Award-winning author Lauraine Snelling has written more than 80 books, ranging from historical and contemporary fiction to nonfiction and children’s books. She ventures into Minnesota with the launch of her new series, Under Northern Skies.
The first book, The Promise of Dawn (Bethany House), features the trials of Signe, her husband Rune, and their three boys, who leave their beloved homeland of Norway and move in with relatives in the New World. Their new life is far from a dream, as Uncle Einar and Aunt Gird force Signe and her family to work themselves nearly to the bone to repay the cost of their voyage.
In this interview, Snelling answers our questions about the new series, her love for Norsk Høstfest and Scandinavian food, and her favorite way to connect with readers!
Is there a central theme in the Under Northern Skies series?
One of my main themes is always forgiveness, both on the giving and the receiving, especially in families but for all of us. The hardest is usually when we need to forgive ourselves. There we are on both the giving and the receiving … not easy, but necessary.
Learning to love is strong in this series, too … all the kinds of love, so many of which are a sacrifice.
Was it challenging to tackle a new setting for this series? What are some things you found intriguing about the Minnesota setting?
Going from the flat plains of the Red River Valley to the giant pine trees of northern Minnesota was similar to night and day. Those around me could hear me mutter sometimes, along the line of “why would I…” I also have to confess, I miss Ingeborg and the characters of Blessing, [North Dakota].
Those huge pine trees and all the other flora and fauna kept me reading, sometimes late into the night. The reverence found in a forest of big trees, be they pine or redwood, is good for the soul.
Would you let our readers in on a few challenges faced by your main character, Signe, and her family as they settle in a new land? How is her faith tested, and how does she experience personal growth through the process?
Think about it. Leaving your family with the certain knowledge you would never see them again this side of heaven, that goodbye really meant goodbye. If I put myself in that position, the tears gather. Could I have made myself do that?
The desire for a different life for you and your children had to be stronger than the fear and the longing to remain at home. Seeing one’s children go hungry would be a mighty strong impetus to overcome the fear. And then to face cruel relatives who owned you until you paid your debt? That would surely be a dream killer, but Signe and Rune hang in there and learn how to show respect that leads to caring for those same relatives.
I was cheering them on all the way, sometimes in amazement. I’m afraid I would have yelled back and stormed out of the room, the house and on down the road.
Can you give us any clues about what we can expect from the next book in the series?
Come on, that’s really not a fair question. But here goes: Will Rune’s sister Nilda find her heart’s desire? I still don’t know the answer to that one for sure. What about his younger brother Ivar? Oh, I like that young man. And Rune and Signe? What challenges will face them this time? Oh, sorry, guess I just raised more questions.
Keeping with the Norwegian theme, we hear that you are one of the favorite authors featured at Norsk Høstfest, held in Minot, North Dakota, each fall. What do you enjoy most about the festival?
I am always excited about going to Høstfest! I love seeing so many longtime friends and catching up a bit on their lives. The people I meet are the real reason I go there. And if you twist my arm, just the tiniest, I might confess the food is a tugger too.
What is your favorite Scandinavian food?
Oh, another unfair question. Hmm, could it be krumkake, sandbakklse, fattigman, or pickled herring? Three cookies and a fish. Interesting combination. Oh, I have to include lefse. We go to Høstfest early so we can attend the Lutefisk and Lefse dinner at Our Savior’s Lutheran church, which is always the Saturday before Høstfest. My mouth is watering.
Beyond events like Høstfest, what are some of your favorite ways to connect with your readers, and why is that important to you?
I truly enjoy Facebook. I hear many people grumble about it, but I have made lifelong friends, many of whom I’ve met in person because of our common interests, besides reading and books, that is.
I’ve been traveling so much this year, I’ve not been as faithful with my daily letter [on Facebook], but this too shall pass and we will have many more lively discussions. These relationships are important to me because I believe God has brought us together as a Facebook family, to cheer each other on, pray for needs and, very often, share information. I get stuck on something in my writing and I pose the question on FB. Wow, the answers I get from my caring FB family!
In addition to your writing, you have also taught at many writer’s conferences, workshops and other events through the years. What are some of your favorite topics to cover?
My favorite workshop is about building characters who walk off the page and into readers’ hearts. I am by nature a storyteller, if you haven’t guessed that by now, so I get to tell stories to help other people tell their own.
My dad was a storyteller too, but if you can believe this, he accused me of fibbing. Well, he used a stronger word but I, like him, take truth and expand it some to make a memorable story. Just the facts, Ma’am? Not me. I love embroidery, both with needle and thread and word pictures.
My favorite writer’s conference is Mount Hermon near the grand Pacific Ocean near Santa Cruz. It is always over Palm Sunday so you know the dates every year. Attending Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is a life-changing experience.
Who are some other authors whose writing inspires you?
Cynthia Ruchti is at the top of my list that includes Julie Klassen, DiAnn Miles, Louise Penny, Donna Leon … oh, the list goes on and on and on. Authors come and go; some just do not write fast enough. Have I mentioned how much I love to read?
When you are not writing, reading or teaching, what kinds of things do you do to nourish your spirit and keep you excited about life?
I love watercolor painting, especially butterflies and flowers, oh and birds and … there I go again. So with the butterflies and flowers, I am an avid gardener, and I love the colors in both areas. The colors in this creation we live in are beyond description. Sometime “oh” is all I can say.
Is there anything else you would like to say to FamilyFiction readers?
Just a mighty THANK YOU for enjoying my books and sharing them with others. Your love of the stories I write makes it possible for me to keep on writing. Your encouragement makes the journey even more delightful. Oh and, hope to see you at Høstfest, a book signing or on Facebook!