Today I’m delighted to welcome Elaine Marie Cooper to A Sparkling Vintage Life. Elaine’s newest novel, Saratoga Letters, set in New York during the Revolutionary War period, releases this week from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
Saratoga Letters tells the story of the Battle of Saratoga, the first great victory of the American Continental Army, through the eyes of Abigail, a patriotic woman forced by her Loyalist uncle to nurse wounded British soldiers. Two centuries later, the anniversary of the battle draws together Abby, an American, and a descendant of a British soldier, and adventure ensues. Bestselling author Laura Frantz says of the story, “Poignant and suspenseful by turns and graced with an uncommon spiritual depth, this novel is historical fiction that truly grabs your heartand feeds your soul. My favorite Elaine Cooper story to date!”
Jennifer Lamont Leo: Welcome, Elaine! When will Saratoga Letters be published?
Elaine Marie Cooper: It releases October 4 and I am so excited! (JLL: That’s tomorrow, folks! Get your Amazon-clicking finger ready…)
JLL: The story is set in Saratoga, New York, in 1777. What has intrigued you about this time and place in history?
EMC: Several things. First, since I grew up in Massachusetts, I have long been enamored with the history of the beginnings of our country. But I was particularly drawn to Saratoga because my own ancestor fought in the battle there in 1777—as a British Redcoat! I had long wanted to visit the site because of that. When I was there, my writer’s muse became intrigued by the possibility of a multigenerational suspense story. This was a first for me and I’m very excited about this story!
JLL: What sparked your imagination for this particular story?
EMC: Believe it or not, it was a lost key to a motel room! Crazy, I know! All the “what-ifs” began to play in my mind and, before you know it, a plot birthed in my writer’s muse. 🙂
JLL: Tell us a bit about your research process for Saratoga Letters. Do you have any favorite resources that you turn to for research?
EMC: My very favorite sources for research are historians. I love picking the brains of those who share my love for history. They never ask why I need a minor detail about something—they just understand. Saratoga Letters took on a whole new challenge however because I was researching two completely separate centuries. It was a huge challenge to get details about 1977 because there was no internet then and many of the real-life details were often hidden in old newspaper stories or files in a historical archive. The great part about this was meeting so many helpful contacts in the Saratoga area. I’m so grateful for their help!
JLL: What do you most hope readers will take away from Saratoga Letters?
EMC: I think the key thought that readers of this book may take away is a truth about good vs. evil.
JLL: Are there any particular triumphs or challenges you’re facing in your
writing life these days?
EMC: My biggest challenge this past year has been my health. I had a total knee replacement a year ago that became infected. The resulting surgeries and course of serious antibiotics really challenged me! I’m so relieved to say that this seems to be behind me now and I am back to writing again.
JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded during the writing and publishing process?
EMC: If I don’t start my day reading the Bible and praying, I might as well not bother to write that day! I feel so strongly that the message in my words must glorify God and I pray that it always will.
JLL: Are there any particular authors and/or books that have inspired your writing journey?
EMC: Laura Frantz!! She is my historical fiction hero! I cannot tell you what a joy it is to have her endorse Saratoga Letters!
JLL: What’s on your music playlist?
EMC: The soundtrack to “Son of God.”
JLL: Any movies (old or new) that you’d recommend?
EMC: One of my favorite historical movies is Last of the Mohicans. It’s definitely not for children, but it is an amazing look at early America during the French and Indian War. I also love the 1939 movie Drums Along the Mohawk. The Patriot with Mel Gibson, the AMC TV series Turn, and the PBS series Poldark are among my favorite historicals, as well.
JLL: What’s the next book project coming up for you?
EMC: I currently have two children’s books with my agent. It is a series of books that features siblings of children with special needs. I also will be researching a sequel to the 1777 portion of Saratoga Letters. I am VERY excited about that!
JLL: Is there anything you’d like readers to know about you that I haven’t asked? If so, tell us!
EMC: I honestly never imagined that I would become a writer of historical fiction. I spent years working as a nurse, and the fact that I now immerse myself in little-known historical tidbits is quite amusing to me! But I am so grateful to the Lord for allowing me this opportunity to write stories that I love and, I pray, that my readers will love as well.
JLL: Thanks, Elaine!
EMC: Thank you so much, Jenny, for having me as your guest!
Snap up your copy of Saratoga Letters!
