Six Reasons British Books Are the Best

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that American readers have long been fascinated with stories featuring their British cousins. Here, I’m talking about historical romances (though I’m sure modern-day Brits are just as dreamy). Whether we’re going all the way back to the streets of Victorian London or to the noir England of Agatha Christie, there are reasons we’re drawn to books set across the pond.

One: Tidbits of Interesting History

Those of us who grew up in the States have probably been well-educated in the (relatively short) timeline of our own country. Not to say it isn’t interesting, but there’s very little that surprises me anymore.

But The Captain’s Daughter taking me backstage behind the real workings of Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous operas? That I’d never thought of, and everything from the dangers of Victorian London to the life of an actress to the new spotlight technologies was a learning experience for me.

In the same way, did I know what a coaching inn was before reading The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill? Not a clue. But the daily routine of the inn and the threat to its survival intrigued me (and, of course, the parade of characters with secrets who came in and out).

Two: Pretty Dresses

Let’s be honest: Victorian and Regency gowns are the best.

Would we want to wear them every day? Of course not. (One word: corsets.) But it’s fun to admire the images on the cover or the descriptions in the text. And if there’s a ballroom scene? Count me in. Inherent drama plus women in beautiful dresses…what more could you want?

Unless of course you’re the Duke of Riverton from An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter. Then your thoughts might be more like this:

Of all the social events that played out in London, balls made the least sense to Griffith. They were always massively crowded, so the chances of seeing the person you actually wanted to talk to that evening were small, unless you’d arranged a meeting prior. Talking was difficult, what with the music and the people coming in and out of conversations in order to join the dancing.

And for a man who was looking to court, they made even less sense.

With gemstoned bodices and jeweled hair clips scattering the light from the multitude of candles, the finery in the room was enough to blind a man. Even the plainest of women could look exquisite with such trappings, and when the artificial beauty collided with natural beauty, men tended to lose their wits as well as their sight.

Griffin frowned. How could a man possibly form and know true feelings and opinions in an environment like that?

But either way…pretty dresses and dancing equals drama.

Three: High Levels of Intrigue

It’s been a while since there was a war fought on American soil. Believe me, I’m not complaining, but this rules out many classic suspense plots for the twentieth century. But in England, with each of the major World Wars, you have an entire history book full of content for thrilling plots. Observe the “hook” of these two novels:

Rosemary Gresham is offered the challenge of a lifetime in pre-WWI England: pose as a librarian and determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. (A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White)

British nurse Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital during WWI, but her most carefully guarded secret is that she spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a resistance group. (High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin)

Neither story would translate well in, say, New Jersey or Oklahoma in the early 1900s. British settings give us the chance for spies and nurses and soldiers and a whole cast of compelling characters.

Four: Nobility and Social Status

Here, my friends, is one area that our friends across the pond have us beat: the titled upper class. Lord and ladies, dukes and duchesses, and even the occasional prince are fascinating to read about.

There’s inherent tension in class differences and the endless social standards created because of them. Nothing makes a page-turner like a compelling internal conflict between needing to make an advantageous match or marrying for love (An Inconvenient Beauty, Kristi Ann Hunter) or the pressure of knowing others might not approve of the wealthy gentleman falling for the lovely American visitor (The Drew Farthering mysteries, Julianna Deering). The greater the obstacle to romance, the more I want to find out what happens next.

Five: Character Drama

Adaptations of Jane Eyre or Jane Austen or any of the original miniseries created by the BCC and others can be very well done, but it’s usually easier to connect with characters in novels because you can hear their thoughts and are fully immersed in a world you can imagine yourself. Books can go into more depth than a typical movie, and with series, authors can continue the relationship you’ve developed with the cast over months or even years.

Jennifer Delamere’s new London Beginnings series, which introduces us to the romances of three orphaned sisters, is a great example of this, or Roseanna White’s Shadows Over England that traces the exploits of a streetwise “family” of talented thieves. Once you’ve read one, you’ll be eager to find out how the other characters end up. When fictional characters feel like real people, the authors have done their jobs, and even the best costume drama can rarely beat a well-written novel.

Six: Accents

And here, I’m talking specifically about what a good British accent does to the attractiveness factor of your average hero.

