Hi, I'm Kathy Rouser, a fellow fan of historical fiction. Because of my love of reliving history through the eyes of others, I've also felt led to write stories set in years past. I will be your hostess for today and tomorrow as Joan Hochstetler shares her interview with DeAnna Julie Dodson.
Today we’re chatting with DeAnna Julie Dodson. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed, and To Grace Surrendered, books 1 through 3 of the Chastelayne Trilogy, published by Crossway Books.
DeAnna, tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing, including a brief overview of how and when you began to write, and what led you to write historicals. Did you have any experiences that prompted your love of fiction and historical fiction in particular?
I always loved to read. And, even when I was a little girl, I would write stories and plays for myself. I even wrote some episodes for my favorite television shows. I never thought of myself as a writer though. Even when I started writing my first book, In Honor Bound, I only did it to amuse myself during boring accounting lectures in college. The idea of actually letting anyone read anything I wrote was terrifying to me, and I never dreamed I would ever be published.
I suppose my love for writing historical fiction comes from my love for reading historical fiction. I already know what it’s like to live here and now, but getting to “travel” to another place and time through fiction is like taking a fabulous vacation.
That’s a wonderful way to describe it. What eras have you focused on in your historicals, and why?
My first three books are set in the fictional medieval kingdom of Lynaleigh. One of the things that drew me to the medieval era was hearing Shakespeare’s wonderful plays. I say “hearing” rather than “seeing” because the sheer beauty of the language was one of the things that really captured me. Shakespeare is such a master of language and poetry and drama, I couldn’t help being hooked when I saw my first play, As You Like It. After I had seen all of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, I watched his history plays and, through them, became interested in medieval English history. After that, I couldn’t help creating my own scenarios involving tyrant kings and reluctant princes, fair princesses and bloody civil wars.
But, if conflict equals story, then all of history is a dramatic story. As much as I love the pageantry of medieval times, I have many other eras that interest me. I have ideas for more medieval books and for several other periods up through the Second World War.
Oh, goody—another Shakespeare fanatic! I was drawn to medievals the same way, and one of these days I may actually get mine published. Tell us a bit about your most recent work in progress. What about the period of time it’s set in fascinates you the most?
A Dinner of Herbs is set during and after the American Civil War. This was a period of tremendous cultural upheaval, of gallantry and infamy and legend that impacts our country still. Everything in America changed as a result of this conflict. I suppose, as a lifelong Southerner, this time period is in my blood. It was hard for me to actually get any writing done because there were so many fascinating facts in the books I used for research, I never wanted to stop reading.
My story is about Travis Markham, a man who thinks he knows exactly what his future will be like only to have the war change everything. When the woman he loves suddenly refuses to marry him, afraid he will be killed in battle, he rashly marries her cousin. At the end of the war, he returns to a ruined home, a wife he doesn’t love and a child he doesn’t want. His struggle to adjust to his new circumstances and provide for his family now that his wealth is gone is compounded by his guilty desire for his former love, now married to someone else. There’s certainly drama to spare in this one!
Oooo, sounds heartwrenching and romantic! So … what is the greatest historical novel you’ve ever read. And why do you think so?
There are a lot of wonderful historicals out there, so it’s hard for me to narrow it down to just one. Gone With the Wind has always been a favorite of mine. Margaret Mitchell so perfectly captured the sound and feel of the antebellum South, and Scarlett, though I don’t like many of the choices she made, is certainly an unforgettably real character. One of the delights of the book is how aptly Mitchell defines Southern society by having Scarlett flout its conventions.
Another of my favorite historicals is Monmouth Harry by A. M. Maughan. The little-known novelization of the life of King Henry V of England is beautifully written and tremendously influenced my own work.
Hmmm … now there’s one I’ll have to check out. As you’re beginning a new project, which generally comes into your consciousness first—characters, plot, era, a specific theme?
It really depends on the book. In In Honor Bound, the first book of my medieval trilogy, I knew I wanted to write about a man who inherited a kingdom he wasn’t sure was rightfully his, and he became Philip of Lynaleigh. Prince Tom was a supporting character in that book, but I really fell in love with him and knew he needed a book of his own, so that was the aim of my second book, By Love Redeemed. Also, I very much wanted to write an allegory showing Christ’s unconditional love for His church, and Tom was the perfect hero for that, too. In To Grace Surrendered, I wanted to show married couples dealing with the ups and downs of life while still keeping the love and romance in their relationships. They’re all very different books, but I think they work well as one cohesive story even though none of them came about in the same way as either of the others.
A friend of mine asked me to write a book about the American Civil War, and that became A Dinner of Herbs. I wanted to deal with the issues of bitterness and unforgiveness and how much of a burden they are for those who refuse to let go of them, those who even pass them down to their children and grandchildren. I also wanted to show that sometimes the prayers that God doesn’t answer are the greatest blessings.
My current project is a mystery set in 1930s England. I decided to try my hand at this genre because I’m such a fan of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple and Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. I also wanted a break from the heavier themes of my first four books and settled on what I hope will be a fun mixture of England’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford and America’s Nick and Nora Charles. Of course, now that I’m actually trying to write the thing, I realize the old saying is true: Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
Each of my books has taken a different path, depending on what inspired me to write that particular story in the first place.
Don't forget to leave a comment this week to enter your
name for a chance to win DeAnna Julie Dodson's In Honor Bound.