citizen, one who contributes to society rather than takes from it.

6.  What is the most important thing to you?

This may sound strange, but I think I need to grow up in some aspects of my life and become more childlike in other areas. I didn’t have much fun as a kid, so I can be too serious at times. Plus, some things happened to me when I was young that make it hard for me to trust people—and God. I became a Christian in prison, so learning to trust God is what I want most in life, but it’s hard to let down my guard. I have a sneaking suspicion that growing up and becoming more childlike are both somehow intertwined with trusting God.

7.  Do you read? If so, what is your favorite type of book to read?

Now that I’ve become a Christian, I’m fascinated by the Bible, partly because the two women I admire the most, my Great-Aunt Mary and my good friend Dymple, have both shared their love for God and his Word with me. I also like to read novels, those where the good guys and gals not only win but become better people. I have to admit, however, that after living on the streets, I find the plots of some books a bit too idealistic.

8.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My first reaction was to say I’d change my past. But I’m learning God has a plan and a purpose for everyone and everything that happens to us. Still, I wish I could have known my parents and my brother longer. I barely remember them, which makes me sad.

9.  Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?

My real family had a cocker spaniel named Trudy. She was a sweet dog. I miss her almost as much as I miss my parents and my brother. Here at the ranch, the owner, Mike Duncan, has a collie named Tramp. Tramp is a sweet dog, too, and very attached to his master, who obviously loves his dog. From my experience, men who love their pets and are good to them tend to be really nice guys. That’s definitely the case with Mike!

10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?
Though it would be interesting to visit the West when it was first being settled and to talk with early pioneers, I’d probably want to return to the days just before I lost my family. I couldn’t change what happened to them, but I could hug my mom and my dad and my brother again and again and tell them how much I love them.

Though debut novelist Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, she and her husband, Steve, currently live in the neighboring state of Idaho. She enjoys the creativity and beauty that abound throughout her adopted state as well as opportunities to hike, camp, snowshoe and cross-country ski in the midst of God’s grandeur. While hiking in the Wyoming mountains one summer, she came nose-to-nose with—well, several feet from—a beautiful white wolf. Currently, she’s working on a Winds of Wyoming sequel titled Winds of Freedom. http://www.beckylyles.com; http://www.widgetwords.wordpress.com


  1. You are most welcome Becky! I'm thrilled to be able to get to know your heroine better. She's great!