O, how thrilled I am to have Ms. Dorothy Love at Just Commonly today! She's here to chat and share a little something about her, and her latest novel, A Respectable Actress, that I enjoyed immensely. Don't believe me? Check out my review here.
Dorothy is a native of west Tennessee and she now lives in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. She's an award-winning author of numerous young adult novels. Her adult debut includes the Hickory Ridge novels. Many will also love her novels set in the south, most recently a novella in the Among the Fair Magnolias novella collection which was a hit! (For my take on it, click here).
Warning, it's a long one, but I couldn't help it. The questions just kept coming. I could've made it a two-parter, but I was just too excited to share all this with you. So bare with me and enjoy!
JC: Let's start off with something fun, quick and random. What's one funky thing about you that not many people know about?
|Hickory Ridge Series|
DL: I eat only the tops of muffins.JC: Cute. I actually know someone who does that! Coca Cola or Pepsi?
DL: Coke all the way!JC: My kind of girl! Yay! Now tea or coffee?
DL: Coffee first thing in the morning and iced tea the rest of the day. Down here in the South it’s hot all the time, and iced tea hits the spot.JC: Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?
DL: StarbucksJC: Haagen-Daz, Ben & Jerry's or Baskin Robbins?
DL: Ben and Jerry’sJC: Dogs or Cats?
DL: Dogs. I have a golden retriever who is the world’s best dogJC: Harry Potter or Hunger Games?
DL: Confession time: I have never read either. Or seen the movies.JC: Candles, incense or potpourri?
DL: Hmm. Candles.JC: Facebook or Twitter?
DL: FacebookJC: Whew! OK, let's take a breather!
DL: Romantic Times Magazine named it a Top Pick and says it’s a book readers will treasure forever. It has a Gothic vibe and elements of romance, mystery, and suspense. It’s inspired by the life of a real, 19th century actress.
JC: Honestly, I am very intrigued by India. Tell us a little about India Hartley.
DL: She was born into an English theatrical family and came to America to appear in plays to help clear her father’s debts. She is so beautiful that women copy her hairstyle and name flowers after her. College students cut classes to go to her performances. She loves the theater but is smart enough to know that fame is fleeting and she must seek a deeper meaning for her life.
JC: How do you select the names of the heroines for your books? Why India?
DL: Usually I choose classic names that were popular at the time in which the story is set. I love Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind and in naming a character who is an actress I decided to honor Vivien, whose name was Vivien Mary Hartley. She was born in India where her father served in the British government. And voila! India Hartley.
JC: O, how neat. I love Gone With the Wind and this little homage you paid to Vivien Leigh and Gone with the Wind made me appreciated India Hartley more! Thanks!
JC: What makes India different than your previous heroines?
DL: India is the only one who is British. The others are American. But all of my heroines have similar qualities of courage, determination and a desire to contribute something positive to the world whether it be as a newspaperwoman in Every Perfect Gift, a rice planter in Carolina Gold, or a woman of charity in The Bracelet.
JC: I was so engrossed in A Respectable Actress and the many twists and turns that I did not see coming. How did you come up with these sequence of events without giving too much?
DL: The key to mysteries is in ambiguity and I drew on this with the letterbook that India finds in the abandoned boat. She isn’t sure who wrote these letters because two of the key characters in the story share the same initials. I did the same thing with the two weapons that are described at the trial. With a mystery I want to surprise the reader, and several readers have said that the twist involving Laura Sinclair took them completely by surprise. As did the verdict in India’s case.
JC: Will you consider writing additional mysteries in the future? I think you have a knack for it.
DL: Oh thanks! I loved writing this novel and I might write more mysteries on down the road. But next up for me is a biographical novel I’ve wanted to write for some time.
JC: Back to the book. India has always felt like an outsider, initially because of her fame and more recently, her legal troubles. Is it this feeling of loneliness that allows her to see outside the box, and find clues when no others can?
DL: That’s a great question. I think it’s human nature to see what we want to see when the situation involves someone we love. This was the case with Philip—he was too close to it and it took India’s more dispassionate thinking to connect the dots so to speak.
JC: Philip Sinclair has been dealt very shocking news in regards to the connection of the events in St. Simon's to India's trial. Was it always your intention to connect them as you have?
DL: Yes, I wanted the reader to be as shocked as he is and I deliberately set out to write the story that way.
JC: What about the decision of the trial? Was the jury verdict always your intention?
DL: Oh yes. A different verdict would have changed the story completely.
JC: With such a nomadic life, do you see difficulty in India's decision by the end of the book? Will she be happy or restless?
DL: I intend for her to be happy.
JC: Will Philip's desire to rebuilt St. Simon's ever come to fruition?
DL: King’s Retreat, which was an actual St Simon’s plantation and mentioned in the novel was the inspiration for my fictional Indigo Point and is today a golf resort. I like to think Philip achieved his dream.
JC: A Respectable Actress doesn't seem to have strong faith aspect. What did I miss in terms of India's or Philip's faith?
DL: My approach to the faith aspect of fiction is to include what makes organic sense to the story. Some of my books-- such as those in my Hickory Ridge series--- have a stronger overt faith message than others.
In A Respectable Actress, India’s nomadic lifestyle has left gaps in her religious development but that does not mean that she does not behave in a way that is consistent with Christian principles. Some readers of Christian fiction expect an overt message every time, but in historical fiction if the writer stays true to the characters and the historical record, sometimes the message is implied by how the characters behave rather than by what they say. For instance, in the 19th century, many of the Southern elite were members of the Episcopal faith and these people often expressed their faith quietly--through their efforts on behalf of others. They are the ones who established charity hospitals and orphanages. They opened schools for black children and set up lending libraries and temperance organizations to try to deal with alcohol abuse.
