Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the pleasure of interviewing CAN vice president Susan G. Mathis, an award-winning nonfiction author who has also become an award-winning novelist! Susan is here to share about her newest historical novel.
Welcome, Susan! Please tell us about your new book, Colleen’s Confession.
It’s 1914, and Colleen Sullivan has secrets as she works on Comfort Island. But tragedy strikes and her orphan dreams of belonging and becoming a wife and an artist are gone.
When Jack Weiss introduces her to the famous impressionist, Alson Skinner Clark, Colleen seems to find hope. But will she finally embrace his love for her, or will Jack lose the battle and join the war? With the Thousand Islands’ summer ending, he hopes she will.
Sounds romantic! What inspired you to write this novel?
All of my books—seven so far and two more releasing in 2022—are set during the Thousand Islands Gilded Age, when the wealthy came and scooped up the islands and built lavish summer homes, mansions, and castles. I write Thousand Islands Gilded Age stories to share the rich heritage this era gave us and better understand what it was like.
What a wonderful setting to visit in story. So, what aspect of the Thousand Islands inspired this novel?
Comfort Island is the setting for Colleen’s Confession. I’ve passed by it for years and always knew I wanted the island to be the setting for a story. Then I read a memoir by Tad Clark, whose family owned the island for over a hundred years. Alson Skinner Clark was a famous artist at the time, so I had so much fun incorporating the love of art into the story.
What surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?
Comfort Island has a Facebook page. The new owners of the island took seven years to meticulously restore the Comfort Island property to its former glory. Check it out.
What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
All of my stories have themes of faith, hope, and love. You can’t go wrong with these foundational principles, right?
Right! Other than exploring these themes, why do you love writing?
Eric Liddel said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure,” and I can sure relate. When I write, I feel His pleasure! So even though it’s hard work, I enjoy it immensely.
Why do you write Christian historical fiction?
I’m hooked on the wonderful world of historical fiction, and especially the Thousand Islands Gilded Age history. It’s gives me so much “scope for the imagination” as Anne Shirley would say. I am also blessed to have accomplished such diverse published works, but it’s tough to promote books to three different audiences—the nonfiction premarital audience, the picture book audience, and now the historical fiction reader audience. So what have I learned? I love historical fiction and am going to stick with that!
And you certainly have a diverse body of work! Can you tell us about your writing experience?
Before I jumped into the fiction world, I served as the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and the former Editor/Editorial Director of 12 Focus on the Family publications. My first two published books were nonfiction, co-authored with my husband, Dale. Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage with an Indonesian and Spanish version, and The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Life of Love and Happiness, have helped thousands of couples prepare for marriage. I’m also the author of two picture books, Lexie’s Adventure in Kenya and Princess Madison’s Rainbow Adventure. Moreover, I’m published in various book compilations including five Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Ready to Wed, Supporting Families Through Meaningful Ministry, The Christian Leadership Experience, and Spiritual Mentoring of Teens. I’ve written several hundred magazine and newsletter articles, so writing a variety of genres, topics, etc, has enlarged and strengthened my fiction writing career.
Do you have pets and do they inspire your writing or hinder it?
My little Maltichon has inspired me to add “woman’s best friend” into the last three of my books. Her name is Lucy and we’ll celebrate her first birthday on November 22nd. Her love and companionship have given me great comfort after losing my husband in 2020.
She sounds like a sweetheart! What are your hobbies or activities or passions outside of writing?
I love to travel the world. We’ve been to more than 45 countries and still have several more on my bucket list. When I’m not globe-trotting, I love FaceTiming with my four granddaughters, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying my sweet Maltichon, Lucy.
That all sounds marvelous! Please tell us about your next project. What’s next from your pen?
Iron Stream Media’s Heritage Beacon line will release Peyton’s Promise, book 3 of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, on May 24, 2022.
It’s the summer of 1902, and Peyton Quinn is tasked with preparing the grand Calumet Castle ballroom for a spectacular two-hundred-guest summer gala. As she works in a male-dominated position of upholsterer and fights for women’s equality, she’s persecuted for her unorthodox ways. But when her pyrotechnics-engineer father is seriously hurt, she takes over the plans for the fireworks display despite being socially ostracized.
Patrick Taylor, Calumet’s carpenter and Peyton’s childhood chum, hopes to win her heart, but her unconventional undertakings cause a rift. Peyton has to ignore the prejudices and persevere or she could lose her job, forfeit Patrick’s love and respect, and forever become the talk of local gossips.