Meet Laurette from The Seamstress by Allison Pittman

When we think of the French Revolution, our minds often conjure images of violence in the streets of Paris. Peasants, lusting for revenge, storming the Bastille. And, reigning over all of it, the ferocious guillotine, dripping with the blood of the rich and the powerful. But there is another side to those days of fire and smoke. Quiet countrysides, rolling hills, blue skies, and peasants. So many peasants. Joining us today is one of them, a scrappy young woman named Laurette. 

NovelPASTimes: Thank you for joining us, Laurette. 

Laurette: Bonjour!

NovelPASTimes: May I offer you some tea?

Laurette: Yes, please.

NovelPASTimes: Something to eat? Sandwich?

Laurette: Yes, please.

NovelPASTimes: Fruit?

Laurette: Yes.

NovelPASTimes: This last bit of scorched potato soup scraped from the pan?

Laurette: Seems a shame to let it go to waste . . .

NovelPASTimes: So, it’s true what we’ve heard, about the extreme poverty. It extends beyond the city? Throughout the country?

Laurette: I only know about my village, Mouton Blanc. But I can tell you that the people there are hungry. Hungrier than they have ever been in my lifetime. 

NovelPASTimes: Because of the drought?

Laurette: That, and the fact that we have a corrupt system of government that allows the greatest amount of wealth to be concentrated among those who are already wealthy. It’s like feeding people who are already stuffed with food. But they must beware. Those who eat too much might find their insides erupting.

NovelPASTimes: Whoa—kind of graphic there for such a pretty girl.

Laurette: Sorry. Just something my friend Marcel said at dinner one night last winter.

NovelPASTimes: You sound like a revolutionary.

Laurette: Do I? I’m really just a girl, trying to survive. Would you like my recipe for thin-sliced bread?

NovelPASTimes: Sure.

Laurette: First, you take a loaf of bread. Then you slice it, papery thin. 

NovelPASTimes: And then?

Laurette: That’s it. Slice and eat. You use your hand for a plate so you don’t waste any crumbs. This is how our mothers are feeding our children. And some do not even have bread to slice. 

NovelPASTimes: Then you’ve heard what the queen said? When told that the people had no bread, Queen Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said, “Then let them eat cake.”

Laurette: Mmmmm . . . cake. 

NovelPASTimes: You’re not offended by her callousness?

Laurette: I don’t believe in her callousness. I do not believe that our queen—a mother herself—could stand to know her people are starving. Her country’s childrenare starving. So if the people want to take up arms to bring food to their tables, then that is what they must do. Let them be moved by their empty bellies, not by empty words.

NovelPASTimes: Are those Marcel’s words, too?

Laurette: No. They are mine. Trust me when I tell you, this war—if it comes to war—will come down to the women. As all wars do.

NovelPASTimes: Well, then. Can I get you anything else? Pudding? Jam and bread?

Laurette: No, thank you. Sometimes a little hunger is what you need to go on to greater things. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allison Pittman, author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels, is a three-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series and once for All for a Storyfrom her take on the Roaring Twenties. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike.

Meet Daisy from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s Almost Home

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Today a character from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s newest novel stopped by to introduce herself!

Name: My name’s Daisy Dupree.

Parents: We’re not real close. Mama tried to marry me off again before any grass could grow on my husband’s grave. Can you believe that? And with the war on, all the young men around home are overseas. You shoulda seen some o’ those geezers she brought to my door.

Siblings: I’ve got four brothers. Most of ’em’s a lot older’n me, but I’m close to my brother Mack. He’s in the Navy. Don’t let me forget to drop this letter off at the post office soon as we’re done with this interview.

Places lived: Spent my whole life in the Mississippi Delta till my husband enlisted. Thought I’d lose my mind sittin’ in that farmhouse, wonderin’ what was happenin’ to Charlie over there. So I heard about jobs at an Army plant here in Alabama. That’s what got me to Blackberry Springs.

Jobs: I helped Charlie on our farm till he shipped out. Then I worked in the factory over in Childersburg till . . . well . . . till I got that telegram tellin’ me Charlie was gone.

Friends: If you’d told me a year ago that I’d find the best friends I ever had in Alabama of all places, I woulda said your biscuits ain’t done in the middle. But we’ve got us a regular little sisterhood goin’ here. Anna moved down from Illinois with her husband, Jesse—he works at the plant. Me and Anna’s about the same age, and we hit it off right away. You ever had a friend like that—one that’s completely different from you, but you can finish each other’s sentences? That’s me and Anna. And then there’s Dolly—she owns the boardin’ house where Anna and Jesse live—Dolly and her husband, Si. Dolly Chandler is one of a kind. She looks after all of us, not just her boarders. I don’t even live there, but she mothers me more than my mama did. Don’t tell her I told you, but Dolly lost her boy when he was just a little thing. Breaks her heart to this day. Breaks mine, too. I need to hush about that or I’ll cry, and I HATE to cry in front of anybody. Our other friend is the oddest one of all—Evelyn—an out o’ work college professor from up in Chicago. Can you believe that? An Illinois farm girl, a Chicago professor, an Alabama inn keeper, and this ol’ Delta girl—all the best o’ friends. War’s a funny thing, you know?

Enemies: Ghosts. At least I thought they were my enemies till I found out what they were tryin’ to tell me.

Dating, marriage: This is a touchy subject right now, but I’ll try. See, me and Charlie grew up together—knew each other our whole lives. It was just a natural thing to get married after we played together as kids, went to school together . . . I always loved Charlie, so it was easy to marry him. But now along comes Reed. We’re strangers, really, but Anna says there’s something between us. I just can’t let myself believe that. He’s a war hero, for heaven’s sake. And he looks every bit of it. Got the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen—strange in a beautiful way. And I said that to him the day I met him—you ever heard of anything so stupid? I just blurted it out: “You’ve got the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen.” But he says he likes the way I say what’s on my mind. I’m tryin’ to help him get well. He got hurt real bad over there—and I don’t just mean the leg that got shot up. He got hurt real bad on the inside. Know what I mean?

Children: Me and Charlie didn’t have any.

What person do you most admire? Well, Dolly of course! I’ve never seen anybody with so much love in her heart—and such a longin’ to give it to other people.

Overall outlook on life: I don’t know any more. I was plannin’ to hide myself away here—spend my days sketchin’ on the creek bank. I like to draw—did I tell you that? It’s like I’m waitin’ on a storm to pass—sorta takin’ shelter. But then Reed came along . . . I don’t know. Let’s talk about something else.

Do you like yourself? I haven’t for a long time now because of something I did. But Reed and Anna say that what I did wasn’t wrong. Sure feels wrong.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I wish me and Charlie had seen what was precious and what wasn’t before it was too late.

How are you viewed by others? You’d have to ask them. I just know the people here make me feel like I’m okay the way I am. There’s a real comfort in that.

