Welcome to The Engrafted Word Mae! I am so excited to introduce you to our readers and to share your new book with them. Friends, don’t forget to enter the book giveaway at the end of this interview—there will be two lucky book winners! Thank you so much for your generosity, Mae!
Congratulations on your debut novel! What an amazing accomplishment to write and publish a book—what was your inspiration behind this story?
I am a self-proclaimed historiphile (yes, I made up the word – I’m also a logophile). I’m the one who always wants to know why? What is the story behind the story and if I can’t find a complete answer, I’m prone to play “what if” around the facts I can find. I first ran across the story behind The Last Legal Hanging in a town history book for Archie, Missouri. It was a compilation for a centennial anniversary and contained family histories going back to the town’s founding. Among the articles was one that started with “Sometimes a town can have too much history, too many noteworthy events.” After an opening like that, I was intrigued. I started researching and stumbled across an article that began “The second and last legal hanging to occur in Cass County…” and I was hooked, as well as having a really great title. The more I researched, the more puzzling the pieces became. The man my antagonist is based on left a letter “explaining” why he murdered his entire family by writing “…man reaches a point beyond which there is no redemption. He cannot repent if he would. This is my condition. Tell me then, is life worth living?” He then went on to quote a hymn I have referenced in my story. As a Christian, this fascinated me even more. How does a person reach that point? What could possibly happen that makes you believe you are beyond the redemptive work of Christ?
Have you always known you wanted to write a book? What other writing endeavors have you enjoyed?
I have always been in love with reading (yep, I need to include bibliophile in my list of self-description). I had a mom who had to keep saying “Get your nose out of that book and go outside.” In the seventh grade, I remember my creative writing teacher saying my writing was verbose – I thought it was a compliment. Looking back over my life I can see the path that led to writing a novel: homeschooling my children fed my love of history, teaching high school classes (creative writing no less) in a co-operative helped me develop my style, writing devotions and short stories fed the fire, not to mention the three (or is it four?) partially completed novels I have laying around. I’m also in the process of turning my creative writing class materials into a curriculum for publication. As well as working on Samantha Lawton’s next investigation.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but it can be so hard to pick which era to read or research. How did you decide to explore the late 1800’s?
Actually, that was determined by the real-life murders on which my book is based. I also needed to place it historically close-ish to the Civil War. I try to keep the historical facts as true as possible and then weave my story around them. Once I started exploring the 1890’s, I unearthed a wealth of fascinating facts. It was a time of complex changes for our nation, society, and national identity. The decades after the ravages of the Civil War paradoxically caused our country to unite as one entity yet be bitterly divided along past ideological differences. Some of those roots still “sprout” in our society today.
Along with history, mystery stories are another favorite of mine. I watch so many British mystery shows, and it is so interesting to learn what individuals did throughout the decades. So many people played such vital roles to protect or to defend others—what led to your interest in the Pinkerton agency?
My protagonist’s mother is a former Pinkerton agent. This came about as I was doing research and ran across the story of Hattie Lawton. She was a fascinating figure in the earlier days of Pinkerton’s spying efforts during the Civil War. She and Kate Warne worked Pinkerton’s women’s division. One of the interesting things about Hattie is she disappeared from history after being released in a prisoner exchange during the Civil War. The reason most likely, is her records were destroyed during the Chicago fire, but for me this left a blank sheet of paper on which to write. I’m hoping to write my interpretation of Hattie’s story after I finish with Sam’s. In The Last Legal Hanging, Samantha (Sam), has grown up in the agency and worked as an agent before being let go. Historically, I did this because I found a reference to Pinkerton’s sons laying off several of the women agents after Alan Pinkerton died.
As a writer, I know it is so important to read on a consistent basis. Who are some of your favorite authors, and what books do you enjoy reading?
Surprise! I’m what you’d call an eclectic reader. I love the classics, Jane Austin, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Recently, I’ve enjoyed Charlie Holmberg – her Paper Magician series is the one I most often recommend (yes, I realize it’s written for young adults). Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince trilogy (yes, another young adult series). I was a librarian for a few years and got hooked on well written young adult novels in an effort to get the kids coming into the library and do more than look at magazines. As far as “adult” books go, I recently enjoyed Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate and The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker. I throw in a historical romance now and then to round things out. I tend to still have that “nose stuck in a book” syndrome going.
Do you have any advice for new writers in regards to writing a book?
I did some research for my creative writing class that was disheartening–80% of all Americans want to be authors–600,000 to 1 million books are published (through traditional means) a year. Those published represent fewer than 1% of those submitted. That being said, Amazon supporting the indie business is probably the best and worst thing to happen to potential authors. The best in that there are fewer impediments to getting your work published and the worst in that there are a lot of books vying for a reader’s attention.
If you are serious about writing, the best thing you can do is find someone who will encourage you. That is my primary goal when I teach. I always want to show my students the potential in their writing. The second thing you need to do if you want to be a writer is to write—Every Day. I have to treat my writing as my job. I even have a sign I hang on my office door that says “Do Not Disturb, Writer at Work.” Third, and this maybe the most important, you HAVE to love it. Writing requires too much work to be half-hearted about it. You have to be willing to do what it takes.
Thanks for joining us, Mae! Wishing you (and all you readers) a blessed day!
Mae has graciously offered to give away two paperback copies of her new book to two lucky winners. Enter below and it could be YOU! 😉
Thanks for entering! Contest ends July 16, 2019. (US residents only, please.) The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody!