An Interview with Eliza Brooks from Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly

Good afternoon, miss. I can see you’re in a hurry, but can you spare a moment to answer a few questions for the readers of Novel PASTimes?

Yes, but only a few, I’m anxious to board my ship.

Of course, as are most of the people we’ve spoken with on the wharf today. Shall we begin with your name?

My name is Eliza Brooks—though some folks may know me as Eli. 

That’s a rather unusual name for young lady. 

Well, Aunt Cecilia doesn’t like me to talk about it, but I spent some time working the gold fields with Pa. He thought it’d be safer for me to dress as a boy while we were there. Using my full name would have given the pie away, so we shortened it.

I find it difficult to believe a woman as lovely as you managed to pass herself off as a boy. 

Well, that was a few years back. Things have changed a lot since then. 

Eliza is a lovely name. Is there a story behind it?

I was named after my grandmother—Pa’s ma. Her name was Elizabeth and at first my parents wanted to name me that, but grandma insisted it would be too confusing. So they shortened it to Eliza.

Are you close with your grandmother?
She passed on a few years back. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much more than her pretty smile and warm hugs. She lived in Ohio and my folks moved us out west when I was just seven because Ma had a hankering for adventure and Pa never could tell her no.

He must really love her.

More than you can know. I only hope I can someday find someone to love and who loves me as much they loved each other. You should have seen them waltz. It was like you’d imagine in the fairytales—the ones that fancy tutor read. He had a funny English accent and was supposed to be turning me into a lady, but I drove him so crazy, he finally gave up and started reading in the corner every day until my aunt caught him at it and fired him. Poor man. It wasn’t his fault I had no interest in things like serving a proper tea. Why a person can’t just fill the cups, pass them out, and let people add their own cream or sugar or honey or whatever, I’ll never understand. 

Is it safe to assume you and your aunt don’t get along well?

That’s putting it mildly. She’s been trying to get rid of me since the day we met. Lately she’s been trying to marry me off to anyone dumb enough to accept her supper invitations. 

I’m sorry to hear that.

Thanks, but I’d rather not talk about her anymore. She just did something… Look, Can we please just talk about something else?

No problem. It sounds like you’ve lived something of an adventurous life, traveling from Ohio, living in the gold fields, and now you’re in San Francisco. 

Pa and I lived in Oregon, too, before we came to California.

Were you homesteaders there?

We were and I loved it. It’s so beautiful, so peaceful. No dirty miners turning the rivers to muck and scaring off all the game. No noisy street vendors or drunks wandering the streets. Just the trees and the birds and the little cabin Pa and I built together.

Is that where you’re off to now?

No, I’m boarding the Virginia bound for San Diego. 

Where’s your escort?

I’ll be traveling with the captain’s wife. She’s waiting for me onboard. Speaking of which, I’d better get going. 

Please wait. I only have a few more questions.

*tapping her foot* Very well, but make it quick. This carpetbag is getting heavy. 

What draws you to such a small port town like San Diego?

My pa is there.

You appear anxious. What’s troubling you?

I haven’t received a letter from him in months. 

Is that unsual?

Yes! Why does no one understand that? Pa would never just stop writing me without explanation. Something has happened and I must find him. He needs me.

Find him? I thought you said he was in San Diego. 

Well, that’s where his last letter said he was going to look for work. 

But you said it’s been months since you received that letter. Wouldn’t he have moved on by now?

Of course, he may have moved on, but it’s the only clue I have and I’ve got to start somewhere. I can’t just keep waiting when he might be lying on his sickbed somewhere, wishing I would to come to him. Wouldn’t you go if you’re pa were missing?

My pa can handle himself. 

Well, mine can’t. Not really. He forgets to eat, to sleep. He works himself until he’s sick if I’m not there to remind him to take a break.

What if you don’t find him?

willfind him.

I say, who is that gentleman glaring down at us from the deck of the Virginia?

Oh, that’s just Mr. Clarke. He’s a carpenter who used to work for my uncle but Mr. Clarke’s headed back east now. Apparently his fiancée is waiting for him.  

He doesn’t appear pleased to see you.

There was a misunderstanding when he came to supper at my aunt and uncle’s house a couple weeks ago. I’d rather not discuss it. In fact, I really must board now. The captain’s wife will be wondering where I am.

Very well. Thank you for taking this time to speak with us, Miss. Brooks. I wish you a safe journey and will pray that you find your father healthy and happy to see you.

I appreciate that. Good day.

Kathleen Denly writes stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. She enjoys finding the lesser known pockets of history and bringing them to life through the joys and struggles of her characters.

Sunny southern California, a favorite setting in her stories, is also her home. She lives there with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories.

Kathleen’s debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness,released February 4, 2020 and is available wherever books are sold.

When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, she spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

Kathleen is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the San Diego Christian Writers’ Guild.

