Greetings from Marti Pieper in already-summery Mount Dora, Florida. This year, we actually had winter in Florida, but here in March, it seems we’ve skipped right on to summer. It’s not quite that warm where Susan Mathis lives in Colorado, which is also the state where she and I met a few years ago at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Along with her career as an author and editor, Susan serves as the CAN vice president and co-editor for the CAN newsletter. I’m delighted to introduce her and her work today.
Welcome, Susan! Please tell us about your book.
The Gilded Age comes to life in this first installment of the Thousand Islands Series with Katelyn’s Choice.
Katelyn Kavanagh’s mother dreamed her daughter would one day escape the oppressive environment of their Upstate New York farm for service in the enchanting Thousand Islands, home to Gilded Age millionaires. But when her wish comes true, Katelyn finds herself in the service of none other than the famous George Pullman, and the transition proves anything but easy.
Thomas O’Neill, brother of her best friend, is all grown up and also working on Pullman Island. Despite Thomas’ efforts to help the irresistible Katelyn adjust to the intricacies of her new world, she just can’t seem to tame her gossiping tongue—even when the information she’s privy to could endanger her job, the 1872 re-election of Pullman guest President Ulysses S. Grant, and the love of the man of her dreams.
Sounds intriguing! What inspired you to write Katelyn’s Choice?
I fell in love with the Thousand Islands as a young girl, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that I felt inspired to write The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series. By then I had completed my debut novel, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, a story set partially on the largest island, Wolfe Island, Canada. Christmas Charity is also set in the Thousand Islands.
And what surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?
A few years ago, my husband and I visited Wolfe Island, Pullman Island, and Singer Castle on Dark Island. We met some wonderful people who kept the intriguing Thousand Island history deep in their hearts, and I gleaned all kinds of valuable information and made special friends in the process. My historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and a Thousand Islands author herself. Seeing and experiencing the area as I wrote made my writing come to life, and my historical editor kept the history accurate.
What was the hardest scene to write?
It was tough to write a near-drowning scene. As a former lifeguard, I know how traumatic it is to nearly drown.
And yet I know that experience also gave you special insight. What’s your favorite scene in this book?
The scenes with President Grant were lots of fun. From my research, he was a most interesting man.
What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
In all my stories I include an Irish character and tea, since I’m Irish and love tea! But faith, hope, and love are recurring themes in my stories.
I’m not Irish, but I love that tea emphasis—and the inspirational focus as well. What would be your ideal writing place, and what’s your actual writing place like?
If I could, I’d write on one of the Thousand Islands. But since I live in Colorado overlooking the beautiful Rocky Mountains, I write with the inspiring views of the Front Range.
They are indeed inspiring! Why do you write historical romance?
The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series is a kind of Downton-Abbey-meets-the-Thousand-Islands. I loved the series and write from the perspective of a servant girl. I love the research and the challenge of interjecting interesting historical facts into a meaningful and memorable story.
How do your previous careers influence how you write today?
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. I’m also the author of two picture books, Lexie’s Adventure in Kenya and Princess Madison’s Rainbow Adventure and am 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 also written hundreds of magazine and newsletter articles. Because of these many and varied experiences—overseeing 123 pages of new content every month, editing, creating thousands of stories—all these have helped my fiction-writing career a lot. I’ve learned to be efficient, scheduled, productive, and creative in ways I wouldn’t have had without the careers I’ve had.
You have a wonderful background! Please tell us about your next project.
Book two of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series comes to life in Devyn’s Dilemma. Here’s the already contracted summary of the story:
Twenty-year-old Devyn McKenna is nervous about working on Dark Island in the imposing Castle called the Towers, a 28-room structure complete with dungeons, underground passageways, and castle secrets. Devyn struggles to find the self-confidence she needs to carry out her duties as a housemaid in the summer home of the wealthy president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Frederick Bourne. As she serves the likes of Brig. Gen. Cornelius Vanderbilt III and others, her curiosity for learning grows. But when she is accused of stealing his plans for expanding the New York City Subway and learns her brother “borrowed” the plans, and the man she loves believes she was the culprit, her faith is tested as never before.
I love what you’re doing with this series. Thanks so much for taking time to share with us today!
For His glory,