Welcome to our spotlight time with author Ada Brownell! Ada has been writing stick-to-your-soul encouragement articles, short fiction and books since she was a teen. She spent many years as a journalist, mostly at The Pueblo Chieftain in Colorado.
Congratulations on your latest novel, The Lady Fugitive! Please tell us some things about the basic storyline.
In this historical romance, Jenny Louise Parks, 17, wants to escape from her abusive uncle, a judge. He locks her in her room. When she goes out the window and down the trellis, he catches her and puts her in the cellar. She gets free through the coal delivery slot, jumps on her horse and, disguised as a boy, heads for the train trying to go to her mother’s sister.
The judge and his men follow. She takes off in another direction. She’d rather die than go back to her home with the judge in it. Everywhere she goes Wanted Posters with her picture offer a $500 reward. The judge won’t inherit Jenny’s parents’ ranch unless he keeps her until age 21.
The first night after leaving home, in an abandoned house where she intended to sleep, Jenny encounters a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike. Her screams reach William O’Casey, a traveling peddler, on a nearby road. He shoots the reptile and assures her God is looking after her as He does the birds and His sheep, but she thinks, "Where was God when Papa and Mama died?"
We’d love to get to know your main characters a little better. If Jenny and William each had a day to themselves with nothing specific to do, how would they spend their time?
From Chapter 12: Jenny couldn’t rest. Her head hurt, and she kept mulling over what happened. The cow’s bellow interrupted. The desperate call sounded real. As she hauled herself out the cellar doors, a burst of expectation surged through her veins. She flung herself into the warm evening sun.
Maude stood on the edge of the pasture, bellowing so loud her belly convulsed with the exertion. Jenny grabbed a bucket. After three years singing, reciting poetry, and performing on stage along with her studies, she hadn’t done much milking. But surely she hadn’t forgotten how.
She rinsed the milk bucket by the windmill. She was ready.
Jenny herded Maude into the homemade stanchion that kept the cow’s head immobile, but allowed her to eat. After forking more hay into the feeding trough, Jenny found a little stool and placed it beside the black-and-white spotted cow.
To relax the animal, she rubbed the bristly hair on its neck and along the backbone. Then she positioned the stool. In response, the cow lifted her tail and splat! A big cow pie landed behind Maude, splattering up her legs.
Jenny nearly gagged. Her dizziness and nausea didn’t need that smell! She held her nose and considered holding her breath.
Here’s William in Chapter 14: William’s teeth rattled as the mule jostled toward Yucca Blossom. Misery ate at William’s insides like termites on wood.
He couldn’t get his mind off the devastated expression Jenny wore when he told her he was leaving and didn’t know when he would be back. It made his insides ache worse than when he discovered Pa was injured. How could that be?
Visions of Jenny when he drove up, the yellow dress and her hair swaying in the breeze, stirred him until his heart began thumping again. He’d kissed her, not once, but twice! What was happening to him? When their lips met, he seemed to become a puddle at her feet. Could he survive in Iowa without her? How had he allowed himself to become entangled when she couldn’t even be herself and men were scouring the country trying to find her?
And how could he worry about a woman when Pa might be dying? He should be praying for him.
Jenny is an elocutionist, which is a change from the occupations we often see in historical novels. How did you decide on that for her path?
I got the idea from my grandmother who performed on stage in Pueblo, Colo., as an elocutionist before 1900. An elocutionist is an orator trained in public speaking, voice production and gesture and delivery. Grandma also was a singer, as Jenny is, and a song writer. Grandma’s song, Rocky Mountain Columbine, was a runner-up for Colorado’s state song.
The Lady Fugitive has many facets comparable to my grandparents’ lives.
It sounds like your grandmother was quite a woman – no wonder she makes a good model for your heroine! You’ve also written a novel for teens (Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult) and several non-fiction titles for adults and teens. How do you approach writing differently for the different age groups?
Youth need more humor, problems with which they can identify, and solutions they could handle. Yet today’s youth over age 14 read many adult books, and it’s interesting that adults enjoy teen books, too.
With non-fiction, teens have a better chance of changing course if they’re going the wrong way. For instance in Imagine the Future You, I discuss virginity, marriage, peer pressure. Too many older young people have already become sexually active, have a sexually transmitted diseases, or already have a child or have had an abortion. Yet, God can change the life of anyone and make him a new creature in Christ Jesus. But it’s better to put your future in God’s hands before you life is messed up.
Along those same lines, how does your approach to writing fiction differ from your non-fiction?
The best non-fiction uses fiction techniques. One of my reviewers said of Imagine the Future You, “It reads like fiction.” I consider that a great compliment. It probably comes from the many illustrations I included.
What have you found to be the most rewarding thing about sharing your stories with either teens or adults?
Visitors, come back tomorrow for Ada’s answer to this and other questions. And, don’t forget to enter our Rafflecopter drawing for your chance to win a copy of Ada’s motivational Bible study, Imagine the Future You. Just click the link in the box below!a Rafflecopter giveaway