Message From The Author
FINDS PEACE AND PASSION IN HER DESERT PARADISE
By Cheryl A. Hoahing
Why would a bestselling novelist leave New York high society for the rural roads of Arizona? For Brenda Joyce, it was to turn her childhood dream of riding horses into a reality.
"I've loved horses my whole life," she explains. "At 3, I wished I was a cowgirl. At 40, I finally moved out west."
After growing up in New York and then living in various states and countries (like California, Israel and Colorado), Joyce and her family--husband Elie Senior and 14-year-old son Adam--finally settled down three years ago in Tucson, where she can raise and ride horses. The family couldn't be happier.
Joyce found her current digs after looking at houses in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Phoenix. She knew she wanted to be in a warm climate with lots of space for her 10 horses to roam. The minute she set foot in the brand-new house she now owns, she knew it was meant to be hers. "I loved what the builder did with beams in the ceiling and stained cement that looks like tiles," says Joyce. "All I had to do was furnish it."
The Santa Fe-style home sits on 3.88 acres of lush desert vegetation. It's one story, an architectural standard for most Southwestern-style homes. Filled with rich colors like blues, reds, oranges and greens, the house features a kitchen (with a counter and breakfast area), two bedrooms, two offices, two-and-a-half bathrooms and a great room. In fact, the great room is Joyce's favorite part of the 5,000-sq.-foot house. It's a huge, "funny-shaped" space with high ceilings that's three rooms in one: dining room, living room (with fireplace) and media room.
In addition to the main house, there is a casita (a small guest house) about 30 feet away, featuring a living area (with fireplace), bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom.
Outside are a barn, a riding area, a dirt bike trail for Adam and paths for walking. Every morning, Joyce spends about 90 minutes walking her three dogs--8-month-old German shepherd Razz; pit bull/Great Dane mix Jack, whom she rescued in Brooklyn, New York; and Labrador/golden retriever mix Sam, whom the author says, "I rescued in Tucson when Jack vanished for two days and I was looking for him at the pound."
The family plans on adding a pool to the property to keep cool in the desert heat, which averages around 99 degrees during the summer. "Seventy degrees
is cold to me," says Joyce with a laugh.
On two sides of the house Joyce has neighbors. The other two sides border the Saguaro National Park. "We can walk, run or ride from our property right into the park," says Joyce.
"It's a very quiet, low-density area," adds the author about her sanctuary. "It's really quiet even though we're on the edge of the city--a car won't go by for two hours." But Joyce may encounter some of the wild animals that inhabit the area during the course of the day, including coyotes, deer, mountain lions, owls and javelinas (an animal that resembles a wild pig but is related to rodents).
Even though Joyce loves her home and continues to be enthralled by it, she is already thinking about moving on--but in five years, when her son heads off to college. No, she's not planning on returning to big-city living--that's all in her past and something she does not miss ("I really love Arizona," she says several times during her chat with RT). Instead, her next move will be to further upgrade her country-gal lifestyle.
"I'm looking for more land so we can have more horses," Joyce says. "We're going to buy 10 acres closer to Scottsdale and build a Spanish-style Old World hacienda with a red tile roof and whitewashed stucco."
Showing horses has become Joyce's biggest passion. "I show Arabian and half-Arabian horses, which I consider the most athletic, versatile and personable of all horse breeds," says the excited equestrian. "And, of course, they are drop-dead gorgeous!"
Right now, Joyce trains twice a week and travels to about 10 shows per year, competing in a discipline called reining.
"Reining is very difficult," she explains. "It's based on the cowboys working cows--cutting them, roping them, driving them. The rider is given a pattern to perform, which usually takes four to five minutes. Every pattern has the following maneuvers: two sets of three circles (two big and fast and one small), two lead changes (changes of direction), three run downs (gallops) to sliding stops, two spins (where the horse pivots around his inside hind leg 360 degrees four times) and there is a backup of at least 10 steps. The exhibitor's horse is judged and penalized or awarded extra points for every maneuver. It's really competitive, really intense and really exciting--it's a journey for me and my horse."
