Thank you so much, Ann, for being interviewed on my blog today!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where life flowed as deep and tranquil as the Cedar River that divided east from west and the neighborhoods were safe for children to play outside until after dark. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family where books were collected and revered. My earliest memories are of the sublime pleasure to be had from reading, first cuddled next to my grandmother in her big stuffed rocking chair as she read the children’s classics aloud, then curled up on my own as I graduated from story collections and Little Golden Books to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and finally to the contemporary and classic novels in my mother’s library. I was already a lifelong book junkie, the first step on the road to becoming a writer.
Which writers inspire you?
My favorite authors are those whose command of the English language allows them to draw compelling word pictures, create convincing characters, and pull me into a mesmerizing plot. In short, those from whom I can learn.
I have read two books recently that fulfill these qualifications. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristi Cambron is a lyrical look at one of America’s oldest entertainment icons, the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. It deftly weaves historical fact with the story of several fictional characters, bringing them and their circumstances alive in a way that is magical. The second is Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, a psychological thriller that is truly impossible to put down. Again, the author has drawn such persuasive characters and placed them in such realistic settings that one can overlook certain implausible characteristics of the plot.
“A Light Within” is set in 1859 in Pennsylvania. Could you tell us how much research was involved in bringing that time and place to life?
This was my third novel set during the decade before the Civil War, and I had already done extensive research about that era in terms of general background. For this book, I researched medical education and knowledge of that time as well as the main locations where the story takes place: the cities of Sacramento, San Francisco and Philadelphia and the Isthmus of Panama. I obtained period street maps and photos and used them to visualize my characters as they moved about in the story. Doing this research was like completing an intricate puzzle, and I found it highly entertaining and stimulating.
Where did your idea for “A Light Within” come from?
My second and third historical novels each took a minor character from the prior novel and developed a story unique to that person. I was intrigued by Cora, who was a girl of sixteen in Refiner’s Fire, because she was a fiery rebel even at that young age: a feminist, abolitionist, and believer in the right of each individual to determine his or her future regardless of class or station in life. Since she expressed an interest in medicine in Refiner’s Fire, I decided to develop that theme. Needing an extra boost of tension and conflict, I decided to place her in juxtaposition to her twin brother, who was following a traditional path even though his “inner light” nudged him toward the arts.
Give us an insight into Cora Fielding. What drives her passion for medicine?
Cora has been assisting her physician father at his clinic in Sacramento, California for several years. She finds the human body and its ailments fascinating and has studied every textbook she could get her hands on. The fact that women are not readily accepted in the medical profession only sharpens her resolve that she will allow nothing to stand in her way from choosing her own path through life.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on presently?
I am currently rewriting a book first published many years ago. This is something of a stopgap activity until my personal “light within” sends me in a new direction.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
For me, the hardest part of writing is sustaining the flow once the initial excitement of beginning a new project fades. There comes a time in every manuscript when my momentum slows and I must grind out the progression of the plot, always relying on my characters to give me the necessary direction.
By contrast, the conception, planning, and writing of the initial chapters as well as the completion of the final pages provide an emotional high that is impossible to describe. The entire process is very much like riding a virtual roller coaster. At the end of the ride, I never fail to find joy and immense satisfaction.
What actors could you see playing Cora, Carl, and Peter?
My mental image of these people is so strong and unique that I cannot imagine them being played by anyone else. Were I ever so fortunate as to have this book made into a movie, someone else would have to make that decision.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005ROLKVM
Once again, thank you very much for appearing on my author spotlight today, Ann!