Thanks for inviting me, Margie. I’m Alice Lynn, and I write historical and period fiction with a strong love interest. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, mostly romantic westerns at the time, as I was a horse owner and avid rider. Sad stories and movies make me cry, so I always keep a box of tissues handy when I know I’m dealing with a tear-jerker. I’ve done stone sculpture, been a domestic violence case manager, and earned a degree in psychology from Marylhurst University. I live with my terrific husband, Bill, and three resident cats.
Tell us a little bit about your new novel. Volunteer for Glory begins at the outbreak of the Civil War. Rachel Norcross, a preacher’s daughter from Boston, is left in the lurch when, Stuart, her dashing, impulsive husband, enlists with the cavalry. She’s never lived on a farm before, but now she’ll have to take charge or go back to her father who’ll say, “I told you so.” And if that’s not enough, she’s pregnant. Rachel decides she’d rather plow and slop pigs than go home defeated. Fortunately, Jared Westbrook, a handsome young neighbor, steps in to help. An idealist like Rachel, he cannot resist falling in love with the spunky, dark-haired beauty. But honor forbids him to interfere in another man’s marriage. Meanwhile, Stuart, finding success and adventure in the army, seems to care little for Rachel’s achievements. He is convinced that farming is not for him. Against the bloody background of civil war, Jared cherishes his memories of Rachel, while she tries to deny the attraction between them. It is only at the end of the war that conflicts of love and honor will be resolved.
Where did the idea come from?
I had a dream where I saw a young woman torn between loving two men, both Union soldiers. Through the osmosis inherent in dreams, I knew she lived on a small mid-western farm. The determined young woman, a baby slung on her back, walked behind a plow. What a great idea for a novel, I thought. But reviewing the details brought doubt. I knew so little of the Civil War. Could the time or place be moved? My characters, already bossy, vetoed that suggestion. Fine, I thought, it may be your story, but I don’t have to write it. So there! I had plenty to do with gardening, children, and work, but the idea persisted. Finally, I gave up and headed for our local library, grumbling, “No promises, so don’t get your hopes up.”
That was the beginning of Volunteer for Glory. I was hooked by the immediacy of detail and feeling described in letters and diaries. After months of obsessive research, I began my first draft. In 1974, there were no personal computers, no Internet. Instantaneous access to resources could not even be imagined. Research meant books, magazines, letters, maps, and newspapers. One of the most exciting days of my life was discovering Portland State’s military history library section. The “Official War Records of the War Between the States” occupied shelf upon shelf. After such intense research, I came to feel I’d lived through every victory and every defeat, to say nothing of gagging on the maggoty hardtack that fed the army!
Pick a side: Plotter or pantser? And how it works for you.
I’m definitely a pantser though I admire the plotters! One of my best friends, Lisa Nowak, http://www.lisanowak.workpress.com, an incredible outliner, somehow maintains her creative excitement. Since I’m a dreamer, my stories start with a character, a setting, and a central conflict. My process is a little like map making. I know the route my characters need to take, say LA to Philadelphia to New York, but instead of cities, my map has plot points. For instance, while writing Volunteer, a one or two word description marked each chapter: Shiloh, Stuart in Baton Rogue, Jared at Chickamauga, Rachel visits Stuart. This method allows me the luxury of surprise.
You’ve been recently published with a brand new publishing house. How has that experience been for you?
“Exciting” best describes it. Puddletown Publishing, from the moment of inception, set an ambitious schedule. Acquire manuscripts, vet them, and if accepted, offer a contract. After that came edits, corrections, historical verification, copyrights, and finally publication! For more information on Puddletown Publishing Group, go to http://www.puddletowngroup.com There’s always a thrill in being in on the launch of a new company.
Where do you get your ideas?
I gave that away when I described how Volunteer came about. I’ve always had vivid story dreams, so it seems natural for them to generate ideas. Wrenn, Egypt House, my first book, began that way. My third manuscript, now in its final vetting stages, is another example. The dreams, of course, never appear “verbatim,” but provide the springboard to story creation.
Along your writing/publishing journey, what have you found the easiest? The hardest?
The easiest is writing the book. It’s like having a love affair. You can’t wait to get to the object of your passion and you hate saying goodnight. Of course, you can have a falling out and suffer days of silence. But making up is sweet!
The hardest part is writing the query, the summary and the pitch. Marketing and promotions intimidate me. (Like being afraid of “flunking” interviews where you’re supposed to be witty, casual, concise, and intriguing.) The good bits are meeting interesting and talented people.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Sarah Blake, who wrote The Postmistress, is one. I loved that book. Anne Perry is another favorite, as is Maeve Binchy, the talented Irish novelist. JRR Tolkien occupies a special place in my heart. In a completely different genre, I enjoy Nevada Barr’s series about Anna Pigeon, park ranger extraordinaire. And, author Lisa Nowak, with four YA books under her belt, brings the world of teenagers and stock racing to life.
How long does it take you complete a book from idea inception to the end?
Writing and research for the first draft of Volunteer took about a year. A second year was spent on edits, settling time, revisions, and polishing. Off hand, I’d say it’s about a two-year process.
Desert Island time. Who’s with you, what are you eating, and what board game are you playing?
I’m with George Clooney, and who has time to eat or play games?
And finally, Alice has included an excerpt from her book for us to enjoy. Thank you, Alice, for your time and best of luck with your writing endeavors.
Excerpt from Volunteer for Glory:
This occurs after Stuart has been mustered into the service but before Jared’s enlistment.
Eternity Smith ambled into Rachel’s life the second week of June. She had failed to find a reliable man to help her on a regular basis for many had gone soldiering, and those who hadn’t were in demand. Fortunately, the livestock needed minimal care at this time of plentiful grass. Jared had modified Stuart’s plans, sowing Indian corn, oats, wheat, and potatoes. The black soil was crossed with rows of green, and while this was pleasant to look upon, Rachel knew the time would come when she would be unable to do all that was require.
She leaned on the rail fence that closed the grazing land away from the planted fields. Her toes were thrust through the bottom space, her arms hugging the top rail as though she were a child rather than a woman soon to give birth.
“Right nice patch of corn there,” Eternity said. “Ought to fetch eighty bushels to the acre, barrin’ blight and bugs.”
“How can you tell?” Their conversation opened in the pattern that would forever mark their relationship.
“I’ve acquaintance with corn fields, and I got a feelin’ fer weather. We’ll have rain afore long. Early rain and late sun makes a crop.” He squinted a hard gray eye at her. “Been farmin’ long?”
“It’s our first year.”
“Your man’s got a good hand with a plow fer a greenhorn.”
Rachel flushed and stepped down from the fence, conscious of her lack of dignity. “My husband joined the volunteers in April. Our neighbor, Mr. Westbrook, put in the crop.”
“Good neighbor.” He said it without meanness, and Rachel’s discomfort faded. “A feller in town said as how a little woman by the name of Norcross was in need of help. Might you be that lady?”