Posted in Book Reviews

Interview and Book Review: Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

372Having returned to Chicago, young socialite Anna Nicholson can’t seem to focus on her upcoming marriage. The new information she’s learned about her birth mother continues to pull at her, and she hires Pinkerton detectives to help her find the truth. But as she meets people who once knew her mother and hears stories about the past, Anna soon discovers that some secrets are better left hidden.

At the same time, unflattering stories about Anna are leaked by someone who would love to see her disgraced and her engagement broken. And as Anna tries to share her faith with her society friends, she understands that her choice to seek God’s purpose for her life isn’t as simple as she had hoped.

When things are at their darkest, Anna knows she can turn to her grandmother, Geesje de Jonge, back in Holland, Michigan. Geesje’s been helping new Dutch immigrants, including a teen with a haunted past, adjust to America. She only hopes that her wisdom can help all these young people through the turmoil they face.

What I Loved: If you’ve read Waves of Mercy, you might have felt like there was more to the story. I’ll be honest with you, I was one of those rare human beings that was actually completely satisfied with the ending as it was. But that doesn’t mean, I wasn’t thrilled to get my hands on the “new ending!” And, boy, was it worth it! This was even better than the first one!
What Austin does so well, is that she brings a historical setting to life with well-developed characters and a rich spiritual message. Legacy of Mercy was a powerful story on dealing with grief and forgiveness. The story picks up right where Waves of Mercy leaves off and brings over the same lessons we were learning in the first novel and re-emphasizes their importance and adds to them in a beautiful way. I’ve read some continuations that felt like an extended epilogue but this was not that sort of novel at all! It was a fantastic ride that didn’t end until the very last chapter.

Rating and Recommendations: I give Legacy of Mercy 5 full stars and recommend it to those who enjoy historical Christian fiction. While it’s possible to read the books out of order and understand them, you’d appreciate Legacy of Mercy more if you read them in order.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

 

It’s always a treat to hear from the author and to listen in as they describe the details of their novel in their own words. Please, enjoy this interview:

1. Legacy of Mercy will be released on October 2 and will be the first sequel you’ve ever written. What made you decide to write a sequel?

My readers decided for me! I received many, many letters from them asking if there would be a sequel to “Waves of Mercy.” The main character, Anna, is only in her twenties and is a new Christian, so when she decides to return to Chicago and marry her fiancé at the end of the book, readers wanted to know what happens next in her life. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to explore what happens next for Anna, too. She has just discovered who her birth mother is, so naturally she’ll want to learn more about her. She’ll also want to solve the mystery of who her real father is and what became of him. What if he is still alive? Lots of material for a story here, especially when the other people in Anna’s life try to discourage her investigations.

2. This story is set in your hometown of Holland, MI. Did you discover anything surprising while you were researching these books?

I knew very little about the early history of Holland, Michigan when I began this series—only that it was settled by Dutch immigrants. What surprised me was how much they suffered to establish a settlement here, including religious persecution, a malaria plague, and a devastating fire. Their enduring faith in spite of all their many trials was a huge inspiration to me.

3. The city of Holland must have seen an increase in tourism since you started writing about it. You even did a bus tour, tell us about it.

The book seems to have sparked a renewed interest in local history. The Holland tourist bureau told me they’ve guided several happy tourists to the places described in my book. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the interest in my “Waves of Mercy” bus tour! When I offered to guide interested readers to some of the settings from my book, I never imagined there would be enough interest to fill two chartered busses! There may even be another tour after “Legacy of Mercy” releases.

4. You are known for writing multi-generational books and Legacy of Mercy is no exception. What intrigues you about writing in this style?

I enjoy creating women’s personalities from various eras and exploring how the roles and opportunities changed for women from generation to generation. I find it very interesting to see how the choices one generation makes has an influence on each generation after them. It causes me to be more thoughtful in the way I live, knowing that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren may be impacted by my life.

5. Which character in Legacy of Mercy do you identify with the most and why?

I would have to say I identify the most with Geesje DeJonge. For one thing, she is about the same age as I am, and has lived long enough to be able to look back through the years and analyze them. She is in a position to see all of the ways and times when God carried her through—something we usually only see in hindsight, not when we’re going through the difficulties. I’m at the same stage in my life, and I can see God’s faithfulness to me in spite of the many times I questioned His wisdom.

6. When you sit down to write a story, do you know how it is going to end? Describe your writing process. How do you stay disciplined and not get distracted?

