The author explains how historical research feeds her ideas for her novels.
A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, Lynn Austin has sold more than 1.5 million copies of her books and won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction. Her latest novel is Legacy of Mercy (Bethany House): Unable to focus on her upcoming marriage, a woman hires detectives to learn the truth about her birth mother—and soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden. In this interview, Lynn explains why her readers demanded this novel, reveals the inspiration for the story’s time and place, and the challenges in separating historical fact from fiction.
Legacy of Mercy is a sequel to your novel Waves of Mercy. How does this new book build on that story?
At the end of Waves of Mercy, one of the main characters, Anna Nicholson, returns to Chicago to marry her fiancé and continue her life as a wealthy, young socialite. She has discovered, over the summer, who her birth mother was, and she is naturally curious to learn more about her.
She also has no idea who her birth father was and longs to solve that mystery, too. Most of all, she is eager to learn how to grow in her new Christian faith. In Legacy of Mercy, she explores all of these questions, which creates a host of new problems in her life.
The other main character from Waves of Mercy, Geesje DeJonge, is contented with her walk with God and her life in Holland, Michigan after enduring many trials as an immigrant from the Netherlands. At age 67, she isn’t seeking a new adventure. But when she offers to help Cornelia, a young Dutch immigrant, she’ll discover that she still has many things to learn about God and about herself.
What made you want to return to Anna’s story?
After Waves of Mercy was published, I started receiving letters from readers who all wanted to know what happens next in Anna’s life. She is only 23 years old, and a brand-new Christian, so there had to be a lot more to tell about her—or so my readers insisted.
They were also concerned about Derk VanderVeen—would he ever find true love? The more I thought about it, the more curious I was to discover the answers, too. I loved all of the characters from Waves of Mercy so it was a pleasure to bring them back to life and find out what happens next.
Anna’s grandmother is helping Dutch immigrants adjust to America. What inspired you to explore the story of Dutch immigration to America?
I live in Holland, Michigan, a town that was settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847. When my husband and I moved here four years ago, I was curious to learn more about the town’s past.
It has been a haven for Dutch immigrants leaving the Netherlands for a variety of reasons, including religious persecution, famine, and the poverty and hardship following World War II. The more I read about their courage, perseverance, and faith, the more I knew I wanted to tell their stories.
Lynn explains what inspired her to write about characters in this period and place—click through to continue!