“But wait,” you say, “it’s not possible to actually hear any difference in speech while reading.” I beg to differ. Not only do you hear a swoon-worthy voice in your head as you go along, but the word choice and phrasing of British heroes have just a little something different that makes their dialogue—especially the declarations of love—special.

Allow me to demonstrate.

“Darling, the longer I know you, the more certain I am that we were meant for each other. I will wait for you if you like. If you insist, I will let you go. But I will always love you. No one I have ever met has charmed me and challenged me, soothed me and nettled me, or fit so perfectly into my heart and life as you. If you leave me, I will not die.” He swallowed hard. “But I don’t think I will ever be quite whole again.” (Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering)

Just try to tell me that a cowboy or motorcycle dude could have pulled that off. (I didn’t think so.)

Whether you’re in it for the romantic rogue spy or the dashing duke, there’s a British-set novel for you. Pour a cup of tea (of course)…and happy reading!

If you’re a fan of British books, to celebrate sweeping country manors, crowded and dangerous London streets, and, of course, debonair and handsome heroes, Bethany House is hosting a giveaway of six of our British-set books. You can enter here!

Any other reasons I should add to this list? What draws you to British-set books?

INSPY Shortlist Giveaway

One of the benefits of working at a publishing company is being able to cheer on our various award-winning and nominated books. It’s nice when outside judges recognize the great storytelling we get the chance to work with every day. To celebrate a recent list of finalists, we’re going to give away books from the INSPY award shortlist! (To see all the nominees, or to read fun interviews with the nominated authors, go to their website.)

You can click on each cover to read an excerpt and see why the INSPYs took note of these titles…then enter the giveaway (instructions at the end of the post). Congratulations to all!

Her One and Only by Becky Wade

Category: Contemporary Romance

Plot: NFL star Gray Fowler is receiving death threats. Out of concern, his team hires a protection detail, but Gray is indignant when he meets his bodyguard. How can an attractive woman half his size protect him? Former Marine Dru Porter is, in fact, more than capable. But as danger rises, can Dru and Gray entrust their lives to one another?

Counted with the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

Category: Debut Fiction

Plot: The young Egyptian slave Kiya leads a miserable life. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, she’s in the middle of it all. Choosing to flee with the Hebrews, Kiya finds herself reliant on a strange God and developing feelings for a man who despises her people. Facing the trials of the desert, will she turn back toward Egypt—or find a new place to belong?

A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears

Category: Historical Romance

Plot: To impress the politician courting her and help her family, Lydia King is determined to obtain a donation to the Teaville Moral Society from the wealthiest man in town, Nicholas Lowe. But when complications arise, Lydia must decide where her beliefs—and heart—truly align.

Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig

Category: Mystery/Thriller

Plot: When an archaeological dig unleashes a centuries-old virus, paramilitary operative Cole ‘Tox’ Russell is forced back into action. With the help of archaeologist Tzivia Khalon and FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox searches for answers—and becomes entangled in a web of deception. As the team races to stop a pandemic, a secret society counters their every move.

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

Category: Mystery/Thriller

Plot: When modern skeletal remains are discovered at Gettysburg, park ranger and former sniper Griffin McCray must confront his past if he, his friends, and charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott are going to escape this web of murder alive.

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering

Category: Mystery/Thriller

Plot: While attending a Regency costume party, Drew and Madeline Farthering are immersed in a new case when the fiancée of a friend dies mysteriously at the event. Drew’s friend insists she was murdered. In the face of a shocking revelation and arrest, Drew begins to doubt his own abilities and finds he is unprepared for the dangerous secrets he uncovers.

The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

Category: Speculative Fiction

Plot: Despite their recent victory, Willet and the rest of the Vigil discover the continent is still far from safe. When unseen assassins begin targeting the Vigil and their gift and his associates scatter—Willet must find a way to defeat this latest threat alone.

And now that I’ve introduced the books, time for the giveaway! Comment below to answer this question, “What makes a book a standout to you?” Next Thursday, we’ll choose three winners who can select their choice of one of these seven shortlist titles as a prize.

A Wallflower Ball: Fun with Jen Turano!

Great news, readers! (Any sentence involving “free” and “books” gets my attention, anyway.)

Jen Turano’s new Apart From the Crowd series, following a group of wallflowers in their adventures in New York society, launches this month with a free ebook novella!

AtYourRequest_cover.indd

You can download it from your favorite ebook retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD).

