Can ya'll just stand up and scream with me? Serious fan-girling going on over here. We have the illustrious KAREN WITEMEYER here on the blog today, AND she's giving away a copy of her latest release!
Join me in welcoming Karen!
Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?
The inspiration for Heart on the Line came way back in 2011 when I was doing research on telegraph communication for another book. I stumbled upon a novel written in 1879 by female telegraph operator Ella Cheever called Wired Love.
Apparently many operators were women in the late 19th century, and they were often identified as such by the delicacy of their “sounding” on the wires. The hero in Miss Thayer’s novel, Clem Stanwood, knows right away that the operator at the “B m” station is female.
Nattie Rogers is intrigued by the mysterious “C” at the “X n” station and seeks out conversations that soon turn flirtatious. These two telegraph operators fall in love over the wire without ever laying eyes on one another.
There is one scene about halfway through the book that served as my inspiration for Heart on the Line. A case of mistaken identity had scared Nattie off, but Mr. Stanwood arranges a visit to her boarding house, and while sitting amongst others in the parlor, he begins tapping out code with his pencil against a marble table top. Nattie recognizes her call name, takes up a pair of scissors, and drums out her answer. They carry on an entire conversation this way with no one else in the parlor suspecting their actions were anything more than idle tapping. Until, that is, Mr. Stanwood reveals himself to be the real “C”.
Nattie jumps to her feet and exclaims aloud, “What do you mean? It cannot be possible!”
Of course, everyone else in the room thinks she’s lost her mind except the hero who crosses the room to take her hand. Awww…
In Heart on the Line, I had a great deal of fun creating situations where my two telegraph operators communicated through coded tapping without anyone else being able to understand the significance of their private conversations. It just goes to show that you never know when a random research trail will lead to the perfect plot for a new book.
What is the primary spiritual theme of your book, and if that’s not applicable, what do you hope readers take away from reading your novel?
The theme verse for this novel is 1 Samuel 16:7 – For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. I've been a romance reader since my teen years, and I love swoon-worthy, alpha-male heroes. Yet I think the romance genre as a whole skews the ideal man a little too much in that direction. I have an 18-year old daughter away at college, and when I think of what I want her to look for in a potential mate, good looks and swagger doesn't make the top of the list. It's so much more important to look for deeper character traits like godliness, kindness, a sense of humor, and steadfast dedication even when times get tough. So in this story, I turn the usual romance ingredients on their heads. The hero prefers bicycles to horses, wears spectacles, and is a 19th century technology nerd (hmmm…rather like my husband, come to think of it). He doesn't match the fantasy my heroine has built up in her mind about the man on the other end of the telegraph wire, but she soon learns that looks can be deceiving, and a mad of godly character is one to be treasured.
How did you determine what names to give your characters?
Naming characters is one of my favorite things to do at the beginning of a book, though it is always difficult. To find a name that is historical yet also conveys the personality and arc of the character is a definite challenge. I love using biblical names, and in this story, both of my main characters have names from the Bible. Amos Bledsoe is my hero, a man often overlooked by the ladies of his acquaintance because he doesn't fit the mold of the typical western hero. It seemed appropriate to name him after a minor prophet and biblical book often overlooked as inconsequential when it truth it carries great significance. Grace Mallory is a shy woman who despises the spotlight. She's been hiding for nearly a year from the man who killed her father, using the women's colony of Harper's Station as a sanctuary from danger. Yet when danger finds her, the community extends grace to her by insisting she stay and let them help her defeat her enemy instead of sending her away to protect themselves. It is a picture of how the community of God rallies around each other to overcome our common enemy.
What hobby do you enjoy in your “free” time (‘cause we know you have tons of free time!)
Free time? What's that? (Grin) One of my favorite activities is cross-stitching. I enjoy doing counted cross-stitch in the evenings while I watch a show or two on television with my husband. I've been stitching since high school and have many pieces on display around my house. I taught my daughter, and while she doesn't do large projects like I do, she still enjoys stitching small projects for gifts. I'm working on a set of medieval maidens right now that will be a gift to my daughter whenever I get them done (hopefully before another year goes by). One maiden is reading a book and the other is playing a flute. Both she and I played flute and are avid readers, so it just seemed like the perfect set of patterns. I've nearly finished the musician. It still needs backstitching and beads for the finishing touches. Then on to the reader.
Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were to find yourself stranded in a creepy old house at night, who would you want with you to keep you company?
Definitely my husband. He's not a navy seal or anything, but when I'm afraid, no one can comfort me like he can. Besides he has a very sensible head on his shoulders, and I have every confidence that working together, we could overcome any creepy elements that house threw at us.
Anne, Erica, and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?