Always happy to hear from her readers, you can email Kathleen and follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest. You might also consider joining Kathleen’s Readers’ Clubto learn the latest updates, receive exclusive content and be eligible for KRC exclusive giveaways!

Meet Millie from Salt the Snow by Carrie Callaghan

Excuse me, Miss Bennett, I know you’re running to file a story with your newspaper, but do you have a minute to chat?

I get to be on the receiving end of an interview? You bet.

Thanks. Here, drinks are on me — let’s get two vodkas. Now, tell me, how long have you been in Moscow?

Swell stuff, this vodka. I showed up here at the beginning of this year. February. So it’s been six months now.

What do you make of Russia?

For starters, the winter is way too long. They were still chipping ice out of the river in June, and the building I’m living in only turns the heat on every other day. Though these white nights in summer are to die for. Not that I’m complaining. It’s hard work building a new kind of life here, and I’m glad I get to watch the rooskies try. I love their sense of humor and adventure — I think they have a lot in common with us Americans.

Miss Bennett, you’ve been married before, but aren’t attached at the moment. Is that right?

Ah, Mike Mitchell, that was my first husband. A swell guy, but we weren’t cut out for marriage. Or he wasn’t. 

But are you seeing anyone now?

Well, there is one young man. He’s an actor in the opera and he says he used to live in a palace when he was a kid (don’t tell the secret police about his class history). We do like to go on long walks around the city.

What do you want to accomplish in your time in Moscow?

Look, my friends back in San Francisco tell me that everything there is washed up. The Depression is eating them alive. I came here … for personal reasons but also because I wanted to see if the Soviets could find another way to do right by the little guy. I’m not sure they can, but I’m here to write some stories about how they’re trying. And maybe I’ll help the English-speaking workers here feel a little more at home.

There are English-speaking workers in Moscow?

Sure there are! The Bolsheviks have invited all sorts of foreigners in to help them learn the things that Russians couldn’t learn while stuck in feudalism. They’re industrializing, and it’s pretty swell to watch.

What do you do for fun?

You’d think with all the writing I do for work that I’d be sick of my typewriter, but an unanswered letter bothers me like a cherry stone under a saucer. And I do love keeping up with my friends back home, so I write a lot of letters. The lady I’m staying with is also one of the editors at the newspaper I’m working at, so she doesn’t have much time for socializing. But I think I’m meeting some new people to go to parties with. I hope.

And there’s that former palace-dweller of yours.

I’m not sure he’s mine! Though he is handsome.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of coming to Russia?

Bring a warm coat! And an open mind. I see so many high-minded people strutting through here who have already decided what we’re about before they even see Moscow. This city’s always changing, and you never know what you’re going to find.

We’re excited to see what you find, Milly! Now go file that story, and we can’t wait to read what you do next.

Carrie Callaghan is the author of “Salt the Snow,” (Amberjack, Feb. 4, 2020), her second novel. She lives in Maryland with her family, where she drinks altogether too much tea. She’d love to hear from you on Twitteror Facebook.

An Interview with Emma Malcolm from Heidi Chiavaroli’s The Tea Chest

Novel PASTimes:Welcome to Novel Pastimes, Emma. I see you had a hand in participating in the Boston Tea Party?

Emma: Party? I’m afraid I don’t understand.

Novel PASTimes: You know, the dumping of the tea on the night of December 16, 1773?

Emma: Oh, the dumping of the tea! Aye, though I can’t think of a more tension-filled party to be at. True, there was quite a crowd that night, but the silence while the men dumped the tea was almost eerie, so secretive—nothing at all fitting for a party. I remember the cracking and splitting of the chests echoing off the water. ’Twas so quiet we could hear the tea leaves falling into the frigid harbor. We could inhale their exotic scent. An odd party, indeed.

Novel PASTimes:Wow. Sounds like quite an experience. And yet, I’m confused, for it appears you are the daughter of feared customs official John Malcolm. How did you come to be a part of such a treasonous event?

Emma:Please know I didn’t enter into any of this lightly. My father is a man of the Crown, but after befriending the Fultons and a printer’s apprentice named Noah, I came to see their side of things. My own father stifled my voice much like the Crown attempted to do with the colonies. He wanted me to marry Samuel Clarke, a dreadful man. I suppose it only natural that I fell on the side of liberty. Still, it doesn’t make what some of the Patriots did to my father right. Tarring and feathering is a brutal business and I will never forget the horror of that night.

Novel PASTimes: I am so sorry, and what a difficult place to be caught in. Tell us, what part did you play in the dumping of the tea?

Emma:I came up with the idea of using Mohawk disguises. Most who participated adopted this, and I aided Noah in his masquerade. If only we had taken more care with the oath . . .

Novel PASTimes: Oath?

Emma: ’Twas a round robin to which the men signed their names. An oath of honor and secrecy. I was careless with it—I should have burned it the minute I realized Noah had left it behind. But I feared he had need of it. If only Samuel hadn’t found me with it! After that, I had no choice but to protect those I loved, even if it meant giving up the life I longed for, even if it meant marrying Samuel.

