|Diamond Duo, Texas Fortunes Series #1|
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when Bertha Biddle meets an enigmatic charmer named Annie Monroe in 1877 Jefferson, Texas, she's hoping to learn the art of how to woo a man. But just how far will she go to win her heart's desire? Thaddeus Bloom is torn between meeting his father's demands and declaring his love for Bertha. Which path will he choose? When faced with racial bigotry, Sarah King is in danger of losing respect for her husband and perhaps his love. Will she stand by her man? Or will a woman's murder provoke a startling twist of all their fates?
Marcia Gruver won third place in the 2007 ACFW Genesis contest and third in the 2004 ACFW Noble Theme contest. Another entry in 2004 finished in the top ten. She placed second in the 2002 Colorado Christian Writer’s contest for new authors, securing a spot in an upcoming compilation book. “I Will Never Leave Thee,” in For Better, For Worse—Devotional Thoughts for Married Couples, was released by Christian Publications in January 2004. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Fellowship of Christian Writers, and The Writers View—and a longstanding member of ACFW Crit3 and Seared Hearts, her brilliant and insightful critique groups. Lifelong Texans, Marcia and her husband, Lee, have one daughter and four sons. Collectively, this motley crew has graced them with ten grandchildren and one great-granddaughter—so far.
Favorite verse: Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
Our Interview with Marcia Gruver
How did you get started as a CBA writer?
I was granny before I found my passion to write. With our youngest about to leave for college
and hubby on the road most of the year, I had too much time on my hands. Sitting in front of the computer one day, I decided to write the Great American Novel. Not far into it, I realized two things. I didn’t know how, and I needed to change directions. Up to that point, I’d surrendered every aspect of my life to the Lord, so why not writing?
When I stumbled across a series of books by Janette Oke, then devoured several novels by Tracie Peterson, I felt I’d found a niche where I belonged, so I set out to learn everything I could. In 2002, I attended Marlene Bagnull’s Colorado Christian Writers Conference where God confirmed in tangible ways that I was meant to write. At the 2007 ACFW Conference in Dallas, Barbour Publishing presented me with my first contract. It was also the first time Barbour had ever given a three-book contract at the conference. I’m still in awe of that fact and trying my best to live up to the confidence they’ve placed in me.
How did you come up with the concept for Diamond Duo?
It’s hard to visit historic Jefferson, Texas without tripping over the true story of the unsolved murder of the infamous Diamond Bessie, aka Annie Monroe. Diamond Bessie has become a tourist attraction there, and the locals seem more than eager to tell the account. The shops abound with books on the topic, one penned by Jefferson historian, Fred McKenzie. Every year, during Jefferson’s annual Pilgrimage Festival, the town puts on a play entitled “The Diamond Bessie Murder Trial.” The actors are Jefferson residents and the script is derived from court transcripts. It’s really quite an event!
The tale begins in 1877, when a flashy, well-dressed couple rode a train into town for a short visit. They checked into a hotel as A. Monroe and wife. The woman seemed to go by more than one name, one of them Bessie Moore. Because she wore several large diamond rings, supposedly gifts offered in exchange for immoral favors, the locals soon dubbed her “Diamond Bessie.”
On the last day of Bessie’s life, she and her companion, Abraham Rothschild, took a picnic basket into the woods. He came out alone, wandering the streets of Jefferson by himself for several days. When asked about Bessie, he said she was staying with nearby friends, and would return in time for their departure. However, he left by himself two days later, carrying Bessie’s luggage along with his own.
A local woman discovered poor Bessie’s body in the woods several days later. Jefferson officials went after Abraham Rothschild and tried him for her murder, but his money and influence won him an acquittal.
While standing over Diamond Bessie’s grave, assuming her eternal fate, I found myself wondering “What if?” Maybe Bessie was the calculating harlot that some had claimed, or maybe history had been unkind to her. Either way, couldn’t God have arranged a surprise finish—a loving, merciful end that no one might’ve expected?
How did you choose the time frame?
Since I like to weave fictional stories around interesting historical events, the period settings for my books sort of choose me. The true account of Diamond Bessie’s murder seemed a perfect setting for a book about God’s mercy.
What is the symbolism for the title Diamond Duo?
Bertha and Diamond Bessie (In the book she’s called Annie, her real name) meet and became friends on the spot. Annie is a beautiful woman of the world, and men adore her. Bertha is a small-town girl desperate to attract just one man, the one she loves.
Although Annie appears to be a glittering jewel, she’s more like a polished trinket. Inside she’s a lump of coal, lost, scared and unhappy. Annie represents how the world can never give us the peace we crave.
Bertha is a diamond in the rough. She may have uncut edges, and hasn’t yet learned to sparkle, but like the pressure that forms a diamond in the earth, her character has been molded by a loving family who impressed on her the most valuable goal in life—a relationship with God.