Physical appearance:

Eyes: They’re green.

Hair: I say it’s mousy brown. Reed says it reminds him of caramel. I wear it short.

Voice: You tell me! You’re the one doin’ the listenin’.

Right- or left-handed? Right—why?

How would you describe yourself? I try to tell the truth, and I try to do my part. I’m pretty curious, which gets me into trouble sometimes. Dolly and them think I’m funny, but I don’t try to be. It just comes out that way.

Characteristics: Heavens to Betsy, girl! I don’t know. I just try to be honest about who I am.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Anna says I’m pretty and don’t know it. I am not pretty. Beauty queens are pretty. I haven’t put on makeup, well, ever. Not much anyway. And since Charlie died, I’ve worn these overalls every single day o’ my life. All that to say, I’m kinda hidin’ out, so I don’t think I’m very brave.

How much self-control do you have? A good bit till you put me in a situation—like church—that reminds me too much o’ Charlie. And then I have to get out o’ there or I’ll have a come-apart.

Fears: I’m afraid I’ll fall in love with Reed and he’ll fall in love with a beauty queen. And I’m scared to death o’ church.

Collections, talents: I don’t collect anything really. But I do love to draw. And people say I’m good at it. So I guess that’s my talent.

What people like best about you: That I say what I think.

Interests and favorites: Me and my brother Mack used play river pirate when we were kids, so you can’t begin to imagine how excited I was to find a diary that turned out to be . .  . Oh, wait. I need to hush. I’ll give too much away.

Food, drink: This is the South, so pretty much everything is good. I guess my favorites are Dolly’s chocolate cake and homemade lemonade, her sweet tea on a real hot day, fried chicken, catfish and hushpuppies, banana pudding, sweet potato casserole, fried peach pies, real creamy grits with lots o’ butter, hot biscuits with sawmill gravy, Delta tamales, chili dogs, collard greens . . . Is that enough?

Books: Catherine’s story of course!

Best way to spend a weekend: You gotta promise not to tell a livin’ soul. You promise? Okay, here goes: Best way to spend a weekend is with Reed. Doesn’t even matter what we’re doin’. But if you repeat that, I’ll swear you’re lyin’.

What would a great gift for you be? Nobody would ever guess this, what with me roamin’ the countryside in overalls, but I’d love to have a string o’ pearls. Don’t even ask me why.

When are you happy? I’m gonna let you guess the answer to that one.

What makes you angry? Anything that hurts the people I care about.

What makes you sad? Goin’ to church and listenin’ to all those old hymns Charlie loved so much.

What makes you laugh? The women at Dolly’s. We have the best time together.

Hopes and dreams: I hope that one day my black cloud goes away—that I feel like it’s okay for me to be happy again.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? Anna and Reed know. I can’t talk about it with anybody else.

Greatest success: Finding the diary.

Biggest trauma: Losing Charlie.

What does you care about most in the world? People—the people I love. Don’t nothin’ else matter.

Do you have a secret? Everybody does.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book?
We’re all on a journey together, but we’re travelin’ for different reasons. And the people at Dolly’s, they’re the best kind—honest and carin’—and funny. We all stick together, but we’re all different, and that’s what makes it interestin’.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book?
I accept ’em for who they are, so I can’t really answer that.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:
That’s another one o’ my secrets. Reed knows the answer, so you’ll have to ask him.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: How much time you got?

Haha! I guess we’ll wait on that one!

***

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently the senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.Luesse_Valerie_MAIN

A Conversation with Aimee Jarre of Amanda Cabot’s A Tender Hope

A Tender Hope-Book Cover
NOVEL PASTIMES: Good morning, Aimee. Did I pronounce your name correctly?

AIMEE: I’m afraid not, but don’t feel badly. Most Americans have trouble with it. It’s eh-MAY, not Amy.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course. You’re French.

AIMEE: You might not think so from my accent, but I was born right here in Texas. That makes me a Texan, doesn’t it? It is true, though, that until a couple months ago, I lived in France.

NOVEL PASTIMES: So, why did you come to America, or am I being presumptuous in asking?

AIMEE: It’s not a secret. I wanted to find my mother – my birth mother, that is. You see, when my parents died – my French parents, that is – I learned that I’d been adopted.

NOVEL PASTIMES: That must have been a surprise.

AIMEE: A surprise, yes. Also a shock, but it explained so many things.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Like what?

AIMEE: Like … Would you mind if we talked about something else?

NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course not. Please believe me when I say that I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It’s simply that I’ve never met anyone who lived in France. What was it like?

AIMEE: Beautiful but old, and the people are more … how do you say it? Reserved. That’s the word. Reserved. I find Texans friendlier.

NOVEL PASTIMES: We pride ourselves on that. We’re curious too, which is why I want to know more about your trip here. I heard that you came to Cimarron Creek with our new midwife. What’s she like?

AIMEE: Thea’s wonderful. I’ve always wanted a sister, and she’s as close to one as I could ever have dreamt. Truly, God led me to Ladreville at the perfect time. If I’d arrived a month later, I might never have met Thea.

NOVEL PASTIMES: The ladies are all happy that we have a new midwife, but I heard some of them say that sometimes Thea seems sad.

AIMEE: That’s only natural, don’t you think? After all, she lost both her husband and her baby this year. Wouldn’t that make anyone sad?

NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course, but I sense that you think there’s something more.

AIMEE: I shouldn’t say anything.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Whatever you say, it’ll just be between you and me. A secret. I promise.

AIMEE: Thea says there are no secrets in Cimarron Creek.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Then she’s wrong. There are plenty of secrets. But if you don’t want to tell me more about her, I won’t press you.

AIMEE: One thing I can tell you is that I hope she finds another man to love and maybe even marry.

NOVEL PASTIMES: What about the Ranger who’s been spending so much time in town?

AIMEE: Jackson seems like a good man. He might be the right one for Thea.

NOVEL PASTIMES: What about you? What kind of man would be the perfect husband for you?

AIMEE: Me? I don’t plan to marry anyone.

NOVEL PASTIMES: You don’t expect me to believe that, do you? You’re a pretty girl and a smart one. I’m sure all the single men in town are standing in line to court you.

AIMEE: That’s not so, and even if it were true, there’s only one who’s caught my eye.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Who’s that?

AIMEE: It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t feel that way about me.

NOVEL PASTIMES: But he might change his mind.

AIMEE: Maybe, but I think it would take a miracle.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Miracles do happen.

AIMEE: Not to me.

Well, thank you, Aimee. We are eager to hear the rest of your story!

***

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of A Stolen Heart and A Borrowed Dream, as well as the Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds series. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming. Learn more at www.amandacabot.com.

Cabot_Amanda

Introducing Ada from Ronald H. Balson’s The Girl From Berlin

Thank you for doing this.  It seems you have experienced a roller coaster ride of guilt, anger, fear, and redemption while having to deal with a treacherous Nazi regime. Because you and your family are Jewish you were deprived of careers/businesses, then property, basic rights, and ultimately, for many of them, their lives. I am sure many times you got a reprise from your music skills. 