I am as sappy as they come. I've been a romance addict for my entire adult life. Well, even from childhood, I suppose. All those wonderful Disney fairy tales. Can't forget those! In my own writing, there is always romance. I insist on happy endings and love the thrill of two people discovering the blessing of true love in their lives. One of my favorite romantic verses in the Bible is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up… Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. This is my pattern for writing romance. Two people bound by love are stronger than either one alone. They help each other overcome whatever obstacles are in their path. And most important, that cord of three strands. God must be at the core with the two lovers woven around Him. No one can put that relationship asunder.
And for some extra fun . . .
If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why?
Captain America – He's just such a good guy. My favorite line from him: "There's only one God, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that." Love it!
Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you:
After my grandmother passed away, my cousin offer to set aside some things of hers if I would like some keepsakes. I immediately asked for her antique washstand. With my love of historical things, it just seemed the perfect piece to remember her by. I have an ewer and basin, shaving mug complete with brush and soap cake, as well as a few other items. It's one of my favorite pieces of furniture in my house.
We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:
It was him. Mr. A. She'd recognize his quick touch at the key anywhere. So crisp and precise. A metronome couldn't create spaces any more rhythmic. She'd long admired his deft hand at the key. Setting her tea on the table, Grace slid into her office chair, a giddy tickle in her stomach despite her best efforts to maintain a sense of detachment.
Yes, Station Dn. I'm here.
Excellent! I worried I had waited too long to call. Dinner at my sister's took longer than expected.
I hope you didn't rush away on my account, Grace tapped.
I was eager to escape. Believe me.
What dastardly plague did they set upon you? Grace grinned to herself as she tapped out the words. Mr. A always seemed to have a humorous story to tell about his family, his life so wonderfully normal that whenever she listened to him, she managed to forget all about danger and unseen foes. For a few blessed minutes, she was simply a girl talking to a young man, no worries in sight.
I dare not tell you, for fear of spreading the contagion. It seems to strike the women around me with alarming regularity.
Intrigued, Grace leaned forward. Surely the distance between us will serve as adequate protection.
My mother and sister have both been afflicted for some time, I'm sorry to say, but tonight their symptoms worsened.
That sounds dire, indeed. Did you call a physician?
No point. There is only one cure to their ailment. And apparently I am the one who must distribute the healing dose.
Then you should do so at once, Grace replied, grinning as she reached for her tea. Mr. A never failed to entertain.
I would, of course, he said, but I find the key ingredient in the required elixir to be frustratingly elusive.
Can you not simply visit a druggist?
I'm afraid not. You see, the item I must find in order to cure this plague of interference is . . . a wife.
The tea Grace had just sipped spewed from her mouth to splatter over the table in front of her. Coughs spasmed in her throat.
A strange fluttery sensation danced through her belly. So, he wasn't married. Why did that particular piece of knowledge please her so well? Her hand trembled as she reached for the key. She had to make some kind of response to that. But what exactly should she say?
I'm sure they only have your best interests at heart.
They do. But a twenty-eight year-old man doesn't really want his personal life dictated by his female relations.
Twenty-eight. A man in his prime. A man who was suddenly sharing more personal details with her than he ever had before.
Grace dabbed at the spilled tea with a handkerchief fetched from her skirt pocket, her mind spinning. Was he fishing for details in return? She wanted to reciprocate. It was what a friend would do. Yet she couldn't afford to say too much.
I can't claim as many years of experience dealing with meddling relations as you can, but a couple friends of mine have recently decided that marriage is not without its advantages. Thankfully, they have as yet avoided seeing me as a matchmaking prospect.
Grace yanked her hand from the telegraph key and made a fist, her heart pumping in a wild rhythm. Details cloaked in vagueness. Would he understand what she'd just revealed? The wire remained silent for an eternally long moment.
Count your blessings, he finally sent, his usually metronome-like precision stuttering slightly. Perhaps we could meet sometime to commiserate. I would—
Clear the line, a brash staccato tapping interrupted. I need to break in. This is an emergency.
Grace nearly jumped from her chair at the pounding intrusion. It exploded across the wire like cannon fire in a still forest.
Proceed, came the answer from Mr. A. Immediate. Meticulous. All hint of personal vulnerability gone.
Grace replied in kind, though she feared her touch on the key had yet to reassert its professional tone.
Hs. Dv station has a message to relay. Are you on the wire?
A message from the Denver station? Grace shivered even as she lurched forward to answer. Yes. This is Hs station. G on the wire. Go ahead.
Message relayed from R as follows: He knows where you are. Coming for you. Sorry.
Everything in Grace stilled. Numbness spread from her mind to her limbs and finally to her heart. Her day of reckoning had arrived. Chaucer Haversham had found her.
WOW! I'm hooked! Are you??? :) Buy it here and don't forget to enter to win!!