|A Lasting Impression, Belmont Mansion Series #1|
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A fake. A forger. More than anything, Claire Laurent longs for the chance to live an authentic life, to become the woman she wants to be. And she'll be given that choice. But will it come at too costly a price?
Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.
The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.Set at Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves--and each other--for who they really are.
Tamera Alexander is the best-selling author of the critically acclaimed historical series–– Fountain Creek Chronicles (Rekindled, Revealed, and Remembered), and Timber Ridge Reflections (From a Distance, Beyond This Moment, and Within My Heart). Tamera’s The Inheritance, the 2010 Christy Award finalist and winner of the 2010 RITA Award, is the first historical for Women of Faith Fiction. Tamera's deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose have earned her devoted readers—and multiple industry awards.
These awards include the 2008 and 2009 Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, and the 2007 and 2010 RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Her books have also garnered the 2010 HOLT Medallion, the 2010 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Bookseller’s Best Award, the International Readers Choice Award, and top praise from the Library Journal, 2011 Christy Award finalist, among other accolades.
Favorite Verse: Hebrews 12:1(NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.
Christianbook.com Interview with Tamera Alexander
What was the inspiration behind writing A Lasting Impression?
Growing up in Atlanta and visiting antebellum mansions, I developed an appreciation for that era of our nation’s history. Over the years, that appreciation matured into a deeper love––and discerning respect––for the people and events of that time. When I first stepped foot across the threshold of the Belmont Mansion in Nashville, TN, and learned about Adelicia Acklen––the born-before-her-time woman who built Belmont––and her extraordinary personality and life, I knew I wanted to write a story that included her, her magnificent home, and this crucial time in our nation’s history.
After over two years of research and writing, A Lasting Impression is the culmination of that dream.
Is there a mansion in Tennessee that you designed this story after?
A Lasting Impression is set at––and was inspired by––Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen in 1853. The Belmont Mansion has been lovingly preserved and restored, and is the largest house museum in Tennessee. It’s nestled within the campus of Belmont University.
Is there any historical basis for A Lasting Impression?
Absolutely. The story was largely inspired by real life people and events from the history of the Belmont Mansion in Nashville, TN. In addition to Adelicia Acklen, who built the mansion, many of the other characters in the novel were inspired by real people who lived during that time––people who worked at Belmont and who visited there. The fraudulent art theme in ALI was also inspired by real life events that took place in that timeframe as well.
Have you been to Paris? Versailles? Was there a particular place/bakery where you came up with so many delectable desserts throughout the story?
Yes! Yes! And Yes! My husband and I visited Paris in 2006, and we happened upon some of the most wonderful bakeries. But there was one in particular, not far from our hotel, that I visited each morning, and where I feasted on Napoleons and café au lait. Heavenly! I quickly fell in love with that city and its treasures. (What’s not to love?) In fact, that trip to Paris gave me my female protagonist in Remembered, and the opening scene in that same book is from a 16th cemetery we visited while there.
You peppered several words in French throughout the story. Are you fluent in French?
I studied French in high school but that was um…a few years ago. So my heartfelt thanks goes out to my dear friend, Lauren Miller Gonikishvili, who generously shares her knowledge of the French language with me (and who corrects all my mistakes).
Was it your humor that you peppered throughout the story?
Humor? There’s humor in this story? (grin) If there’s one thing a visitor to our home learns relatively quickly is that the Alexander household leans “just a tad” toward the sarcastic side of funny. We love to laugh, and kidding each other is just one of the many ways we show love around here.
So if you visit us, get ready! We’re going to “love up” on you. Gently, of course. Well, at least at first…
How many more books will be in Belmont Mansion Series?
Three total. So there are two more books forthcoming in the BELMONT MANSION SERIES, and they’ll each be a complete story in and of themselves.
Can each of the books be read as a stand-alone or must they be read in order?
They can be read as stand-alones. I always tell readers––if they’re going to read all of them, then I suggest reading them in order. But if they’re only going to read one or two, then grab one and go for it!
Do you have a favorite character in A Lasting Impression? Why?
As I wrote ALI, I really grew to love Sutton and Claire (the male and female protagonists of the story), but I think my favorite character would be Adelicia Acklen, the “real life” born-before-her-time woman who built and lived at Belmont from 1853 to 1887. Adelicia’s life history reads like a novel, and much of her personal story is included in the pages of A Lasting Impression. Her real life events serve as a driving force in the twists and turns of Sutton’s and Claire’s personal journeys in ALI.
How much research did A Lasting Impression take?
I spent over two years researching and writing (and rewriting) this story. By far, it contains the most “real life” history of any of my books. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark Brown, the Executive Director of the Belmont Mansion, and to Adelicia’s descendents, who allowed me full access to the mansion’s archives, to Adelicia’s personal letters and files, and to the gorgeous home itself, which is open to the public for tours. If ever you’re in Nashville, please take the opportunity to visit this beautiful slice of Southern American history.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing A Lasting Impression?
I became fascinated with Adelicia’s art purchases while researching A Lasting Impression, and specifically, the statues she purchased while on her grand tour of Europe in 1865-1866. She purchased five pieces of statuary, and I included them all in this book, as well as countless original oil paintings she owned during her lifetime. With one exception, all of these statues are now back at the Belmont Mansion and are in the rooms where Adelicia placed them.
