Heart of Stone, Irish Angel Series #1Heart of Stone, Irish Angel Series #1
Jill Marie Landis
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Even after four years of posing as a respectable widow in Glory, Texas, Laura Foster is still afraid somebody will reveal her true identity. So she resists Reverend Brand McCormick's courtship, knowing his reputation would be shattered if her former life is discovered. But will Brand's own past bring him down instead? 352 pages, softcover from Zondervan.
     

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Jill Marie LandisJill Marie Landis is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. She has won numerous awards for her sweeping emotional romances, such as Summer Moon and Magnolia Creek. With her toes in the sand and head in the clouds, Jill now lives in Hawaii with her husband.

Favorite Verse: 1 John 3:11: This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.


 

 Our Interview with Jill Marie Landis


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

After writing 20 award winning Historical and Contemporary Romance novels, most of which have appeared on national bestseller lists including the USA Today and New York Times, I turned to sharing heartwarming, inspirational stories of faith coupled with exciting plotlines and unforgettable characters with my readers.

Heart of Stone is my third inspirational historical and the first of the Irish Angels series published by Zondervan.
I live in Hawaii in a small town with my husband, Steve. I love to swim, grow orchids, dance the hula and read when I’m not writing.

Helping aspiring writers is as great a learning experience as a teaching.

How did you come up with the concept for Heart of Stone?

The heroine in Heart of Stone had a minor role in a previous book called The Accidental Lawman. Laura Foster, a widow running a boarding house in Glory, a fictional Texas town, was the kind of character that I wanted to know more about and so I expanded on her character by writing Heart of Stone a year later.  

Is any part of Heart of Stone true?
 
Laura Foster, the fictional heroine, immigrated to New Orleans in the 1850’s along with her parents and three sisters. Through research, I placed them in an actual neighborhood called the Irish Channel. It was named for the many impoverished Irish immigrants who lived there.
 
Many Irish came to America to escape the famine in Ireland. So many died during the passage that the ships were called coffin ships. In 1853, yellow fever was rampant in New Orleans. So, this is how I decided that Laura would lose her parents and later she and her sisters were split up. Each of them is featured in her own book in The Irish Angels Series.  

How closely is Heart of Stone based on your life experiences?
 
It’s truly a work of fiction. I have used my travels to Texas and Louisiana to help texture descriptions of the settings.

How long did Heart of Stone take you to complete?
 
Most of my books take about eight months to complete, but I don’t work every day.  Sometimes I have other projects going or I am editing a previous book, getting it ready for publication, or I’m doing promotion work.

Do you have a favorite character in Heart of Stone? Why?

Laura is my favorite character because she was such a troubled heroine with a very dark past. She was sold into a brothel by her uncle when she was ten years old. She and her three sisters never saw each other again. Laura made something of her life and chose to become a whole new person. Even though she created a new identity, her past still caught up with her. Through love, faith, and forgiveness, she finally achieves her goal of claiming a new life.

My second favorite character in the book is Jesse, the illegitimate son of the hero, Preacher Brand McCormick. Jesse is the kind of character who just begs for a book of his own. He may get one someday.

How much research did Heart of Stone take?

Most of my books require quite a bit of research since they are historical. The time periods in Heart of Stone are both 1853 and 1874, which are before and after the Civil War. America was completely changed because of the war. Texas, Louisiana, New Orleans, Irish immigration, yellow fever, prostitution in New Orleans, costumes, customs, manners and architecture of the times all had to be researched. During the writing, the trick is not to let the research and facts bog down the art of storytelling. It should be used to enhance. I also stop to research as the story unfolds.

What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Heart of Stone?

When people think of Louisiana and New Orleans, they think of the French origins of the settlement and the Creole culture. Long before the American Revolution, an Irishman named Alexander O’Reilly was appointed as the second Governor General of the colony of Louisiana by King Charles III of Spain. The 1850 census shows the Irish as the predominate ethnic group of New Orleans. They far outnumbered the French. I had no idea.

What were your favorite books as a child?

Beautiful Joe, Calico Captive, The Light in the Forest.

 

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
 
The day to day writing. It’s exciting and fun to talk story with other writers, to come up with plots and characters, to research, to read other writers and study the genre.

The hard part is sitting down and writing a set amount of pages per day until the book is complete. It’s not only isolating, but life itself is a distraction. People think if you are home working that you can stop and chat, or go out to lunch, or do other fun things.

Convincing them I’m really working is almost impossible and one of the worst offenders is my husband. It’s also physically exhausting to sit at the computer, especially when I get into the writing and finally look up and a couple of hours has gone by and I haven’t stretched or walked around a bit.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the wonderful people I’ve met through my work; the editors, other writers, readers and fans. I love the fact that I can work at home, that I don’t have to dress up or comb my hair, that I can set my own hours. Most of all I like spinning a story and hearing from readers who say, “I was up all night. I couldn’t put the book down!” Then I know I’ve done my job.

What is your writing style?   (Do you outline?  Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   Or somewhere in-between?)

Since I write historicals I find the plot in the research. Once I narrow down a location and time period, I come up with characters who will exist there. I do research on the time period and historical events, which give me lots of things I can use for plotting. When I have a synopsis that’s about 20 or 30 pages, then I’m ready to start.

Does the novel follow the synopsis exactly?

Rarely. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out but I like to have a place to start and refer back to so I don’t paint myself into a corner.
 
Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

I try to do as much character building as I can before I start a book but the characters actually reveal more and more of themselves to me as I go on. By the end of the book I know so much more about them than I did in the beginning. That’s when I go back and start to polish. Knowing them better makes editing the next few drafts that much more fun.
 
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
  
Recently I finished Heart of Lies, which is book 2 of the Irish Angels Series and I’m almost finished with the first draft of book 3, Heart of Glass. My mind is always spinning with ideas for future projects. Sometimes I wish I could write two books at once—with my left hand on one keyboard and my right hand on another.
 

 

What message would you like your readers to take from Heart of Stone?

Judge not. The quote at the beginning of the book says it all; He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. John 8:7

What is your greatest achievement?

This year my husband and I will have been married for 40 years. We have worked hard to create the life we have and never, ever let a day go by without remembering to be grateful for the blessings and abundance in our lives.
 
What is your goal or mission as a writer?

My goal is to inspire readers, to entertain and take them away from the world for a while by creating page-turning stories that are hard to put down. I hope to create memorable characters in impossible situations who, through love and faith, triumph over adversity.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Living in Hawaii I feel as if we are always “away from it all,” but when I’m feeling stressed, I remember to breathe, get outside, go for a swim, sit in the sun and relax or work in the garden. From our upper lanai I can see a velvet green mountain with a waterfall in the distance. I often sit up there and be still and just take it all in.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I enjoy always hearing from readers and can be reached at www.jillmarielandis.com and also on facebook at Jill Marie Landis.

 


 
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