In the beautiful town of Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, things are looking up. There’s a new, beautiful, mountain resort that’s bringing in rich tourists, the local newspaper is starting to print again, and love is in the air. But everyone has their secrets and, when Sophie Caldwell and Ethan Hayward’s secrets catch up to them, they just might destroy everything.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION DRIVING THE STORY IN EVERY PERFECT GIFT?
All of my stories are driven by my love of history, especially the history of the Victorian age, and by my admiration for the achievements of real-life women of the period, despite the odds against them. All of the women in the Hickory Ridge series have spiritual and practical obstacles to overcome. Sophie in Every Perfect Gift is plagued by rumors about her parentage that force her into keeping a secret from the man she has grown to love, and by prejudices against women in business, especially the newspaper business. Though my characters are fictional, they are based in part on the lives of actual women. I hope my stories honor them.
Q: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
I’m guided by my own interests and discoveries that often develop into story ideas. Almost fifteen years ago, on my first visit to the South Carolina lowcountry, I bought a book written by a woman rice planter. Her story captivated me and would not let go. This past summer I hired a river guide to take me to her plantation on the Pee Dee River and it was quite emotional for me. I felt as if I really knew her. My new book coming out this fall is called Carolina Gold and it’s based on her life and writings. An idea that germinated 15 years ago will finally be a book.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES FROM THE STORY WHERE YOU DREW ELEMENTS FROM REAL LIFE?
The history of “passing for white” in 19th century America drew me in. One of the background books I read is about three such families, and I relied upon their stories in crafting Sophie’s background and experiences. Some of the newspaperwomen mentioned in the novel are drawn from real-life. Lydia McPherson, whom Sophie meets at Blue Smoke, edited and published the Sherman, Texas Democrat during the 1880’s. Nellie Bly of course was a famous 19th century newspaperwoman. Their experiences were very helpful in creating a fictional world for Sophie.
Q: WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I’m revising Carolina Gold and writing a new romantic suspense novel to be published next year called The Bracelet which is set in antebellum Savannah, Georgia. All of my books are a blend of history, romance, and mystery. This new one has a bit more mystery and suspense in it. I’m having fun writing it.
Q: WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS GET OUT OF YOUR WORK?
This is by far the question I’m most often asked. I don’t feel I should tell a reader what she should get from a book of mine, because every reader is different. Every reader brings her own unique experiences and expectations to the story. Once I define for her what the book is about and what she should take from it, it’s hard for it to mean anything else. For me it’s much more rewarding to hope that each reader will dwell in the story and make her own meaning from it.