In A Respectable Actress, Philip has taken in Mrs. Catchpole because she has nowhere else to go. Celia helps India—a stranger--- because India is in need. India tries to help the young girls even if her actions are not appreciated and she is the one seeking justice for Hannah June. Lucius Fall lost his job with Pinkerton’s because he chose to help a friend rather than go by the rules. I show faith in action and trust my readers to understand it as such.
JC: Is there a character that turned out very differently than when you first expected?
DL: When I first envisioned Cuyler Lockwood I didn’t imagine him quite the way he turned out! And he wound up with a bigger role in the story than I first planned.
JC: I have not read The Bracelet yet (but will change soon, which stars Celia Mackay, who also appears in A Respectable Actress. Will you be writing additional novels with characters from this book? Such as Amelia and Mr. Lockwood or Claire, all grown up?
DL: All of those are possibilities. Amelia’s story might be fun to explore—a young woman raised in the Georgia lowcountry suddenly finding herself in a very different environment. The classic “fish out of water” plot is always interesting to me—how people adapt to whatever life throws in their paths. Some do it more successfully than others and therein lies the tale.
JC: Oh, that would be a great one. She's one of those I wondered about her future and how it would be by the end of the novel. Great one!
DL: I enjoy hiking and experimenting with photography though I’m not very good at it. Last year my husband gave me a book on photography that I’m eager to read but I’ve had so many deadlines this year I haven’t had time yet. I love exploring museums and had a wonderful time in Virginia this spring researching the book that will be out next year. We both enjoy live concerts and try to get to them as often as we can.
JC: What is your favorite book of all time? For me, it'll have to be Pride and Prejudice.
DL: That’s a great choice. I love Jane Austen’s acerbic wit. I was heavily influenced by To Kill A Mockingbird and it has remained a favorite, but there are so many books I love that it’s hard to choose just one. Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill is as perfect a book as there is, and the historical novels of the late Barry Unsworth-- especially Sacred Hunger-- are among my favorites. Recent favorites are Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings and Paula McLains’ Circling the Sun, a biographical novel of Beryl Markham.
JC: Which author(s) have inspired you the most?
DL: Those who wrote the books named above—Harper Lee, Sue Kidd, Lawrence Hill, Barry Unsworth. Plus contemporary Southern writers such as Josephine Humphries, Lee Smith, and Pat Conroy. The Prince of Tides is a masterpiece of a book.
JC: What book(s) are you currently reading?
DL: I have been on a deadline all year so most of my reading has been nonfiction necessary for writing my next novel. Each summer I take time to read a “beach book” just for fun and this year I read Dorothea Frank’s The Hurricane Sisters. Her novels are set in the South Carolina lowcountry around Charleston, an area I know well and really love. It’s always fun for me to read her books that mention many places I know.
JC: What made you decide to write Christian fiction? Have you thought of any other genre to write?
DL: I wrote a number of YA novels in the general market and switched in order to write for adults and to write stories without the harsh language and graphic subjects many general market readers often expect. There are some stories that belong in this market and others that will have more appeal to a general market readership. I believe the ability to write novels is a God given gift and I try to apply that gift to whatever book I’m inspired to write regardless of market.
JC: You are known as Southern Historical fiction author. Have you ever consider other settings, such as historical Texas, your current location?
DL: Actually I do have an idea for a series of historical novels set in Texas. But they are in line behind a couple of projects that must be finished first.
JC: That is great news for us historical fiction fans! I look forward to it!
JC: How do you go about doing research?
DL: I read everything I can find on the subject and then I make a research trip. I have found that there is no substitute for a visit to the locales in my stories. My readers tell me they appreciate that the details are usually right. But when one is writing about the past there is always the possibility of error. Street names for instance change over time. I try to track down contemporaneous maps but they don’t always exist. The chase is part of the fun though.
JC: How often do you make a research trip?
DL: I generally make a single trip for each book but I stay for several days to collect all of the sensory impressions and details I need for the book.JC: Sounds like a fun thing to do!
JC: Any must haves (such as coffee, candy, a lucky star...etc.) with you when you write?
DL: My only must haves are a long period of uninterrupted time, and complete silence. I have friends who listen to music while they write, but I need the quiet.
JC: What can we expect from you next?
DL: I’m always trying something new and next year, HarperCollins will publish my first biographical novel-- about the 50 year friendship between Mrs. Robert E Lee and her servant, Selina Gray. MRS. LEE AND MRS GRAY will be out next June. I’m very excited about it.JC: O, I can't wait for that one. As someone's who's been to Gettsburg many times in my lifetime, including a couple of times this year, I'd be quite interested in how relationships are affected from the outcomes of the battle.
JC: Any next live events you'll be participating that we can look forward to, location or Facebook event?
DL: Nothing on tap at the moment. I always announce things like that on Facebook, Twitter, and my website and in INSIDE STORY, my quarterly newsletter. Come on over to www.Dorothylovebooks.com to keep up with what’s going on in my world. Or hang out with me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothylovebooks.
JC: Any parting words for eager fans?
DL: Just six words: Thank you for reading my books!JC: Dorothy, thank you for your time and for indulging us with your thoughts with A Respectable Actress and letting us know a little more about you.
As I've mentioned before, A Respectable Actress is not to be missed.
TO PURCHASE A COPY: Amazon, ChristianBook, IndieBound
|A Respectable Actress
By Dorothy Love / Thomas Nelson
When her co-star is killed, famous actress India Hartley is accused of murder. Because she's mobbed wherever she goes, her lawyer, Philip Sinclair, takes her to his secluded island plantation. But while awaiting trial, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that leads back to Philip. Do these clues hold the key to her freedom? 384 pages, softcover from Nelson.