Elise Cooper: Why did you want to become a violinist?

Ada Baumgarten:I think it was always a given.  My father was first chair for the Berlin Philharmonic.  On my fifth birthday, he gave me a bench made violin, crafted by a one of Germany’s finest violin makers.  My father taught me well and from then on, my dream was to play next to him in the orchestra.

EC: Do you harbor any hard feelings toward Wilhelm Furtwangler?

AB: None.  Maestro Furtwangler was badly misunderstood and received unjust criticism after the war because he chose to stay in Germany with his orchestra, which had the collateral effect of lending cultural prestige to Hitler and Nazi Germany.  But he was never a Nazi and he abhorred their policies. He stood up to Hitler and did his best to protect his Jewish players, including my father.  In defiance of Goebbels and Hitler, he continued to conduct music from Jewish composers and he featured Jewish soloists.  When my father was arrested during Kristallnacht, it was Furtwangler that contacted me and attempted to make arrangements for his rescue.

EC: What do you think of Rafael Schachter?

AB: He was a remarkable man.  With an old piano, he found in a damp basement, he brought music to prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.  He gave them pride and a purpose – a way to temporarily escape the dread of their confinement.  He assembled and taught 160 inmates to perform the technically difficult Verdi Requiem by rote memory.  

EC:  Can you tell us about Hitler’s plot?

AB: In June 1944, Hitler devised a fraudulent plot to fool the International Red Cross.  He boasted that Theresienstadt was a Jewish spa and invited them to inspect. The Nazis quickly beautified the camp and when the Red Cross came to inspect, Rafael’s chorus performed the Verdi Requiem.  The prisoners proudly and loudly sang to the Red Cross and the Nazis.  Their secret joy was that the Nazis didn’t understand the words that were sung in Latin.  The inmates were singing words that condemned the Nazis on Judgment Day: “Day of wrath, day of wrath, when the wicked shall be judged!”  Today we call that performance “The Defiant Requiem.”

EC: Did you ever fathom that the German people as a whole would turn their backs on the Jews who were their neighbors, friends, and business partners?

You were overheard saying “Perhaps the most hurtful and inimical result of the campaign as the pervasive acceptance of Nazi policies by German society…while the law did not require our non-Jewish friends to shun us, it became apparent they would no longer stand up for us.” 

AB:In the years preceding the war, there was a much smaller Jewish presence in Italy.  Forty thousand lived in Italy and five hundred thousand in Germany.  Jews were prominent in prewar Germany in several disciplines: the arts, science, finance, medicine.  Many middle-class Germans who had suffered during the severe depression years were resentful.  Most importantly, Germany had Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, a master at controlling the media and public opinion.  As a result, the German people were manipulated into accepting, or ignoring their government’s policy of Jewish persecution.  The Italian people did not harbor such prejudice and hatred.

EC: Do you wish your family had the foresight to get out sooner?

AB:Of course, but it’s a mistake to think that the failure of Jews to leave Europe was a lack of foresight.  In many cases, they were trapped. Where could they go? Immigration visas were tight or non-existent.  Borders were closed.  And if we could leave, where do we resettle?  How do you pick up and leave everything you know?  No one anticipated extermination camps.  In my family’s case, we could have resettled in another city with a new orchestra, but my father was loyal to his conductor.

EC: What was it like for you to have Hitler and Heydrich approach after your playing?

AB:I was young and conflicted.  They were the two most powerful men in Germany and well-known music lovers.  Heydrich was an accomplished violinist.  To receive praise for my artistry was flattering for a teenageer, but I also realized that the compliments were coming from detestable human beings.

EC: What are your feelings for Kurt, your childhood friend who stayed a friend?

AB:I always loved Kurt.  He was a good person.  He never bought into the Nazi ideology.  Like many boys growing up in Germany, he was forced to join the Hitler youth and ultimately the army.  When the chips were on the table, he proved his goodness.

EC: Are you haunted, bitter, and angry for a life stolen from you as well as loved ones?

AB: As I wrote in my memoir, I have no regrets.  I have led a rich and fortunate life.  I played music on the finest stages beside the most gifted musicians.  My family life was warm and satisfying.  I am sad for what happened to my loved ones, but my life was not stolen.

THANK YOU!!

Ronald H. Balson has also written Once We Were Brothers, Saving Sophie, Karolina’s Twins. As an attorney, the demands of his trial practice have taken him into courts across the United States and into international venues. During the early 2000s Ron spent time in Warsaw and southern Poland in connection with a complex telecommunications lawsuit. While in Poland Ron was profoundly moved by the scars and memorials of World War II, which inspired him to write Once We Were Brothers, his first novel. Inspiration for his other novels were provided by his extensive travels to Israel and the Middle East. He also has been inspired by talking with, and meeting Holocaust survivors. 

Meet Violet Lindstrom from Sarah Sundin’s The Sky Above Us

The Sky Above UsName: Violet Lindstrom

Siblings: Alma, Karl, and Nels

Places lived: I was born and raised in Salina, Kansas, but now I’m living on a US air base in Leiston, England. Quite a change for this homebody.

Jobs: I’m the director of the Red Cross Aeroclub at Leiston Army Airfield, home of the US 357th Fighter Group. I organize refreshments and activities for the men, and make sure the club is a homey refuge from the war.

Friends: My best friend is Kitty Kelly, my fellow Red Cross worker. I love her perkiness and high spirits. I’m trying to make friends with pilot Adler Paxton—I find him so intriguing, and I think he needs a friend.

Enemies: I can’t think of any, but Rufus Tate, my Red Cross field director, is making my life rather miserable.

Dating, marriage: I haven’t dated much since Dennis Reeves broke his promise to me and I broke our engagement. I’d love to marry someday. Adler Paxton certainly appeals to me—he’s so chivalrous and mysterious—but he keeps himself at a distance.

Children: Someday! I adore children. My favorite part of my job is arranging activities for our American airmen and the local British children—parties and crafts and baseball.

What person do you most admire? Without a doubt, my great-aunt Violet, my namesake. She’s a missionary in Kenya, and I long to follow in her footsteps.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? With World War II raging, I can’t become a missionary overseas as I’ve always planned. In the meantime, I’m doing the best I can and serving overseas with the Red Cross.

How are you viewed by others? I hope others see me as compassionate and hardworking. Some see me as a goody-goody, but I don’t mind.

Physical appearance: The first thing people notice about me is my height—I’m six feet tall.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Blonde

Voice: Awful—we Lindstroms all sing off-key.

Right- or left-handed? Right

Strongest/weakest character traits: My greatest strengths are compassion, diligence, and loyalty. My weakest traits—I’m beginning to see I can be self-righteous and judgmental. I’m praying the Lord will help me with that.

