How did you come up with the concept for The Duchess and the Dragon?
When I first started writing this story I thought Drake was an aristocrat like all the other aristocrats in romance novels: proud, powerful, devastatingly attractive, waiting for that one woman to tame him. But as the story progressed, God showed me who he really was. I became fascinated by the concept of being born with everything the world could give, born in royalty, and then have it all taken away. God showed me Moses. Moses was brought up in one of the most powerful and wealthy households of the known world. He was Pharaoh’s grandson. He had been trained to think and act like royalty. I can imagine him a very confident and proud man. Then, one day, he discovered he wasn’t who he thought he was. He was one of the Hebrew people, one of the slaves. Can you imagine the guilt? Each time he sat at that sumptuous table, knowing he no longer belonged there. Each time his family treated him as a prince, he knew, in his heart, that he was not. After the murder, Moses lost so much more than his place in society . . . he lost his identity. He went from being a prince to being a shepherd. It took God forty years to break him down in the wilderness – forty years to break and then build him back up into the man he was destined to be. The Moses that fled Egypt was very different from the man who found the burning bush. Then God told him to be a hero. And Moses, so broken now, said he couldn’t speak. But God insisted that he could. So now, afraid and humbled, Moses had to go back and do a miracle – save his people, a people he didn’t really know. I think he was terrified. He remembered that old way of life and those people. And he knew being a princesses’ son would not be enough to accomplish this mission. He was fully dependent on God. And that was exactly where God wanted him. Drake is like Moses. He was born into a world that said power and wealth were his due. And, like Moses, he had to lose everything, his known identity, before he could find his true identity and purpose in Christ.
How much of The Duchess and the Dragon is factual?
Most of the historical detail of that time is factual: the way the indentured servants were treated, the Quakers, their beliefs and their predominate role in Philadelphia, the influx of settlers in the Shenandoah Valley – what a beautiful spot on God’s green earth! And the coal miner’s in England.
How closely do the characters and setting for The Duchess and the Dragon correlate to your own life?
Serena comes from a strong faith-based family. As a preacher’s daughter I can relate to that firm foundation placed in me by my parents. But there comes a time in the lives of people who were raised in a particular belief system to grow up and decide for themselves what they will believe. Serena has to have her faith and beliefs challenged so that she will stand on a firm foundation. Drake provides her with all the temptation and questioning she needs to do that.
How long did The Duchess and the Dragon take you to complete?
It went pretty fast (unlike the other two I’ve finished!). I outlined and wrote the first draft in about five months. It took a little less than a year to do all the research and editing. I’m hoping the more I write and discipline myself to a schedule, the faster I will be able to produce stories, keeping to my standard of great historical detail while being fast-paced with deep, real, multi-faceted characters. How much research did The Duchess and the Dragon take? I research thoroughly for every book I write – it’s part of the fun! For The Duchess and the Dragon I researched London and Bristol in England, Philadelphia and the Shenandoah Valley in America during the 1730’s. In particular I honed in on the lives of indentured servants, the Quakers, silversmithing (Serena’s father is a silversmith), English nobility, and the ministry of George Whitefield. It was great fun to find out so much about Northumberland and Alnwick Castle! Maybe I will get to see it someday.
Is this the beginning of a series?
No. I signed a three-book deal with B&H’s fabulous fiction line. All three novels are stand alones.
What was the most interesting fact that you discovered while researching the book , The Duchess and the Dragon?
My heart broke and the tears came fast the night I read about the coal mines in the eighteenth century. Men, women and children as young as five worked fourteen hour days in horrid, retched conditions. They came out of the deep tunnels covered in black coal, breathing deadly fumes all day which led to an early death from “black lung.” Their arms stretched and their backbones bowed toward the earth. That’s when God showed me Moses again, how he rescued people from slavery. Freeing the coalminers became a part of Drake’s mission.
Do you prefer to write fantasy fiction? Why?
I would classify my novels as historical fiction. I suppose all fiction is fantasy in that it is from the imagination of the author. But so many details of my books are from historical fact that I don’t think of them as fantasy worlds.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Sitting down and actually doing the work. It’s like a little of my life is being poured into each page . . . it is costly, but so fulfilling. I can’t describe it but I think it is something that other writers understand.
Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
The next book will be out January 2009. It is yet to be titled, though I always call it Isabelle’s story in my mind. It is the story of someone who knows who she is and then the enemy attacks her to take it from her. It’s a story of captivity, both physical and emotional. The way she finally comes through . . . how she discovers the Way . . . it blew my mind. God gave me that whole story and to date, it was the hardest novel I’ve ever written.
What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?
Do the work! Then trust God. Then work some more. Then trust God. Then give up. Then work some more. Then trust God. There are no shortcuts to greatness. Find His calling for your life, that place that is most alive . . . like you’ve found your created self. Then do it wholeheartedly, even when it looks impossible.
What message would you like your readers to take away from The Duchess and the Dragon?
That God is sovereign. He isn’t afraid when we stumble, turn away from Him, get tempted, live in fear instead of faith. He knows us like we will never know ourselves. He made us. He made Drake and Serena. Together they find out what love is, both God’s love for them and their love for each other. They find their “happily ever after.” Don’t doubt. Believe. Trust in Him and it will all work out in the end.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
So many! To be real. To be broken and fallen and then find Him . . . every day. To have the “secrets of the kingdom” pour through my stories. To open eyes and minds and hearts for Him. To give salve to the brokenhearted, open prison doors of the mind, show the way of trust. To love and be loved and tell the stories of those seeking love. To come to the end of my life and know I’ve done it, what I was created to do. To encourage and lift up broken wing and damaged heart. To live. As He wants me to live. To give. And finally, to tell a story that lives on in hearts and minds, warming them and comforting them and telling them of the Great I AM, the Beginning and the End – the Author of everything. The Author of our eternal story.