Tuesday, June 04, 2013

An interview with Cindy Thomson (Day 1)

This week we celebrate the release of the latest novel from Cindy Thomson, fearless founder of our Novel Pastimes blog! Cindy’s love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage inspired much of her writing, including her new Ellis Island series. Cindy is also the author of Brigid of Ireland and Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland, and is co-author of Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story. Cindy has written on a regular basis for numerous online and print publications and is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

Cindy will be giving away one copy of her new book, Grace’s Pictures. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment with your answer to this question:

Genealogy is a growing hobby as more people feel the need to connect with their roots. If you have taken up this hobby, what sparked your interest? If not, why not?

Include your name and email with your comment (spelling out ‘at’ and ‘dot’ to help cut down on spam). The drawing will be held at 8 a.m. EST on Friday, June 7.

Cindy, we’re so excited about your new release! Tell us a little bit about the storyline for Grace’s Pictures.

Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

Introduce us briefly to the main characters in your most recent book.

Grace McCaffery is a recent immigrant from Ireland. Having escaped the workhouse where the Irish police sent her and mother, Grace brings with her a distrust of police. She is interested in drawing and photography because she wants to study people without getting too close, hoping to capture the special something she sees in some people. When the Brownie camera is introduced for a dollar, suddenly photography is within her grasp. But when she snaps a photograph in Battery Park, she gets more trouble than she bargained for, and the lives of the children she cares for as a nanny are at risk. Grace has to decide if the handsome policeman who wants to help her can be trusted.

Owen McNulty left his life of wealth to become a policeman in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Manhattan. But the people there don’t embrace him. He’s an outsider, and the police are notoriously corrupt. Grace McCaffery catches his eye, but she is even more distrustful than most of the immigrants he’s met. His desire to catch a gang ringleader and prove his worthiness reaches new heights when Grace ends up in the middle of it. Now Owen has even more to prove.

What drew you toward writing historicals/historical romance? What do you like most about it?

I love history, and I believe the people who came before us have much to teach us about resilience, faith, and pure determination. Learning about the time period is so fascinating to me I can sometimes research too much when I need to be writing. People are people no matter when they lived, but each era had unique challenges, inventions, and events, and I love to explore how characters might have reacted to these things.

I can understand that completely! People are just fascinating. :-) You’ve said before that you have a deep interest in genealogy. How does your family history or things you learn during genealogy research fit in with your writing?

Genealogy is more than names and dates. Once you record those vital facts, you inevitably want to learn what motivated those people to do the things they did. For those of us living in America, the question is, “Why did they come over?” So you have to study social history and world events, and then a fuller picture forms of who those people were, and then what follows is an appreciation of what it took for you to have the life you have today.

The story of my particular ancestors is still unpublished, but a creative writer fills in the details, and that’s what I did. I learned what I could about those who came before and imagined the rest!

Your book Brigid of Ireland takes place in 5th Century Ireland, and your heroine of Grace’s Pictures is an Irish immigrant. Tell us why you’re drawn to Irish heritage and how writing about these two characters was alike and different.

For me it all came about because I have ancestors who came over from Ireland. I began to research Irish history and when I learned about the legends of St. Brigid, I wanted to tell that story. In Grace’s Pictures I wanted to tell the story of a young Irish girl coming to America at the turn of the 20th century because that is a part of so many people’s history. As the series develops more boarders from other countries will come to Hawkins House as well.

What sparked the idea for Grace’s Pictures?

The Brownie camera. I read a contemporary account where someone complained that as more people had their own cameras out on the street, people might be photographed without their permission, and that was an invasion of privacy. (Sounds a little odd with our perspective today.) Realizing the state of crime and the corruption that still existed in the police department at the time, I began to wonder what might happen if someone took a photograph of someone who didn’t want their image known. A criminal whose face was not yet on the newly formed mugshot wall.

I was also inspired by hearing about the workhouses (or poorhouses) that folks in Ireland with no other resource had to endure. Rosie O’Donnell’s episode on the television show Who Do You Think You Are? Where she learned about her ancestors who had been sponsored to leave a workhouse in Ireland and come to Canada was quite moving. You can watch that part of the interview here: http://youtu.be/ebIH2PQteKw
If you are at all interested in this topic, I highly recommend you watch this.

