|Follow the Heart, Great Exhibition Series #1|
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Set during the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851, Follow the Heart is a "sitting-room romance" with the feel of a Regency-era novel but the fashions and technological advances of the mid-Victorian age.
Kate and Christopher Dearing's lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother's brother in England with one edict: marry money.
Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing, Harvest House Publishers, and B&H Publishing. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a full-time academic advisor and part-time college composition instructor for Bethel University.
Favorite Verse: Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NASB)
Christianbook.com Interview with Kaye Dacus
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.
How much of the story is factual information?
Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition (The Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations) is the historical backdrop for the story—and I tried to bring as much of the real event into the story as I can. There was a definite disconnect between the way the aristocracy felt about it (“it’s going to ruin London”) and the way commoners felt about it (“it’s the most wonderful idea ever”), which I have come into some conversations in the book. I also have the characters visiting the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park on a few different occasions, including when a demonstration was done using soldiers to prove the building was sound. I’m so grateful that so much extant information is available online—including a floor plan of the event so I knew where everything was located inside the building!
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Follow the Heart?
I learned that the word suburbs was in use by the 1850s (it appears in the opening scene of Dickens’s Bleak House). I also learned that the railway in England had not spread as far by 1851 as I originally thought. It was still really in its infancy—which ended up working to my advantage. And I learned so much about the Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition, much of which I’ve tried to weave into the story.
What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?
I’m currently finishing writing The Heart that Waits, which is the third and final book in the Great Exhibition series. After that . . . I’m working on a few ideas. So far, I’ve written contemporary, Regency, and Early Victorian. I really like the flexibility of the Early Victorian setting (the industrial conveniences beginning to make life a little easier). If more historicals are in my future, I’ll probably stick with the 19th century. I have a good base of knowledge of it and I’m comfortable with the language and mores of the major social movements of that century. I have a few strong ideas for contemporaries, though, so I might go that direction.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading Follow the Heart?
Women, especially, tend to look at our choices as a series of obligations—we do what we feel we are obligated to do for the sake of our families, not necessarily what we feel our hearts are telling us to do. I believe, and it’s the theme of this book, that we spend too much time worrying about how we can fix/help/support our families (or those around us at work or in friendships) and not enough time listening to and trusting God. When we pray, we tend to tell God what’s wrong and ask him to fix it. But do we ever really take the time to just be still and listen to what God is trying to tell us? And can we really let God take care of those we feel responsible for and let go of that burden of responsibility that may not, in truth, be ours to bear?
What organizations are you involved with?
I have been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2001 (and served as an officer for a couple of years). In 2005, I had the blessing of founding Middle Tennessee Christian Writers with several other Nashville-area writers. I currently serve that organization as president and teach five to ten workshops a year on various writing topics for them. I also stay involved in the Seton Hill Writers group made up of alumni and current students of the graduate program I attended.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
I have to admit that in the first six to eight months after going back to work full-time and starting to teach part-time, it was hard trying to figure out a balance between working and writing. But once I put myself on a strict schedule—and started making myself meet a word-count goal daily—it started getting much easier. I do much better when I have too much to do than when I have not enough.
Who is the person who most influences your writing?
As my first readers—and the first people who get to read my manuscripts when I finish them—the two people who influence my writing the most are my mom and grandmother. I write everything when this audience of two always in mind.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love getting to share the characters and stories that populate my imagination with others. But even if I weren’t published, I’d still write—simply because I have so much fun developing characters and settings, and finding out what happens next.
What do you do to get away from it all?
If I’m not at work and I’m not writing, I’m doing one of the following three things: hanging out with friends (usually dinner and a movie), watching TV/Netflix/DVDs at home, or reading.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Follow the Heart and the Great Exhibition series are similar to my contemporary series (The Brides of Bonneterre and the Matchmakers series with Barbour Publishing) as they are light-hearted, stand-alone novels which are tied together with recurring characters and a familiar setting. They’re also similar to The Ransome Trilogy (Harvest House Publishers) as I try to fully immerse the reader in the language, fashion, and details of the historical era. And each book fulfills my promise of “Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters” that my readers have come to expect.
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