Tell us about yourself, Susan.
I’m an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, my childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. My first two books ofThe Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemmaand Katelyn’s Choiceare available now, and I’m working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surpriseare also available. My books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award, and the Indie Excellence Book Award. Visit www.SusanGMathis.comfor more.
Tell us about your newest book.
In my sixth Gilded Age story, Reagan’s Reward,it’s 1912. Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and her life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca becomes frustratingly complicated. Service to a Jewish family when she is a Gentile and tending to eight-year-old, mischievous boys yields challenges galore.
Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. He tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, but she calls into question his own faith background and forces him to face the hurts of his past. Then there’s the jealous lady’s maid who seems intent on wedging herself between them. Can he and Reagan ever find common ground on such a small island?
What inspired you to write Reagan’s Reward?
I grew up just twenty minutes from the Thousand Islands. In fact, my husband and I visit the Thousand Islands region in upstate NY every summer. It’s a beautiful, largely unknown, piece of the world where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. There are nearly 1800 islands there, including the largest, Wolfe Island, which is in Ontario, Canada.
I chose the Gilded Age because that’s when the playground of the rich and famous took off…1872 until about 1914.
The Bernheims were one of the Gilded Age families from New York City who bought Casa Blanca and made it a grand summer mansion. C,hallenges mystery, and beauty surround thisThousand Islands Gilded Age story.
All summer long, tourists enjoy cruising around the Thousand Islands, touring Singer Castle, and hearing the stories of yesteryear. As a historic landmark, Singer Castle is invaluable, and so are the stories that go with it.
What kind of research did you have to do?
Ah, how I love research, and I love to be accurate. Besides combing through volumes of information, there’s nothing like being there on the island. The owners of the island has had me over to visit the island twice now. They’ve toured me around and let me roam at will to get the “feel” of being there. I took hundreds of photos, which make it really nice to jog my memory as I write.
I’m also super blessed because my historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and has written several nonfiction books about the island. She’s awesome and has gone through each of my manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb. When I mistakenly have my character take a left instead of a right to get to the dining room, she faithfully corrects me.
When did you first discover you were a writer?
I can’t remember not writing. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.
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. Ialso authored two picture books and am published in various book compilations including three Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Ready to Wed, Supporting Families Through Meaningful Ministry, The Christian Leadership Experience, and Spiritual Mentoring of Teens.
I swore I’d never write fiction, but never say never! My hubby and I went to a book talk/signing, and after we left, I jokingly said, “I could write a story about a quilt!” I then proceeded to tell him the entire story, and he said, “Well, write it!” Thus began my journey of writing historical fiction.
Tell us about your first five historical novels.
The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacyis an Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’sthe story of an 1850s Irish immigrant and a 21st-century single mom who are connected by faith, family, and a quilt. It’s loosely based on my family story.After struggling to accept the changes forced upon her, Margaret Hawkins and her family take a perilous journey on an 1851 immigrant ship to the New World, bringing with her an Irish family quilt she is making. A hundred and sixty years later, her great granddaughter, Maggie, searches for the family quilt after her ex pawns it. But on their way to creating a family legacy, will these women find peace with the past and embrace hope for the future, or will they be imprisoned by fear and faithlessness?
Christmas Charityis an Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’s the story of Susan Hawkins (the 10-year-old girl in The Fabric of Hope) and Patrick O’Neill who find that an arranged marriage is much harder than they think, especially when they immigrate from Wolfe Island, Canada, to Cape Vincent, New York, in 1864, just a week after they marry—with Patrick’s nine-year-old daughter, Lizzy, in tow. Can twenty-three-year-old Susan Hawkins learn to love her forty-nine-year-old husband and find charity for her angry stepdaughter? She hopes so, before Christmas comes.
Katelyn’s Choiceis an Illumination Book Award bronze medal winner and an Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’sbook one of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age with Lighthouse Publishing. It’s the story of nineteen-year-old Katelyn Kavanagh who leaves her family’s struggling farm to work on Pullman Island for the famous George Pullman. There she finds herself serving powerful men such as President Ulysses S. Grant, and General Sheridan—and falling in love with her best friend’s brother, Thomas, the handsome boatsman. Katelyn gains popularity with her friends by spilling the sensitive high society gossip she’s privy to. But when she overhears possibly damaging presidential conversations, she knows she can’t tell anyone. She could lose her job—and endanger her president’s 1872 reelection—and jeopardize her relationship with the man of her dreams.
Sara’s Surpriseis the winner of the American Fiction Award andan Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’s a story about Sara O’Neill, Katelyn’s friend who readers met in Katelyn’s Choice. Sara works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare. Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?
Devyn’s Dilemmais the story of Devyn McKenna who is forced to work in the Towers on Dark Island, one of the enchanting Thousand Islands. But when Devyn finds herself in service to the wealthy Frederick Bourne family, her life takes an unexpected turn. Brice McBride is Mr. Bourne’s valet as well as the occasional tour guide and under butler. Brice tries to help the mysterious Devyn find peace and love in her new world, but she can’t seem to stay out of trouble—especially when she’s accused of stealing Bourne’s money for Vanderbilt’s NYC subway expansion.
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An Encouraging Word From Norma Gail, an Extraordinary Woman and a Talented Writer.
“Never give up.” It’s easy to say and hard to do.
Life, like writing, is an ongoing lesson in perseverance. All the best things in my life came after a wait and involved some degree of uncertainty, commitment, hard work, and prayer.
My second book, a contemporary Christian Romantic Suspense, releases on May 19th. One of my favorite quotes from it says, “If we fail to accept what God sends with trusting hearts, we refuse His greatest blessings.”
