Ashton Park, Danforths of Lancashire Series #1Ashton Park, Danforths of Lancashire Series #1
Murray Pura
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The year is 1916. The First World War has engulfed Europe and Sir William's and Lady Elizabeth's three sons are all in uniform-and their four daughters are involved in various pursuits of the heart and soul.
     

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murray PuraMurray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than twenty-five years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta.  Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award.  Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife Linda have a son and a daughter.

Favorite Verse: Psalm 27:1a – “Light, space, zest – that’s God!”


 

 Our Interview with Murray Pura


 

How did you come up with the concept for Ashton Park?

I’ve traveled a lot in the UK and especially in Lancashire over the past four years. When I’m in England I stay with friends in Blackburn. Harvest House asked me to consider a series set in England and I jumped at the chance. I immediately set it in the part of England I know best, the northwest, which includes Lancashire and the Lake District. I’ve thought about England and the English culture a lot for various reasons over the years, one of them being I did my Masters thesis on William Wilberforce, the British MP who fought slavery and the slave trade in 19th century (the film Amazing Grace).

Is any part of Ashton Park true? 
  
Certainly when you do any sort of historical fiction there is going to be an overlap between fiction and reality. So Ashton Park occurs in the years 1916-1923 which includes World War One, the suffragette movement, the first airplanes, and the Irish War of Independence, among other historical realities. My characters take part not only in the history of their era but in specific events that did occur on specific days so there is a great deal of the true mixed in with the fiction.

Did you include any of your life experiences in the Ashton Park? 
 
Of course I was not alive in the time period when the story takes place but I do include my own experiences of falling in and out of love and put those in the characters’ lives. This is also true of my experiences of war and peace, of England and Ireland, and of God and prayer and faith. So many personal life events are blended in with the world I create in Ashton Park.

Do you have a favorite character in Ashton Park? Why?

For guys it’s a toss up between the son Kipp and the hired hand Ben Whitecross – they are men of principle and courage who, though separated by wealth and class, find friendship with each other and develop mutual respect when flying for the same squadron in France during World War One. For gals, well, Libby, one of the Danforth daughters, is a nurse and my wife is too so I have a soft spot for RNS - I like her feisty yet compassionate personality very much.

How much research did Ashton Park take?

A lot because you’re wondering about how people dressed and what slang they used and when electricity and radio came in and what it was like to be in Dublin or Liverpool or London. England and Ireland, north and south, are very different from Canada and the USA and that was even more the case in the first decades of the 20th century, especially with aristocratic families like the Danforths of Ashton Park.

What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Ashton Park?

I finally understood the roots of the conflict in Northern Ireland, a conflict which brought so much violent death to Belfast and Londonderry in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I saw that this civil war had its beginnings in a first civil war in the 1920s. It was very sobering research because what I read sounded like stuff from a newspaper in 1985 even though it was taking place in 1922 or 23.
 

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

If you have a number of contracts to fulfill, that is, books to write, you have to stay fresh and entertaining with each new project. To do that you have to keep on feeding yourself spiritually and emotionally through various means – church and God and worship; reading books and watching good films; getting out and enjoying people and sports and nature; sticking close to family; finding things that give you joy and that replenish you. The writing life is a solitary and sedentary life and I really have to balance that with family and church and social events on the one hand and exercise and fresh air on the other.

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

Storytelling has always been important to the human race whether those stories have been true, made-up, or parables meant to show us something deep and important. Film and TV and print books and ebooks are all part of that great tradition that has spread over thousands of years. I truly thank God he has brought me into that tradition and let me join the ranks of storytellers who not only tell wonderful tales but who seek to honor God while they are doing it.

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

I outline to start but I am well aware that once I start writing characters take on lives of their own. What was plausible on the drawing board does not always pan out in the actual writing. Characters morph into other than what you planned and to wrench them back to the outline risks doing violence to the story itself. So I start with an outline but I keep things very fluid – if the story and people in it dictate I veer from the plan and develop a new plot or approach, I do it.

What other new projects do each you have on the horizon?
  
I start working on the follow-up novel to Ashton Park this fall. This new novel in the series takes place from 1924-1931.

I just finished the sequel to The Wings of MorningWhispers of a New Dawn occurs 20 years later and brings back characters like Bishop Zook, Jude Whetstone, Lyyndaya Kurtz, and Jude’s friends Billy Skipp and Flapjack Peterson.

Finally, I’m also doing a book where successive chapters are published online for purchase one month at a time. The chapters will be sold over a period of 12 months and then packaged as a complete book. The first chapter goes up in September and it’s an Amish romance.

What message would you like your readers to take from Ashton Park?

How important family is, including extended family; how important faith in God and Christ is and what a difference it makes in the harshest storms of life; how essential growth is, especially growth that takes us beyond our prejudices and narrow-mindedness; how critical it is to nourish relationship with even just one or two good friends.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Walking my Alaskan Malamute. Hikes in the wilderness – we’re blessed to live by the Rocky Mountains. Vigorous exercise – we have a very well-equipped home gym. A good book, a good movie, a good CD of music – all this blesses and revitalizes. Friendship with God is the most important means of renewing myself and that friendship is nurtured in many different ways.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It’s a real pleasure to be a full-time writer. I can thank my agent for that, my senior editors, the people I work with in marketing and publishing – all of them are part of making a holy dream come true. And I can thank God.

 


 

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