To celebrate, I asked Jen if she’d take us into the world of her characters during one of the Gilded Age social events where everyone wanted an invitation: a ball at the Astor House.

And here it is, one of the most ostentatious mansions New York has ever seen:

thumbnail_astor-mansion

Inside, the atmosphere would be charged with rumors and romance and possibly a bit of danger and intrigue. It might look something like this:

ballroom

Of course, dinner would be served. Here is a typical menu from the Gilded Age:

First Course
Julienne or Vermicelli Soup

Second Course
Broiled Salmon
Turbot in Lobster Sauce
Filet de Soles
Red Mullet
Trout
Lobster Rissoles

Entrees
Canards a la Rouennaise
Mutton Cutlets
Braised Beef
Spring Chicken
Roast Quarter of Lamb
Tongue
Roast Saddle of Mutton
Whitebait

Third Course
Quails
Roast Duck
Mayonnaise of Chicken
Green Peas
Charlotte Russe
Strawberries
Compote of Cherries
Neapolitan Cakes
Madiera Wine

Or you could take a walk outside, perhaps down to Central Park for some ice skating:

thumbnail_ice-skating-central-park

This might be what Wilhelmina looked like bundled up for a wintery afternoon outdoors:

thumbnail_mrs-august-belmont-1880

And here’s a typical gown like her friend Permilia might have worn to the ball:

thumbnail_mora-rosecoghlan

Speaking of gorgeous dresses, take a look at the one on the cover of Jen’s upcoming release, Behind the Scenes! (Doesn’t it remind you of the research photo above that Jen sent to our designers?)

BehindtheScenes_mck.indd

There’s an extended excerpt of the first book in the series within the ebook novella of At Your Request, so you can get started on it before anyone else.

To keep the fun going, we’re going to give away two copies of Behind the Scenes! To enter, comment on this post with the answer to one, or all, of these questions: If you were attending a Gilded Age ball, what color would your dress be? Which foods on the menu look most and least appetizing? Would you give ice skating a try?

Winners will be listed in next week’s blog post on January 19. (If you are an international reader, you can still enter, but I will substitute the book with an Amazon egift card because of the cost of shipping.)

The Bookshelf Game (and Giveaway)

Let’s play a little game, just for fun.

Since today is 9/22, take a book off your shelf, then go to page 22 and pick a random excerpt starting on that page. Then count nine books away from your first book, turn to page 22 there, and pick an excerpt to add to the starting half you picked from the first book. (You can determine where to start it and how much to use. Feel free to look for parts that would make the story more coherent or funnier!)

I tried this myself to give you some examples. A few of my favorites:

“While I don’t doubt my ability to complete the accounting portion of the business, I’ll need a jug full of grape juice.”

Taken from: The Artisan’s Wife by Judith Miller, Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

Her relationship with her daughter had never been easy, particularly since she had died from some disease in a South American hospital.

Taken from: The Midwife’s Dilemma by Delia Parr and A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson Continue reading

Celebrating our Award Nominees and Winners!

It’s award season, and with it comes recognition for some great books! The Carol award finalists were announced earlier this week, with winners to be presented at the ACFW conference in August. Several were from the Bethany House family, and I’m excited to show them off. You can click on each cover to read an excerpt.

Contemporary:

Finding Me
Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

After her father’s death, Kelli discovers a shocking secret: She has a family she’s never known. She may want answers, but are some doors better left shut?

Historical Romance:

BeyondAllDreams_mck.indd

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

When a librarian and a prominent congressman join forces to solve a mystery, they become entangled in secrets more perilous than they could have ever imagined.

Worthy Pursuit

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

A teacher on the run. A tracker in pursuit. Can Charlotte and Stone learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Romance:

Until the Harvest

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

When a family tragedy derails his studies, Henry returns home feeling lost. Can a gifted young girl and her older sister help him find his way again?

Young Adult:

Dauntless

Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Timothy Grey plans to earn a title by capturing Lady Merry and her band of orphan thieves. But will he carry out his mission when he meets their dauntless leader face-to-face?

Also, a special congratulations to Susan Anne Mason for winning a Christy Award in the Best First Novel category for Irish Meadows. Irish Meadows also joined Taken by Dee Henderson and The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen to win Christian Retailing’s Best Awards. Also recently announced was Patrick W. Carr’s INSPY award win for The Shock of Night. We’re excited for you!

