When History and Literature Collide

My story begins last Saturday night.

Marion, KY is a very small town. I mean, like, 3,000 people small. Some claim that there’s nothing to DO here. So, the library (ahem) is trying to offer more recreational activities to spice things up. Last Saturday, however, was NOT a library activity, but our local Community Arts Foundation offering a Chautauqua speaker portraying Daniel Boone!

DanielBooneFP

Some of you who know me know that Fess Parker, who played Daniel Boone in the 60’s television series, was my first crush. I’ve been fascinated with Daniel Boone since I was about 4 years old.

Daniel_Boone_book._copyThis, however, was NOT Fess Parker, but actor Kevin Hardesty portraying the character of Captain Boone much more realistically. He told of the hardships and triumphs of the frontier, stories of his family and of the many trials they faced. I was captivated.

You can imagine, then, how enthralled I was to begin reading Laura Frantz’s latest book, A Moonbow Night. I started reading that night after being immersed in the frontier with Daniel Boone. In my mind I went straight to 1777 Cumberland Falls, in Eastern Kentucky, and the very area where A Moonbow Night takes place, but it meant even more, now.

MoonbowLFI’m so glad I was in that place at that moment. The literary descriptions, turns of phrase, and deep point of view of Laura’s stories consistently hold me in a state of attention that literally makes me lose track of what time, era, place, I’m in.

As of today, I’m only halfway through , but I wanted to share what I’m reading right now, because I’m so excited about it. If you like to lose yourself in a good book, pick this one up – or any of Laura’s books, for that matter! Every time I declare one “my favorite” of hers, I read another that replaces it!

Oh, and if you’re ever in Eastern Kentucky (which to us Western Kentuckians is a “whole ‘nuther country”), check out Cumberland Falls. It’s a beautiful place in the daytime, but now my dream is to visit it when I can actually witness a real-live “moonbow!”

A CHAT WITH SUSAN PAGE DAVIS

About a year ago, I went, in fear and trembling, to my first area writer’s group meeting, which at that time consisted of myself and three other ladies in the Western Kentucky/Western Tennessee area. I mean, two of these ladies were PUBLISHED authors! I mean, they even put their pants on differently, don’t they? Well, it didn’t take long, over Culver’s burgers and ice cream, to find out that published authors are regular folk, and that having a good friend like Susan Page Davis is sometimes the best encouragement an aspiring writer can have!

Susan is the author of thirty-seven published novels. Prairie Dreams is her new series from Barbour Publishing. A Maine native, Susan now lives in Kentucky with her husband, Jim. She’s a past winner of the Carol Award and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest.

Welcome, Susan! What was it that inspired you to become a writer?

I have always made up stories, and I have written them since I learned to write. I’m not sure what got me started. But when it comes to seriously writing fiction and trying to get published as an author, I think I was inspired to try when I realized I had a full-length novel in my head. I wrote the story out and started trying to sell it.

You’ve lived in, and written about, so many places! If you could set a book anywhere in the USA, whether or not you’ve been there or not, where would it be, and why?

Right now, probably in Albuquerque. My father-in-law was born there, and I’d like to see it and learn more about it.

Speaking of places, how does living in my own state of Kentucky compare to other places you’ve lived?

Okay, here’s the scoop. It’s warmer, and it has more heavy rains and tornadoes, fewer blizzards and hurricanes. When it does snow, which isn’t often, nobody knows how to drive in it. Kentucky also looks different from Maine or Oregon or any of those other places. . .It’s got flat roads, for one thing. The birds look almost but not quite right. It has lizards and poisonous snakes. It has more ticks and fewer mosquitoes. It has no moose, but lots of possums. The sun never gets up as early or sets as late as it does in a Maine summer, but that’s understandable since Kentucky is a whole lot closer to the equator. At the grocery store, I can find canned okra and bourbon-flavored baked beans, but I often can’t find molasses or fresh seafood or buttercup squash. They put whipped cream on milkshakes here, which seems a bit “overkill” to me, and gravy on lots and lots of things. And I frequently have to ask someone to repeat what they said, or ask what they mean. But all in all, it’s a pretty cool place.

Hey, I recall trying to get a barbecue sandwich in Indiana – it’s not quite like we have in Western Kentucky, is it? I’m just glad to have you close by!

Now, back to writing –

What author, dead or alive, would you like to mentor you? Why?

Dick Francis. I love his mysteries, and I’d love to be as good at pulling clues together.

You have written historical, suspense, and romance. How do you approach different genres?

They all take a lot of planning and research. Historicals probably take a little more, as I have to check EVERYTHING. The 1857 book I just finished is an example. Yes, they had sleeping berths on some trains then, but Pullman cars came later. So did railroad dining cars. That put a cramp in my characters’ journey. I check words and phrases to be sure they were in use at the time. I look up types of fabrics to be sure they were available and plants to be sure they grew in that area at the time. But contemporaries take research too—the place, the occupations, the weapons—it just never ends. And I love it.

