We’re celebrating my favorite author’s new release today. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Austin this month. We talked history, her writing habits, and, of course, Waves of Mercy!
Austin Returns with a Multi-Generational Historical Novel
Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean at age seventeen with her parents and a small group of immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. Fifty years later, in 1897, she’s asked to write a memoir of her early experiences as the town celebrates its anniversary. Reluctant at first, she soon uncovers memories and emotions hidden all these years, including the story of her one true love.
At the nearby Hotel Ottawa Resort on the shore of Lake Michigan, twenty-three-year-old Anna Nicholson is trying to ease the pain of a broken engagement to a wealthy Chicago banker. But her time of introspection is disturbed after a violent storm aboard a steamship stirs up memories of a childhood nightmare. As more memories and dreams surface, Anna begins to question who she is and whether she wants to return to her wealthy life in Chicago. When she befriends a young seminary student who is working at the hotel for the summer, she finds herself asking him all the questions that have been troubling her.
Neither Geesje nor Anna, who are different in every possible way, can foresee the life-altering surprises awaiting them before the summer ends.
I’m looking forward to reading Waves of Mercy and will be reviewing it later this month. For now, let’s see what Mrs. Austin has to say about it…
Me: Which character is most like you? Which is your polar opposite? And which inspires you the most?
Austin: I suppose Geesje is somewhat like me because she dares to get angry with God and question why He allows pain and suffering. Geesje and I both know that a real relationship is an honest one—and besides, God knows that we’re angry, so we can’t really hide anything from Him! I was most inspired by Geesje’s parents—who didn’t question God, and were willing to do His will, even if that meant suffering. They also lived out their faith in their daily lives, no matter what. I’m probably least like Maarten, who never seemed to have doubts and lived a solid, consistent, Christian life, sacrificing for others.
Me: Where did the inspiration for Waves of Mercy come from?
Austin: I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, MI for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. It intrigued me to learn that the first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. Since that’s true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered in the process of founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.
Me: What was the biggest hurdle when researching Waves of Mercy?
Austin: There was so much information available—including an entire VanRaalte Research Center at Hope College—so it was difficult to do a thorough job and not be completely overwhelmed. I knew I was leaving out a lot of good information but I had a story to tell, first and foremost. I hate reading novels with too much history tossed in. Keeping the history and the story in balance was challenging at times.
Me: What Message do you want the reader to walk away with?
Austin: I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.
Me: Is there a theme that seems to show up in your writing more often?
Austin: Life is hard but God is good—and He always has everything under control.
Me: You’ve covered a lot of ground, historically speaking, is there an era that intimidates you?
Austin: Aside from my biblical novels, which go WAY back in history, the earliest time period I’ve written about is the mid-1800s. I don’t think I’d want to go back any earlier than that in U.S. history. Researching the time of the Pilgrims or the Revolutionary War would scare me.
Me: Lol We have that in common. I’m intimidated by Revolutionary War history too…although I’d really love to try my hand at it someday. Biblical fiction however…I’ll leave in your capable hands. 😉
Me: Most history lovers have an antique or two around their home. Assuming this is true for you, do you have a favorite? Anything on a wish list?
Austin: I love antiques, but my husband doesn’t care much for them, so I have to keep my collection under control. (No wish lists!) My favorite pieces are the ones that were handed down through my family, such as the mantle clock that my great-grandfather bought for my great-grandmother as a present on the day my grandmother was born. I guess he wanted her to know what time it was when she got up to feed the baby in the middle of the night! I also have a huge, wooden steamer trunk from 1812 that I bought before Ken and I were married to serve as my “hope chest.” We’ve been dragging it around ever since. My oldest antique is an oil lamp I purchased in Israel that dates to the time of King Hezekiah.
Me: WOW! Those are some amazing pieces!
Me: Do you have a favorite era to research?
Austin: The Civil War. I did a lot of traveling when I researched my three Civil War novels, and I enjoyed every minute. The battlefields and cemeteries were very moving, especially seeing the grave of my husband’s great-great grandfather, who died in the war. And I loved visiting the beautiful plantations in the South. This time period also brought a lot of good changes for women, so that made it interesting, too.
Me: And that is why you’re my favorite author. 😉 It was your Civil War novels that hooked me…and it happens to be my personal favorite to research too.
Now let’s talk about your writing habits…
Me: Do you have any writing must haves?
Austin: I must have my daily quiet time for prayer and Bible reading—or else I don’t get anywhere at all with my writing.
Me: Do you partner with any other authors?
Austin: I have never partnered with anyone to write a book, but I would never have gotten where I am today without the faithful women from my writers’ critique group: Jane Rubietta and Cleo Lampos. They are also two of my favorite authors.
Me: What is your least favorite phase of the writing/publishing process?
Austin: The part I hate the most is getting the first editorial review of my finished manuscript. I just want to be done with the book (and of course I’m convinced it’s perfect) but my editor always has a few suggested changes.
Me: How do you recharge your batteries?
Austin: I go out and play! I love to ride my bike, walk in the woods, and play with my granddaughter. My husband is a professional musician, so going to his concerts recharges me, too.
Me: Is it possible to get a small clue about your current work in progress?
Austin: It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.
Me: And lastly, can we see where all these wonderful stories are born?
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mrs. Austin.If you’re already a fan, please share your favorite Austin book in the comments below. For those just getting to know Lynn Austin, you can connect with her on Facebook and her Website. And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Waves of Mercy today!