How much self-control do you have? Very good.

Fears: My greatest fear is that I’ll fail the Lord. Deep down, I also fear I won’t like being a missionary. Being away from my family here in England has made me so homesick. How will I adjust to living overseas for life?

Collections, talents: I’m very athletic—I run fast and I’m good at baseball, but I’ve never pursued sports.

What people like best about you: They like my enthusiasm and dedication.

Food, drink: I’ve never been a fussy eater, but I do miss my mother’s cooking.

Books: I don’t tell many people, but I love Western novels, especially Zane Grey. One of my favorite parts of this job is running the library in the Aeroclub.

Best way to spend a weekend: Working on an air base in the middle of a war means no weekends. The flyboys work almost every day, and so do I. But I don’t mind. I’ve come to enjoy my work.

What would a great gift for you be? Adler Paxton gave me the best gift ever—he introduced me to a movie star from my favorite Westerns.

When are you happy? When I’m with my family and friends. When I’m doing good work that benefits people and serves the Lord.

What makes you angry? When people show disdain for what is good and right, and when they hurt others.

What makes you sad? When children are lonely or suffering.

What makes you laugh? Children, my family, my friends. The airmen can be very funny, and I’m learning to enjoy their company.

Hopes and dreams: I dream of becoming a missionary overseas, although I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the best choice for me—and even if it’s what the Lord actually wants. I do know I want to serve him somehow.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I’m afraid it happens in this story. I hurt the man I love and see a horrible sin festering in my soul.

Greatest success: I’m so pleased with how the Aeroclub turned out. Kitty and I were in over our heads when we arrived, but we’ve managed to create a club that’s welcoming and fun.

Biggest trauma: When Dennis Reeves broke his promise to me and I had to end our engagement. The mission board refused to send me overseas as a single woman. It’s painful to find your lifelong dream destroyed.

What do you care about most in the world? Children. I loved my time teaching third grade, even though I was reeling from my lost dream. I love how children are so open-hearted, and I love helping them understand a new concept.

Do you have a secret? I’m so homesick in England, away from my family. For someone who’s always wanted to live overseas, this is quite unsettling.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? Adler Paxton intrigues me. He’s so chivalrous and energetic and bright, and we share a love of Westerns. His Texas accent certainly helps! He’s also so mysterious—I sense deep hurt in him that draws me. If only I could help him.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Adler’s mysteriousness also means he pushes me away, as if he’s protecting that wound.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was horrified when that awful Willard Riggs grabbed me and kissed me on the pier in New York when we were boarding the Queen Elizabethto sail to England. Thank goodness Adler, my cowboy hero, saved the day!

Burdened by his past, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe as the Allies struggle for control of the air before D-day. Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, where she arranges entertainment and refreshments for the men of the 357thin the Aeroclub. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her programs for local children. Adler finds his defenses crumbling. But D-day draws near. And secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Sarah Sundin is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical novels, including The Sky Above Usand The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turnand Through Waters Deepwere named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. Please visit her at www.sarahsundin.com.

Meet Lizbeth from Paullett Golden’s The Earl and the Enchantress

Thank you for doing this.  Because you lost your mother at a very young age and your father raised you to be self-sufficient you expect to be respected within any relationship. Valuing independence, there is the expectation of being treated as an equal. It appears you have basically given up on marriage. Then you met Sebastian Lancaster, the Earl of Roddam who has a lot in common with you.  Both of you are witty intellectuals who value a good conversation along with the passion. Even though the 1790s has strict courtship rules you and Sebastian seem to formulate your own guidelines.  I am intrigued by your headstrong personality and philosophies. 

Elise Cooper: How did you become such an independent woman?

Lizbeth Trethow:Am I? I wouldn’t consider myself independent, but I appreciate the sentiment and that you would view me as such a woman. Independence, to my understanding of your meaning, is a state of mind. I’ve freed myself from the chains of ignorance and the expectations of Society. While I don’t wish to be speak ill of my sex, I will say too many women readily accept their dependence. They depend on the views of others, the gossip mill, the supposed truths in the news columns, the mandates of family, the rules of tradition and propriety, and, oh, the list does go on. Whereas, I depend on no one but myself. I’ve made the choice to educate my mind, which has thus liberated my soul. I’m not so conceited as to call myself enlightened, but I do feel independence comes from being enlightened, and that is the very state of mind in which I would like to be. 

EC: People describe you as intelligent, poised, a teaser, opinionated, candid, headstrong, and a competitor.  Fair?

LT:Oh my! *laughs* Is that what they say? People do talk, don’t they? I’m not certain we can be so classified into neat and tidy little descriptors. I might consider myself an intelligent woman, but by whose standards? If I should be compared to Socrates, would I still be considered intelligent? I know nothing of farming, and yet the farmer works such miracles with his bare hands. Would he not be considered intelligent, and I ignorant in comparison? I am flattered by your depiction of me, but I’m not sure I would see myself in those same terms. 

EC: So, how would you describe yourself?

LT:I’m determined and decisive, but does that also imply I’m headstrong? I don’t care to be proven wrong. But, when I know I am right, does that imply I’m opinionated and competitive? I wonder, could someone be both candid and a tease? If this is how you see me, then I can’t argue with or alter your view because it’s your perception of me, and thus by your own standards, it’s true. I may see someone as crass while someone else sees the person as candid. Neither of us is wrong. We merely have different perceptions of the same person. I do thank you for thinking of me enough to form an opinion, and I am truly flattered. 

EC: What are your favourite books and why?

LT:Choosing a favourite book is not unlike choosing a favourite child. They’re each so different but equally loved. I do enjoy social commentary with a creative flair. A book that pulls me in with a clever story while also reflecting on the world at large is what I would prefer to read over something strictly academic or purely fictionalized for the sake of entertainment. For example, Gulliver’s Travelsperfectly marries both academic observation and speculation with entertainment. Swift is a keen observer and sceptic. I certainly don’t agree with all his observations, but he does make me think while tickling my humour. Have you heard of Blake? His poems embody that very marriage I mentioned. His words are akin to music, yet he verses about harsh realities. I do hope he gains notoriety soon for people need to hear what he has to say. As a final note, should you have the time and wish to understand me, you should, perhaps, consider reading Condorcet. I’ll nudge you in his direction and allow you to make your own judgments. 

EC:  Thanks, when I get the time I will look into it.  Let’s go off in another direction. Do you think it is wishful thinking to want a marriage based on love, respect, and admiration?  

LT:Some may believe it is highly improbable, not to mention unrealistic, but I’ll settle for nothing less. I’ve seen how a marriage based on love, respect, and admiration can be, and should others see that, as well, they would change their perspective. It is difficult for people to understand what they’ve not experienced. So many children are raised by wet nurses, nannies, and then governesses, seeing their sires on the rare occasion. They grow up knowing nothing but hierarchy and isolation. Why should they, then, expect or even want love, respect, and admiration? 

