A Sparkling Vintage Life

historical fiction

A Sparkling Vintage Interview with historical fiction author Naomi Musch!

Author Naomi Musch

Today I have the pleasure of visiting with Naomi Musch, author of “A Tender Siege,” one of four novellas in The Highlanders collection which releases this week!

Set during Pontiac’s War in August 1763, “A Tender Siege” tells the story of a Scotsman fighting in colonial Pennsylvania.

“I beg Ye to take me.” Wounded in battle in the American wilderness, Lachlan McRea of His Majesty’s 42nd Highlanders pleads with God, yearning to be reunited with his lost wife and child. As death hovers hear, he is discovered by Wenonah, a native widow doing all she can to survive alone while avoiding the attentions of a dangerous Shawnee warrior. In aiding one another, their perils increase. If Lachlan can let go of the woman he once loved, he might find healing for both body and soul.

Welcome, Naomi!

Jennifer Lamont Leo: First the basics. Where are you from, who’s in your family, and all that good stuff?

Naomi Musch: Hi, everyone. I’m a wife to Jeff (almost 39 years), mom of five, grandma of fourteen, and farm girl from northern Wisconsin, very near Lake Superior.

JLL: Tell us briefly about your writing journey and how you got started as an author.

NM: It’s almost embarrassing to say how long ago I started writing, because I was 10 when I decided that authorship was for me. I didn’t get my first novel published until I was in my 40s. I finally published when the e-book world opened and an independent press took a chance on me (for which I am ever grateful). I did spend a lot of time writing during those earlier years though. I published articles, newsletters, blogs, and more while my husband and I homeschooled our kids (which, in itself, took almost 30 years with their age spread). My first novel, The Green Veil, was published in 2010. I hope to re-release it along with its full 3-book series again next year.

JLL: What inspired you to write “A Tender Siege”?

NM: After my novel Mist O’er the Voyageur released last year, and I started working on a possible sequel, I fell into some really interesting historical tidbits about Pontiac’s War (on the tail of the French and Indian Wars). It got me thinking of some possibilities about a story set during that time. When I was approached about the possibility of joining three other authors in a compilation of Highlander novellas, I was told I could pick any historical era and locale that worked. Right then I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

JLL: Why did you choose to set your story in the 1763?

NM: Pontiac’s War covered a very brief period of time, from 1763 to 1766, with the heaviest of the action taking place in the first year. Once I knew I wanted to write about the Battle so I didn’t pick the time period as much as the time period was a given, plus that’s when the Battle of Bushy Run took place.

JLL: Tell us about your research process for “A Tender Siege”.

Historical fiction writers loooove research, but it’s easy for us to run too far down bunny trails. Once I picked Pontiac’s War as my period of interest, I knew I had to select a very specific part of it for the sake of the length a novella covers. Truthfully, I usually write full-length novels, and I always find novellas a particular challenge. But I do like a challenge.

I was really drawn to an incident that happened farther north in the war, but no Highlanders fought in that battle, from what I could discover. So I had to accept that there must be a different setting. You see, I was also researching the various Highland regiments that were involved in the wars here on the American continent. The 42nd famed “Black Watch” really appealed to me (though they hadn’t received that moniker yet). Nevertheless, the 42nd were heavily involved in the Battle of Bushy Run, so that battle became my way into the story. After determining my hero would be from that regiment, I then had to learn more about his backstory, and what brought him from Scotland to fighting in the Pennsylvania wilderness. A person can get lost for weeks looking at that kind of history!

JLL: Does the story reflect some aspect of your own life and/or faith journey?

NM: I think the stories I write always reflect my faith journey in some way. Not because of experience, but more because of theme. I haven’t experienced anything similar to what my hero or heroine experience physically in “A Tender Siege,” but I have experienced the deep need to trust God with the future, despite how I feel about it, so in that way I think it resonates with me as well as others.

JLL: Are there any particular challenges you faced while writing this story?

NM: Hm…not sure my memory is good enough to recall. I think for me, time is usually the biggest factor. Writing under a deadline, which I was, kept me on task. But I usually have multiple irons in the fire—the main one being family needs. Did I say I had 14 grandchildren? ? We’re a very groupie bunch.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded as you write?