The fifth statue (as requested by Adelicia before her death) was moved to the Acklen Family Mausoleum at Mt. Olivet in Nashville, TN, upon Adelicia’s passing in 1887, where it remains today.
How influential is your critique partner, Deborah Raney, throughout your writing journey?
Deb is a godsend! Truly! Over the years, our writing partnership has grown into a wonderful friendship. We’ve been writing critique partners for the past nine years, and she’s taught me so much. I’ll be forever grateful to her for sharing her knowledge and talent with me. But please, let’s not tell her this. She might get the big head!
How do you two connect to share ideas?
Sadly, Deb and I only see each other once every year or so. Sometimes every two years if we don’t attend the same conferences. But we’re online with each other almost every day. Several times, on most days. We read each other’s books before submitting them to our publishers and offer suggestions and encouragement. We’re extremely honest with each other. No holding back. We both have the other’s best at heart, and we both want to give God our best, so we want to know where our stories need help. After all, how will you ever know where you need to improve if no one tells you? The key to establishing that heartfelt honesty is found in having a trusting, loving friendship/partnership that only comes with time and shared experience.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Deadlines. I’ll be honest, I’ve been late on some books due to life and unforeseen circumstances. It’s hard to “schedule for life to happen” but I’ve really tried to start doing that. I’m not a fast writer, so it takes me a long time to write a book. After a book releases, readers will write and say that they read the book in one or two days, and that blows my mind! Then they’ll ask me when my next book will be out, and though I’m deeply flattered (truly!), I also find myself glancing over at the nearest precipice.
So that’s part of the challenge of writing for me––writing the best book I can as quickly as I can. ALI took me over two years to research and write. But I’m guessing readers will read it a tad faster than that…
Another challenge as an author is the wardrobe. The exercise pants, sports bra and t-shirts, and cushy socks are just sooo uncomfortable at times…
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
“Having written” immediately comes to mind, of course––the book being finished and turned in. Ah! That’s a marvelous feeling. And I love re-writing too––getting the substantive edit feedback letter and the perspective that “seeing my story through my editor’s eyes” gives me. Then I set about fixing the problems and deepening the character’s journeys––all while God is revealing nuggets of truth about Himself that I need for my characters to see. But that in reality, I need to see first.
The steps I take closer to Christ as I write are the best parts of this career. Then hearing about readers taking those steps too… Well, that’s better than Napoleons and café au lait!
|What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
I’m a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and I highly recommend this organization to anyone seeking to hone their writing skills. ACFW (www.acfw.com) is a professional writers organization dedicated to equipping authors in the craft of writing Christian fiction. Their affordable annual membership offers access to numerous online classes, critique groups, and an annual conference that’s the best in the industry. The knowledge I’ve gained through my affiliation with ACFW, along with the relationships I’ve made there with other writers, have made all the difference!
ACFW is where I met Deb (Raney), incidentally!
What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?
I love to read. No surprise there. So I’m always reading, which helps with keeping the writing fresh. All those different voices enrich my own. As for improving each time I write a book, I really do try to make every book better. Yet I realize that readers are going to have their favorites, and that’s as it should be. Still, I don’t ever want to give to God something that costs me nothing (2 Samuel 24:18-25).
I also ask my readers to pray for me and my writing. When readers write and I respond, I always ask that they pray that I’ll rely not on my “own” creativity, which can run awfully shallow at times. But rather, that I’ll give myself over to God’s boundless creativity and tireless muse, and rely on Him to guide and lead the story He wants me to tell.
Are there any other new projects on the horizon beyond the BELMONT MANSION series?
Yes! After the three-book BELMONT MANSION SERIES, I’ll be writing another three-book historical series on another antebellum mansion. I love Southern history and look forward to writing more stories set in Nashville and the surrounding area.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading A Lasting Impression?
A Lasting Impression is about being authentic. Both in one’s life and in one’s faith. It’s a love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves––and each other––for who they really are.
What is your greatest achievement?
It may sound odd to call our children an “achievement” because I consider them far more of a blessing, but my husband, Joe, and I have spent years on our knees for our kids, combined with lots of effort to “consistently” parent, and failing, and then begging God to stand in the gap of our inadequacies. Our children are now 24 and 22, out of college and into the next stage of adulthood, and it’s sheer joy to be a parent right now.
So if there’s a young mother reading this and you’re struggling with parenting, hang in there, sister! You’re not alone! Ask God to stand in the gap and be the parent that “we” can never be. My children are far from perfect, but they didn’t have much chance for that with the parents God gave them. Yet they’re seeking Jesus and His will for their lives, which makes me smile big time.
What do you do to get away from it all?
I love to watch movies! I often use movies as a reward after reaching my daily writing goal. I love to walk too. I usually walk 2-3 miles per day. Baking is a stress reliever for me as well. Especially if someone else is kindly coming behind me and washing the dishes. And as I’ve said before, I love to read and listen to audio books. And Jack––our sweet little 10 lb. Silky. He’s a stress-reliever too.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I love connecting with readers! You can find me online at www.tameraalexander.com where I have monthly book giveaways. I love to meet with groups in the Nashville area too, and to Skype with book clubs around the country. Visit my website for more information on Virtual Book Club Meetings. Also, discussion questions for A Lasting Impression and all of my books can be found there as well. Thank you, friends, for your interest in my books, and God’s richest blessings…