Acclaimed novelist Carrie Turansky finds inspiration in the rich history of northern England and the true story of a 19th century inventor and engineer. Turansky illuminates historical details and blends them seamlessly with well-imagined characters, a captivating plot, and the truth of God’s unconditional love in her latest page-turner, Shine Like the Dawn (Multnomah Books). In this interview, Carrie shares about her inspiration, historical research and why she chose the Edwardian period for her novel.
Can faith and love reunite childhood friends separated by an inconceivable tragedy and light the way to a bright future?
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PARTICULAR TIME IN HISTORY TO WRITE ABOUT?
The popularity of Downton Abbey sparked my interest in Edwardian England. When I jumped into the research and learned more about life in England 100 years ago I fell in love with the era. The clothing, manners, customs, inventions, and social changes are all so interesting, and they give me some great story ideas. Shine Like the Dawn is set in 1903 in Northumberland, England, and I enjoyed learning more about this beautiful area of the country.
WHAT RESEARCH DID YOU DO FOR THIS NOVEL?
I’ve taken two research trips to England in the last few years. Seeing the countryside and visiting historic homes and gardens has given me a wonderful foundation to build my stories. The inspiration for Shine Like the Dawn began when I found Cragside, a Victorian country manor house, through an online search. I looked into the history of the house and the family who lived there, and that gave me the background for my hero and his family. My heroine is a milliner, and I enjoyed learning how hats were made and how they changed during the Edwardian era. The setting of Northumberland and learning more about historic gardens were also part of the research for writing Shine Like the Dawn.
ARE ANY PARTS OF THE PLOT OR CHARACTERS PULLED FROM REAL LIFE?
The hero’s background and family are inspired by the life of Sir William Armstrong of Cragside in Northumberland, England. Armstrong was an inventor and engineer and the builder of Cragside Estate and Gardens, which was the first home in England to be lit by hydroelectric power. Several important scenes in Shine Like the Dawn take place in the gardens, and it was fun to include some of Armstrong’s inventions in the hero’s home, which I called Morningside Manor.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER IN THE BOOK?
Maggie Lounsbury, the heroine, is my favorite character in Shine Like the Dawn. She suffers a great loss at the beginning of the story, and her search to understand why it happened and who is responsible are key plot points in the novel. Maggie’s losses have shaped her personality, and she has become even more strong and determined because of them. Those losses also hardened her, and she has distanced herself from the Lord. She questions God’s love and justice, and is determined to find the answers to her questions herself. But through the kindness of the hero and wisdom shared by her grandmother, Maggie’s heart begins to soften. As she continues on her journey to solve the mystery she eventually sees the way God balances Justice and Mercy. This renews her relationship with God and opens the way for forgiveness and restoration.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH AFFECT YOUR WRITING?
My faith is central in my life, and I hope it shines through in my writing. I like to give my characters issues and struggles that are common to many of us, and then I ask how would God help them overcome those challenges. I hope people will enjoy reading Shine Like the Dawn and feel as though they’ve been swept away to Edwardian England, but I also hope they will be challenged to explore what it means to forgive and reflect God’s mercy to those who have hurt them in the past. Those are lessons that touched my heart as I wrote this story, and I trust they will touch my reading friends too.