Blog readers, we have a real treat this week. Love Inspired Historical author Naomi Rawlings has stopped by to answer a few questions about her debut release, SANCTUARY FOR A LADY.
Like all the books I giveaway on my blog, I've read them first and can tell you this one did not disappoint. Confession that initially I thought, French Revolution? Really? But I have to tell you, the first chapter converted me. And the rest of them were a beautiful Pride & Prejudice style dance between an obstinate hero and a heroine with a will of diamond. That is the hardest stuff on the planet, right? Naomi will know why that's funny and once you read her book, you will too!
Let's flip Sanctuary for a Lady over and read the back together.
Running to freedom, she found love . . .
The injured young woman that Michel Belanger finds in the woods is certainly an aristocrat, and in the midst of France’s bloody revolution, sheltering nobility merits a trip to the guillotine. Yet despite the risk, Michel knows he must bring the wounded girl to his cottage to heal.
Attacked by soldiers and left for dead, Isabelle de La Rouchecauld has lost everything. A duke’s daughter cannot hope for mercy in France, so escaping to England is her best chance of survival. The only thing more dangerous than staying would be falling in love with this gruff yet tender man of the land. Even if she sees, for the first time, how truly noble a heart can be . . .
And now let's go one on one with the author and visionary of Michel and Isabelle, Naomi Rawlings. Naomi, how important is the backdrop of the French Revolution to the story and what made you choose that time period?
The French Revolutionary backdrop is essential to the story. Without it, my heroine wouldn’t have gone from rich to poor, nor would she be running for her life, and my hero wouldn’t have reason to despise her. Those three things really help shape the story, and without them in place, I wouldn’t have been able to tell it as I did.
I also liked the social injustice and the chaos that was ruling France. One could easily argue for both sides of the French Revolution. In a way, both sides are a bit right, and both a bit wrong. You don’t find situations like that every day.
I'm so glad you brought up how your hero initially despises his heroine. I confess that when Michel and Isabelle first meet (that's all I can say without giving away a spoiler), I almost chucked the book because I was so mad at him. I thought, "Wait? He's supposed to be the hero???" I'm glad I didn't though! Was it easier, or more difficult, to write their story with that much prejudice in the hero and why?
Easier for me. Some authors might struggle with a flawed hero or heroine, but I thrive on them. I must admit, I’m not the type who has to have “likeable” heroes and heroines at every turn. I enjoy when heroes and heroines are a little bad and have real issues that need to be overcome throughout the story. It makes the characters so much more realistic. I mean, no one in real life is perfect.
True, although Jeannette, the hero's mom, came pretty close. Can you tell I really liked her character? She has dementia, what I would call today Alzheimer's, and she was so well-written and added a beautiful layer to Michel and Isabelle's love story. Can I ask what made you decide to write Jeanette with that particular ailment?
You know, I didn’t put a lot of forethought into it. I remember writing that first big argument that Michel and Isabelle have, and then Michel stalked outside all mad and frustrated and it was time for Isabelle to meet the mom. My first instinct was to make the mom nice and kind and supportive, which would have translated into stereotypical and cliché. So after I wrote a few cliché lines about a nice, perfect mom supporting Isabelle while her son was being a jerk, I decided that was too easy a route to go. Once I really put some thought into the mother’s character, dementia seemed like the best choice. The character could then help support both Michel and Isabelle, but not in an easy or clichéd manner. Plus giving her dementia added more conflict for Michel. All in all, I was really happy with the way the character of Jeanette turned out.
One of my favorite scenes of Isabelle's is when she can't/won't say thank you to Michel. That scene developed into one of those almost-kisses you talked at length about in Seekerville that absolutely tortured me as a reader, in a good way of course. Why was it impossible for Isabelle to say thank you and why did Michel need it so much?
Oh goodness, I loved that “thank you” argument. Writing it was so fun! Isabelle has trouble thanking Michel because she has lost so much. Literally. The last reason she had to live, her sister Marie, has just died, and she’s almost ready to give up. Then this man, who’s rather rude and coarse despite the fact he saves her life, demands a thank you. Would you have thanked anyone?
On the flip side, hearing the words “thank you” are so important to Michel because he’s sacrificed a lot to save Isabelle, going so far as to put his own life and that of his mother at risk. He wants the kindness he’s shown her to be acknowledged , and with good reason. So when she fails to acknowledge it, he gets more than a little upset.
This is why I love interviewing other authors, for those behind the scenes looks. What can you tell us about your novel or hero and heroine that only you as an author know?
Actually, when I got my edits for Sanctuary for a Lady, my editor and agent both wanted some major changes in that first fight scene between my hero and heroine. It would have been easy to toss out the “thank you” part, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I worked pretty hard to get those “thank you” lines to fit seamlessly back into the novel.
Well the hard work paid off big time because that's one of my favorite moments and I bet a favorite for all the readers. Can you give us a sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
Oh definitely! I’m just starting the sequel to Sanctuary for a Lady. This will be the antagonist’s story from Sanctuary for a Lady. I won’t say more about the antagonist, because I don’t want to give too much away. But those of you who have read the novel know the change the antagonist makes at the end of the story. So now I’m anxious to give my bad guy his own happy ending. But goodness, is that poor man going to suffer first!
I'll look forward to that one for sure, because I know exactly who you're talking about. Part of me wants to say he deserves it, but I'll shush up and not spoil it for anyone. What is it you hope readers take away from this story?
I write primarily to entertain, not to teach or give the world my views. Mostly, I hope Sanctuary for a Lady draws readers into another world, makes them hold their breath and laugh and cry, and provides a bit of an escape from the stress of everyday living.
However, my story also has a strong message of forgiveness running through it, and I hope that readers will come away from the novel with a better understanding of all Christ has forgiven his children for, and the responsibility we have as Christians to forgive others.
Well you certainly described my reader experience, especially the drawn into another world. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed learning (and remembering from school) about the French Revolution. You had just the right amount of history decorating a great romance. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about yourself or your debut novel?
I’m absolutely thrilled to have my story published and available for readers purchase. I loved writing this novel, and believe it will always be an important book to me. I’m so grateful to see people interested in the unique setting, and so honored to see something I wrote on store shelves. There are so many other wonderful writers out there, and being published is a very humbling experience.
So now that you have a lot of reasons to read Naomi's novel, here's a little about her.
A mother of two young boys, Naomi Rawlings spends her days picking up, cleaning, playing and, of course, writing. Her husband pastors a small church in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, where her family shares its ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer and bald eagles. Naomi and her family live only three miles from Lake Superior, where the scenery is beautiful and they average 200 inches of snow per winter. Naomi writes bold, dramatic stories containing passionate words and powerful journeys.You can visit her at her website here or her blog Making Home Work.
See friends, I knew you would like Naomi as much as I do! If you love a good historical romance, and I know most of you do, you don't want to miss this one.If you hurry, you can grab it at the local grocery or department store wherever fine romances are sold, and our friends Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Leave a comment for Naomi and be entered in the drawing for a give away of a print copy. Please leave me your e-mail to reach you if you win if I don't already have it. The drawing will be next Saturday night, May 12th. By the way, that link to Naomi's Seekerville article up there has some excerpts from Sanctuary for a Lady you can check out while you're waiting for a winner. ;-)