I hear you are running a summer-long event called The Star-Spangled Summer Adventure to celebrate the 200th birthday of “The Star-Spangled Banner?”
Yes the details can be found at http://www.laurielclewis.com/summer-adventure.htm.
Sounds so fun. What is the title of your historical series?
“Free Men and Dreamers.”
The books are: Dark Sky at Dawn,
Twilight’s Last Gleaming,
Dawn’s Early Light,
Oh Say Can You See, and
In God Is Our Trust.
I love the names. Describe your series?
It’s fabulous!!! (Chuckles.) Seriously, it’s a sweeping historical fiction saga with rich characters and very well-researched American history. The War of 1812 is the backdrop for the series, with all the tumultuous events that occurred during it, like the burning of Washington, including the White House and the Capitol, and the Battle of Baltimore which gave birth to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” I planned the series to be ready for the bicentennial of all those events. This summer is actually that very year.
The first book opens in the late seventeen hundreds and book five carries through to the Restoration. I wanted readers to see the sweeping causes and aftermath of the war historians credit with forging our nation’s mettle, finally helping us realize the Founders’ dream of “one nation under God.”
Fabulous…I agree. How did you come up with the idea for the series?
We visited Willamsburg, Virginia in 1997. I felt a powerful, divine spirit while visiting the colonial village where Washington and Jefferson walked. It affected me deeply, and I knew I wanted to write a novel that would capture those feelings. The task proved daunting and my first attempt fell short of my goal, then a lot of things changed. The events of 9/11 caused me to ponder the inter-relationship between our devotion to God and our liberty. Then I noticed that a historical book I picked up in Williamsburg referenced Joseph Smith’s family many times, and I realized that the Smiths were the most researched rustic family of their day, so I actually knew that time period better than I imagined. Finally, a US Park Service employee led me to a book about the War of 1812’s impact on Maryland, and all the pieces came together. I saw the bicentennial of our National Anthem and all the great history that surrounded it looming ahead, and I knew I needed to write the under-appreciated history in my own backyard. The War of 1812 generation also happened to be the first American-born generation, and those who would prepare America for the Restoration.
That is a lot of research! How has your journey from writing to getting published been?
It’s been interesting and challenging. The first novel I had ever submitted, Unspoken, was picked up by Covenant, who also launched Free Men and Dreamers. They were very good to me, but when sales of volume two didn’t meet expectations, they asked me to drop the series and move on to other projects. I felt a need to honor my readers’ investment in the series, so my husband and I self-published volume three, and then Walnut Springs Publishing offered to pick up the rest of the series and a Women’ Fiction novel titled, Awakening Avery. I’m now shopping for an agent for my next work, a book club fiction novel titled, “The Dragons of Alsace Farm.”
I can see why…Who is you favorite character in the series and why?
(I’m sucking in a breath as I try to answer that.) I love all of them, because as the author, you even know why the bad guys are bad. I love the main character, Jed, the best I suppose, because he is so good and wants so badly to save everyone that he trips himself up and almost ruins what we loves most. His vulnerability touches me. But I also love his spunky sister Frannie. She is every woman.
We do love them all, don’t we? What was the hardest part of writing the series?
While exciting, the research and writing was daunting. This series took eight years from start to finish during which time we faced births, marriages, trauma, and loss, in our family. Deadlines still had to be met, and so when book five, In God Is Our Trust, finally launched, I needed a break just to be with family and enjoy downtime.
Wow, that is a lot of dedication. Who designed the covers of the books?
Covenant designed the first two, I designed book three’s cover, and Amy Orton at Walnut Springs designed four and five.
The covers are beautiful. When is the next book in the series coming out?
I have a rough draft of a follow-up volume on my hard drive which I may release. It tells the story of Jed and Hannah’s daughter and carries the story west. Once the two books I’m working on now are launched, that might be my next project.
I hope it is…Could you describe what happens in the next book in the series?
Abby Pearson runs away from home to Great Britain where tragedy lands her in the company of Mormon converts preparing to sail to America to join the Saints. She tangles with a sailor who has set his attentions on her, and makes an untenable choice to assure her safety. Let’s just say it has great history and will rip at your heartstrings.
Interesting. Give us three facts about you, that we could not read just about anywhere.
- I donated a kidney to a very brave young lady—my daughter—who is a very healthy wife and mother of three now. We are big advocates for transplantation and the Kidney Foundation.
- I love to speak in accents, especially when playing board games.
- I put ketchup on nearly everything.
Really? Your favorite, ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I like the convenience of ebooks when I’m reviewing, but for pleasure reading, I still love the feel of a real book in my hands, and hardbacks last, so that would be my number one choice.
Tags: 9/11, bicentennial, colonial village, Covenant publishing company, Dark Sky at Dawn, Dawn’s Early Light, devotion to God, Free Men and Dreamers, George Washington, Great Britain converts, historical book, historical novel, history, In God Is Our Trust, Kidney Foundation, liberty for all, Mormon converts, Oh Say Can You See, sail to America, Thomas Jefferson, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Walnut Springs, Williamsburg