Novel PASTimes: How horrible for you. How did you bear it?

Emma: Mayhap we should save some of the enticing parts for the story?

Novel PASTimes: Oh, forgive me. You’re absolutely right. Maybe instead you could tell us of the tea chest handed down in your family over the generations?

Emma: Was it? That does make my heart merry. I found that chest the morning after the dumping of the tea. For me, it symbolized what I shared with Noah and the Fultons, something I could no longer embrace in a marriage to Samuel. ’Tis still very painful to speak of.

Novel PASTimes:Of course. Perhaps you could talk of your time at Bunker Hill, instead? Or your daring mission into enemy-occupied Boston?

Emma: None of these topics are for the faint of heart, I’m afraid. I will never forget how I worked alongside Sarah Fulton to nurse the men in that field in Medford after Bunker Hill. My eyes have never seen such horror, and I pray they never do again. And Noah . . . the remembrance of it is still too much to bear. Yet time has eased the pain in some ways as well. Looking back, I can see the Lord’s hand in the midst of our darkness. He never did leave us. And when freedom finally came for our country, I felt it mirrored the eternal freedom stirring in my soul as well.

Novel PASTimes: That is beautiful. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. We look forward to reading more of your story!

Heidi Chiavaroli writes women’s fiction, exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic TimesTop Pick and a BooklistTop Ten Romance Debut. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and her two sons.

Meet Leah from Sarah Sundin's The Land Beneath Us

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Tell us something about where you live.

I recently moved in to a boardinghouse in Tullahoma, Tennessee, where I live with other women who work at the Army’s Camp Forrest. After having lived in an orphanage since I was four, it feels decadent to share a room with only one girl and to have a bed all my own!

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

My name is Leah Jones, but it isn’t really my own. My parents named me Thalia, and I believe I was named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry. When they died and I was sent to the orphanage, my name was shortened to Leah. Jones comes from the couple who adopted me, only to abandon me to another orphanage shortly thereafter. My parents’ last name was long and Greek and sounded something like “Ka-wa-los.” More than anything, I’d like to know what my name was. Maybe then I could find my baby sisters.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

I work as a librarian at the Army base library at Camp Forrest. Becoming a librarian has been my dream, and I’m thrilled that it’s coming true. I love everything about my work—the books, the soldiers who are discovering the love of reading, and the chance to earn my own way. If only the books were housed in the grand glory they deserve, rather than a bland white frame building.

Who are the special people in your life?

My roommate, Darlene Franklin, is fun—although she doesn’t understand me. But the person who intrigues me most is Private Clay Paxton, who’s training with the Army Rangers. He has a kind heart and a bright mind, and he understands tragedy and loss and fractured families.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find my twin baby sisters, Callie and Polly. After our parents died, I was separated from them. But I remember them dearly, and I know our parents would want me to find them. I spend my spare time at the library perusing books. Perhaps one day I’ll find a Greek name and know it’s mine. Perhaps I’ll see a photograph of a city and recognize where I came from. Then perhaps I could find my sisters.

What are you most afraid of?

Never belonging. Never having a family.

Do you have a cherished possession?

I have few possessions, so I cherish each one. With my new job, I was able to buy darling new dresses and suits and shoes to replace the charity barrel outfits from the orphanage. Someday I plan to even buy books of my own!

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

I dream of earning the money to attend library school so I can become a graduate librarian instead of only a circulation librarian. I also dream of being reunited with my sisters and recreating our family. As for love and marriage, I’m too odd to attract a man—although part of me hopes I could someday turn the head of a man like Clay Paxton. But some dreams belong in the realm of imagination alone.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

My dear friend Rita Sue Bellamy told me, “Sugar, if you want to belong, you have to join.” I may or may not ever find my sisters, but I can choose to belong with the people the Lord has placed in my life. I can also help those—like the children at the orphanage at town—who don’t belong.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

Perhaps it’s my poetic birth name, but I love to write poetry. As I told Clay, “Words make delightful playthings. They cost nothing, they never wear out, and no one can ever take them away from you.”

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Blurb:

In 1943, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the US Army Rangers at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. With his future stolen by his brothers’ betrayal, Clay has little to live for. Leah Jones works as a librarian at Camp Forrest, longing to rise above her orphanage upbringing and to find the baby sisters she was separated from so long ago. A marriage of convenience binds Clay and Leah together, but will D-day—and a foreboding dream—tear them apart?

About the Author:

Sarah Sundin is a bestselling author of historical novels, including The Land Beneath UsThe Sky Above Usand The Sea Before Us. Her novel The Sea Before Uswon the 2019 Reader’s Choice Award from Faith, Hope, and Love, When Tides Turnand Through Waters Deepwere named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deepwas a finalist for the 2016 Carol Awardand won the INSPY Award.A mother of three, Sarah lives in California and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.http://www.sarahsundin.com.