Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Rosslyn Elliott. She is the author of The Saddler’s Legacy and the second book in the series, Sweeter than Birdsong (Thomas Nelson, 2011), is now available.
So let’s dive right in!
1. What interesting facts about the way you write or research might surprise readers?
Hmm – maybe that I smile quite frequently when I research, though I’m all alone. It’s such a treasure hunt for me that a good find makes me bubbly and gleeful. And a good find is usually something really odd or quirky!
The way I write is very linear, because I start at the beginning and go through to the end, usually with the help of a sketchy outline. I can’t imagine writing a scene here and a scene there, though I think non-linearity is a fascinating style for those who can do it. For me, so much of what happens in the development of a story is intuitive, and character development must be organic to be real, and that’s why I have to go one step at a time toward an inevitable conclusion.
2. What is it about your time period and setting that stirred you to write this story?
This series revolves around a real minister’s family in mid-nineteenth century Ohio. A visit to their small but historic home in 2006 left me touched by their courage and faith, but also by their ordinariness. To me, there’s nothing more uplifting than watching everyday Americans rise to a challenge and do heroic things because they were called in a time of need. It reminds me that we all have that potential within us, and that our choices matter. The Hanby family worked on the Underground Railroad helping fugitive slaves escape to Canada before the Civil War. Ben Hanby, the hero of Sweeter than Birdsong, helped to influence the entire North against slavery by writing one popular song that he certainly never expected to have such a wide effect. And Kate Winter, the leading lady of the story, overcame great social adversity to become one of the first female college graduates in America. Finally, there’s John Parker, an African-American entrepreneur and hero of the antebellum period who risked his life many times to assist fugitive slaves. I guess it’s pretty clear when I read this answer that what stirred me to write the story was the people. Of course, I love history, and historical clothing, and manners and gentility. But more than that, I love people who make me want to be a better, more faithful, and courageous person myself.
3. What do you hope readers will take away from this story? What aspects might encourage them to reflect on their own lives or the world today?
There are several ways in which love conquers all in this story—but it’s not sappy, sentimental love. Instead it’s real, deep love that hurts even as it makes us realize it’s the only love worthy of the name. People in the story find that love takes them across all kinds of artificial and petty social boundaries. Love straightens out crooked values and strengthens weak nerves. That heavenly kind of love is what I hope readers take away from the novel. Sure, there are specific applications, such as the fact that Ben Hanby persists in an apparently hopeless effort to oppose slavery, until he reaches an unlikely and amazing victory. There’s encouragement in that for all of us, no matter what our challenges. But there’s even more inspiration in knowing that it is possible for human beings to carry light, love, and good news into a dark world.
It was my pleasure, Rosslyn! I enjoyed learning more about your lovely series and your answers were touching and a true reminder of what makes Christian fiction so special.
For those looking for the next book in the series, Lovelier than Daylight will be released this fall!