It is a joy and privilege to have an opportunity to interview Elaine Marie Cooper, a special friend and fellow writer. Her latest book, Fields of The Fatherless is a heart-wrenching story with characters that will touch your heart. It is also a tale of faith and forgiveness.
Please tell us something about yourself, Elaine.
Thank you so much for having me as your guest! It is my privilege to be here.
First and foremost, I am a Christian, wife, mom and GiGi to triplets who are almost four. I’ve been writing since I was very young but started my first novel in 2007. I never thought that I would be a writer of historical fiction but you never know what might happen with your life when the Lord places a love for both writing AND history in your heart! I am especially excited about my latest release, Fields of the Fatherless, as it is based on a true but little-known story that occurred in my hometown.
I’m going to start with some questions writers in particular may be interested in.
What sparked your interest in writing?
I’m not certain what sparked it but I know my father encouraged it. He seemed to understand my attraction to forming words into stories and I’m forever grateful to him. I know I loved poetry and music and often penned lyrics to songs. It was my series of humorous poems about the crazy life of motherhood that first attracted the eye of a newspaper editor who offered me a chance to freelance. That started the writing ball rolling for me. J
What genre do you like to write?
My favorite genre is historical fiction. Since I was a young girl in Massachusetts, I’d visit the historical sites where the American Revolution started and soak in all the information I could. Now that I live in the Midwest, on-site research for that era is a little more difficult but I make trips back to New England as often as I can. In between, I have my nose in books and online gathering as many facts as I can. I love the research. I’m such a history geek. J
Tell us about your journey to getting published. Did you get an agent before submitting to a publisher?
I’ve been on an atypical journey with my writing. When I started my first book, I knew nothing about the publishing industry; I just knew I felt called to write. When my first book was written in 2009, I began seeking out advice and heard the gloomy news that publishers were in a serious situation and few new writers were being picked up. Undaunted, I opted to self publish my first book. This was considered by most in traditional publishing to be the death-knell for an author. However, my first book has done modestly well and turned into a three-part saga. The third book in the saga was picked up by a small Christian publisher and they will pick up the first two books in the series this year.
My newest release was contracted after attending Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference and I had an appointment with the acquisitions editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Before the year was out, I received a contract for Fields of the Fatherless. I have yet to find an agent, although I have not been actively looking.
What is your writing schedule and where do you write?
I’m not sure that I have a writing schedule per se but between my part time jobs, blogging and manuscript writing, I feel like I’m writing non-stop. All of my computer work is done in my home office and it’s nice to have it separate from the rest of my house. That way, when my fingers are telling me it’s time to pause for awhile, I can walk out and take a break.
What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Outlines, Seat of the pants?)
If I had to define my style for writing, I’d say “seat of the pants.” But I am surrounded at my desk by books, notebooks and an occasional outline to keep me on track. Once the muse gets started, however, the books are temporarily set aside while the spirit moves.
What words of advice would you give to beginning writers?
Go to a writer’s conference and connect with writers and editors. Attend classes there. Listen and learn. Be a sponge and soak in every bit of knowledge to help improve your writing. And pray for the Lord to open the doors where HE wants you to write.
Ok, now the story:
Your latest book, Fields of The Fatherless, focused on actual events. Please tell us a little more about the story.
This story occurred at the very start of the American Revolution in my hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts. At the time, it was called MenotomyVillage. All the real events in my novel occurred the same day as the more-famous battles of Lexington and Concord, yet the battle of Menotomy saw more loss of life than any other town that day. It was the battle that occurred after Lexington and Concord, as the British troops were retreating back to Boston. By the time they had reached Menotomy on that retreat, the British were angry and out-of-control—and armed with plenty of guns and bayonets.
The story, written in fictional form, is told through the point of view of the 18-year-old woman who survived the battle. Betsy Russell was a real person who was very much a part of our history, yet has, for the most part, been unknown. I wanted to tell her story and the sacrifice that her family made that helped birth this nation
When I read Fields of The Fatherless, I was struck by its intensity and how emotionally draining it must have been for you. What inspired you to write this particular book?
I used to walk by Betsy Russell’s house when I was a little girl. (It is now known as the Jason Russell House and is a historical landmark.) When we were kids, my older brother tried to scare me by saying there was “blood on the floor” in there but I was quite intrigued by his description and never forgot the old two-story wood structure. A few years ago, I began to research that house and discovered the amazing story that so few seemed to know.
I was determined to share the family’s saga as well as the history of my hometown and, as with all my historical fiction, I wanted it to feel real. To do that, I tried to imagine everything that Betsy was experiencing during the months leading up to the war, as well as the terrible day of the battle, and the ensuing weeks that saw her mature in her faith and understanding of life. It was very emotional imagining all that Betsy went through and I often found myself in tears as I wrote Fields of the Fatherless.
God often teaches us something through our writing. What did you learn about life, faith, or yourself in the process of writing the Fields of The Fatherless?
I think my understanding was reinforced about how complicated life can be. How difficult it is when you have convictions about what is “right” yet how it can conflict with doing the right thing in God’s eyes. Life is never simple. But God always wants us to choose His way and that often is the braver—and more difficult—of two choices.
I know you are currently working on a book very close to your heart. Can you tell us anything about it?
My current WIP (work in progress) is called Bethany’s Calendar and is a far cry from my usual historical fiction. It is a memoir of my daughter’s journey in the last two years of her life when she suffered from a brain tumor. This is the book I never wanted to write yet I felt a clear conviction from the Lord at a writer’s conference three years ago that He would give me the strength to write this book. And He has. My hope with this story is that other families going through a serious illness of a loved one will be helped on their journey as I share my own. As a registered nurse, I also have some unique insight that I hope will help others. One thing is certain: Families in such a crisis feel so alone. I hope that my story can be a “companion” to them in their sorrow.
Thank you so much, Elaine, for being my guest. I know folks will enjoy your books.
Thank you so much for having me, Janet.
Where can readers find your books?
All of my books are available at Amazon.com in both paperback and e-book.
Other books by Elaine Marie Cooper:
The Road to Deer Run
The Promise of Deer Run (Winner of Best Romance, 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival),
The Legacy of Deer Run (Runner-Up in Romance, 2013 Los Angeles Book Festival)