Pema Donyo is the eighteen-year-old author of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter. She is also a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and… college. She’s a firm believer in the healing power of endless cups of coffee and espresso shots, staying up until 3AM, cheesy British period dramas, and the Beyonce Voters Tumblr page. Find her rambles/rants about writing, reading, and life in general on her website’s blog.
ONE LAST LETTER
Genre: Historical romance, Western
A romantic hardened by reality… Evelyn Lancaster turned her back on her love for ranch hand Jesse Greenwood when she was sixteen to pursue a career and marry into wealth that could save her father’s struggling ranch. Now twenty-three, she works hard to keep the property afloat, but no suitor has stirred her heart the way Jesse did. After her father falls ill, she needs all the help she can get to keep the ranch running.
A cowboy returning to what he left behind… After making his fortune, a newly wealthy Jesse has returned home to see his younger sister married. Still smarting from Evelyn’s rejection, he finds the tables have turned, and now only his investment could save the ranch that he vowed to never step foot on again.
When he agrees to help her salvage her family legacy, they must overcome their pride and painful past to work together. As long-held emotions rekindle, Jesse pretends indifference, only to admit his true feelings in an unsigned letter left on Evelyn’s porch.
Evelyn finds the missive and writes back, beginning a furtive correspondence. She dares to hope her mystery admirer is Jesse, but then another man comes forward to claim the letters as his own. Will one last letter give them the courage to say yes to love on the wild Texas plains?
Tell us about your latest book? Any secrets or snippets you can share?
Thanks for having me, Jean! One Last Letter is a historical western romance. It also happens to be a completely new ball game for me! I’m used to writing romantic suspense stories with lots of action and adventure – not to say there isn’t plenty of that in One Last Letter … just with a bit more horse riding than I’m used to.
The story opens with a sixteen-year-old Evelyn Lancaster, daughter of a prominent plantation owner, rejecting her childhood sweetheart, seventeen-year-old Jesse Greenwood, a ranch hand on her father’s plantation. He goes out west to California to make his fortune and comes back a wealthy man years later. Time has passed, but it hasn’t lessened his love for Evelyn nor her love for him. The plantation’s fallen on hard times, and he offers his investment to help pay the ranch’s debts. Yet his heart’s become too guarded to admit his true feelings to her in person. Evelyn starts to receive anonymous love letters from a secret admirer, and she dares to hope the letters come from Jesse. Yet another suitor steps on the scene, a man from a blue-blooded family nearly as established as Evelyn’s. Will Jesse possess the courage to admit how he feels before it’s too late, and will Evelyn swallow her pride to admit her own mistake?
Secrets and spoilers time!
Expect deadly fires, runaway brides, passionate confrontations, a headstrong heroine, and an eloquent cowboy. I love Evelyn because she’s intelligent and she’s analytical. At the same time, she prefers physical tasks and loves working on the ranch. And of course I have a soft spot in my heart for Jesse because he’s a born writer, even though you would never catch him admitting so.
What inspired you to write it?
I know so many couples who communicate mainly through texting, especially for those who are long-distance. I thought, “How did people connect without texting?” Letters. Nothing’s changed, really. Many say texting’s replaced actual face-to-face communication, but we thought of plenty of ways to express ourselves without being face-to-face for centuries through letters. It’s easiest for me to express myself through writing, and I’m sure there are plenty of others who feel the same way. While I can’t say I’ve pulled a Jesse and written love letters to anyone before, I would probably do the same thing if I was in his situation. There’s something so romantic about letters as well. It’s your handwriting; it’s your unedited and unabashed emotions spilling themselves onto a page.
What is your biggest challenge as an Author?
It’s definitely time. Since I’m still in college, most of my writing happens during breaks. Otherwise it’s homework and hanging out with friends and trying to figure out my major. So when I do have time to write, I take full advantage of it. I type about 5,000 words a day when I’m deep in a story and usually finish up a first draft in three weeks. Then it’s merciless rounds of editing and rewriting and submitting. When I’m immersed in my manuscript, it pretty much occupies all of my time. I’m thankful that I can churn out a story so quickly, especially considering my ‘writing periods’ are confined to summer and winter breaks.
What are you cooking up next? Will we see more of Evelyn and Jesse? What can readers expect?