NM: When I’m writing a book, I’m on high alert to themes the Lord might be pointing out to me. Sometimes he does that directly through my characters, sometimes through a sermon at church or on the radio, and sometimes through my life’s own uncertainties.

Also, the Lord has taught me that what I do is not about me getting published and selling books, even though I have the obligation to market my material if it does get published. He’s taught me that often its about teaching me something. When it comes to me publishing, I know now that all I need to do is my best, and that the outcome is up to Him. That’s the spiritual battle, because sometimes I forget and stress. I’m getting better though at really letting the projects go.

JLL: What reading material is next to your favorite reading spot?

NM: Oh my! I’m a book stacker! (Thank goodness for e-readers!) For fiction, I’m currently reading Danielle Thorne’s The Privateer of San Madrid. I’ve been acquainted with Danielle in the book world for some years, but this is my first time reading a book by her. She’s good! Her writing is very in-depth and eloquent. Her characters very defined and unique.

I’m also going back and forth between two non-fiction works: Discipleship Counseling by Dr. Neil T. Anderson and Extreme Grandparenting by Dr. Tim & Darcy Kimmel. There are a few different writing craft books I’m meandering through. I tend to hop around in those, from plotting to marketing to grammar.   

JLL: What’s on your music playlist?

NM: I don’t really have one. On any given day I might want to hear Mercy Me singing “Happy Dance” or the full soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans. However, when I needed some mood music during the early writing stages of A Tender Siege I listened to Scocha – Scots Wha Hae and The Lonely Grenadier quite a few times. (Thanks, Youtube.)

JLL: Any can’t-miss movies, TV series, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc., that you’d recommend?

Podcasts: Novel Marketing; TV series- I’m currently hooked on Heartland; My favorite movies are mostly historical: Last of the Mohicans, The Count of Monte Cristo, Far and Away, and some are sweet chick flicks: Return to Me; Always. Then there are the real classics (i.e. anything with James Stewart, Gregory Peck, or Cary Grant in it.)

JLL: Interesting about Cary Grant! My husband and I just watched Notorious last night. What do you do for fun?

NM: I love to go camping. We used to rough it when the kids were growing up. Now we have a vintage camper that we repainted this fall so it looks like a Dreamsicle (orange and cream). I also adore spending time with my grandkids and teaching them things around the farm, from gardening to woods lore. Speaking of which…we used to raise beef and goats and pigs—the usual farm critters—but now my sons have taken over and turned the property into a whitetail deer farm and hunting preserve. Seeing little fawns running around every spring? Now that’s fun!

JLL: What’s the next project coming up from Naomi Musch?

NM: My agent is shopping around three possibilities: an historical romance novella set in northern Wisconsin featuring a blacksmith hero and a newly arrived Norwegian immigrant girl, another historical romance novella featuring a lumberjack—but I don’t  I’ll tell much about that one yet, also set in Wisconsin. Finally, I’m working to finish a full-length novel called Letters From the Red Arrow, a WWI romance between a non-Native teacher working in a Native American boarding school and a Native widower gone to war, who leaves his daughter behind at the school. There are perils on both fronts.

 In the meantime, I’m going to turn my attention to re-issuing my out-of-print Empire in Pine series starting with The Green Veil that I mentioned earlier. I’m excited to look at those books again after a decade.

Here’s something funny. Tonight, as I was writing my answers to this interview, a lady called me and asked me if I still had copies of books one and two to that series, because her sister had just finished book one and she needed them. Good thing I still have some!

JLL: Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers that I haven’t asked?

NM: Yes! I would like to just say how much I appreciate every reader. These days the world is swamped with books. Anyone can pick up a book and put it down again ten minutes later to move onto something else. Every time a reader chooses to read one of my books, cover to cover, they’re giving me their most valuable commodity—their time. I wish every reader knew how much that means to me. <3

JLL: Where can we find you on social media?