To celebrate, we’re doing a giveaway on the blog. Comment below with an answer to this question: what’s a time period or setting you would enjoy reading a novel about? I’ll choose 5 winners on Tuesday, July 5 to win their choice of one of these five Carol finalist titles. Winners will be notified by a reply to their comment.

RITA Finalists Giveaway

Last weekend, Romance Writers of America unveiled their list of RITA finalists, and Bethany House books made a great showing!

RITA.jpg

To highlight the books that made it onto the (very prestigious) award shortlist, we’re hosting a giveaway of them on the blog. Find out a little bit about them below.

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter is an expert on all things Regency—check out her Pinterest for a board of dresses worthy of any Jane-Austen-era ball. Her debut novel, A Noble Masquerade, was nominated both in the Inspirational Romance category and the First Novel category!

A Noble Masquerade
Lady Miranda Hawthorne secretly longs to be bold. But she is mortified when her brother’s new valet accidentally mails her private thoughts to a duke she’s never met—until he responds. As Miranda tries to sort out her growing feelings for two men, she inadvertently uncovers secrets that will put more than her heart at risk.

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

Becky Wade’s former Marine Jake Porter is the hunky hero of A Love Like Ours, in her Porter family series. If you just can’t get enough of Becky Wade’s love stories, check out this exclusive preview of Her One and Only, releasing next month!

LoveLikeOurs_mck.indd
When Jake hires Lyndie James, an old childhood friend, to exercise his Thoroughbreds, he is surprised to discover that her tender-hearted, fearless nature affects him just as profoundly as it does his horses. Slowly, Lyndie begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart, but his fears and regrets still linger. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden

On to the BHP nominated title in the novella category. Basically this is a giveaway where everyone wins something, because you can download your copy of the fabulous Toward the Sunrise for free! (We’re including Elizabeth’s full-length print book, Until the Dawn in the actual giveaway as well.) You can download it here onto an ereader or your computer.

Toward the Sunrise

Just shy of graduating from a women’s medical college, Julia Broeder makes a rash decision that results in her expulsion. With few choices, she pleads for help from Ashton Carlyle, the Vandermark family attorney whose job is to take care of loyal employees like her family. As they work together, Julia and Ashton encounter revelations, adventure, and romance.

Also, congratulations to Raela Schoenherr, who edited all three titles! (You can read an interview with her about what BHP looks for in authors here.)

As someone who read and loved all three of these stories, I can confidently say that the judges of the RITA had good taste! Cheering these ladies on—so proud that your hard work has been recognized in this way!

We’re giving away a copy of each of these titles to two different winners. To enter the giveaway, comment on the post below with an answer to this question: what makes a book one you would re-read multiple times? Winners will be notified on Monday, April 4 by a reply to their comment.

Celebrating Teen Read Week with Dina Sleiman and Bonnie Calhoun!

Next week, October 18-24 is Teen Read Week, according to the American Library Association. Many libraries have special programs or events to celebrate—check out your library to see if there’s something you can get involved in!

To celebrate, we’re chatting with and Bonnie Calhoun, author of the STONE BRAIDE CHRONICLES, and Dina Sleiman, author of the VALIANT HEARTS novels, both young adult series.

BonnieDina

Amy: What made you want to write a young adult novel?

Bonnie: I decided to write YA because young people are more interested in fast-paced plots and slightly wild scenarios. They tend to like more action than adults, and they don’t want to be talked down to, so there is no need to alter the language level for understanding. And the best part . . . the imagination of a YA reader is a wonderful thing! They are much more willing to suspend disbelief than adults.

Dina: Writing instructors say to picture one person you’re writing your novel for. I always pictured a young woman in her late teens or early twenties—a struggling Christian or searching unbeliever in need of guidance and inspiration. When I learned that the typical reader of adult Christian fiction is middle-aged, I realized YA might actually be a better fit for me. Young adult readers are looking for something more real and raw than their adult counterparts. They are hoping to see the world as it truly is and learn and grow through fiction. All of that makes YA a great fit for me. And to top it off, the medieval period, which I love, has traditionally been more appealing to young adult readers. Continue reading

Help Authors Be Social on Social Media

**Update: We have winners! Suzie and Samantha, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address. To everyone else, thank you, THANK YOU for your feedback! I’m compiling it all right now to present to authors at the conference, and I know they’ll find it extremely helpful!**

FeedbackWinners

Pretend I’m a Christian fiction author sitting down to host a focus group made up of you and a few of your reader friends.

cookies

After offering you coffee and chocolate chip cookies (no, it’s not bribery; it’s hospitality) here’s what I want to know:

One: How have you seen social media used by authors in a way that really worked for you? (You can list the types of posts that get you to comment/click, give an example of something creative and fun you’ve seen an author do, or go in basically any direction you want with this.)

