Welcome, reader friends! It’s almost a week now since Kelly Goshorn’s debut novel, A Love Restored, entered the world, and it’s been getting some fantastic reviews. If you missed mine earlier this week, you can find it here. Today, I’ve invited Kelly to chat with us about her novel, and she’s even offering you all the chance to win a copy of her novel!
~ About the Author ~
Kelly Goshorn weaves her affinity for history and her passion for God into uplifting stories of love, faith and family set in nineteenth century America. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Kelly has been enjoying her own happily-ever-after with her husband and best friend, Mike, for 28 years. Together they have raised three children, four cats, two dogs, a turtle, a guinea pig, a gecko, and countless hamsters. Thankfully, not all at the same time. When she is not writing, Kelly enjoys spending time with her young adult children, scrapbooking with friends, board gaming with her husband, and spoiling her Welsh corgi, Levi.
~ About the Book ~
With pert opinions and a less-than-perfect figure, Ruth Ann Sutton doesn’t measure up to Society’s vision of a perfect lady. When she accepts a position teaching in a Freedman’s School, it threatens the only marriage offer Ruth Ann is likely to receive. She’s forced to choose between life as a lonely spinster or reinventing herself to secure a respectable proposal.
Determined to rise above his meager beginnings, Benjamin Coulter’s reputation as a fast learner and hard worker earns him the opportunity to apprentice with a surveyor for the railroad—a position that will garner the respect he craves. After a chance encounter with Ruth Ann Sutton, Benjamin is smitten with her pretty face, quick wit, and feisty personality. When others ridicule his choice, will Benjamin listen to his heart or put ambition first?
~ Author Chat ~
Thanks for joining me today, Kelly. Let’s start off with a ‘flight of fancy’. How would you finish the following statements?
If I could travel anywhere in time and space, it would be to…witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence or watch Martin Luther tack the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg Door or cheer for the suffragettes as they cast their vote or listen to Jesus teach the Sermon on the Mount or observe Neil Armstrong step on the moon or…as you see this is a very difficult question to pose an indecisive historical romance author.
Lol! There are a few of those I wouldn’t mind seeing myself!
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…doing the dishes! It seems like a never-ending cycle in my house! Truthfully, it doesn’t even take that long. I think its just as I said there is always another dirty dish!
I have to say, audiobooks have given me a new appreciation for doing the dishes!
If I was an animal, I would be a…turtle! Although many would assume I’d choose a corgi because I’m more than a little obsessed with my dog, I’d have to go with a turtle because I’m the world’s slowest writer! EVER! I just keep plodding along unti I type “The End.” LOL! Team turtle for the win!
And low and behold, slow and steady has won the race. 🙂 Although for a minute there, I thought you were about to confess to being an introvert and wanting a place to hide at will. 😉
If I could only eat one type of fruit for the rest of my life, I would pick…apples. Although they are not necessarily my favorite fruit, there are lots of varieties, they last a long time, AND you can bake with them. A world without my husband’s homemade apple pie (including a crust from scratch) is not something I want to imagine.
Mmmm… Apple pie…
If I could say one thing to my younger self, it would be…not to give up. I spent most of my life trying and quitting, often before I’d even truly failed, because somehow it was better to quit on my own terms rather than give it everything I had and possibly still come up short. I’d tell myself to dream big, reach for the stars, trust God, and keep trying!
I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one who could use that advice!
If I could have one superpower, it would be…zoolingualism (talking to animals). I think it would be fascinating to communicate with animals—to know what they are thinking and feeling, especially my beloved corgi, Levi.
Aaaaand…now I have Rex Harrison in my head! 😄
Okay, let’s talk about A Love Restored. What was your inspiration for this story?
A Love Restored is based on my true-life love story with my husband, Mike—all of our ups and downs, including our emotionally devastating break up. When I first began writing, I tinkered with a story about Irish mail-order brides (the whole mail order bride thing just fascinates me). Hubby read it, told me it “wasn’t bad,” then suggested I write our story. Skeptical, I questioned him. “Are you sure. I mean you don’t look so good in that story for a long time.” He grinned and responded, “Yeah, but I think it turned out all right.” I’d have to agree. We celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary in mid-June.