EC:  It sounds like you have someone in mind?

LT:My parents were outliers in this world. They married for love, they respected each other as equals, and they admired each other’s individuality. I’ve seen how harmonious this is. I’ve also seen how such love can destroy, for the loss of my mother nearly destroyed my father. Does that suggest he shouldn’t have loved so deeply? If he had married for duty alone, someone of his own class rather than a tin mine owner’s daughter, he wouldn’t have suffered such depths of despair at my mother’s death, but would he be better for it? I believe the time they had together was worth every minute, and that is a love worth living for, despite the consequences. I don’t think it realistic we all find our soul’s counterpart, so we must be prepared to hold strong and not settle or sacrifice our self-worth in the absence of that counterpart.  

EC:  So, you are willing to be a spinster?

LT:The word has such negative connotations. One looks at a spinster like an old shoe with a broken heel. I prefer to think of myself as a free agent. I answer to no one. How freeing is that? There is nothing wrong or damning about being free. Is it the unmarried who consider themselves spinsters or those who are married? Yes, you have it, the ones who are already married look to the unmarried and point a finger—you there, you’re an aging spinster. They take the position of superiority as though having a spouse lifts them to some grand throne. Does it? What have they gained? They are, more of them than not, unhappy. Perhaps they point to the unmarried with disparaging remarks because they are envious of the freedom but don’t want anyone to catch on. I’m proud to be a free agent! This is not a position of shame. 

EC:  You were overheard saying that you will never be married if it means you will be controlled by a husband?

LT:I did say that, yes, though you’re naughty for eavesdropping. There is no denying women are the property of their husbands. It is the written law, after all. A husband who now has control over her person, her mind, and all legal rights. Should he wish to punish her with his hand, he may do so, by law. Should he wish to lock her in a room and starve her of food, he may do so, by law. Should he wish to starve her of affection, he may do so, by law. How is this not control? Women are no different than slaves. They are purchased for the purpose of breeding. I generalize, for not all marriages are such as this, but the tone of the marriage is determined by the husband. Suppose he loves the wife at the beginning but then bores of her? He also controls the tone of the relationship. Marriage is nothing more than a binding contract unless there is passion, respect, love, and equality. 

EC: How would you describe Sebastian? Do you know him better than himself?

LT:I wouldn’t flatter myself to know him better than he knows himself, but often it takes someone else looking in to see the larger context. We can’t always see our own faults or our strengths so well as someone else can see them. Sebastian struggles with understanding himself. He’s been told for so long that he’s unlovable and monstrous that he’s accepted that identity. It is no different than a girl being told her entire life that she’s too plain. Why should she ever suspect herself to be anything but plain, much less beautiful? I see Sebastian as a compassionate, driven, and clever man. There is no problem he can’t solve. There is no trench he can’t dig. If he sets his mind to it, nothing will stop him. He has a fathoms deep capacity for love. If only he could love himself. 

EC: Do you think Sebastian is overly influenced by King Arthur?

LT:Nonsense. Sebastian has a great many interests and influencing figures. He studies legends, myths, and histories to gain a sense of how to become a better person. His interest in Greek and Roman mythology is nearly as strong in his interest of England’s former kings. Most young boys have an older brother they can idolize or a father they can learn from, but Sebastian had neither. He saw King Arthur not only as a father-figure, but also as a person to emulate. When he needed direction in life, he turned to someone he could respect, and who better than a king? Let us be happy he chose King Arthur instead of Gaius Caligula. 

EC: What do you see as the important qualities in a relationship?

LT:The important qualities would vary from person to person. My sister, for instance, wouldn’t value the same qualities as I would. She would never suit with an intellectual, much less a recluse. I, however, neither enjoy the company of Society nor the company of a dull wit. I value those from whom I can learn. It would never be any fun if we agreed with each other all the time, but it would be arduous if we were too contentious. I want to learn from someone as much as I’d hope they could learn from me. If we both bring something to the relationship, we meet as equals. The qualities important to me for any kind of relationship, be it friendship or beyond, are communication, respect, conversation, intellect, and equality. 

EC:  Are you looking for a kindred spirit?

LT:I wouldn’t admit to looking for anyone, but I would expect, for there to be a successful and happy marriage with someone, the person would need to understand me on a far deeper level than anyone else could. This understanding is more than recognizing what my interests are. It’s the realization of why those interests are important to me. Should the person intuitively know what I would like or dislike, enjoy or not enjoy, value or not value, that is a true and deep understanding, and that is the only relationship that would work for me. Nothing surface level will work. 

EC: Do you think you are alike or different from your younger sister Charlotte?

LT:Oh, vastly different! It is a wonder we’re related at all when one examines our personalities. Charlotte is orderly, while I’m quite messy. Charlotte enjoys socials and tea parties, while I enjoy solitude and reading. Charlotte would prefer to dance, while I would rather run. Charlotte cares far too much about Society’s opinion and wants to be seen as the perfect lady, while I couldn’t give a fig for what anyone thinks of me. That isn’t to say we don’t have common traits, as well, and we do share a sisterly affection stronger than I believe most do, but we’ve never shared opinions or interests. She is far too much like our aunt, and I am far too much like our mother. We would, as sisters should, do anything for each other. I would lay down my life for her, as she would do for me, for we share a familial bond nothing can sever. That doesn’t stop us from bickering daily as we’re wont to do!

EC: How did the death of your mother affect you?

LT:To be honest, it took years to sink it. I felt the loss at once, but I had no time in which to examine it. She was my best friend. Yet, before I could understand the impact, my family fell apart. Papa couldn’t handle the loss, and my sister hadn’t a mother. I knew if I didn’t swallow my heartbreak and do something, I would lose more than my mother. I look back and think how silly it was for me to think I had any impact at all, for I was only a little girl, but at the time, I didn’t feel so little, no one treated me as though I were little, and I shouldered weights far heftier than a little girl could or should carry. I was a little woman in the body of a young girl, and I was so focused on caring for my family I had no time in which to mourn. By the time I could mourn, it was as though looking back from the eyes of a different person. I believe it was for the best. However much I didn’t understand the concept of death at that age, I do know if I’d stopped to think for too long how hurt I was not to see Mama ever again, I might have been as lost as Papa. She was a vibrant woman whose smile lit an entire room. How does a child cope with that loss? I didn’t. I pushed it down until I could look on it objectively. 

EC: Were you attracted to Sebastian because you have that in common with him?

LT:I hadn’t thought of that. Hmm. I wouldn’t say his losing his mother was something that made him attractive. Our commonalities are numerous, and it is something we share, but I believe it only helps us to understand each other. It is the understanding of each other that is attractive, not necessarily the cause of the understanding. When I heard of his loss, I will say I wanted to wrap my arms around him and hold him, not as a lover or a friend, but as a mother. I wanted to rest his head on my shoulder and hold him so he would know he was protected and loved, just as my mother did for me. My heart went out to the little boy inside of him who had lost his only friend. For me, I lost my best friend, but not my only friend. He lost his only friend.