Two: If you knew an author was really busy with deadlines and only had time to interact with readers in one way, what would you suggest?

Three: What is something about the way authors sometimes use social media (or the way they phrase things) that annoys or bothers you? (No names, please…just general examples of the type of thing that bothers you.)

As you read these questions, do you know what your answers would be? Great! Now, let’s make it real. I’m going to be teaching a class at the ACFW conference in September with Melissa Tagg on Stress-Free Marketing for authors. That means we’re going to be giving lots of your favorite Christian fiction authors (and some future favorites!) tips on marketing and social media.

I’d love your feedback on these questions so I can give authors a reader perspective. If you could answer one or all of the questions in the comments on this post, that would help so much! (Just be sure to identify which question your answers are addressing.)

Since I can’t really send coffee and cookies your way, focus-group style, next Tuesday, I’ll pick two random commenters who will each receive copies of our two August releases, The Potter’s Lady by Judith Miller and Not by Sight by Kate Breslin. Winners will be posted in this post by noon on Tuesday, so be sure to check back!

13698-MultipleFiction_FB

Be as thoughtful with your answers as you can…remember, I’m actually going to pass these answers on to some of your favorite authors from a number of different publishing companies! And thanks in advance for your help…I’m excited to read your thoughts!

Bethany House Summer Photo Challenge

It’s the start of summer, and for many of us, that means a chance to relax with a good book in some interesting locations. Whether you’re going across the state to a national park, across the ocean to a classic tourist destination, or across the street to your favorite coffee shop, there’s no summer day that can’t be made better by a good book.

PhotoContest

Jen, one of our editors, came to me with this idea: Why not ask people to share pictures of themselves with a favorite Bethany House book wherever they are this summer? And since I love stealing great ideas from other people, I thought I’d share the fun with all of you.

Here’s how it works: Take a picture of yourself with a favorite Bethany House book, fiction or nonfiction, and show us where you’re reading it.

BHP quill

Not sure if it’s a Bethany House book? Look on the spine for the BHP logo.

Then enter the contest here by either uploading your photo to the entry form or posting your picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #BHPsummerreads. NOTE: the setting of the post on Facebook must be set to “public.” (When posting, you can do this by clicking the button underneath the post and changing it from “Friends” to “Public.”) At the end of the month, we’ll go through and post some of your pictures in a collage here and on our social media (so make sure it’s a photo you’re okay with us sharing).

Enter_Contest

In August, we’ll allow you and other readers to vote on your favorite photo from the gallery. (Details are on the contest page.) If you need some inspiration, here are a few BHP examples:

IMG_0085

Amy Green, fiction publicist, reading Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas in a tree. (I actually do this pretty often.)

JenPhoto

Jen Veilleux, fiction editor, reading The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden at a dog park (with an ice cream sandwich!).

Thanks for joining in the fun, everyone! If you have any questions, post them in the comments—someone else might have that question as well. Here are a few FAQs (or questions we think will be frequently asked):

Q: I have two books I really want to take a picture with! Can I submit more than one photo?

A: Sure, go ahead! (Just don’t go overboard and submit a dozen.)

Q: When I went to your contest, it told me I have to give Woobox access to my personal information! I don’t want to do that!

A: Well, that’s not really a question, but let me give you a reassuring answer anyway. Woobox contests all show those disclaimers by default because their forms give us the option to record your personal information and demographics. However, Bethany House does not use that option. The only information we will collect is what you give us, and that will only be used for the purpose of the contest (i.e., mailing prizes). We wish we could make that disclaimer go away, since it doesn’t apply, but we can’t.

Q: I’m a reader from outside the United States. Can I enter?

A: We’d love for you to submit a photo (because it’s fun, right?), but due to shipping costs, we have to restrict winners of the book package to the U.S. Since the entry form requires you to choose a state, you can enter by using the #BHPsummerreads on social media.

