What was your inspiration for The Colonel's Lady?
I fell in love with an old portrait while visiting Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky, the place George Rogers Clark spent the last years of his very adventurous, troubled life. When I walked into his bedchamber and came face to face with this heroic man on canvas, I wished I could undo history and give him the happy ending I thought he deserved. So after a great deal of research and prayer, I sat down and began The Colonel’s Lady.
What was hardest challenge you had to include in The Colonel's Lady?
Creating a rogue of a hero who has amazing strengths and amazing weaknesses but is ultimately redeemable — and getting all that Revolutionary War history straight!
What is the message you are conveying to readers with this story?
Often we find ourselves in very dark places, deep valleys, many of our own making. But God is always with us and can bring good from every difficult experience. We may not see it at the time but later, once out of the valley, we recognize He was right alongside us. It’s been said that God’s love letters often come to us in dark envelopes and I believe this is true.
The Colonel's Lady is set during the 1700s. What are a couple of challenges women faced during that century?
Women at that time were often viewed as little more than property and had very few rights. My heroine, Roxanna Rowan, mirrors what happened to so many then — alone in the world with nary a shilling to her name. Often women married not for love but for survival and were either pregnant or nursing almost continuously for a quarter century or more.
How important are the names of the main characters in your books, and how did you decide which names to use for which character in The Colonel's Lady?
I tend to take character names from my family tree. Roxanna was the name of my great-grandmother in Kentucky but folks just called her “Roxie.” I thought this was kind of charming and so picked Rowan for her last name which is, oddly enough, one of my favorite trees. As for my hero, I wanted an Irishman as there were so many Revolutionary War patriots from Ireland. I perused military records and borrowed the surname of McLinn. Roxanna’s name has a softness and gentility to it while Cass’s name is strong and heroic-sounding, or so I hope.
Did the title come easy, or did it come to you during the writing of your current book? Also do you as the author have any say what the book cover will be?
I sometimes think writing an entire novel is easier than coming up with the right title! Since this novel centers upon a Revolutionary War hero and a lady, I felt calling it The Colonel’s Lady was truly the essence of the book. So I was thrilled when the titling committee liked it as much as I did. As for cover art, it’s my favorite part of the publishing process. Revell is wonderful at asking authors for ideas. In this case, I queried my readers as to what they wanted and they came up with the blue gown. As you can see, they got it! I asked the art team to add a locket as it’s so central to the plot. Often, the marketing department has the final say and a cover is tweaked accordingly.
Do you have a special place to write or can you write out your novels anywhere?
Since I have children, I’ve learned to write through SpongeBob and fighting and sick spells and homeschooling or whatever the day brings. Writing my novels in longhand first enables me to pack pen and notebook and write anywhere. This past winter I was blessed with my own little library which has a woodstove and windows overlooking the woods where I can retreat. Heaven!
Are there other books from you that readers can look forward to reading soon? if so, can you give us a little teaser?
My pleasure! Currently I’m working on a series, my first, which is a mail-order groom story about an apprentice and two sisters in Pennsylvania. Lots of passion and drama and thwarted love as my hero must choose between the two of them. The series is tentatively titled, The Ballantyne Legacy and the first book releases in September 2012.
Where can readers contact you?
A fun last question: If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would you choose and why? (No family members, sorry).
Being a Kentuckian, I’d best say Daniel Boone, as he’s my hero. But, on second thought, I’d choose George Whitefield. In a few words, he was a young English preacher of celebrity status in the 18th-century, a man who was described as all “life, fire, wing, force.” Even as a very young man, he spoke to crowds of thousands here in America and won over both commoners and gentry alike. His influence is still felt today. He makes an irresistible hero and I’d love to sit opposite him at dinner — or anywhere!