Faced with eternity, how can you escape when the past is only one step behind you and the enemy unknown? C.F. Dunn’s series The Secret of the Journal is a chronological suspense story made for history buffs! Emma is a professor on a mission to uncover the truth behind a scrap of journal left by her late grandfather. When an opportunity arises for her to travel to Maine from Cambridge to further study the relic, she jumps at the chance to uncover the truth she desperately needs. in this interview, C.F. shares the inspiration for the series, what her characters have in common with people she knows in real life, and what influencers her writing most…
Where did the inspiration for this series come from?
Visiting a Medieval village church in a peaceful corner of England, I came across a deliberately defaced marble tomb. Who – in that sacred place – had felt driven to desecrate a grave, and who was the unnamed individual who had inspired so much hatred that his memory had been obliterated?
Are any parts of the plot or characters pulled from real life?
My characters are composites of the many interesting people I’ve met over the years and then adapted for the purposes of fiction. One of the most interesting was my great-uncle Douglas, on whom I based Emma’s beloved grandfather. He survived being blown up and gassed in the First World War, found his vocation and joined the church, and taught himself Latin, ancient Greek, and Hebrew. A man of great intellect and deep faith, he maintained his wisdom and stoicism despite all he had witnessed, and was a great influence in my childhood.
What influences your writing the most?
The greatest influence on my writing is the experience of life itself through the people I meet, my family, and my faith. The beauty of language and the gift of story helps me represent life in all its complexity.
Is there some overarching theme for the series?
Fearful Symmetry is the last book in the five-book The Secret Of The Journal series, which is best described as a single story in five parts, and has to be read in chronological order! (starting with Mortal Fire – winner of the gold medal for Adult Romance in the Book of the Year Awards, 2012). Although my books are not specifically Christian fiction, faith is central to the main characters and lies behind many of the decisions they make. Important, too, are the questions of personal integrity, loyalty, justice and the love of family.
Can you tell us about any research you did for these books?
As a Medieval historian, I enjoy research. The series is set in the USA and in England, and I traveled to Maine to gather background details. I had already written the draft scenes before I went there, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered Maine to be exactly as I had pictured it! In contrast, Emma comes from Stamford – an ancient and very beautiful stone town in Lincolnshire where my own family originates – so I had generations of information tucked away ready to be used for the books.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
That’s a very difficult question to answer as my characters have become part of my life. I like Pat – she’s down-to-earth, motherly and practical. There’s Aydin – a quiet, thoughtful young man with a sad past. Elena is great fun, kind, and very supportive of Emma – a truly good friend. And then there’s Rosie… but I’ll have to let you find out who she is and why I think she is a very special person!
What makes your protagonist an interesting character?
I’m very fond of Emma. She is a thoughtful, good-hearted young woman who has been bruised by her experiences and has hidden away from life as a result. She faces multiple challenges, makes many mistakes along the way, but remains loving, loyal and faithful.