Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I write humorous, hope-filled romances—currently with B&H publishing. I earned a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, am a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serve as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, where I am a full-time academic advisor and part-time English Composition and Literature instructor for Bethel University.
What sparked your interest to write a Follow the Heart?
In 2001, I watched Victoria & Albert on A&E and fell in love with the love story of these two monarchs of England. But that wasn’t the only thing I took away from it. I was also fascinated by the scenes which portrayed the planning and opening of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition in 1851. Then, a few years later, I watched another mini-series: North & South. No, not the one about the American Civil War, the one based on the classic, but little-known, novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. It also has a scene that takes place at the Great Exhibition. Once I saw that, I was hooked—on the era and on the event.
You seem to have a strong interest in Regency romance. What draws you to that era?
I had a lot of fun moving from the Regency era setting of my previous series to the Victorian setting for the Great Exhibition series. I love that it still has the sensibility of the Regency era—from the activities like balls and dinners to the formality of courting customs—yet in 1851, the world is on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution: train and steamboat travel, telegraph, indoor plumbing (“retiring/refreshing rooms” with pay toilets at the Great Exhibition!). I also love that women were starting to come into their own a bit more. Still not considered equals, but at least starting to get some recognition for their contributions and accomplishments in society.
What part of your background was involved in creating the setting and characters for Follow the Heart?
All of my characters incorporate parts of me, so this is a hard question to answer. I’d probably have to say Kate, though, and not just because we share the same full first name. Like Kate, I tend to take on a lot of responsibility and feel obligated to do things because I think it’s my duty. I don’t want to disappoint others, so I’ll work myself literally into a sickbed rather than delegate or let something slide.
How much research did Follow the Heart take?
I had a basic knowledge of the mid-19th Century in England through studying both history and literature in college. But I really started learning about it in earnest when I became fascinated with the Great Exhibition several years ago and decided it would make a great backdrop to a series. I tend to first start getting into an era by watching costume-drama adaptations of novels written or set during that time and in that location. In this case—lots of Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell, and lots of bio-pics about Queen Victoria’s early life/rule. Can it get any better? Being able to watch North & South and The Young Victoria over and over and over again and call it “research”? Then I start reading the books on which those movies are based. I “collect” interesting words and turns of phrase, look for methods and manners to behavior and social interaction, get a feel for the way the English language was used by those who knew it best during that time. I also find nonfiction research books that can explain the household, society, gender politics, travel modes, fashion, etc.