NM: I love connecting! And I’m happy to meet with or speak to your group too. Give me a wave at:

Website: NaomiMusch.com

Amazon Author Page: Naomi Musch

FB: Naomi Musch – Author
Bookbub: Naomi Musch

Goodreads: Naomi Dawn Musch
Twitter: @NMusch
Instagram: NaomiMusch
Pinterest: Naomi Musch

Monthly Newsletter: News of the Northwoods

That’s it. Thanks, Naomi!

Naomi Musch is an award-winning author who crafts her stories from a deer farm in the pristine north woods of Wisconsin, where she and her husband Jeff live as epically as God allows near the families of their five adult children. She enjoys roaming around on the farm, snacking out of the garden, relaxing in her vintage camper, and loving on her passel of grandchildren. Naomi is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Wisconsin Writers’ Association, and the Lake Superior Writers. Though she has written in a variety of venues, her great love is historical fiction. She would love to connect with readers around the web at the sites listed above.

A Sparkling Vintage Interview with historical fiction author Janet Grunst

Janet Grunst

Today I’m thrilled to welcome historical fiction author Janet Grunst to the Sparkling Vintage Life blog!  Janet’s novels, A Heart Set Free and A Heart for Freedom, are set in 1700s America. Now she’s contributed a heart-melting novella called “The Year Without Summer” to the historical romance collection The Highlanders (coming November 15; now available for preorder). Recently I was blessed to have a conversation with Janet about this intriguing story. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and join us for a chat!

JLL: First the basics. Where are you from, who’s in your family, and all that good stuff?

JG: I was the daughter of a career Naval officer and later married to one, so moving was a way of life. While I was born in CA and resided all over that state at various times, I’ve been blessed to live in numerous other places. Virginia has been home for many years, the last thirteen in Williamsburg. I’m a wife, mom of two sons who serve in the military, and a grandmother of eight including one set of quads.

JLL: Tell us briefly about your writing journey and how you got started as an author.

JG: In the late ’70s, I became a stay-at-home-mom. Before long I had two columns in local papers and I began exploring writing fiction. A history buff my whole life, a pre-Revolutionary War era story was germinating in my head. Writing it was such a learning experience, not just about the craft, but about myself. After a few years of unsuccessfully trying to get it published, I had to return to full-time employment and raise my sons on my own. Dreams of writing were shelved for many years. I eventually remarried and my husband encouraged me to continue writing but the industry had vastly changed including the world of the internet. That first story, A Heart Set Free, was finally published thirty-one years after it was first written. The second book in the series, A Heart For Freedom, was published two years later.

JLL: What inspired you to write “The Year Without Summer”?

JG: I set the story in the villages in the Scottish Highlands and in northern Ireland where some of my ancestors lived.

JLL: Why did you choose to set your story in 1816?

JG: History is fascinating. At times national crises and life-changing, incidents are the result of other seemingly unrelated events. This story came together because of such inciting circumstances. 

JLL: Tell us about your research process for your story.

JG: Like most folks who write historical fiction, research is half the fun. Some times the biggest challenge is to halt the research and get back to writing. ;-}

JLL: Are there any particular challenges you’re facing in your writing life?

JG: Since I’m a seat of the pants writer it can be a bit nerve-wracking to wait and see where the characters decide to take me.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded as you write?

 JG: I have morning and evening quiet times as well as being involved in Community Bible Study which keeps me in the Word every day.

JLL: What reading material is next to your favorite reading spot?

JG: I usually have another writer’s book to read and review.

JLL: Any can’t-miss movies, TV series, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc., that you’d recommend?

JG: I love British dramas.

JLL: What’s the next project coming up from Janet Grunst?

JG: I’m eager for the editing process of the third and final book in the Revolutionary War series. I’m also in the process of research for another story.

JLL: That’s it! Thanks, Janet!

JG: Thank you so much, Jenny, for the visit.

Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight who lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband. Her debut novel, A Heart Set Free was a Selah Award winner for Historical Romance. A Heart For Freedom was a Christian Indie Award winner. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, bring inspiration, and encouragement to the reader. She’s a contributor to Colonial Quills. Learn more about Janet and her books by visiting her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

COVER REVEAL! The Highlanders

Cue the bagpipes! The Highlanders are coming! Four historical-romance novellas, four authors, four fetching Scotsmen aiming to win your heart. And, yes, one of them is mine. 🙂

My story, “The Violinist,” takes you to 1915 Idaho. Homesick lumberjack Callan MacTavish despairs of ever seeing his Scottish homeland again. With kindness and patience, music teacher Rose Marchmont reaches a part of Callan’s heart he’d long ago locked away. She sees beyond his rough exterior to the artistic heart beneath. He longs for more than he can offer her, but she doesn’t know about the secret trauma that keeps him from crossing the sea.

Coming this November–pre-order your copy today!

 

No foolin’! Fresh new fiction for April

April 2019 New Releases More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Children’s:
The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio — Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with bitterness. Little does she know the Heart Changer is preparing her for a greater mission — far beyond what she could imagine. (Children’s from Ambassador International)
Contemporary Romance:
Faith and Hope by Amy R. Anguish — Younger sister Hope has lost her job, her car, and her boyfriend all in one day. Her well-laid plans for life have gone sideways, as has her hope in God. Older sister Faith is finally getting her dream-come-true after years of struggles and prayers. But when her mom talks her into letting Hope move in for the summer, will the stress turn her dream into a nightmare? Is her faith in God strong enough to handle everything? For two sisters who haven’t gotten along in years, this summer together could be a disaster…or it could lead them to a closer relationship with each other and God. Can they overcome all life is throwing at them? Or is this going to destroy their relationship for good? (Contemporary Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing) Match Made in Heaven by Julie Arduini — Beth Prescott wants to make a difference with the senior citizens she serves as a volunteer coordinator, but their matchmaking efforts leave her guarded. She’s experienced too much pain to make that leap again. Dean Kellerman returns to the Finger Lakes area to help his grandfather and heal his own broken heart. He’s recommitted his life to Christ, and doesn’t want any distractions. When his grandfather needs assistance with a senior program, it places Dean right in Beth’s path. Can these two surrender their pasts to Christ and have faith in each other and their future? (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media) An Amish Reunion by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kathleen Irvin, and Beth WisemanTheir True Home by Amy Clipston: Marlene Bawell’s new friendship with an old crush is threatened when change once again disrupts the home she’s tried to make in Bird-in-Hand. A Reunion of Hearts by Beth Wiseman: Separated after tragic grief, husband and wife Ruth and Gideon Beiler are reunited when they accept an invitation to a family reunion they each believe the other has declined. A Chance to Remember by Kathleen Fuller: Cevilla Schlabach, Birch Creek’s resident octogenarian matchmaker, is surprised when Richard, a man from her Englisch past, arrives in Birch Creek for a visit. While he and Cevilla take several walks down memory lane, they wonder what the future holds for them at this stage of life—friendship, or the possibility of something else? Mended Hearts by Kelly Irvin: Abandoned by her father, penitent single mother Hannah Kauffman finds support in her old friend Phillip, who has loved her for years, but fears risking another mistake by opening herself up to love. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan]) Her New Amish Family by Carrie Lighte — Widower Seth Helmuth needs a mother for his sons, but for now, hiring the Englischer next door as their nanny will have to do. Trina Smith plans to stay in Amish country only long enough to claim her inheritance and sell her grandfather’s house. But as she falls for Seth, his twin boys and Amish life, will she inherit a home and a family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) Beauty for Ashes by Kathleen Neely — Well-known novelist Nathan Drummond revisits painful memories when family responsibilities force him to return to his home town. Although he’d intended the living situation to be temporary, Nathan didn’t count on falling in love. As guilty memories threaten a return of panic attacks, Nathan begins to write a novel paralleling the tragic event from his youthful folly. Will the novel be seen as a work of fiction, or will it expose his secret? (Contemporary Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican]) Restoring Her Faith by Jennifer Slattery — An artist fighting to save her career must find a way to work with the handsome yet stubborn cowboy overseeing a church restoration project–without falling for his southern charm. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) Sweet On You by Becky Wade — Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long. As they work together to investigate Zander’s uncle’s mysterious death, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light? (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
