Meet Historical Romance Author Susan G. Mathis

What a delight to welcome historical romance author Susan G Mathis. Readers of her recently released Katelyn’s Choice are calling it “a gripping story” and “a must read.”

Susan, you’ve been successful as a nonfiction author. Why did you turn to writing fiction?

I swore I’d never write fiction, but never say never! My hubby and I went to a book talk/signing, and after we left, I jokingly said, “I could write a story about a quilt!” I then proceeded to tell him the entire story, and he said, “Well, write it!” Thus began my journey of writing historical fiction, and I’ve found my playground. Creating memorable characters, weaving a meaningful story around history, and using my imagination for God’s glory simply thrills me to my toes!

Tell us about the Thousand Islands series and explain the Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age is the period from 1870-1910, just after the Civil War and before World War I. It is characterized by the expansion of the Industrial Revolution, growth in the economy, and unfortunately lots of social problems.

The Thousand Islands Gilded Age begins in 1872 when George Pullman invited President Grant to his island for a vacation. After this, the rich and famous bought islands and built grand castles, mansions, and elegant cottages. Think of it as a Downton Abbey meets the St. Lawrence River.

You’ve made several trips to the islands for research. How did you choose the Thousand Islands as the setting for your series?

A few years ago my husband and I visited Wolfe Island, Pullman Island, and Singer Castle on Dark Island. We met some wonderful people who kept the intriguing Thousand Island history deep in their hearts, and I gleaned all kinds of valuable information and made special friends in the process. My historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and a Thousand Islands author herself. Seeing and experiencing the area as I wrote made my writing come to life, and my historical editor keeps the history accurate.  

Katelyn’s Choice is the first book in the series. What’s it about?

Katelyn Kavanagh’s mother dreamed her daughter would one day escape the oppressive environment of their Upstate New York farm for service in the enchanting Thousand Islands, home to Gilded Age millionaires. But when her wish comes true, Katelyn finds herself in the service of none other than the famous George Pullman, and the transition proves anything but easy. Thomas O’Neill, brother of her best friend, is all grown up and also working on Pullman Island. Despite Thomas’ efforts to help the irresistible Katelyn adjust to the intricacies of her new world, she just can’t seem to tame her gossiping tongue—even when the information she’s privy to could endanger her job, the 1872 re-election of Pullman guest President Ulysses S. Grant, and the love of the man of her dreams.

Your books always have a strong Christian component. What subtle teaching will we find in Katelyn’s Choice?

The power of the tongue to hurt or harm, bring life or death, pain or joy. And always—redemption!

How do you decide on your characters and their names for your books?

Katelyn is simply an Irish name I’ve always liked, and because I have a strong Irish thread in all my stories, Thomas, Shamus, and McCarthy are also Irish names of my characters.

Do you have another book coming soon?

Book Two of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series comes out in April 2020. It’s called Devyn’s Dilemma and here’s a summary of the story:

Twenty-year-old Devyn McKenna is nervous about working on Dark Island in the imposing Castle called The Towers, a 28-room structure complete with dungeons, underground passageways, and castle secrets. Devyn struggles to find the self-confidence she needs to carry out her duties as a housemaid in the summer home of the wealthy president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Frederick Bourne. As she serves the likes of Brig. Gen. Cornelius Vanderbuilt III and others, her curiosity for learning grows. But when she’s accused of stealing Bourne’s investment money for expanding the NYC subway, her faith is tested like never before.

About the Author:

Susan G. Mathis is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction. She’s a former editor/editorial director of twelve Focus on the Family publications and has served as founding editor of Thriving Family magazine. She’s currently vice president of Christian Authors Network (CAN), a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), and Evangelical Press Association (EPA). Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling globally, having visited more than forty countries. Her latest fiction series is set in her childhood stomping ground, the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate New York.

How you can learn more about Susan:

Website: www.SusanGMathis.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanGMathis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SusanGMathis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susangmathis

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susangmathisaut

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6044608.Susan_G_Mathis

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108568340293012416399

Author Cindy Huff on Fascinating Facts about Life in the Old West

So excited to welcome author and friend, Cindy Huff, whose debut novel, Secrets and Charades, releases today! I read and loved this historical romance which is full of action, surprises, and a very touching romance. Be sure to check out how to win a free copy of Cindy’s novel at the end of this post.

Before Cindy shares some of the fascinating  research that helped to bring her novel alive, here’s the back cover copy to give you a bird-eye view of her story’s characters and plot.

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.

Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?

And now … here’s Cindy!

Beth, I’m delighted to be back. The timing is perfect for sharing interesting the things I learned in my research. I love Jake and Evangeline and the crew of the Double M. But their story would be so flat without the research that helped to build my story world.