Calling her horses "family," Joyce
thoroughly enjoys being a cowgirl. She even says that it is "very rewarding to clean a stall."
At a recent regional championship competition in Del Mar, California, Joyce and her horse Firestorm placed in the top five. Firestorm, Joyce fans may recall, is also the name of her second published novel. "It was karma," Joyce says about finding her "best buddy."
"They all have personalities," she adds. Joyce's horses include Firestorm, CC Mirage, Blank Czeque, Too Much Fun (who is pregnant), one tentatively named BJ Dark Hero, TR Chex to Cash (whom she calls "Catch") and Absolut.
Back at the house, when not spending time outdoors with her gaggle of pets, Joyce can be found sitting on her couch with
a glass of wine watching General Hospital or, more likely, in her office creating new novels.
In her office, Joyce has a 6-foot dining table for her laptop computer and two printers; a separate desk to sit at when doing research; and an armoire that holds all of her reference books. A self-proclaimed "morning person," Joyce prefers doing her writing between 10 am and 2 pm.
"When I'm writing, I time-travel," she reveals. "I become these characters--it's an out-of-body experience and why my books are so intense."
This September, Joyce releases the second title in her five-part de Warenne Dynasty series, which marks her return to
the sweeping historical romances readers most love her for.
Following 2004's The Prize (Mira), The Masquerade
(Mira) takes place in Ireland in the early 1800s, just as the Napoleonic Wars are ending. The heroine is Elizabeth Anne Fitzgerald, who has spent her entire life in love with the dashing lord Tyrell de Warenne. "She's impoverished and he is an heir," explains Joyce. "[One day] she shows up on his doorstep with a child, claiming it's his. It's a Cinderella story."
The book is not as long as Joyce's previous historicals--she consciously cut about 100 pages from the book's end, which is what the market dictates, Joyce wryly notes. "The Masquerade is a little shorter and a little simpler [than my other books] without losing inten-sity. There's not quite as much history, but there's more romance and a lot of plot,"
The saga will pick up again in October 2006's The Stolen Bride (HQN), the story of Eleanor de Warenne and Sean O'Neill. The fourth book, still untitled, will
come out six months later.
"I don't know how this family appeared," Joyce says in her thinking voice about the de Warennes, who first appeared in 1989's The Conqueror (Dell) and then in 1993's Promise of the Rose (Avon). "There's
so much to do with this family's history," she says about future tomes.
"It'll be fun!"
So, why did Joyce take a break from writing historicals after publishing 1998's The Rival (St. Martin's)? "I'd written so many historicals--I did 20 [books] in 10 years," says the author. "I started to feel like, 'Where can I go?' I watched the huge success of contemporaries and jumped the
ship. I needed the break."
Joyce wanted to further challenge herself and penned three mainstream suspense novels for St. Martin's--The Third Heiress ('99), House of Dreams ('00) and The Chase ('02). She then began crafting tomes for her Deadly series, which features turn-of-the-20th-century amateur sleuth Francesca Cahill. Mira will publish the next novel in that series, Deadly Kisses, in February.
Even though Joyce has written novels with equally fascinating leading men for several genres, she says, "I prefer a historical hero to a contemporary one any day--I love sexy heroes that you'll never meet in real life."
Looking back on her prolific career as a bestselling novelist, which began in 1988 with Innocent Fire (Avon), Joyce says that the key to her success is that she never writes the same story twice--and she never forces herself to write. "I'm organized with my writing," she adds. "I've never missed a deadline--I'm usually early."
As for the future, Joyce pokes fun at her own whimsical ways and says: "In five or six years, I'll probably want to do something completely different."
But regardless of what she does next, Joyce is content with her life just the way it is "I've had enough success that I can live happily for the rest of my life," Joyce says. "I'm fortunate and blessed that I have a healthy body and healthy mind and a wonderful family. I'm really, really lucky--and I know I'm lucky!"
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