EC: Do you think Sebastian is able to understand the importance of family and how to love?

LT:I believe he knows what he wants and has always wanted, but I do think he’s afraid he won’t know how. He admitted as much to me. He’s afraid he’ll become his father. There’s no shame in such fear, but as he becomes more himself, he’ll let it go. He only holds onto such a fear because he’s still learning who he is outside of what others have told him. As I mentioned earlier in this conversation, he has such a deep capacity for love and is so compassionate, I know in my heart he will be the best father and husband a woman could ever ask for, but I don’t think he yet knows that about himself. He will. Give him time. 

EC: Do the best relationships start out as friendships?

LT:I believe I loved Sebastian before I saw him as a friend, but who can say which emotion came first. I respected him, and that was the basis on which we built a future. If you cannot befriend a spouse, before or after seeing them as a partner, then what remains when passion fades or times are rough? Not all friendships should be relationships, but all relationships should be friendships. At least from my estimation. If you cannot respect them as a friend, how can you possibly love them? 

EC: Can a man and a woman ever be just friends?

LT:They are more likely to be friends than anything else. Passion and love are rare. Passion, especially, is so often fleeting, and love must be there to sustain when passion runs its course. I’ve seen many friendships, but I’ve only rarely seen passion. Friendship does not guarantee a good match, nor does it guarantee love or passion, but it should be the foundation of the relationship. It may, in most cases, simply be friendship. I have many close friends, some of which are male, and none of which I’ve felt remotely attracted to beyond friendship. Take my cousin Walter as an example. We are good friends, and I enjoy time with him and conversation. I would go to great lengths to help him if he needed me, but I’ve never harboured romantic feelings for him. I do love him, but as family, nothing more. 

EC: Why do you love the sea so much?

LT:There’s a raw power to the sea that is underestimated, as well as a magic that is misunderstood. I remember one time when I was little, standing at the edge of the water with Mama, thinking how big the world was and how small I was. My personal world consisted only of a few miles, yet when I stood at the water’s edge, I could see on to forever nothing but blue water. It was humbling but awe-inspiring. The ocean seemed to me the largest and most powerful element on earth. It had the power to wreck ships, carry pirates, and drown swimmers, but it harvests life and beauty. When I let the water lap over my feet that day, I felt connected. Where had those same droplets been that were now touching my feet? Where would they go next, carrying the essence of me? 

EC: What do you like doing for fun?

LT:Oh, there are a great many diversions I enjoy! Learning and reading, of course, so that I might live vicariously through the minds of scientists, adventurers, and philosophers. I love the outdoors, the warmth of the sun, the whisper of the wind, the smell of nature. Wilderness walks are a favourite pastime of mine, especially walks that turn into explorations. I would never turn down a swim, be it in a pond or ocean. I may not like a crowd or socializing, but I do enjoy good company, so calling on friends is always pleasant. Sebastian has promised to teach me about the stars and how to use his telescope, so in time, perhaps that will be a new interest of mine. 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

LT:I share Sebastian’s desire for a large family. I want to be the kind of mother I remember my own Mama being. I envision sharing with Sebastian his dreams, as well, for he has such grand plans for his lands, and I want to do what I can to help. I do hope to become good friends with his sister Lilith, and if I have my druthers, she’ll move in with us before long. Befriending the tenantry and laborers is important to me, and I hope to strengthen the connections for all his properties by creating a familial relationship with everyone in our care. I don’t like to be idle and always want a sense of purpose, a sense of utility and usefulness. I want always to be helping someone or achieving something. I do believe the land will keep us busy as we rebuild and build out, creating more homes, larger towns, more positions.

EC: If you have a crystal ball what would your life be like in five years?

LT:Oh, what a blasphemous question! Crystal balls indeed. I do believe I like how you think, Elise. May I call you Elise? How presumptuous of me. I feel we’ve become such good friends during this conversation. If given the opportunity to look into a crystal ball, I would look away, for I want the adventure and the surprise! It’s no fun knowing what will happen. And should I make plans, would I then be disappointed if they didn’t come true? I will be happy with whatever life brings me. I would imagine, given my current direction, that in five years, we will have expanded the towns of all his properties, have at least three children, be rich as Croesus, and be as happy as larks. I won’t be disappointed if we’re poor as paupers and childless, as long as we’re together, but wouldn’t it be lovely to think the best? 

THANK YOU!!

Paullett Golden is a lover of the fairy tale historical romance and has launched herself into a writing career. She’s been writing historical romances since an early age and has been a professor of writing for two decades. She divides her time between Texas and Northumberland, England.

All About Lark MacDougall from Laura Frantz’s A Bound Heart

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Name: Lark MacDougall

Parents: Deceased

Siblings: None

Places lived: Isle of Kerrera, Scotland & Colonial Virginia

Jobs: Stillroom mistress and beekeeper

Friends: Magnus MacLeish, childhood friend and laird of Kerrera Castle

Enemies: Though I hate to say it, I’m not fond of the laird’s wife, Lady Isla, or her maid

Dating, marriage: I seem to be doing things a wee bit tapsalteerie as we Scots say, with a baby first, then a courtship…

Children: An adopted son, Larkin. “She took the infant, going wide-eyed at his weight. A ruadh-headed handful he was. He gave a chortle of delight, and the knot of women looked relieved, spared of his fretfulness. His dimpled hand brushed Lark’s flushed cheek, his bright eyes on her face.”

What person do you most admire? The laird of Kerrera Castle

Overall outlook on life: Life is hard, but God is faithful

Do you like yourself? Somedays

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I would see justice served

How are you viewed by others? Capable

Physical appearance: Tall and spare

Eyes: Blue

Hair: the hue of a maple leaf in autumn

Voice: A bit low for a woman

Right- or left-handed? Right

How would you describe yourself? Full of flaws but trying to be better

Characteristics: Fortitude, Kindness, Compassion

Strongest/weakest character traits: Endurance/nostalgia

How much self-control do you have? Enough to not run after the laird 😉

Fears: Leaving my beloved island

Collections, talents: Mistress of the bees and stillroom

What people like best about you: My compassion

Interests and favorites: A hankering for books and a bit o’ jewelry

Food, drink: My granny’s bannocks and a cup o’ tea

Books: The Bible and Watt’s Hymnal

Best way to spend a weekend: Baking scones and drinking tea

What would a great gift for you be? Seeing someone else made happy

When are you happy? When I’m with the folks I love

What makes you angry? Injustice

What makes you sad? Slavery, poverty, disease

What makes you laugh? Wee ones

Hopes and dreams: Returning to Kerrera Castle

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I snitched a sweet from the castle kitchen

Greatest success: Marrying my love

Biggest trauma: Being condemned of a crime

What do you care about most in the world? Faith

Do you have a secret? Nay

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I adore the laird and Larkin

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Lady Isla and her maid are/were a thorn to me

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: Overturn the corrupt court system and see justice reign

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: Being on trial after being in gaol (jail)

Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Lark!

