Message From The Author

Haywood Smith

Genre: Historical Romance

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Author's Message

Damask Rose

When you meet Haywood, her bright voice, upbeat attitude and Katie Couric smile are the first traits you notice.

Then you read her books and meet their complex, soulful characters. She has a depth to her storytelling that belies her sunny, carefree persona.

Her fun-loving side emerged early, during an era when folks whiled away the evenings on their porches as the children played. "Air conditioning ruined Southern society," she contends. "Before, people chose to sit in the cool evening air outside. Neighbors got to know one another on a level you just don't see today."

Young Haywood also loved reading. Atypically, she did not turn to books because of a shy or introverted personality. "My sister was the goody-two-shoes," she declares. "I was the wild one." Books offered a refuge during several hospital stays to correct orthopedic problems in her legs. Forced into bed, the active girl turned to stories. Her physical limits taught her early that life contains both good and bad.

"On the whole, I'm fine today," she reports, "but there are certain things I can't do. My reaction time isn't very good. A couple of weeks ago, I was standing at a window and leaned forward to look through the blinds. I tilted off balance and couldn't recover." She laughs, recalling her undignified spill. "I tried to convince an acquaintance who was with me that I wasn't drunk-I'm not sure he believed me."

Happily, few shadows have darkened her life these last few years. 1998 marks Haywood's 30th wedding anniversary. "I married the right man for all the wrong reasons," she says. "I was 19 and I wanted a space of my own...privacy."

Haywood's son graduated with honors last year with a degree in biogenetics, the proud mom happily announces. His achievement is especially important to Haywood since she had trouble conceiving. And at only four months old, he was diagnosed with a form of liver cancer for which the doctors held out little hope of recovery.

"I had trouble bonding with him at first," Haywood says candidly. "I was scared that if I did, it would hurt too much if he died. Then my doctor sat me down and said that if I didn't fight for him, he wouldn't fight for himself." Haywood quickly changed her attitude, and now cancer-free, her 6'1" athletic son is currently canvassing medical schools.

Her ability to combine optimism and realism surfaces in another aspect of her life. "My pet project is called the S.T.A.R. House. We have 30 at-risk kids in after school programs," she says. "Each child will have one-on-one tutoring and/or mentoring sessions three days a week. The ideal would be six days a week, but we don't have the money for that." Haywood's passion for the S.T.A.R. foundation influenced her publisher, St. Martin's Press, to donate books to a fair benefitting the organization.

This year holds yet another triumph. Out of all the May releases, RT reviewers had the tough task of selecting approximately 25 Top Picks; Haywood's Damask Rose made the cut.

"In this book, I wanted to portray the transforming power of sacrificial love. Love is not as simple as we want to think. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to love again after being hurt," she says. "I play a lot with the Hades/Persephone myth." (Hades, the god of the underworld, kidnapped innocent Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the seasons.)

Set in medieval Scotland, DAMASK ROSE follows a gentle woman with mystical pow

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