Beyond the internet

Before I created my story, I spent a few months reading books because the internet is not as detailed. When I googled female doctors in the 1800’s, I found some information. But the library, used books on Amazon, and my friend Chris’ extensive library offered far more interesting information. Chris is a Civil War reenactor and history buff. These resources also helped me create Evangeline’s backstory.

1800’s Women fought for education

In the 1800’s, educated men believed women’s brains were too frail to understand weightier subjects beyond what finishing school provided. Professors in medical schools did all they could to discourage women from attending. And those women who did were often excluded from cadaver dissection. The instructors insisted it was unseemly for a single woman to view a naked male body, even a dead one. Women had to work harder to prove themselves.

Naming the town

My story’s town of Charleton is fictitious. It took a lot of digging to create a town name not found anywhere in Texas. Google helped here.  Surprisingly, many names I made up were actual towns and each in the wrong part of Texas.

“Soldiers heart”

Jake and most of the Double M crew are Civil War veterans. The trauma of war affected each of them differently. Many who survived dealt with Soldier’s heart. (PTSD today) Strong, brave men became frightened, irrational, or violent at the least provocation. Some spent the rest of their lives in insane asylums. Others acted out and became outlaws. The James gang is an example. Bart, one of the secondary characters in Secrets and Charades, exhibits the negative attributes of soldier’s heart. This adds an unexpected twist to the story.

Horses

Jake served in the Confederate Army and, like his fellow-soldiers, admired General Lee. This is evident by the naming of his personal mount. The stallion resembled Lee’s steed, Traveler, who was both intelligent and loyal.

I was surprised to learn most ranch horses had no name. They were just tools of the trade. Most cowboys owned a saddle but not a horse. A few of my characters have horses with names. Being named made them more than just a horse.

Dishes and decorum

Evangeline brought trunks and crates with her. One special item was her grandmother’s china. Fine dishes could be found even in soddies and dugouts. New settlers built homes by cutting large sections of sod into bricks. Others dug holes in the side of hills. The interiors had carpet on the dirt floors and maybe a few nice furnishings and even curtains. These along with china represented civilization to the settlers. Mr. Farley, Jake’s wealthy neighbor, even takes his china on a cattle drive. He has a portable table covered with a cloth and china dishes for every meal. Families came west with at least a few pieces of china they used as everyday dishes.

Sewing and fancy work

Sewing machines might cost a few months’ wages, but the peddle-driven contraption was a wonderful time-saving device. Still, women prided themselves in their fancy work (embroidery, needlepoint, and tatting) and neat hand-sewed stitches. Bertha Wood, another secondary character, weaves wool into linen and dyes wool thread into a variety of colors for knitting. The description of the dying process got the ax in the final draft of Secrets and Charades.

Jesse James influence

Evangeline practiced medicine in Missouri before her adventure west. The James gang robbed banks and trains in Missouri. I ran across a story about them that made me laugh. Roadside inns with dormitory style rooms were places weary travelers stayed the night. The story goes Jesse James dressed as a woman while fleeing with bank loot. He stayed at one of these inns. Everyone thought it odd the woman insisted on sleeping with her valise under her head. This gave me the idea to have Evangeline carry cash hidden in her petticoat when she traveled west on the train.

Wild west chivalry

An outlaw refused to steal a woman’s horse. Instead, he rode past the female rider and continued until his horse gave out and he had to walk. At which point, he was arrested and hanged. The outlaws in Secrets and Charades are not as nice.

Former slaves populated the west

After the Civil War, many former slaves immigrated west. They ranched, farmed, founded towns and pursued other occupations. The blacksmith on the Double M is a former slave.

Gunfire

I discussed the types of guns available during this period with my friend, Chris. He explained how the Winthrop sniper rifle could hit its mark from a mile away. Unbelievable.

The one description I was constantly fighting not to get edited out of my story was the firing of this rifle. Bullets travel faster than the speed of sound. A victim fell before the report of the gun was heard. And yet, editors and critique partners unfamiliar with weapon fire wanted my character to hear the shot then see the victim fall.

Of course, most of my research never found a place in my novel. Some are destined for the sequel. And yes, I’m working on a sequel and have ideas for a third in the series.

To celebrate the release of Secrets and Charades I’m gifting a copy to a lucky commenter. Beth will choose the winner, and I’ll send them either a paperback or Kindle version. You must have a United States address to be eligible to win.

To be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Cindy’s novel, leave a comment responding to her post here. I will post the winner here next week Wednesday. You will then have a week to claim your free book.

Thank you Cindy for sharing such interesting facts about life in the West, and congratulations on the release of your first novel.

More about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois.

Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on http://www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff

Like my Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/author.huff11/