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award finalist and the ECPA bestselling author of severalFrantz_Laura books, including The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, and The Lacemaker. She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.

Meet Elizabeth from We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

Today we welcome Elizabeth Balsam who answered a few questions for curious readers!

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Parents: Bruce and Marjorie

Siblings: Grace

Places lived: Detroit, Michigan

Jobs: Journalist at the Detroit Free Press

Friends: Desiree? She’s the closest thing I have to a friend at the moment, busy as I am with work.

Enemies: Anyone who gets in the way of me getting the story. Often, that takes the form of one Roger Bristol, my own personal nemesis at the Free Presswho is always trying to undermine me and steal my stories.

Dating, marriage: I’m far too busy for such things.

Children: none

What person do you most admire? Nellie Bly, the great investigative journalist of the late 19thcentury, who went undercover as an inmate at an insane asylum for an exposé for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. She also circumnavigated the globe in 72 days to be the first person, man or woman, to turn the fiction of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Daysinto fact.

Overall outlook on life: My time as a journalist has me believing that we’re all just trying to survive as best we can in a corrupt and chaotic world.

Do you like yourself? I guess I like myself as well as anyone. But because I am always pushing toward the next goal, I can’t help but feel like I’m always falling a little short of my expectations of myself.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Honestly, I wouldn’t mind being able to step back and take a breather once in a while, but if I did, who would pick up the slack?

How are you viewed by others? Driven, focused, go-getter.

Physical appearance: I’m a professional and I’m serious about being taken seriously. And that means slacks, blouses, and sensible shoes.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Brown

Voice: Gets the job done.

Right- or left-handed? Right-handed.

How would you describe yourself? I’m a public servant. I’m passionate about my work and I feel that every article I turn in has the potential to improve the lives of my fellow Detroiters because I am exposing corruption, neglect, and injustice.

Strongest/weakest character traits: My greatest strength is my dogged determination to get the story. My greatest weakness is that I actively avoid creating personal connections with people, leaving me too often alone and lonely.

How much self-control do you have? My family prides itself on having mastery over our emotions, so the few times I haven’t succeeded in that are a source of embarrassment to me.

Fears: My greatest fear is being inconsequential.

Collections, talents: The only thing I collect is bylines. My talent is writing about the truth I’ve dug up.

What people like best about you: I think my readers appreciate the fact that I don’t hold back and that no one is off-limits when it comes to exposing injustice or corruption.

Interests and favorites: I’m always in the mood to watch All the President’s Men, The Post, or Spotlight.

Food, drink: Detroit style coney dogs, please and thank you

Books: I read a lot of nonfiction, looking for historical facts and connections to what’s going on in today’s world. Anything to build my knowledge base.

Best way to spend a weekend: In the library, digging up evidence.

What would a great gift for you be? A new laptop because I beat mine up so badly schlepping it around town.

When are you happy? Every time I see my name on the front page.

What makes you angry? When I interview people that have been taken advantage of or failed by the system.

What makes you sad? The fact that I can’t do more to help the people in my city.

What makes you laugh? Seeing the bad guys get what’s coming to them, which unfortunately seems to happen more in movies than in real life.

Hopes and dreams: Someday, I want to win a Pulitzer for my investigative journalism.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why?

Greatest success: Raising enough awareness and outrage through my writing that Detroiters were able to pressure city officials to take action on 11,000 untested rape kits, leading to the identification and arrests of hundreds of serial rapists in Detroit.

Biggest trauma: My parents leaving Detroit to go back to the mission field in Brazil. Oh, and getting fired from my job…

What does you care about most in the world? Justice being done.

Do you have a secret? Outwardly I put on a good show of being self-sufficient, but inside I am starved for family and love.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: Right now, all of my energy is focused on getting the goods on Judge Ryan Sharpe’s time in the National Guard during the Detroit Riots of 1967. If I can prove his involvement in a particular shootout, I’ll be able to complete my investigative series on the riot and establish myself as the top investigative journalist at the Free Press. Oh, and being able to rub it in Roger Bristol’s face wouldn’t be half bad either.

Thank you, Elizabeth! It was great to meet you!

***

Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin, and can be found online at www.erinbartels.com. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.Bartels_Erin

Meet Mary Coffin Starbuck from Suzanne Woods Fisher’s The Light Before Day

Name: Mary Coffin Starbuck

Parents: Tristram and Dionis Coffin 

Siblings: Too many to keep track of!  

Places lived: Moved to Nantucket Island in 1660

Jobs: Wife, mother, ran a trading store for most of my life

Friends: Everyone I met 

Enemies: None that I know of, or care to know of

Dating, marriage: Married Nathaniel Starbuck when I was 17 years old; he is the love of my life 

Children: Ten children, eight of whom lived to adulthood

What person do you most admire? Peter Foulger—a true Renaissance man

Overall outlook on life: Optimistic and realistic, both

Do you like yourself? I am both content and grateful

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Other than losing two children to an early grave, there is nothing I lack 

How are you viewed by others? A curious question! John Richardson, an early Quaker preacher said of me, “The Islanders established her a Judge among them, for a little of moment was done without her advice.” 

Physical appearance: Small but mighty

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Once brunette, now salt and pepper

Voice: Gentle in tone, forceful in content

How would you describe yourself? As a woman who has been fortunate to find an important role to play in a man’s world  

Characteristics: Intelligent, logical; some say blessed with wisdom 

Strongest/weakest character traits: It is both—my ability to see what needs to change, and my tolerance in allowing time for change to occur

How much self-control do you have? More with every passing year

Fears: Standing at the grave of one I dearly love and facing life without them

Collections, talents: I have a quick mind for details and accounting

What people like best about you: Friends kindly refer to me as the Deborah of Nantucket

Food, drink: Mullein tea on a cold foggy Nantucket day

Books: The Bible, of course; books are scarce on an island 

Best way to spend a weekend: The same way as every other day

What would a great gift for you be? To have all my children together, under one roof…and all their children, too

When are you happy? Every single day brings a moment of joy

What makes you angry? Mistreatment of those who are less fortunate

What makes you sad? Same as what makes me angry

What makes you laugh? Little children, baby animals…oh, and my husband Nathaniel makes me laugh

Hopes and dreams:For our island to have unity, without oppression (remember, we came from the mainland, where the Puritans fined us for every little infraction)

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? While still on the mainland, I stood by and watched friends and neighbors hurl rocks and stones at a Quaker woman 

Greatest success: When Quaker missionary John Richardson came to Nantucket in 1701 and I had a spiritual awakening

Biggest trauma: Burying two of my dear children

What do you care about most in the world?My family, my island, my faith

Do you have a secret? Oh my! There are no secrets on an island

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book?Well, they’re all my great great granddaughters!