I never know how a story will end when I start writing. I rarely even know what comes next when I’m writing a chapter! I begin with the historical setting, and as I’m doing my research, my characters usually begin to take shape in my mind. I flesh them out by developing resumes for them so that they become real people in my mind, with backgrounds and personalities. Then I figure out where to begin the novel and simply make up the plot as I go along. If I’m surprised then the reader will be surprised.

My deadline keeps me disciplined. I know that if I write a certain number of pages a day, I’ll finish the book on time. I also know how very hard it is to write well when I’m behind schedule and a deadline is looming. Wanting to avoid that last minute panic keeps me disciplined on a daily basis.

As for distractions—there are so many! Over the years, I’ve had to learn when to put the book aside and enjoy a pleasant distraction (an old friend who has come to town, an afternoon with my husband), and when there’s no value in the distraction and it will only make the writing process harder.

7. Did anything surprise you about the Legacy of Mercy story?

Yes. One of the main characters ends up in an impossible situation, which put me in an impossible situation as I tried to figure out what to do! But I just kept writing and the dilemma untangled in a very natural but surprising way. (You’ll see when you read it!)

Also, the ending surprised me—a lot! I hope that all of my readers who asked for a sequel are pleased with it.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews

Interview and Book Review: Befriending the Beast by Amanda Tero

15Belle has returned unannounced to the castle to restore her relationship with the king, her father. Her hopes are dashed with the devastating message: “The king refuses to see you.” Convinced that God has led her home, she is unwilling to return to Lord and Lady Kiralyn.

Time is running out for the decision that will change her life. When tragedy strikes, will she and her father be pulled further apart or knit together? Could she stay at the castle even if she will never see her father again?

Amanda Tero is likely the YOUNGEST published author that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It’s refreshing to see so much wisdom and purity coming from such a youthful package. You can read my chat with Amanda following the review as we talk about new stories, old stories, and life as a young author. 

What I Loved: I love the Beauty and the Beast so I was thrilled to get my hands on Amanda Tero’s retelling. She has such a creative take on the story that I admired right away. Tero stripped the story of all magic and romance and presented it in a brand new way. One of the highlights of the novella was the way Tero treated the gospel. The gospel was presented so clearly. The overall theme of forgiveness and following Christ’s plan for you life was also well handled and beautifully presented.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it Befriending the Beast 5 stars and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian Fiction, Christian Fairy Tale Retellings, or Christian Historical Fiction.

~ I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

And now for my interview with the author…

Me: You have such a unique take on this Beauty and the Beast retelling. Can you tell us how this idea came to life? What were some of the thoughts going on in your head?

Amanda: Well, those who know me personally know that I’m not a huge fan of romance. 🙂 It’s just not me. So, when it comes to stories, I am usually drawn to a non-romantic setting. 😉 With Befriending the Beast, I wasn’t actually trying to plot out a fairy tale retelling. God just placed the question on my mind, “What if the beast was Belle’s father?” And of course, from there, I began to wonder how to make it a believable story that would draw the hearts of the readers to Belle, even though there was no romantic interests for her (sorry, Anita, there aren’t romantic interests for Belle despite what you conjure up 😉 ).

 

Me: I know you have a BEAUTIFUL Pinterest board set up for Befriending the Beast, can you share the link please?


Me: Fairy tale retellings are becoming very popular. Fans LOVE the chance to revisit old stories. Do you have a favorite retelling? Why?

Amanda: Hmm… I haven’t read very many retellings, but I loved Shantelle Hannu’s A Dream Not Imagined (retelling of Cinderella). I loved how she took the story we all knew and added some great twists! She’s a teen writer, but I found it a refreshing read!


Me: Are you planning to write any more fairy tale retellings?

Amanda: At the present, no. But, God can always surprise me! 🙂


Me: You’re likely the youngest published author that I’ve read and yet you have a stack of published short stories and a couple of novellas under your belt. Tell us about your first publication. 