You recently returned from a fabulous trip to Ireland. Did you see or learn any new things that might find their way into books later?

Come back tomorrow for Cindy’s answer to this and other questions. And don’t forget to answer her question so you can be entered to win a copy of Grace’s Pictures! Here’s the question again:

Genealogy is a growing hobby as more people feel the need to connect with their roots. If you have taken up this hobby, what sparked your interest? If not, why not?

See you tomorrow! 


Amy C said...

I am a genealogy nut! I love to learn more about my family roots. It started when I almost lost my grandmother 12 years ago. She lived and I realized I needed to ask her and grandpa more questions about them and their family. It has grown from there. Grandpa passed 8 years ago, Grandma a year and half ago. She was 6 months shy of being 100!
campbellamyd at gmail dot com

Cindy Thomson said...

So glad you took the opportunity to ask your grandparents questions, Amy. So valuable for you and future generations.

Lisa Medeiros said...

I used to love looking at our family tree and geneology with my grandma! :) she had such interesting stories to go along with the names! :)

Caroline said...

Can't wait to read this book. Fascinating interview and info. Loved it!


Carol Ann said...

Your new book sounds great! I remember finding my grandmother's Brownie camera when I was visiting one summer as a child. Even took a few pictures with it! I began working on genealogy quite a few years ago. I put together a "book" for my stepdad on his family. But I keep running into brick walls trying to trace my mother's family. Her parents died when she was five and she didn't remember much about them. One day I'll get back to working on it.

Cindy Thomson said...

Thanks, ladies. I love hearing about your family tree searches.

Everyone remember, you need to answer the question AND leave your email to be eligible for the drawing.

Dolly Madison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dolly Madison said...

Oh dear, I forgot my email address!

DollyMadisonEtsy (at) gmail (dot) com. There are also contact forms on my website.


When I was....oh, I reckon I was about 16....I started in doing genealogy on my dad's family. My mother has aleady tackled her side. But then my computer information was lost, and my project kinda died then. I plan to revive it.

However, when I was seventeen-- just over a year ago-- I started in a project to memorialize a singer who was fast fading into oblivion. That involved lots of genealogy, though more of the local kind. It's more important to get to know the people your ancestors were than it is to know who your ancestors came from.

Genealogy thrills me. *smiles*


The Ken Carson Tribute

Diane Tatum said...

Love genealogy!
My great uncle was fascinated by the family history and became my pen pal when I was in 6th grade. He sent me reams of handwritten family notes and family trees for each branch.
My mother took it up after his death and added her side of the family.
Just this morning I found a site called FamilyEcho where you can record family information to create a family tree! I'm using it to do my historical romance series family tree. So excited about that!
Diane E. Tatum (Gold Earrings)

Merry said...

I remember an elderly aunt researching my Dad's family history and being fascinated to hear my Dad speak with her in German... I didn't know he grew up speaking it at home. They told many wonderful stories! Later my oldest brother took up where she left off and completed her work, which we treasure to this day.
worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

Cindy Thomson said...

Love these stories, ladies. Yes, listen to them, but also get them recorded. :)

Angela Holland said...

I do genealogy because i want to know more about my family history. I am a history buff and searching for family history is fun but a little challenging as well. Thank you for the chance to win. griperang at embarqmail dot com

Cindy Thomson said...

I agree with you, Angela. Challenging, but fun.

KayM said...

I am interested in genealogy. I did do some research with my mom--going to look at courthouse records, etc. It is a time-consuming endeavor and I have never had the time to fit it in my schedule. Maybe someday...
may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

karenk said...

my grandmother lived w/ us...I learned a lot from her growing up...thanks for the chance to read this wonderful novel.

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Lisa Medeiros said...

Oh my email address is deiselbuffs(at)gmail(dot)com... Commented earlier :)

LeAnne Hardy said...

I'm lazy; I can enjoy another family member's work. My uncle traced our family back to someone who sailed from Bristol in 1620. We were in Indiana by the end of the eighteenth century. In contrast, my husbands family all arrived from Scandinavia in the 1890s.

leanne at leannehardy dot net

Cindy Thomson said...

Well, I'd say you're lucky! I also benefitted from someone else's research on my family. Glad someone's keeping track!