Today it's my pleasure to invite Linda Ulleseit to Novel PASTimes. Linda took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007, when she was already involved in a career as a teacher. Currently Linda is a sixth grade teacher at James Franklin Smith Elementary School, where her students are some of the early reviewers of her books. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Blending her passions for history and fantasy, Linda wrote On a Wing and a Dare, which is set in medieval Wales and features teenagers saving a herd of flying horses. Most recently, Linda released Under the Almond Trees, a novel about three California pioneer women. Linda lives in San Jose, California with her husband, two adult sons, and two young yellow Labrador retrievers. When she’s not writing or teaching, Linda loves to cook, cross-stitch, and read.
Linda, welcome to PASTimes! Thanks for joining us and sharing a bit about your writing world. Tell us about your latest book.
Under the Almond Trees was fun to write. It combines my love for historical fiction with my passion for genealogy. I heard stories, as a child, about the women in my family tree. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how strong they were as a group. The novel starts with Ellen Perkins in New York just as gold is discovered in California. She and her sister support women’s rights speakers like Susan B. Anthony (whom Ellen eventually meets). When Ellen’s husband dies in 1862, he leaves her with two small children and one on the way. Nonetheless, Ellen takes over running his paper mill. The independence that fosters creates in her creates a desire to vote like the men. Many years later, her son marries into the Williams family. His sister-in-law is immediately drawn to Ellen. Emily Williams’ life goal is to become an architect, but her father opposes her and men control the career opportunities. She decides to build a house on her own to show what she can do. When Eva VanValkenburgh, Ellen’s granddaughter, comes along, she has plenty of strong female role models. She chooses to marry and raise a traditional family, but starts her own photography business to pay for her daughter’s college education. These three women represent all the pioneer women who fought for women’s rights to vote, have a man’s career, or choose to raise strong daughters.
Tell us about your books. What drew you to write them?
I’ve told you about Under the Almond Trees. I also have a series of historical fantasies set in medieval Wales. It begins with Wings Over Tremeirchson, an ebook novella. The full-length trilogy starts with On a Wing and a Dare, followed by In the Winds of Danger. It ends with Under a Wild and Darkening Sky, which came out in May of 2014. These novels are set in a remote town in the Welsh mountains. Everything about the plot and setting are realistic except the town protects a herd of flying horses. Once a year they hold the Aerial Games, a tournament in the sky.
I initially started these books when my sons were teenagers. As a parent, I struggled to make them understand that they needed to balance their lives between school, work, and friends—that one of those things shouldn’t consume every minute of their lives. That’s the overall theme of the flying horse books, but each book has its own message, too.
What was the greatest challenge in writing your books?
I loved writing the stories of the women in my life. I even enjoyed the accompanying research. The hardest part was figuring out where to give up on researching the data and just fictionalize it. I simply don’t have enough information about these women to write biographies, but I know when and where the major events of their lives occurred. All dialogue and personal feelings had to be inferred from their actions and the times. That wasn’t always easy.
Love learning about this, Linda.
Readers, Linda has agreed to giveaway a copy of her book Under the Almond Trees. To be entered, just leave a comment below answering this question:
What do you think was the most difficult social issue that women faced in early California?
Be sure to come back tomorrow for the second part of the interview.