Q: If I choose to enter on social media instead of through the form, where do I put the hashtag?

A: Make sure it’s in the caption (not, say, a comment on Facebook or Instagram, which won’t work).

Where will Bethany House take you this summer?

Guest Interview and Giveaway: Historical Fiction with Susan Anne Mason

***Update: Here are the randomly-chosen winners of the ARC of Irish Meadows! Winners, please email agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address so I can send you your ARC!**

IrishWinners

Today, we’re welcoming Susan Anne Mason to the blog! Susan’s very first historical novel, Irish Meadows, will be releasing in July. Since she and her books might be new to you, I thought I’d invite you to get to know her a little better.

Amy: Every author has a unique how-I-got-published story. What’s yours?

Susan Anne MasonSusan: Getting published was a long and winding road, taking over ten years! That being said, I realize now that I wasn’t ready to be published earlier on in my career. I needed to learn and grow.

I entered Irish Meadows in a writing contest called “Fiction from the Heartland” — mainly because I saw that editor Dave Long of Bethany House was a judge in the finalist round. I hoped my entry would make it to the finals, mainly to get feedback from a Bethany House editor. I thought this would help me get a feel for the type of writing they were looking for. In the meantime, I pitched the story to agents and editors at a national conference and got a lot of blank stares and negative feedback. So I really didn’t have high expectations for the contest.

To my great surprise and delight, Irish Meadows won the contest and Dave requested the full manuscript! Not long after, he told me he loved the story and was going to present the book at an upcoming acquisitions meeting. About a week later, I got an email indicating they wanted to offer a 3-book contract. Final approval was given and the rest as they say is history!

So I can’t stress enough the importance of entering contests! It only takes one person to love your work!

Amy: What has been the hardest part of the writing or editing process so far? What have you enjoyed more than you expected?  

Susan: As far as actually writing the story, getting the plot nailed down is the hardest thing for me. Characters come easily, but getting the timeline and plot right remains a challenge.

As far as the editing process goes, I have been very lucky with my edits. However I just finished a round of revision for the sequel to Irish Meadows, called A Worthy Heart, which were extremely challenging. I had to change some key plot elements which meant following these changes through the whole story. For instance, moving a scene from the middle of the book to the beginning changes many little details throughout the rest of the story. This was quite daunting, and I only hope I did the story justice and that my editor will be happy with them.

Amy: With Irish Meadows, what came to you first? A bit of the plot, a character, a theme, a particular situation or line of dialogue?

Susan: To answer this, I had to go back and look at my initial notes for this story! I had written down: Ideas for an Irish Family Saga along the lines of The Thornbirds!  I loved the premise of The Thornbirds, where a priest falls in love with a young woman in outback Australia— the classic forbidden love scenario really appealed to me. I had also recently read a book that included two complete romances, and I loved that format. So I decided to concentrate on two of the O’Leary daughters and their intertwined paths to romance. Both fall in love with men who are deemed ‘forbidden’ by their father and must defy him to find their happily ever after. So, I suppose the idea of the family came first, and I built a plot around them.

IrishMeadows_mck.inddAmy: When readers finish Irish Meadows, what would you be excited to hear that they took away from it?

Susan: I would love it if the readers fell in love with the whole O’Leary clan! I would also love it if readers got a sense of the theme of the book — that of being true to oneself. Each of the characters struggles with having to do things to please someone else, things that might go against their own individual values, and each one has to come to terms with this in his or her own way.

And thirdly, the message that I love to get across in all my books is the unconditional love of God for every one of us. A message of hope and love and worthiness.

Amy: Any encouragement you’d like to give to other aspiring writers out there?

Susan: My advice to aspiring writers is to never give up! If you really want to be an author, it takes hard work. Persistence and perseverance are key. Learn the craft and keep writing, because the more you write, the better you’ll get. Eventually you will find your own path to publication!

Obviously, since Irish Meadows doesn’t release until July, we can’t give away any copies of the final book. However, we’re doing something extra-special and giving away Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) to two readers! (That means you get to read it a month before anyone else!) To enter, please comment below with the time period of history you’d most like to live in (besides our own), and why. Winners will be posted at noon Central on Tuesday, June 2, so check back then to see if you’ve won!