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Absolutely nothing

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:To end my life well

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: Here is an example, taken straight from my journal: 

Stephen Hussey came into the store this afternoon. He settled into Father’s rocking chair by the fire and drank gallons of my mullein tea, talking to every person who came in. He carried his ear trumpet with him, which struck me as ironic for, despite being a Quaker, he is not fond of listening, only of talking. Stephen Hussey never had a thought that he couldn’t turn into a sermon. 

            Today, though, he remained quiet until the store was brimming over with customers. He rose to his feet and announced in his loud shrill voice, “I have a riddle for thee, Mary!”

The store grew quiet, all eyes turned to Stephen, as everyone enjoyed a good riddle, and he enjoyed a good audience.

“What’s gray and old and likes to be everywhere at once?”

“Nantucket fog,” I said, hoping he would now go home. 

“Nay. The answer is…Mary Coffin Starbuck!” He laughed and laughed, thoroughly amused with himself, until tears ran down his cheeks.That man! He sorely tries my patience.

Thanks for allowing this peek into your story, Mary!


Suzanne Woods Fisher
is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Phoebe’s LightMinding the Light, the Amish Beginnings series, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peaceand The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher and Facebook at SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor.

Introducing Louisa from Jessica Fellowes’s Bright Young Dead

Thank you for doing this. You appear very loyal, willing to threaten your job as a nanny to defend your friend who is accused of murder. You live in an exciting time because society is changing and it appears your hopes are changing as well. 

Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to become a nanny of sorts?

Louisa Cannon:I needed to get away from London and my friend Jennie was with Miss Nancy when I bumped into her just before Christmas 1919. Miss Nancy mentioned that the nursery maid had left and they were in need of another, what with Lady Redesdale expecting another baby at the time. I thought it couldn’t be too hard to pick up what to do, and I’m good enough at sewing too, because of helping my mother with laundry and mending the linens for the big houses. 

EC: Now that many of the girls are older you have morphed into a chaperone-what is that like?

LC: Nanny Blor looks after the littlest ones, and I think because Miss Nancy and Miss Pamela and I are not too far apart in age, it was more natural for it to be me going with them to London. Although I know London, I don’t know it the way they know it. I’d never have seen the insides of some of the houses they go to, let alone the parties and the nightclubs. Sitting with Miss Nancy or Miss Pamela I hear all kinds of conversations that the likes of me would never be party to usually. 

EC: You have become an amateur sleuth-why?

LC:I didn’t mean to! But Mr. Sullivan became a friend of mine, when he was working for the railway police – he’s a sergeant with the Metropolitan Police now – got me interested. Nanny Blor’s sister knew the nurse who was murdered on the train, and that got everyone involved somehow. I didn’t really want to get caught up in it all but somehow it happened, and knowing Miss Nancy and hearing what the police were investigating. it meant I was the one who could put the pieces together I think. 

EC: Alice Diamond is a larger than life criminal-are you afraid of her?

LC:Yes, but not because I thought she would be violent. It was more that she was the most powerful woman I’d ever seen. I didn’t know a woman could command attention in a room like she could. And she does whatever she wants. I’m not saying those are necessarily good things and she’s a thief – that’s bad, of course. But there’s something amazing about seeing a woman know what she wants and go after it, with no man stopping her.

EC: Do you ever wish that you can trade places with the “Bright Young Things,” those you work for, and become part of the rich and famous?

LC:I don’t think that I want be rich and famous, I want to be myself. But I don’t see why I shouldn’t be myself and have a little of what they have sometimes. I do like those beautiful dresses. It’s all just pretend in a way, like putting wallpaper up. What you look like on the outside – does that mean that’s what you are on the inside? I don’t know. I feel sometimes like what I wear betrays me and that if someone could really see me, they’d see me in something different. But I am who I am, I can’t change that and I don’t know that I really want to. 

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Guy?

LC:Oh. That’s hard to do. I like Guy, I like him a lot. We’ve been friends for some years now and I know he has been sweet on me in the past. It’s just complicated because I want to work, and if I marry, I have to quit my job. But for Guy, life could go on just the same as before, only he’d have a wife instead of his mother doing his washing and cooking his meals. It’s an exciting time for women right now – 1925! We can go out to work and earn our own money, and not have a father or husband telling us what to do. I want some of that. 

EC: Since this is 1925 are you a supporter of women’s suffrage?

LC:Yes, of course. We’ve got the vote now – well, sort of, if you’re over 30 years old and a house owner. But it’s better than the nothing we had before. I believe in women’s rights. There aren’t enough men around since the war and women have to be able to go out to work to support themselves. 

EC: Do you think he is unusual in that he treats women as equals-considering his police partner is a woman?

LC:Yes, I think Guy is unusual, which is why I like him and why it gets complicated between us. He does show real respect for women, and he listens. Not many men do that. Though I don’t know that he’s very interested in trying to change the world, he’s quite happy to keep the status quo, I think. So he’ll be good to women but I don’t think he wants them in charge or anything like that. What man does? 

EC: Is it more fun to be around Nancy or Pamela?

LC:They’re both very different. Miss Nancy is quite sharp, you have to be careful not to be on the wrong end of her. But she can also be very funny, and a lot of fun. She’s the most daring, the most willing to try something new. If it wasn’t for Miss Nancy I wouldn’t have had the courage to go to the 43 nightclub, and I’m grateful to her for that. Miss Pamela is quieter but she’s steady and kind. The others rely on her to be their rock. If you were in trouble, Miss Pamela’s the one you’d want on your side. 

EC: What do you like doing for fun?

LC:I don’t get much time for fun but I like reading – Lady Redesdale tells me books to read for history and she is kind enough to let me borrow from their library. Otherwise, I go for long walks with the littlest girls – Debo and Decca – and I love learning more about the flowers that grow in the country. I grew up in London and didn’t see much more than the odd patch of grass and oak trees. Out here in the country you can see for miles and miles, nothing but fields and hedgerows and birds soaring in the skies. It makes me feel free. 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

LC:I don’t know that I dare think beyond next week. But I suppose it would be nice to think that I might be a woman of some significance somehow, one day. That seems a bit silly, I know. I had to leave school at fourteen and I don’t know any science. I’m not sure what work I might be able to do but I’m always looking about, you read about things in the newspapers that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. 

THANK YOU!!

JESSICA FELLOWES is an author, journalist, and public speaker, best known for her five official New York Times bestselling companion books to the Downton Abbey TV series. Former deputy director of Country Life, and columnist for the Mail on Sunday, she has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, She has knowledge of the 1920s era and has now ventured into writing  a series of historical crime fiction with returning characters Louis Cannon and Guy Sullivan.