Stranger In A Strange Land

Linda Francis Lee on Contrasting Civilizations

Interview by Kassia Krozser

Author Linda Francis Lee, a native Texan now calling New York City home, is the author of nine historical romances. Doves’s Way is Lee’s stunning new novel, an extraordinary tale of redeeming love.

Lee’s career truly began with the publication of Blue Waltz, which has been viewed as a breath-through novel. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution called it “an absolutely stunning story . . .

“I wanted to write a book about someone who steps into a world that is completely foreign to her. A stranger in a strange land.”

” Subversion: Tell us a bit about Dove’s Way.

Linda Francis Lee: Dove’s Way is the first book in the Hawthorne Brothers Trilogy. It is the story of the middle son, Matthew Hawthorne, who saves Finnea Winslet’s life on a train in Africa, linking them together in ways neither of them want, but can’t deny. This is brought home when Matthew and Finnea meet again in the very proper confines of Boston Society, where she wants to fit in, and he no longer can given the scandal that had sent him to Africa in the first place.

S: What inspired Dove’s Way?

LFL: I wanted to write a book about someone who steps into a world that is completely foreign to her. A stranger in a strange land. At the time, I was reading a great deal about Africa, and I was mesmerized by its harsh, unforgiving beauty. But rather than take an outsider to Africa, I got excited about taking a woman who had been born in Boston, but raised in the African Congo by her wanderlust father, and returning her to Boston. On the outside, she looks like she belongs. But in truth, she knows nothing about these people and their strict and proper ways. I wanted to bring the beauty and freeness of Africa to a rigid Boston society–and see what happened. As you might imagine, the transition is a bumpy one. To try to lessen the bumps, Finnea Winslet turns to Matthew Hawthorne, who had saved her life in Africa.

S: You’ve not only chosen an unusual time period, but an unusual backdrop for Dove’s Way — why Africa?

LFL: I loved the contrast of a Gilded Age Boston with the wildness of Africa. Crystal chandeliers and silvered mirrors standing in stark contrast to bodies of water to see a reflection and fire used for light.

S: As I read the book, I really enjoyed the way you didn’t play it safe. How does a character like Finnea Winslet come to life?

LFL: I think in most of my books my heroines aren’t born risk-takers. But life pushes them into corners and they amaze themselves by rising above adversity–not playing it safe and ultimately succeeding. I don’t believe any of us can get anywhere in life if we play it safe.

S: What challenges did the character of Matthew offer you?

LFL: Challenges? Hmmm. Perhaps it was walking that fine line that shows this blond-haired, blue-eyed golden man as a warrior. He couldn’t simply be a scarred man, he had to be a great man–but a man who never would have been great had he never been scarred. In Finnea’s eyes it is the scar that makes him worthy, because she had grown up in a world where scars were a mark of bravery.

S: Dove’s Way is the beginning of a trilogy. What’s next? Any hints for readers?

LFL: Swan’s Grace is next, with Nightingale’s Gate to follow. Swan’s Grace is the oldest brother’s story, Grayson, who is everything society wants in a man, handsome, powerful. And he falls in love with a woman who is a flamboyant cellist. It makes for a lot of fun and emotion.

“I’m not sure where the future will take me. I keep getting closer to present day, having started in the early 1800s. I’m not sure where I will end up!”

S: What are you working on now?

LFL: I’m working on Nightingale’s Gate. Lucas is the youngest son, and the true black sheep of the family. He is the wild one, and I’m having a great deal of fun writing him!

S: Why romance?

LFL: Because I would like to believe that we all can have happy endings, and that there is someone out there that is just perfect for each of us.

S: You’ve published historical romance — do you have a desire to branch out into other subgenres or genres? If so, which?

LFL: I’m not sure where the future will take me. I keep getting closer to present day, having started in the early 1800s. I’m not sure where I will end up!

S: What are your favorite themes or plots in romance novels? Do you find yourself exploring these favorites in your own work?

LFL: Finding the one person in the world who is perfect for another. A connecting of souls. I love the idea that life can be changed irrevocably in mere seconds. That one day answers seem impossible, then suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, the answer is there. Clear and bright and wonderful.

S: When you’re brainstorming a new book, is it the characters or the plot that seems to be the catalyst?

LFL: It seems like it is always something different. As I mentioned earlier, it was the idea of taking a stranger to a strange land that was the catalyst for Dove’s Way. From there, it is deciding who the stranger is, and where is the strange land. Next, who is the perfect man for this woman. A slow gathering of pieces until I have a complete story.

S: What part of your writing career do you consider to be the most fulfilling? The most frustrating?

LFL: Most fulfilling? Losing myself in the story, forgetting the world beyond my window. Most frustrating? Backing myself into a corner in the plot and having to redo.

S: Any favorite books that you like to recommend to others?

LFL: There are so many books that I love. Anything by Judith McNaught or Nora Roberts. A book called The Secret History by Donna Tartt. A book that I haven’t read in years entitled The Boyfriend School by Sarah Bird. I just loved that book.

S: What are you reading right now?

LFL: Since I’m in the middle of the rough draft of Nightingale’s Gate, I’m not reading anything but nonfiction at the moment. I’m reading a lot of 19th Century catalogues, like Bloomingdale’s Illustrated.

S: Other interests or hobbies?

LFL: When I have the chance, I love to play golf.

S: Any final words for our readers?

LFL: If they are writers, I hope they all let go and dig deep to write books of their hearts. And if they are readers, I hope they find a world of wonderful characters who transport them to exciting places. When Linda isn’t writing, she is out exploring NYC, and whenever she and her husband Michael get the chance, they head for the golf course. Linda can be contacted at LfranLee@aol.com.