None of them is exactly like me, but all of my characters contain parts of me. One of my friends was shocked after she read the first draft of Fairer than Morning. She wondered how my life experience allowed me to write some of the scenes in the novel. I may not have been through the exact experiences that my novel’s hero endures, but I have known what it means to fall into utter loneliness and despair, followed by redemption and hope. Though my ten years of agnosticism in young adulthood were very hard, I am glad for them now. Without that period in my life, I would not be able to write some of the characters I can write now. And portraying a wide variety of characters gives me a greater chance to reach out to readers, no matter where they are in their respective spiritual journeys.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
How can I ever choose one out of the scads of weird things I’ve done? But I’ll choose at random. When I was in college, I went to a nearby store and found a superhero-type mask—the kind that looks like Zorro’s mask, but this one happened to be silver. I decided to wear it around campus for a day as an experiment. Our campus included city streets, so I encountered everyday citizens as well as college students. I didn’t do anything unusual, just wore the mask everywhere I went. My favorite response was probably the little four-or five-year-old kid who kept looking back at me behind him and asking his mother: “Who is that? Who is that?” He assumed I had to be a superhero, despite my normal clothing. But adults really freaked out, stared a lot, and did a lot of double takes. It made me realize what a social taboo it is to cover our faces in Western culture.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I think it might have been when I was six. I remember writing a poem to entertain myself at a going-away party for my family. I also took some school tests when I was eight that asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer in all three fill-in blanks was “playwright.” So writing has been a lifelong passion for me. My daughter is acting the same way at age seven—writing stories all the time, coming up with plots while we ride around in the van—so I think I see the shape of things to come for her! I believe linguistic ability, like mathematical ability, is partly passed down in the genes. Some kids like to fool with numbers and they eventually become engineers. Others like to fool with words, and they become writers.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I enjoy many genres of writing. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what genre the novel is, as long as it’s well-written and fresh. For example, I’m not usually a mystery reader, but I really like Will Thomas. I tend to prefer historical novels over contemporaries, but I admire the ability of a good contemporary author to capture our present cultural moment. I also love to read nonfiction, especially when I can learn something as a result.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I remember what’s most important and place those things first: faith, family, and friendship. I have my days when I feel stressed out, but even on those days, I can usually straighten out my priorities by sundown. The fact is, I have a seven-year-old daughter who will only be seven once. I will never regret any time I spend with her. And without God, I would have nothing and be nothing. So my life has to revolve around that central truth, because I know what it means not to have God or truth in my life. Losing faith took me to spiritual and emotional places that I never want to see again.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Some of my characters are real historical figures, so that makes it easy. Sometimes I pick names or surnames from people I know. I’ve also opened the phone book. I’d rather pick names from life than make them up. Real surnames are stranger and more interesting than anything I can create by myself.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Being a good mom. Not perfect, but loving and hardworking. I want my daughter never to doubt my love for her. I also want to teach her how to be a woman of strong character and a true follower of Jesus in humility, courage, and service. It’s not easy to teach a child strength, but our children will need it for the future that awaits them.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
What is your favorite food?
I’m an amateur foodie, so my taste in food is as wide as my taste in books. I really like Thai food, and just the thought makes me want to go out to a good Thai restaurant soon. But I also like steak. And chocolate. And cheese.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Self-criticism. I had to learn to accept my weak writing or mistakes in first drafts, and that was a real struggle. But I think my perfectionism, like many writing problems, was a spiritual issue, and I had to mature spiritually in order to become a real writer. That’s the wonderful thing about writing. We have to grow up and seek God in order to do it well.
Tell us about the featured book.
Fairer than Morning is the first novel of my series called The Saddler’s Legacy from Thomas Nelson Publishers. This series of historical romances is based on a real minister’s family in nineteenth-century
In Fairer than Morning, a saddler’s daughter dreams of marriage to her poetic, educated suitor—until a runaway apprentice shows her that a truly noble man will risk his life to free the oppressed.
Sounds like a book I want to read. Please give us the first page of the book.
15th July, 1823
Proposals of marriage should not cause panic. That much she knew.
Eli knelt before her on the riverbank. His cheekbones paled into marble above his high collar. Behind him, the water rushed in silver eddies, dashed itself against the bank, and spiraled onward out of sight. If only she could melt into the water and tumble away with it down the narrow valley.
She clutched the folds of her satin skirt, as the answer she wanted to give him slid away in her jumbled thoughts.
Afternoon light burnished his blond hair to gold. “Must I beg for you? Then I shall.” He smiled. “You know I have a verse for every occasion. ‘Is it thy will thy image should keep open, My heavy eyelids to the weary night? Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken, While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?’”
The silence lengthened. His smile faded.
“No.” The single word was all Ann could muster. It sliced the air between them with its awkward sharpness.
He faltered. “You refuse me?”
He released her hand, his eyes wide, his lips parted. After a painful pause, he closed his mouth and swallowed visibly. “But why?” Hurt flowered in his face.
“We’re too young.” The words sounded tinny and false even to her.
“You’ve said that youth is no barrier to true love. And I’m nineteen.” He rose to his feet, buttoning his cobalt cutaway coat.
“But I’m only fifteen.” Again Ann failed to disguise her hollowness.
She had never imagined a proposal so soon, always assuming it years away, at a safe distance. She should never have told him how she loved the story of Romeo and Juliet. Only a week ago, she had called young marriage romantic, as she and Eli sat close to one another on that very riverbank, reading the parts of the lovers in low voices.
“There is some other reason.” In his mounting indignation, he resembled a blond avenging angel. “What is it? Is it because I did not ask your father first?”
I know I want to read it now. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Please visit me at my website, www.rosslynelliott.comYou can find my blog there, as well as a way to contact me if you have any questions or just want to say hello!
Thank you, Rosslyn, for stopping by for the chat.
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