General Contemporary:
The Edge of Mercy by Heidi Chiavaroli — A dying request from an elderly neighbor forces a woman in a troubled marriage to find the 300-year-old story of a young colonial woman—one forced into an unwanted betrothal but drawn to a man forbidden to her by society. (General Contemporary from Hope Creek Publishers) All My Tears by Kathy McKinsey — Meet five women who struggle with life’s deep sorrows. Beth fights to recover from alcoholism and to mend her relationships with her family. Ann doesn’t believe God will forgive her. Kathleen wrestles with a years-old fear and with saving her marriage. Cassie needs to learn to deal with chronic depression. Martie finds herself the single parent of the eight-year-old niece she barely knows when the child’s parents die in a car wreck. See how God gives them the gifts of hope, healing, and love. (General Contemporary from Mantle Rock Publishers)
Historical:
The Refuge by Ann H Gabhart — Can Darcie Goodwin find love and a way to keep her baby in a community that doesn’t believe in marriage or individual family units? (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Historical Romance:
The Artful Match by Jennifer Delamere — At loose ends in London after a near-tragedy, Cara Bernay finds herself at odds with the Earl of Morestowe after she befriends his brother, a talented but troubled young artist. Soon she finds herself drawn to the earl as she becomes more involved with his family. Like Cara, they are suffering from unresolved mistakes in their past. Can they form an unlikely alliance and find a way to a new beginning? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker]) The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse — Olivia Brighton finds herself widowed and working her brother’s restaurant in San Francisco during the height of the 1849 Gold Rush. Even though she receives at least twenty marriage proposals a day, she will never marry a gold miner. Her brother’s friend Joseph Sawyer has gotten caught up in local politics and the plight of Chinese in forced labor. The more Joseph gets pulled into investigating crime in the city, the less Olivia sees of the compassionate man. And just when she thinks she could love again, a fire threatens to steal all hope. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Romantic Suspense:
Justice Delivered by Patricia Bradley — An escaped victim of sex trafficking must find the courage to report her captors to the authorities—some of whom could be corrupt—when her niece is kidnapped by the ringleader. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group) You Shouldn’t Have by Susan Page Davis — “I SAW MY NEIGHBOR MURDER HIS WIFE!” But the police don’t believe Petra Wilson. There’s no body, no evidence, no murder. But Petra knows what she saw. And now her dangerous neighbor knows it, too. Her sisters introduce her to private investigator Joe Tarleton. Petra tells Joe her story, expecting him to decide there is no case. But the dedicated P.I. accepts her word, and he vows to uncover the truth. Still, he can’t guard Petra twenty-four hours a day. In spite of her precautions, her neighbor makes inroads in her vulnerability. Petra is left open to a killer intent on silencing the only living witness. (Romantic Suspense from Tea Tin Press) Beauty in Battle by Robin Patchen — Harper doesn’t want to return to Maryland to face the police. The mess she left behind makes her look guilty of the worst, but it’s too late to run again. Red is safe and the authorities are waiting. At least Jack is by her side. Now that Jack knows the truth, his feelings for Harper are deeper than ever. He’s not about to leave her side, especially knowing a killer is after her. But Derrick is on their trail, and he’s come unhinged. And he may not be the biggest threat lurking. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])
Speculative:
Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse — Selene Ravenwood, once the heir to House Ravenwood, is now an exile. On the run and free of her family’s destiny, Selene hopes to find the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking. But first she must adapt to her new role as wife to Lord Damien Maris, the man she was originally assigned to kill. While adjusting to her marriage and her home in the north, her power over dreams begins to grow. As the strongest dreamwalker to exist in ages, her expanding power attracts not only nightmares but the attention of the Dark Lady herself. With a war looming on the horizon and a wicked being after her gift, Selene is faced with a choice: accept the Dark Lady’s offer or search out the one who gave her the gift of dreamwalking. One path offers power, the other freedom. But time is running out, and if she doesn’t choose soon, her decision will be made for her. (Speculative Fantasy from Bethany House [Baker]) Snow Globe Travelers: Samuel’s Legacy by K.A. Cummins — Transported into another world, an Austrian girl must face a genetically-engineered warrior with an army of vicious hybrids. (Hard Science Fiction (for Children), Independently Published) The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings — A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job. A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding. And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive. When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcases from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave. (Speculative Allegory from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

