Kat and L. J. Martin Telling Stories from Montana

Photo of Kat and L.J. Martin

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Quiet Day Manor

By SUZANNE WARING

Right after one of his novels hit the market, L. J. Martin received an email from a reader. A character in the novel had lit up a specific brand of cigar. In the email, the reader, who was apparently a stickler for facts, pointed out that the story took place in 1871, but that particular brand of cigar wasn’t sold until 1874. 

As writers, both L. J. and his wife, Kat, research their respective novels’ topics, locations, and era, but occasionally something small gets past them.

Both avid readers, L. J. and Kat Martin were in the California real estate business when Kat read L. J.’s first book. She told him, “This is really good.” 

Reading L. J.’s book made Kat think of the many romance/thriller novels she had read. Getting encouragement from L. J., she told herself, “I know I can write this type of novel.” 

The two of them decided L. J. would continue in the real estate business, and Kat would start writing. It took them three years before they could say they were published authors and seven years before their income from writing was adequate. 

Frequently, L. J. writes at night when he can’t sleep, or early in the morning. From the beginning, he wanted to write westerns and novels with a historical significance. He has added mysteries, thrillers, and non-fiction to the list of over 60 full-length published books.

L. J. now spends considerable time promoting the work that he and Kat do. He started out writing for the big publishing houses, but the final straw occurred when a copy editor continued to change “The mule hump-backed away” to “the mule backed away.” 

“There’s a big difference between ‘backed and hump-backed’,” L. J. said, “but it took months to convince the copy editor of that.” 

L. J. decided he was finished with the big publishing houses and, along with a friend, started his own publishing company, Wolfpack Publishing. When he got busy with other projects, he sold the company to his partner. 

Now L. J. publishes non-fiction through Amazon and does his own promoting, including designing his own book covers.

He published a young adult novel, Two Thousand Grueling Miles, in 2019. 

“I was concerned that children today have no concept of what it was like to move west in a covered wagon,” L. J. said. 

It took travelers at least five months to make the trip from the Midwest to the West Coast. The perils were limitless, resulting in 10 graves per mile along the rutted trail. L. J. decided to write a story about a 15-year-old whose father dies on the trip, leaving the boy in charge of finishing the trek.

The book was on the young adult best seller’s list for five months. 

L. J.’s latest book, The Songbird’s Sting, came out in April.

Besides writing, L. J. loves the outdoors. When he was in high school, his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., was the birthplace of the country music genre known as the Bakersfield sound. 

He basked in that cowboy atmosphere. One summer, he even worked as a wrangler at a boys’ camp. He continues to enjoy landscape and wildlife photography, hunting, and fishing, and Montana is the perfect place to pursue these hobbies. 

He and Kat found and bought their Montana property 26 years ago when they were on a trip to the Western Writers of America Conference. L. J. studied architecture in college, so he designed their home that nestles in the shadow of the Sapphire Mountains.

This summer L. J. will be working with David Mirisch (See the Apr/May issue of MSN) to produce a movie based on L. J.’s book, Eye for Eye. He also wrote the screen play for the movie, which will be shot in Montana.

The Martins work on their own during the day, meeting up at the end of the day over a glass of wine before dinner. 

Kat gets to the computer around 9 a.m. and first checks her webpage and Facebook to respond to readers. She looks at her email for messages from her publisher or agent. Then she starts writing and keeps at it until around 6 p.m. 

“If you don’t write and produce stories, you have no income,” said Kat. On the days that she isn’t writing, she sometimes feels lost. 

Kat’s books have been on the New York Times best-selling list 20 times with the highest being fourth on the list. She has published 80 historical and contemporary romantic/suspense novels. 

All together, 16 million copies of her books have been sold in 20 countries. 

“I write stories with a big canvas. Even my novellas wind up with a bigger plot,” she said. Her two latest books, Come Midnight and The Perfect Murder, will be coming out in June. 

Kat’s books are presently published by Kensington Publishing, which is a family owned business. 

“They promote the books they publish while other companies depend solely on the author to do the promoting,” said Kat. 

The Martins love to travel. Whenever they choose a particular setting for a novel, they get interested in the area. They have been all over the world, from Europe to Central America and to the South Pacific.

Using western settings, L. J. has traveled throughout the western United States, including throughout Montana. 

In addition to getting ideas for their novels from their travels, they might get an idea from a newspaper article or a comment someone makes. 

“I saw an article in the newspaper about an army chemical weapons depot in Colorado, and it occurred to me that a story about stealing chemicals might make a great romantic thriller,” said Kat. “The book became The Ultimate Betrayal. Of course, it had nothing to do with the newspaper article.” 

Although the Martins are close to reaching retirement age, they do not intend to quit writing. 

“We have too much fun with all that writing entails,” said L. J. MSN

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