In my freshman year at the local university, I was put on the waiting list for the College of Nursing. My parents and I looked into out-of-state schools, even though it would have placed a considerable hardship on our family. While preparing to go away, we prayed. Three weeks before I was to leave home, I received a phone call offering me a place. Waiting on God taught me to trust, pray, and never give up.
My husband and I were engaged for almost two years so I could concentrate on nursing school. Our love not only survived but thrived. The next big challenge to never give up came with the decision to begin a family. Following eight years of marriage, a social worker laid a baby boy in our arms. At that moment, we held the answer to years of prayer in our arms. I realized all the waiting was because our baby hadn’t been born. Twenty-one and a half months later, we adopted a baby girl. We trusted and God gave His best.
The contract for my first book, Land of My Dreams,came after my second writer’s conference. I was spared the wait many authors experience. But the second time, I had two books rejected. By then, I knew that God always has a better plan. As I prayed, it became clear that I had listened to what other people wanted me to write. Within Golden Bandsis the result of writing what the Lord said to write—the story of a young couple struggling with infertility, what appears like an insurmountable roadblock to adoption, the potential loss of their livelihood, and perhaps their lives.
The lesson: Never give up. Isaiah 59:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” His plans are always best.
Norma Gail writes Fiction to Refresh Your Spirit, exploring the theme of women whose faith triumphs over trials. Her debut novel won the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, Norma is a former Bible Study Fellowship discussion leader, and founding leader of the women’s Bible studies at her church. Her devotionals and poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 44 years. They have two adult children.
Social Media Links:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNormaGail/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Norma_Gail
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/norma-gail-holtman-3b271a42/
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/normagailth/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/normagailwrites/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7874459.Norma_Gail
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Norma-Gail/e/B00ILHXBAK/
Land of My Dreams- https://www.amazon.com/Land-My-Dreams-Norma-Gail-ebook/dp/B01ENKEL02/
Within Golden Bands - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084TSQ432/(The release date is May 19th)
Welcome Martin. Thank you for stopping by. Tell us about your latest book.
My most recent book, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapades in a Noisy World, is a compilation of 52 devotions, all of which relate spiritual truths to camping, hiking, or backpacking experiences I have had with either friends or family members. Since devotional books are quite common and do not enjoy a long shelf life, I wanted to put together something different this time.
What sparked this story?
As with most of my devotions, these come from true life stories. I had made the pitch to the publisher at Ambassador International. While he showed interest in publishing the book, he was not overly fond of any of my proposed titles. Along this same time, I was attending the annual Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference and asked one of my writer friends, Latan Roland Murphy, if she might have an idea. She gave me the title, which the publisher loved and accepted.
What’s the one thing you haven’t yet written, but hope to one day?
With the exception of one of my books, all my published books have been devotional in nature. I would love to write a novel, but am not sure I ever will. While I know all the mechanics of doing so, they just have not come together in any of my previous attempts. I am still holding out the hope that it might happen one day.
What genre do you enjoy reading the most?
Although I read many genres of literature, historical fiction is my favorite. I have a love for history and fiction, so I can think of no better way to put them together.
What are you reading now?
The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, The Confessions of St. Augustine, and Heart Cry of Every Teen. At the moment, no historical fiction is on my list.
Where is your favorite place and time of day to write?
My writing space began as a secluded spot in my quiet office. Currently, it is nestled in a part of our small patio townhome between the den and the dining room. Since my children are grown and gone—and since the grandboys my wife keeps leave after supper—I have plenty of quiet time if I need it. My main time for writing, however, begins at 4:30 a.m. I’ve always been a morning person—my brain shuts down around 8:30 p.m.—so my inspiration comes before the sun rises. My desk is the bottom iron table on which once sat a sewing machine that belonged to my great-grandmother. The top is a thick piece of plywood that either my father or my grandfather mounted on it. It’s a small space, but with most everything I need stored on my laptop, I don’t require much space.
Share one thing our readers may not know about you.
I did not start writing in earnest until I was almost 50—in 2009 to be exact, the year my father died. I’m not sure the connection between those two events, but for some reason I felt compelled to begin writing devotions and articles. My father was not a writer, except for his sermons, so I don’t think it was his example that compelled me.
What is your next writing project?
I am working on finding a publisher for a nonfiction work I have written but am revising.
What advice would you like to share with a beginning writer?
Don’t give up. Getting published, whether for a book, devotion, or article, is getting increasingly more difficult, so patience is necessary. Write for the right reason, and God will open the doors he wants your publication journey to take.
Please give us the first page of your book.
BRING ON THE RAIN
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. James 1:2
“Into each life some rain must fall.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. AND IT DID. BY THE bucketful. My wife and I had headed to the mountains for a few days of camping. Check in wasn’t until two p.m., but the camp host said we could come anytime. Knowing the tendency of thunderstorms to crop up around noon in the mountains, we went early. Gorgeous sunny cool weather greeted us … for one hour. No sooner had we erected the tent and put up a tarp than a gully washer marched in. My wife headed for the tent. I stood outside under the tarp. We had chosen the place for our tent based on the electrical box’s location. That spot was also the low spot of the campsite. As the water ran, it puddled several inches deep outside our tent. Soon, I heard my wife say, “We have a problem.” I didn’t have to ask what. Having no shovel, I used the next best thing, a hammer, to trench the water away from the tent. Then I took the broom and swept away the excess. After the rain stopped, we placed a tarp around that part of the tent to ward off any future puddles, which fortunately never came.
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Martin Wiles lives in South Carolina and is the founder of Love Lines from God. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, minister, and author who serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as a proof-editor for Courier Publishing. He is the author of six books and has been published in numerous publications. His most recent book, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapades in a Busy World, released in December 2019.
Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Woods-Quiet-Escapes-Noisy/dp/1620208652
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