My Valentine to you: a free eBook of SONGBIRD AND OTHER STORIES

Hiya, Sparklers! If your hair has been turning silver waiting for me to release a new novel, here’s a gap-filler for you. I’ve written four short stories and collected them in a single volume called Songbird and Other Stories. Each story is set in the 1920s and features one of the characters from my novel series: Dot, Marjorie, or Helen. If you enjoyed You’re the Cream in My Coffee or Ain’t Misbehavin’, reading Songbird and Other Stories ought to feel cozy and comfortable, like a visit with old friends. And if you haven’t read those books (what are you waiting for?), Songbird and Other Stories is a great introduction to the storyworld of the Jazz Age. *

Now here’s the really good part: For a limited time, you can download Songbird and Other Stories for FREE at Bookfunnel (giving new meaning to the term “Free Bird”). All I ask is that you consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads if you like it. (If you don’t like it, maybe you can just let it go gentle into that good night, with apologies to Dylan Thomas.)

Currently Songbird is only available as an eBook, but we’re working on producing a print edition that will be available soon. I know many of you prefer to read “real” books printed on paper, so I’ll let you know just as soon as the print edition is available.

* (Also, unlike so many stories set in that era, these are clean and sweet, something moms, grandmas, and daughters can all share and enjoy.)

Episode 1: Introduction


This episode is an introduction to a new podcast called A Sparkling Vintage Life Host Jennifer Leo explains how she came to love all things vintage and sometimes feels as if she was meant to live in an earlier era. Through A Sparkling Vintage Life she’ll be celebrating the best of the past and discussing ways to incorporate vintage elements into a 21-century woman’s life. She welcomes kindred spirits to join her on the journey!

(And, yes, the sound quality needs work. “She” is still learning… appreciate your patience!)


The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle

Jennifer’s fiction:
You’re the Cream in My Coffee
Ain’t Misbehavin’

Jennifer’s blog

It’s a Bouncing Baby Book!

Ain’t Misbehavin’ launches today! To celebrate, I thought you might like to hear the song that inspired the title. While the song was first published in 1929, this clip is from a 1943 movie called Stormy Weather in which the composer, Fats Waller, sings it. It’s been covered by many artists over the years. (If you have a favorite version, please share!) I’ll keep looking for an original 1929 recording to see if it’s any different.

Sparkling Vintage Interview with Karen Barnett, author of THE ROAD TO PARADISE

**UPDATE** Kit Tosello won a free e-book copy of The Road to Paradise. Thanks for stopping by, Kit! I know you’ll love the book.**

When I was ten, my family took a road trip from Chicago to San Francisco and back. One memorable highlight was our stay at Yosemite National Park. I was amazed then, and still am today, at the incredible beauty of America’s national parks, and the leaders who had the foresight to preserve them for the public to enjoy for decades to come.

Since then, I’ve visited several other parks, including Hot Springs, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks–each breathtakingly gorgeous in its own way. But topping my to-visit list currently is Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.

In 1901, renowned naturalist John Muir wrote of this park, “Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” It seems fitting, then,  that author Karen Barnett chose Mount Rainier as the setting for her historical novel, The Road to Paradise, the first in the new Vintage National Parks series.

The Road to Paradise (published by Waterbrook) takes the reader on a journey to Mount Rainier National Park through the eyes of Margie Lane, a naive young socialite who is drawn to the park by her love of nature as well as her wish to escape an undesirable situation at home. The year is 1927, but unlike in the cities, the only things “roaring” in the park are bears and mountain lions. New to park life, Margie at first butts heads with the reclusive park ranger assigned to help her get her bearings. But soon they find themselves working together to stop an unscrupulous businessman from ruining the park for his own profit. The Road to Paradise offers plenty of romance and intrigue against the rugged, untamed beauty of the mountain wilderness.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Road to Paradise, especially the details of what it was like for a woman to work there during my very favorite era, the 1920s. Come join Karen Barnett and me in our imaginary park lodge as we settle into comfortable chairs near the great stone fireplace and have a chat.