The research angle hit me when I realized I may have placed a stagecoach in an area that might have been served by a railroad! Thank goodness for Internet resources!

So, what’s next for Susan Page Davis fans?

I have four historicals coming out in 2012. The first, in March, is Almost Arizona, which will celebrate 100 years of statehood with an action-filled romance. In April and October, the second and third books of my Prairie Dreams series will release. A lot of people are waiting for Lady Anne’s Quest, to answer some questions about the Stone family and see if Lady Anne finds true love in the Wild West. In the final book, A Lady in the Making, you’ll see what happens to Uncle David, the new earl, as he heads out of Oregon and into danger. Also in April, you’ll see Cowgirl Trail, the next book in the Texas Trails series. It’s a lot of fun.

I can’t wait to see what’s next for Lady Anne – and the Texas Trails series is amazing.

What question would you like to ask our readers?

What book that you’ve read in the last year would you most like to see made into a movie?

Thanks so much for joining us, Susan, and our readers! Remember, leave a comment during our “Authorpalooza,” and you may have a shot at a pack of books, including Susan’s own The Lady’s Maid!

Back-cover of The Lady’s Maid:

An Aristocratic Brit searching for her lost uncle . . .

A German Maid determined to protect her mistress . . .

A disagreeable Scout waiting to see the ladies fail . . .

A Ruffian dogging their every step . . .

And the Prairie that challenges their very survival.

Lady Anne Stone’s uncle is the new Earl of Stoneford. The only problem is, he disappeared into America’s Wild West. With only her personal maid, Elise Finster, as determined chaperone, Anne embarks upon a quest to find David Stone. First stop, St. Louis, where the ladies discover their quarry went farther west five years ago. Resolute in their mission, Anne and Elise join a wagon train to Oregon. But will their prairie-dream adventure turn into a Wild West nightmare?

Scout Eb Bentley, initially skeptical that the women can survive the journey, soon finds himself falling for the determination, charm, and beauty of one lady in particular. Can he keep her alive long enough to win her love?

Or will the ladies succumb to the rigors, ruffians, and rustlers along the trail?

Unsinkable Faith and a Guest Post from Laura Frantz

I’ve always been admired Peter. When Jesus calls him from the boat to step out onto the water, he lifts his foot and places it on top of the waves. Now, Peter understood water. He’d been a fisherman all his life. He’d seen what waves could do to a boat and probably more than once had wished he could walk back to the shore from his boat in the middle of the lake. So when Jesus called him from the boat, you can imagine the leap his heart took.

Still, the Bible doesn’t imply Peter hesitated. He took the risk. He got out of the boat. And his faith didn’t slip until he took his eyes off Jesus.

In the next two weeks, here at Inkspirational Messages, we’re going to talk about developing an unsinkable faith. To celebrate this beginning, I asked Laura Frantz if I could share a post from her blog. Laura has a new book out called Courting Morrow Little. Each week, she is sharing a little about Morrow’s world on her blog. Today, I asked if I could share her first “Morrow’s World” post with you, and hopefully, Laura will stop by and share a little about the faith she needed to step out of the boat when Revell first called her.

Morrow’s World by Laura Frantz

 red river gorge kentucky treesFor the next few weeks, I thought I’d give you glimpses into Morrow’s world, though these pictures, lovely as they are, fail to capture the real essence of the place. Since setting is so important to a story, I’ll start with the Red River area of Kentucky. These photos give you a peek into the wild beauty of Morrow’s world. Of course an author can only guess what it must have been like two hundred or so years ago. When I was a girl wandering the Kentucky hills and hollows, I used to pretend I lived back then. So it’s not a wild leap for me to be there in my imagination. When I saw this picture, I immediately smelled the dry woods and felt the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. It’s autumn in this picture and the woods are especially memorable then.

red river gorge chimney rockI have one scene in the novel where Morrow goes with a certain suitor into the mountains. For a young woman who rarely leaves the shadow of her own cabin, this is a memorable trip. It’s one of my favorite chapters and contains almost no dialogue. Speaking would ruin the beauty of the moment. When you come across a beautiful sunset or feel something intensely words are unnecessary:) Imagine that!

best red river fallsThis is a pencil-thin falls that becomes one big icicle in winter. The Red River isn’t a large river but I made it large enough to pose a danger for Morrow both physically and emotionally. Another of my favorite scenes happens at the river early in the novel. But I’ll not spoil it here:) There are many unusual red rock formations and natural bridges and arches in the landscape that make it especially unique. I had to cut a great deal of descriptive narrative though I enjoyed it immensely while I was writing. Praying the story is blessing you in some way or providing you with a blessed escape!Morrow Little

 

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Morrow Little, run—don’t walk—to your nearest bookstore. As soon as you start reading it, you’ll forget all about how out of breath you got on your sprint to the store.

