But first, find out a little more about Jennifer and The Sovereign Series.
1, Why did you choose tuberculosis and, more specifically, a sanatorium as part of Miss Hasting's story?
My father's cousin, Leverett Wixson, met his wife at the Central Maine Sanatorium in the 40s or 50s when they were both being treated for TB. When I was a child I always thought theirs was a romantic story. Also, Leverett was one of my favorite people (he lived into his 80s) and, because of him, I became aware of this largely forgotten time period in Maine history. I knew that Miss Hastings needed to undergo a dramatic, life-altering experience in her youth to make her the special person she is and so I thought that sending her to a sanatorium would allow me to weave some Maine history into her very special story. In addition, I wanted to dwell on the importance of loving someone while we have them with us because we never know when the hand of fate might intervene and snatch them away. I also wanted to touch on the power of unconditional love, which allows us to love beyond the grave.
2, The Sovereign Series was originally slated to be a trilogy, but a fourth book, Miss Hastings' story, was added due to reader requests. Are there other Sovereign characters who may have a story to tell?
Most of the characters in Sovereign are secondary characters and their personalities are pretty much fixed. We feel as though we know them well, which is part of the series' appeal. I do try to interject some secondary story lines for some of them in each book. For example, in Songbird we come to know Leland Gorse quite a bit better, and in Peas, Beans & Corn Trudy Gorse (and outsider Ryan MacDonald) share the stage with our hero and heroine, Bruce and Amber. Gray Gilpin will play a bigger role in Book 4, and so will Dr. Bart (he's the leading man). But I do not expect any of the rest of the folks in Sovereign to get their own book like Miss Hastings has. That is, not unless I get a hundred emails or tweets from readers who want to know more about a particular character!
3. I'm looking forward to the Sovereign Cookbook coming out next year. How do you use food in your stories? What do you think food adds to the reader's experience? Are you creating the recipes for the cookbook yourself?
Food plays a big role in my novels because I love to eat and I love Maine food(s). I come from a family of GREAT Maine cooks, and traditional dishes and recipes have been handed down from mother to daughter (and often granddaughter, in my instance) for a generations. Some of my favorite memories with those I've loved and lost are the meals I've shared with them. For example, I remember picking raspberries at my grandmother's house, a brick homestead in Norway (Maine) that has been in the family nearly 200 years. I'd pick the raspberries that grew in the old barn cellar and then my grandmother and I would make raspberry jelly. And then she'd whip up a batch of Bakewell Cream biscuits and perk some hot coffee on the woodstove and we'd sit down at the oak table (upon which she was born) and stuff our faces with hot biscuits and raspberry jelly and wash it all down with fresh coffee and cream. Just thinking of that makes me salivate now! It also makes my heart filled with love for my grandmother. Memories like that have shown me that people we love never die, they are always with us, for whenever I eat biscuits or raspberry jelly my grandmother is always right there beside me, telling me to pass the jelly!
The recipes I use in the books (and which will be in the cookbook) are mostly old family recipes. I also use a couple of old family cookbooks, and regularly "mine" other Maine and New England cookbooks looking for ideas and interesting recipes, particularly old church cookbooks. My sister, Cheryl Wixson, is the cook in our generation and her style is a fabulous mix of old and new. Cheryl's daughter, Laurel (my oldest niece) is in charge of putting the cookbook together.
4. If The Minister's Daughter (book 4 in the series - due out in 2015) is truly the end of our time in Sovereign, what's next? Do you anticipate continuing your writing career? Do you have new projects in mind?.
The Sovereign Series will end (for the time being) next year with the advent of Book 4, The Minister's Daughter, and The Sovereign Series Cookbook. This is mostly because I want to move on to work on other projects. About 10 years ago I started an historical series of novels that centered around the life of Hannah Chase Bartlett, who with her Quaker family, were the first white people to settle in the late 19th century in the wilderness of what later became Unity, Maine. Hannah was 16 when they settled 25-Mile-Pond. She married one of the two brothers that arrived in the area not long after the Chases, for which she was excommunicated by the Religious Society of Friends because her husband was not a Quaker. Others settled the area and Hannah and Lemuel and their families became leading members of the community. Lots of interesting stuff happens, and Hannah eventually rejoins the Friends and becomes a noted travelling minister. Anyway, I had the first book in that trilogy nearly written a decade ago when my life was interrupted by a personal crisis. I've never been able to get back to it since, and I kind of feel as though I left Hannah standing at the alter. When I leave Sovereign, Maine now I'm going next to 25-Mile-Pond where I've got a date with a very remarkable young woman.
Will I ever return to Sovereign? Well, I can't say for sure, but I can see myself returning to town in, say, about ten years or so, if only to find out what's going on with everyone. Of course, something could happen to SOMEONE there before that that would make me want to return earlier. Time will tell!
5. And the real question on everyone's mind - Is the Annual Goldenrod Run a real-life event? Come on, we promise not to tell a soul!
The goldenrod run WAS real until reality stepped in and put the kabosh to it. I used to take a run through the glorious golden spikes in the field next to my house every August when I thought that the goldenrod was tall enough to cover most of my, uh, particulars. But one year my stepmother snapped a photo of me running buff as a baby through the flowers and the pic revealed just HOW MUCH of me was showing above the goldenrod! (Too much.) Ouch, ouch. So I stopped my annual naked run.
The fund raiser I mention in Songbird is wishful thinking. I'd like to do something like that. Unfortunately my field of goldenrod is now one of our hay fields that we use to feed our Scottish Highlands. I wonder -- How many of my readers would be interested in participating in something like that? I would be interested in knowing. My hunch is that it's pretty high!
To find out more about the Goldenrod Run, you'll have to read Songbird of Sovereign
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