I just finished a New Adult contemporary called A Truth University Acknowledged. It’s a college spin on Pride and Prejudice and I’m so excited about it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved exploring the time period of the American West while writing One Last Letter, and my favorite kinds of books are still edge-of-your-seat thrillers like The Innocent Assassins. But New Adult’s a genre that’s close to my heart because those are the years I’m currently experiencing. I’ve read so many New Adult books featuring college heroines that made me wonder, “Wait – college students don’t do that. Where can I find an actual representation of today’s college life?” So I decided to write one.
Elizabeth and Darcy are perfect for the college scene. Elizabeth’s a new adult herself, and she’s still trying to find her place in the world. Part of being a new adult is having all these passions but still not knowing what exactly we’re going to do with them. Darcy’s so awkward most of the time; he’s the perfect aloof and withdrawn sophomore. I wanted to write a college story from a current college student’s perspective, and I’m happy with the result.
Where can readers find you and your books?
Find me at –
FIND ONE LAST LETTER AT –
Open MIC FAV five
- Favorite hero or heroine:
- Favorite hero will always be Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. He’s intelligent, hard-working, and supportive of Anne. I love Crombie’s portrayal of him in the Sullivan Entertainment series.
- Favorite author:
- When it comes to historical romance, Lorraine Heath. Her characters are complex and lifelike.
- Favorite music to write by:
- Dan + Shay for westerns!
- Favorite inspiration:
- Rejection. It’s the best fuel to improve and move forward.
- Most memorable moment:
- First rejection from a publishing company. I was eleven and querying a middle-grade novel I wrote. I saw the rejection e-mail and thought, “Okay, fine. I’ll write another one.”
- Relationship advice:
- Never change yourself for anyone.
Excerpt ~ One Last Letter by Pema Donyo
Evelyn Lancaster wanted to run away as fast as possible.
It was a mistake. It was one colossal, gargantuan mistake. Worse than Athens ordering the death of Socrates. Worse than Persephone being kidnapped by Hades. What did she think she was going to do? Seconds ticked by as she found herself unable to say anything more. Her mouth felt dry. What was she supposed to say?
He’d changed, more than she would have ever imagined possible. The boyish frame was filled out, and extra years working on the ranch had defined the muscles in his arms under his coarse brown shirt. He’d even grown taller—past six feet, she guessed. His shoulders were broader, and his cheekbones seemed more pronounced than before. His face carried even more of an aristocratic air, but his body seemed undeniably more masculine.
Yet the expression was the same. Jesse Greenwood’s same reticent, admiring expression hadn’t changed as he continued to stare at her like she was hand-blown glass. His brown hair still flopped lightly in front of his eyes, causing him to brush it away.
She winced. She hadn’t heard that nickname since she’d left Hamilton, Texas, for the female seminary in Massachusetts. No one there ever called her Eve. During classes she’d been “Miss Evelyn” and “Miss Lancaster.”
She cleared her throat. She’d anticipated the awkwardness but not the simple difficulty in forming words. “I returned home a few hours ago. I thought I should stop by and say hello. Is Preston here? Are any of the other ranch hands here?”
Jesse blinked. He didn’t respond for a few seconds. The adoring expression morphed to one of disbelief. “Eve, did you get my letters?”
She bit her lip. “I did.” Evelyn resisted the urge to embrace him. Doing so would only make it harder to answer his questions with a lie. Instead, she stood rooted to the spot. She wouldn’t move a muscle; there was too much she could regret. “They were nice letters. Thank you. But I burned them.”
His eyes became cool steel, all traces of admiration in his eyes melting away. “Burned them? But you . . .” His jaw was set. “Eve, why didn’t you write me back?”
“I was busy.” She tore her eyes away from Jesse’s searing gaze and tried to look behind his shoulder. The sinking feeling in her chest was surely no more than an echo of the past. She needed to leave before all rationality left her. “Just let all the other ranch hands know I stopped by.”
“Stop. Eve, I said stop.” Strong hands grabbed both of her shoulders, and she looked up in alarm toward his furrowed brow and confused expression. His voice was so much deeper than she’d remembered. “That’s all? You couldn’t once respond to me?”
She struggled to push against him, but he held her in place. His tone was rough. It increased in volume, rising with each word that tumbled out of his mouth.
“What about the promise I made to you? When you told me that you wanted to marry—”
“Enough!” Evelyn yanked herself out of his hold and glared. She breathed deeply, as if the extra air would give her the courage she couldn’t truly conjure up. “I remember what you are referring to. I did receive your letters. I thank you for them. But I did not respond to you because whatever we had before I left for school . . .” She gulped. The polite tone of indifference faded. “This has to end.”
Thanks so much for hosting me, Jean!
And happy reading everyone.