Be sure to visit Laura’s blog, too, for more of Morrow Little’s world and lots of other yummy info.

Interview with Author Laura Frantz

Please join me in welcoming debut author Laura Frantz.  Her historical novel, The Frontiersman’s Daughter, was released in August by Revell and has received a multitude of five-star reviews. Today, she’s offered to share a little about herself and give us a peek into her writing life.

About Laura

Please tell us a little about yourself.

 I was born and raised in Kentucky and my love of history goes deep – way back to the 18th-century when my family first came into the Bluegrass State. It will always be home to me, even though I now live with my husband, Randy, and my sons, Wyatt and Paul, in the misty woods of northwest Washington. I go back as often as I can to visit family and all the old haunts that I love. 

I grew up playing on the original site of Fort Boonesborough and swimming in the Kentucky River and climbing the Pinnacle near Berea and watching the great outdoor dramas of the early settlers. Often my cousins and brother and I would play in my Granny’s attic and dress up in the pioneer costumes she made us and pretend to be Daniel Boone, Rebecca, Jemima, or the Shawnee.

As I grew up I began to write stories and they were always historical, filled with the lore I had heard or read about. It’s no accident that my first book (which is actually my fifth book – the others were practice!) is about those first Kentucky pioneers.

I feel blessed beyond measure to write books. My prayer is that you are doubly blessed reading them.

 

What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?

The public library! Where else can you take something home for free, if only for 3 weeks!? I’ve had a love affair with libraries since I was a little girl and still do. When I go I still get excited and hate to leave.

Frontiersman

  Would you rather meet your great-grandchildren or your great-grandparents?

Without a doubt, my great-grandparents! They died shortly before I was born and I was named after my great-granny. They lived so much history and since history is my passion, I have so many unanswered questions. For example, why did my great-granny, the belle of her tiny Kentucky town, wait till she was 35 to marry and then marry my grandpappy, a one-legged man? Why did they only have one child, my grandfather? Why was her father never the same after fighting in the Civil War and being held at Andersonville Prison? Why did she collect rocks from every county in Kentucky? Silly questions, perhaps, but I’m left wondering.

 

 Do you have a specific Scripture that you hold onto?

Prior to being published I came across this verse: The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Your hands. Psalms 138:8

When I wonder what the future holds, especially in regards to my writing, I ponder this verse and trust that He has me in hand and my future is secure. 

 

bananasplitWhat jobs have you had in your life? What did you like most? Least?

I’ve scooped ice cream at Baskin Robbins, babysat, taught school, waitressed, and been a social worker. All of them provided great fodder for my writing:) But I’d not want to return to doing them as writing has always been my first love. I pray I can keep writing for as long as I can hold a pen or use a laptop:)

 

About Laura’s Writing

 What’s the most exciting part of the writing journey for you? Most difficult?

I love being able to say I’m an author after 40 years of hiding it! It’s a real joy to have a dream fulfilled. I’d have to say that the most exciting part of the journey would be getting the news about the official title for my book (usually different but better than the one I’ve dreamed up) and also seeing my book cover for the first time. And, of course, holding the actual book in hand. Too many joys to count! The downside would be negative reviews though the postive ones sure make you smile. And I love reader mail. It’s a privilege to answer every one.

 

 What do you hope readers will gain from your novel?

I hope they will see Christ manifested in the novel in some way – His truth through fiction. If my words inspire someone to draw closer to Him or seek Him out or realize His love and forgiveness, then that’s a big blessing to both the reader and myself. I also love books that offer an escape. If you finish my book and feel like you’ve said goodbye to a friend, have come to care about my characters, and hate to see it end, then I’ll feel I’ve been a good steward of the writing gift God has given me.

 

 What do the post-its around your computer/desk say? 

No post-its but I do have a little rock with flowers painted on it which says “GROW.” It’s a reminder to me that writing is a learning process and God is stretching me, often beyond my comfort zone, but it’s for my good and His glory.

 

cabin What works do we have to look forward to from you in future?

I feel so blessed to write 18th-century fiction which is a mostly unexplored time period in the inspirational market. My next novel, Courting Morrow Little, due out next summer, involves a young woman and her preacher father on the Red River in Kentucky during the Revolutionary War. This book details an unusual courtship which I hope readers will enjoy so much they’ll find it hard to put the book down:)

 

 You can learn more about Laura Frantz and her books at her website www.LauraFrantz.net and on her blog, Laura’s Journal, at www.laurafrantz.blogspot.com.