Jennifer Lamont Leo: Tell us a bit about the story behind The Road to Paradise. You used to be a forest ranger, right? Tell us a little about that. Is that where you got your inspiration?

Paradise Lodge at Mount Rainier as it appeared in Margie’s day.

Karen Barnett: That’s definitely what inspired the Vintage National Parks novels. I worked as a park ranger at both Mount Rainier National Park and at Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. I started working in parks while I was still in college and graduate school and had some of the best summers of my life doing so. There’s nothing like living in a national park all summer, spending time with people who are enjoying the beautiful outdoors, and then having the park all to yourself after they head home. I still remember grabbing my breakfast and sitting outside the park housing at Mount Rainier watching the sunrise turning the peak purple and pink. The joke is always that rangers are paid in sunrises and sunsets. It’s actually pretty true.

I’d been working for Oregon State Parks for a couple of years when we decided to start our family. I stepped away from park work to become a stay-at-home mom and to follow a new dream—writing. It took over a decade to get my writing career off the ground, though, so I don’t encourage aspiring writers to quit their day job.

JLL: “Forest ranger” sounds like a dream job to many of us desk-bound types. Do you ever wish you still had that job?

Author Karen Barnett

KB: I do–often. I miss working in beautiful places and opening people’s eyes to the intricacies of the natural world. I sometimes have to remind myself that it was also a draining job. When you put on the big hat, you’re a public commodity and always have to be ready to represent the park’s public image or enforce park regulations. You also are expected to work weekends, evenings, summers, and holidays. Whenever the rest of the world is out playing, you’re on the job. And park housing wasn’t always about the sunrises–think cramped quarters that you share with rodents and large insects. So there are definitely good and bad aspects of the job. But I still miss it.

JLL: Have conditions changed much for National Park employees since the 1920s? If so, how? What things remain similar?

KB: In preparation for writing The Road to Paradise, I spent time in the archives at Mount Rainier reading through the Chief Ranger’s monthly reports for 1927 to get a feeling for what my hero would be doing on a daily basis. I was surprised to find him doing some very basic work like repairing phone wires, refinishing wood floors, patrolling trails, and such. Today that position is much more administrative. In fact, I’d say the NPS as a whole has become more streamlined and specialized. Rangers are hired for specific types of jobs. I was part of the interpretive staff—the naturalists who run the campfire programs, offer guided hikes, answer questions at the visitor centers, and get to work with cute little junior rangers. Other rangers serve as park police, climbing rangers, natural resource stewards, fee collectors, trail crew, maintenance, etc.

Also, as shown in The Road to Paradise, 1920s-era park service was a man’s world. There were a few isolated cases of women rangers scattered around the country, but the staff was overwhelmingly male. Parks still struggle with cases of discrimination and sexual harassment (there have been some very public cases in the past ten years), but I wasn’t aware of any in the parks where I worked. [If you’d like to know more about the history of women in the parks, head over to my website and sign up for my email newsletter. You’ll receive a link to a free download of my “Women in the National Parks” e-booklet.]

JLL: The Vintage National Parks series follows your earlier series set in San Francisco. As the old song goes, does your “heart belong” in the West? Do you find the region a particularly rich source of story ideas?

KB: I’ve spent most of my life in the west, so it’s a comfortable place for me to set novels. I’m familiar with the lay of the land, the climate, the smells, and sounds. That frees up some of my research time to focus on the history rather than the basics of the setting. But with that said, I’m not opposed to writing farther afield in the future. I have a simmering story idea that centers around a hot spring resort in Georgia, and if I end up writing more books about National Parks (after these three), I’d love to explore parks located in other regions of the country.  

JLL: Do you share any personality traits in common with your main character, Margie? Is she based on anyone you know?

KB: I originally based Margie on my own experiences in the National Park Service. When I first started working as a ranger, I had a huge amount of enthusiasm and book knowledge, but no practical outdoors skills. As I wrote Margie’s character, however, she took on a voice all her own. She’s poetic, artistic, and whimsical—much more so than me. One reader compared her to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley character, and I can definitely see that.