Amanda: Being homeschooled definitely enabled me to pursue my love of writing as a teenager as Mom catered my schooling to include a special dose of writing help. 🙂 Most of my stories written in my teens will never see the world. 🙂 My first publication would be “Letters from a Scatter-Brained Sister” in which Nicole pours out her heart to her newly married sister, who left her in charge of the kitchen. I got the fun, whimsical idea to write a story in which I could share kitchen mishaps that happened to me, my sisters, and cousins. I started it in October 2010 (age 19) but only wrote a few of the letters. My younger sister, Rachel, begged me to finish it, so for Christmas 2013, I surprised her and gave it to her as a gift. Honestly, that was the only dream I had for it. The next Christmas (2014), I wrote three other short stories for my three youngest sisters: “Maggie’s Hope Chest,” “Noelle’s Gift,” and “Deb’s Bible.” I’m not a big dreamer. These short stories were just something fun and special for my little sisters. I wasn’t necessarily planning on becoming a published author anytime soon. But in Spring 2015, I got a booth at the Louisiana Homeschool Convention for my music endeavors and Mom suggested that I print my short stories to sell there. That piqued my interest in what publishing for Kindle entailed. Within a month, the Lord allowed me to have an author website set up with the four short stories available in print and for Kindle. And you know what? People bought the stories and actually enjoyed them!

Me: Where have you taken your readers since then?

Amanda: In short stories, I have taken readers to a castle in medieval England, a lighthouse in the 19th century, and into the hearts of modern girls with daily life struggles. Most recently, I have exposed my readers to the trials and joys of Orphan Train riders at turn-of-the-century America.

Me: Who is your target audience and what should readers expect from you?

Amanda: Because of the content of my writing, my target audience is definitely pre-teens, though I hope all ages will enjoy it. I came up with a descriptive alliteration  for my writing: faith-filled, family-friendly, flinch-free fiction (and yes, that’s a LOT of F’s!).

Me: Is there a setting you’ve grown to love more and hope to write in more often?

Amanda: Medieval! Or maybe it’s a tie. I love a lot of historical eras, but America in the 1800’s and medieval England just draws me.

Me: Is there a setting that you haven’t tried yet but hope to? Or one that you’re slightly intimidated by?

Amanda: Now this would be the medieval era — which answers both questions. Lord willing, in the nearish future, I will be experimenting here!

Where will you take your readers next?

Amanda: As far as short stories go, I’m not quite ready to divulge this information to the public. 😉 But for novels … oh boy! Next is a journey from New York to Indianapolis to Missouri … and then everywhere that the 18th Missouri regiment traveled during the Civil War (which goes down to Mississippi). Nat is a boy on the move in Journey of Choice.

Me: What has writing taught you about life?

Amanda: It seems like every time I have a theme to write about, God reveals how much I need to work on these areas in my own life. In a way, the lessons that I “teach” my readers are lessons that God is working in my life as I write. It reminds me of God’s grace for daily living.

Me: I know you’re a young lady of many talents. Tell us what else you’re involved in?

Amanda: I’ll go for the nutshell here. I usually juggle writing, music (piano, violin, hymn arranging, recording, family music group, teaching), photography, and web/graphics design.

Me: What similarities have you found between writing and music?

Amanda: There are a lot of similarities. They both take dedication, commitment, practice, work. They both can be shared and enjoyed by others. They both can be used to glorify God. Anyone can plunk a chord on the piano and anyone can piece together a sentence, but to create something that is of true value, one must diligently study the craft and practice what they’ve studied.

Me: Publishing seems like an impossible task and yet you’ve tackled it at a young age. What word of encouragement could you give to someone that is still in the dream stages of something big in their life?

Amanda: There are a couple of things, actually. 🙂

– When I first began thinking about publishing, I heard a sermon where the preacher went on a “rabbit trail” about battle plans. God had different battle plans for different battles in the Old Testament, and just because one battle plan worked once, didn’t mean that’s what God wanted the next battle plan to be. Even though it was just a sidenote, it really spoke to me. It was very easy to try to find an author to follow, but the Lord used that sermon to remind me that, while I can get ideas from others, ultimately I needed to seek Him for His “battle plan” for my publishing. So first and foremost, seek God in this dream!

– Secondly, don’t be so eager to get out there that you neglect to polish up your work. I have read many young authors who don’t have enough eyes read through their work before it’s sent out to the world (this means that we read all of the spelling and grammatical errors as well as plots that needed one extra run-through–and it also means that this is what your name is attached to). I am far from being a perfectionist, but every time I’ve slowed down to be more careful, it’s been completely worth it.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Amanda Tero better! She really is as sweet as she appears on paper. And she’s the type of author that I would gladly hand over to anyone looking for a heartwarming story, but especially for parents looking for something wholesome for their children to read.
You can connect with Amanda online on Facebook and her website.
And you can pick up your copy of Befriending the Beast today!!

Posted in Book Reviews

Interview with Lynn Austin

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!

20Austin 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?

Austin:
39

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!