Do you all ever pay attention to the books advertised at the end of a novel you're reading? I do, and I noticed an intriguing book titled No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig, the first of her Edge of Freedom series: one of the best crafted novels I've ever read. Since then, I've devoured the equally good follow-up, Dark Road Home.
It's my privilege to interview Elizabeth Ludwig. She'll be giving away a copy of the final installment of the series, Tide and Tempest. Rules are below.
RENEE ANN? YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED AS A WINNER!
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Jeff Reynolds: Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Elizabeth. I'd like to hear a little about you, such as how you became interested in writing.
Elizabeth Ludwig: Hi, Jeff! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. Believe it or not, I started writing in elementary school. I had a fifth grade teacher who really got into the creative writing stuff, and encouraged us to love it, too. I also LOVED to read, so I guess she thought it was a natural progression for me to also write. So when she learned of a contest for young authors, she pushed me to enter.
I told myself I was going to hate it, but as I got into the story, I found I really liked coming up with my own characters. I did spend most of my time daydreaming about books, after all. I guess that was the spark I needed, because I never forget what it was like to write and began seeking publication in 2001.
Well, I wish I could say success came immediately, right after I submitted my first manuscript. The truth is, I wrote for five years before I sold my first book, and I completed six full manuscripts, none of which will probably ever see the light of day.
JR: Would you like to tell us about your Edge of Freedom series, and especially your latest release?
EL: I’d love to! I am so excited for the release of Tide and Tempest, although to be honest, if everything had gone as I planned, this book would never have been written. You see, when I first proposed my idea to my publisher, I was only planning for a two book series. Later, I was asked if I could expand my idea. Of course I said yes, though at the time, I really wasn’t sure what the third book would be about. It wasn’t until I finished the first book, No Safe Harbor, that inspiration struck and I realized that everyone I’ve ever met has carried some kind of wound—either pain from a broken relationship, or grief, sometimes even loss.
When I sat down to write Tide and Tempest, I wanted to reach out to those who were hurting and offer some kind of hope. To do that, I had to reach into my own past, and touch on the pain and guilt I carried after the loss of my son. The grace I experienced through that traumatic time, the healing and restoration that God fulfilled in my life—that was the inspiration behind Tide and Tempest, and why I think the main character, Tillie McGrath, resonated so deeply with me.
JR: I found the setting interesting -- while it takes place in New York a hundred years ago, it seems as concerned with Ireland as it does here. What was your inspiration for writing about this era, and how did you do the research?
EL: You hit on a really crucial point of this series. It definitely required more research than anything I’ve published so far. Set in and around New York City with key scenes taking place on Ellis Island, I knew early on that I would need to conduct careful study on the more than twelve million immigrants who entered the United States through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954. It wasn’t enough to know how they came, however. I wanted to figure out why, so beginning at the Ellis Island Foundation’s website, I began looking for letters, pictures, anything I could find that would give insight into the motivation behind so many peoples’ journey. This in turn led me to other sites, like Ancestory.com and the National Park Service website, which were full of information regarding not only the history of the island, but of the people who passed through on their way to a new life in America.
Along with filling the story with facts about our nation’s history, the Edge of Freedom Series is about an Irish family and a man with dangerous political affiliations, so on top of all of the historical facts I could dig up about New York in 1897, I had to research Ireland and everything that was occurring during the same time period there. That meant learning what I could about the conflict in Ireland—its origins and history. Once again, I tackled the Internet, beginning with a simple Google search on “why Ireland is divided”. This led me to a number of sites, including ibiblio.org and encyclopedia.com. Remember those research papers your English teacher made you do in high school and college? Researching my book was a lot like that!
JR: One question I regularly ask -- and I'm asking now -- is whether an author tends to be an outliner or a blank pager. Having read the first two books, however, I'm going to do something I've never done before and take a guess that you're an outliner, because of how well woven the stories are. Related -- was the outlining for the full series, or was it more one book at a time?
EL: LOL! Thank you, Jeff! Normally, I would say yes, I am very much an outliner. I always chart out a detailed timeline from start to finish. I also search for photos, locate maps, make drawings of certain settings, and collect samples of historical details that I can incorporate. Only when all of that is finished do feel equipped enough to begin writing. It makes for a lengthier process, but I’m always satisfied when I finish that I did my best to make the story accurate and exciting.
BUT…since I had originally planned for this to be a two book series, I really had to adjust my thinking, and my storyline! Strangely enough, that wasn’t difficult once I had a grasp on what Tillie’s story would be about. From there, I was very careful to plot all the storylines to make sure that everything stayed consistent. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I have fantastic editors and a patient critique group who helped me keep everything straight. My editor even gave me suggestions for deepening my storyline!
JR: I would consider your books Historical Romantic Suspense. When you enter contests or promote your books, how do you market them? Historical Romance? Romantic Suspense? Or, since I haven't seen a Historical Suspense category, would you consider it more straight historical?
EL: I guess it depends on the contest. If it’s a secular contest with an inspirational category, I usually enter there. Otherwise, I enter in the Historical Romance category, because most readers do not equate historicals with suspense. It’s not a perfect fit, because my stories always have a splash of mystery or a splattering of suspense, but I’d rather the reader felt like they got a little something extra than be put off by the fact that my books are historicals. I’m always afraid they’ll mark down if they think it’s in the wrong category.
On another note…I tried to write a straight historical romance once, and a third of the way through, I killed off one of the main characters. It’s like I have to put action on every page or it feels like there’s just not enough happening. Which, when I think about it, makes sense given that I live my life at 100mph and only slow down when I’m forced to go to sleep (see answer above). LOL!
But yes, I would so love to see a Historical Suspense category!!!
JR: Since you've finished your series, what's next on the horizon? More historical, or maybe some contemporary? (Or perhaps Sci-Fi?)
EL: The Edge of Freedom series has been such a labor of love, I actually kinda hated seeing it end. As for the horizon, well…I’d love to do another Historical Suspense series. I’ve never considered Sci-Fi, but I’m honored that you think I could! LOL!
JR: What else do you do besides writing? Any interesting hobbies? What do you do for fun?
EL: Well, let’s see…aside from reading and writing, I love to ski and I have a ridiculous number of dogs. Someday, I’ll write a book about my life and call it Downhill Dachshunds: Keeping up with the Pack.
JR: I love that title. Thank you for your time, and I can't wait to read Tide and Tempest. How can we keep up with your writing?
EL: I have a website at www.elizabethludwig.com and a blog at www.theborrowedbook.blogspot.com, but my favorite place to connect is still on Facebook. I hope you’ll stop by!
Jeff to the reader: It's time for the book giveaway! To enter the contest for a copy of Tide and Tempest, there are three easy steps:
- Leave a comment.
- Share your e-mail address -- it can be spelled out like AuntDotKahm(at)Ant(dot)com.
- If you were to write about a group of imigrants or refugees, which group would you write about, and what time era (including the present) would it be set in?