JLL: What inspires you to write historical fiction?

KB: I write historical fiction because I have a secret desire to travel through time. I’m not a genius inventor, so this is my way of accomplishing that dream.

JLL: How did you choose the time period(s) you write in?

KB: Both my debut novel (Mistaken) and the Golden Gate Chronicles were inspired by historical events, so the time periods were pretty set. With The Road to Paradise, I was looking to tell the story of women breaking into this male-dominated profession and the 1920s just felt like the right time for that to me. The 1920s and 30s were a period of massive change for our nation and also a golden age for our national parks. People were beginning to embrace the idea of family vacations and traveling for the purpose of recreation. Prior to that, most US travel was done for economic or family reasons.

JLL: What are some ways you “refill the well” of your creativity?

KB: That’s a great question and is something I’ve honestly struggled with in the past year. I used to say that watching TV and movies in my downtime inspired me (I’m a Netflix junkie), but I discovered recently that it had begun to actually sap my desire to write. So in recent months, I’ve started reading a lot more—coming back to my “first love” if you will. Seeing what some of my favorite authors are doing in their novels inspires me to get back to the computer and improve my own craft.

I also enjoy photography. My dad is a retired photographer, and he taught me a lot about viewing the world through a camera lens. I find that my favorite photos are the ones that tell a story, or at least hint at one.

JLL: What aspects of novel-writing do you enjoy most? Least?

KB: I love the research most of all. I get all giddy when I find a great book or webpage that will provide fodder for my writing. I also love to travel and immerse myself in the setting. Sometimes it’s tough for me to put the research aside and get on to the task of writing.

Least? The self doubt. Whenever I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft of a manuscript, all the negative voices start chanting in my head:
You’ll never finish this.
Who would read this garbage?
Everyone’s going to realize you’re not really talented.
Why did you ever start this?
It makes me shudder just thinking about it. I don’t think the voices really abate until after the novel is published and the first reviews begin to roll in, but by then I’m on to another project. This writing business is not for the faint-hearted.

JLL: Are you a “plotter” or a “pantster”?

KB: I’m a pantster. I do write a loose synopsis so I know the general framework of the plot, but I leave myself lots of wiggle room. I like when the characters surprise me. Those moments always take me off-guard, but it’s also a lot of fun. I do have to say that being a pantster is also terrifying. The blinking cursor is NOT my friend.

JLL: What are you working on now?

KB: I’m currently writing the third book in the Vintage National Parks series. It is set in Yellowstone in 1934 and will feature a woman who has grown up in Yellowstone, a hero who has never been off the streets of Brooklyn, and one of FDR’s New Deal programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps. I’m still in the early stages of writing this one, and already the characters are flying off the page. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

JLL: The Road to Paradise is part of a series, right? Tell us a little about the other books in the series.

KB: I guess I just told you about book three, didn’t I? Haha! The second book of the series is undergoing edits at my publishing house and will release this June. Where the Fire Falls is set in 1929 Yosemite. Olivia Rutherford has rocketed onto the watercolor art scene and mastered an avant-garde reputation to distract wealthy buyers from her family’s shameful past. When she is hired by a popular travel magazine to illustrate Yosemite and its one-of-a-kind Firefall, she hopes the lucrative contract will lift her and her sisters from poverty. Trail guide Clark Johnson knows a lot about running from your past, but he also knows that God sometimes uses Yosemite to show people who they really are—or rather, who He wants them to be.

 Thanks, Karen!

Look for The Road to Paradise and other books by Karen Barnett at your favorite bookseller. To enter to win a free e-book of The Road to Paradise, simply leave a comment below. I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.

Announcing the Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle!

 

Big news, Sparklers! The brand-new Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle has opened its virtual doors on Facebook! We’ll be discussing historical fiction, mostly from (or set in) the early 20th century, starting in November with MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie.

Our goal is to read and discuss one book per month. If you’re a lady who enjoys reading historical fiction, come join us here, and be sure to invite any friends who might be interested!

White gloves optional.

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