In the end, both these many-faceted women wind up as precious gems, and Annie, her fingers weighted by gaudy diamond rings, learns that a girl’s best friend is really God.
Do you have a favorite character in Diamond Duo? Why?
This question makes me smile. I’ve been accused of being the inspiration for Bertha Maye Biddie—a free-spirited rebel with an aversion to shoes. I like Bertha—I think I’m her on the inside.
How much research did Diamond Duo take?
After poring over written material to get a visual of the period, I plan a visit to the area where my books are set. I spent a week in Jefferson, Texas, researching Diamond Duo. There’s no substitute for walking the streets, exploring the sites, haunting the libraries, talking to the locals, and in this case, visiting the cemetery. However, I’ve discovered the little details that provide historical accuracy need constant verification. I do my best, but I don’t know if it’s possible to get all the facts right. I use the Internet some, but you have to be careful with information gleaned from the web . Not every source can be trusted.
What is the most interesting fact that you learned while researching and writing Diamond Duo?
Abraham Rothschild’s acquittal was the most intriguing. They had a great deal of evidence against him, though a lot of it circumstantial. Theories abound on the reason he may have killed Annie. The most interesting speculation was that she carried his baby, and he couldn’t face breaking the news to his respectable father that a prostitute’s child would bear the family name. Another theory surfaced that he had given in to pressure and married her, then immediately regretted it. This holds some validly, since noted historian Fred McKenzie unearthed what appears to be their certificate of marriage.
How many books will be in the Texas Fortune series?
Three. After Diamond Duo, the adventure continues with Chasing Charity, set in Humble, Texas, amid the oil boom of 1905. When one childhood friend betrays another, they find that no amount of love is enough to bring reconciliation until God intervenes and changes both their hearts. Together they discover the power of love and the gift of forgiveness.
Book three, Emmy’s Equal, jumps to 1906. When a high-spirited girl lands in country thick with cattle, cactus, and cowboys, the South Texas border may never be the same. Emmy’s finding obedience to God a bother, and sure won’t take orders from a hardheaded wrangler. But as hard as she pushes both God and the cowboy away, they continue to pursue her with equal fervor.
Do you prefer to write historical fiction?
That’s a tough one. I love writing historical novels, and I’m definitely drawn to the past. Genealogy is a hobby of mine, and I’ve traced our ancestry back to the sixteenth century. I’m guilty of grilling my mother and aunts for the details of their early lives, and I’ll sit at their knees for hours listening to the old stories. That said, I have a couple of contemporary books started, and I’d sure love to find them a home someday.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
I’ve discovered that when you do it right, it’s actually work. Long hours and steady discipline is required, and there’s not as much time for playing Tomb Raider on my PS3. Marketing is another challenge. At first glance, it seemed a high precipice with insurmountable peaks. Out of necessity, I’m making friends with it now. So far we’re getting along okay. It’s hard, but I think getting your name in front of people is the first step. I’m an introvert by nature, so it’s quite a turnaround from my lifelong habit of lurking in corners.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
It would have to be the camaraderie among those in the profession. We share a strange culture, speak the same language. I’m convinced nobody gets a writer like another writer. For the most part, those I’ve met who are writers, agents, and editors for the CBA are warm, wonderful people. It’s a pleasure to be counted among them.
What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
I’m a member of the following wonderful organizations: American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Crit3, one of ACFW’s critique groups; the Christian Authors Network (CAN!); Faith, Hope, & Love (FHL) - the Inspirational Outreach Chapter of the Romance Writers of America; Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW); and The Writers View.
What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?
The classes and workshops available at conferences around the nation are invaluable learning opportunities. Organizations like those mentioned above offer online classes, workshops, and critique groups. I try to take advantage of all these, as well as poring over books like James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure, and Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days. I believe it’s possible to get stale and fall into a writing rut unless you work hard to improve your craft.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading Diamond Duo?
Never, ever give up on lost loved ones or wayward family members. There are no throwaway people. Even if you’ve run out of words and patience, hang onto hope. The person you care about may have become hardened to your pleas and resistant to your voice, but God can turn events in your favor and bring just the right influence into that person’s life to cause them to desire change.
What is your greatest achievement?
It would have to be landing a three-book contract with Barbour Publishing at my age. The reason this is significant? I have five children, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild (gifts, not accomplishments) who are watching old granny with wide-open eyes. By striving to fulfill an impossible dream and persevering to reach an unreachable goal, I think I’ve taught them it’s never too late, and that you really can do all things through Christ.
What do you do to get away from it all?
It doesn’t take much. I find escape in everyday things and ordinary activities. Closing the blinds and curling up to watch a video, or playing a half hour of Ratchet and Clank on my PS3 is all I need.
Of course, I don’t mind a true getaway occasionally. We spent last Christmas at the Lajitas Resort and Spa down near Big Bend National Park getting pampered and spoiled. I t was nearly as much fun as playing Tomb Raider.