Award winning author Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Saratoga Letters, Fields of the Fatherless, Bethany’s Calendar and the historical trilogy called the Deer Run Saga. Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ, and the history of the American Revolution. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her historical novels.
Her upcoming release is Legacy of Deer Run (CrossRiver Media, Dec, 2016)
Cooper has been writing since she penned her first short story at age eleven. She began researching for her first novel in 2007. Her writing has also appeared in Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson and the romance anthology, I Choose You. She has also written articles for Prayer Connect Magazine, Splickety Prime Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Life: Beautiful Magazine. She began her professional writing career as a newspaper freelancer.
My debut novel, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, is scheduled to be published exactly three months from today!
Tick … tick … tick …
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So, from what I can tell, cool, hip, and sophisticated fiction readers detest Grace Livingston Hill.
Her writing is “cheesy,” they say. “Saccharine.” “Formulaic.” “Goody Two-Shoes.”
Well, for once I’m really, really glad that few people can ever accuse me of being cool, hip, or sophisticated. Because I’ve only recently discovered this writer, beloved by thousands– whose heyday of popularity peaked nearly a century ago–and I can’t seem to get enough. She’s like crack cocaine for the vintage soul.
Banging around in the Christian publishing arena as I have, I’ve been hearing the name Grace Livingston Hill for years and years, but have steered clear because of negative impressions like those above. Among the cognoscenti, her name is often accompanied by a lifted eyebrow, a slight sneer, as if to say Good thing we’ve evolved beyond all that wholesome stuff.
But recently I chanced upon “Happiness Hill,” written in 1932. So, I like reading stories set the early 20th century, which is also my favorite time period to write about. Maybe I could pick up a pointer or two about what life was like back then. In an idle moment, I opened the cover (okay, I’ll grant that the cover is a little cheesy, from a 1972 reprint–but then the 1970s were pretty much hideous all around, so there’s that) and started reading.
One chapter later, I set it down. A lump had formed in my throat. An actual lump. What was that all about?
In the story, a young, single businesswoman named Jane Arleth has cut her vacation short to return home because her family needs her.
Now, first of all, the very idea astonished me. What? No indignant insistence on her inalienable right to “me-time?” No disdain for her family for being a burden, for cramping her style? No cries of “but what about me-e-e-e-e? At twenty-three years old, I’m still just a kid!” No, siree. She simply packs her little valise and catches the train home.
And the descriptions! As the train leaves the station, Jane notices “the winding mountain road, fern-fringed and enticing, climbing back out of sight into the cool upward shadowed curves. Beyond and above, there would be the glimmer of the lake sparkling like a sheet of sapphire in the morning sunlight, tilting the canoes that rocked and lapped along its edges, slapping the sides of the larger boats anchored a little way out, bearing softly on its blue bosom the flock of white sails that a little later in the morning would be curvetting and billowing in the wind across the little island.”
What? Hello! Where have you been all my life?
“There would be cool blue shadows on the north porch, where the pines were thickest about the hotel, a wonderful spot to come with a book before the young world generally was astir. There would be the aroma of coffee, honeydew melons and toast, hot rolls just out of the oven, and a hint of brook trout frying in deep fat.”
Where do I sign up?
And then there’s the faith element. Many (most?) of her characters are unabashedly Christian in a way that would get them ridiculed by sophisticates today.
“She had awakened early before anyone had seemed be astir, reached from the bed to the little table where she had laid her Bible the night before, and lay there reading, beginning at the first of Genesis and taking the story of the universe as if it were all entirely new to her.”
She lays there reading, happily, until her friend comes to fetch her for breakfast.
“What on earth do you find so interesting?” demanded Carol lazily as Jane laid the handsome bound volume on the table. “The Bible! Why, Jane Arleth! You don’t meant to tell me you have turned saint!”
“. . . [A] slow color stole into [Jane’s] cheeks and a feeling akin to shame came over her. Had there been a tinge of sarcasm in Carol’s voice as she said that about being a saint, a curl of mockery on the lovely lips?”
*sigh* The more things change . . .
Please indulge my latest literary crush. I’ll be posting quotes of hers from time to time, as they capture my fancy, and perhaps commenting on the differences between Then and Now.
If you’re a fan of Grace Livingston Hill, I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorites among her stories?
If you have no idea who she is, check your local library or thrift store.
And if you don’t like her at all . . . well, you’re welcome to say so, of course, but I may just have to lift my chin and speak cordially but coolly to you.
Which is exactly what Jane Arleth would do.