He’s a brave man! And happy wedding anniversary. ❤
This story begins in Virginia in 1873-74. Why this particular setting, and what do you enjoy most about this time period?
I think ever since I read the Little House series of books I’ve been fascinated with post-Civil War American history. I think it was the optimism and ingenuity of the time. Although I tend to romanticize the era, both in my mind and my writing, I think it was a simpler time. The world was a much smaller place for the average citizen then. Success and failure were more easily defined, and society had a moral cohesiveness it lacks today. But the reason I chose this particular setting is that I was born and raised in north-western Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. I can’t imagine living anywhere I’d enjoy as much or find as beautiful. My fictionalized town of Catoctin Creek is loosely based on my hometown of Purcellville, Virginia. In 1874, the Washington & Ohio railroad opened their station in Purcellville, an event that I capture in A Love Restored. My hero, Benjamin Coulter, is an apprentice surveyor with a Land Mapping Agency responsible for the route the new rail line will take.
Your heroine Ruth Ann Sutton is considered to have a ‘less-than-perfect figure’. What was society’s idea of beauty in the 1870s, and how much has it changed between then and now?
Great question, Katie! In her book The Victorian Woman’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners author Therese O’Neil reviews various lady’s beauty and fashion magazines of the era to dispel the romantic myths of Victorian womanhood. According to her research, a woman’s figure should “not be boney but have pleasing curves.” Not heavy, as overweight women were often instructed to drink water with lemon to purge the fat from their bodies or prescribed medications with dangerous ingredients like arsenic, strychnine, cocaine and, believe it or not, tapeworm larvae. Ewww. Skinny women didn’t have an easy time of it either. To increase their appetite, O’Neil writes they were told to lie still, as often as possible, in dim light, and “to avoid anxiety and endeavor to feel indifferent to every sensation.” I’m not even sure what that means. Lady’s magazines also gave advice to upperclass gentleman toward the appearance of women they were considering for a lifelong mate. Very small waists were a red flag and considered “a sign that the woman in question had weak organs and an overly delicate constitution,” O’Neil writes. Robust women were considered gluttonous and “may not lend themselves toward wise decisions regarding household finances.”
Do you think women had an easier time with self-image when media wasn’t so prevalent?
A Love Restored received some criticism early on from editors who didn’t think women of this era would struggle with their appearance the way my heroine Ruth Ann does, and I was encouraged to set the story as a contemporary romance. I couldn’t disagree more. To steal a line from Beauty & the Beast, women primping to catch the eye of men and basing their self-worth on that ability is “a tale as old as time.” The good Lord created man to be attracted by the physical outward appearance of things around him, and He designed a woman’s figure to do just that. While I do think the constant bombardment of images we face today selling everything and anything based on sex appeal poses great challenges for modern women, our Victorian sisters were groomed from childhood for their most important mission in life—securing a wealthy husband. If that isn’t pressure on your physical appearance, I’m not sure what is. While many women today may desire to marry someday, they have numerous options for meaningful lives without marriage and children if they choose. Their complete identity and purpose isn’t wrapped up in securing a man’s attention like in the Victorian era. Victorian women also had strict codes of behavior and standards for their appearance. Ladies Magazines like Godeys’s Lady’s Book were chock full of articles on standards for beauty regiments and fashion just like today’s Cosmo. And let’s not forget the torturous corset designed to lift the bosom and shrink the waist. Why? To catch the attention of men.
We really haven’t changed as much as we think we have, have we?
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
I found it challenging to write our characters, Ruth Ann and Benjamin, who both struggle to come to terms with Ruth Ann’s fuller-figure, without making her look weak and pathetic nor him looking shallow. I hope readers find them to be strong, good-hearted characters struggling with very human flaws who look to God and scripture for guidance and healing.
Definitely a challenge! But your reviews to date seem to confirm it was also a job well done. 🙂
What did you enjoy most about writing Ruth Ann’s character?
I think showing Ruth Ann’s journey to self-acceptance would be my favorite aspect of writing her character. At the beginning of the story she is plagued by self-doubt about her appearance because of the unkind things that have been spoken to her about her fuller-figure. She repeats these unkind things to herself until they come to define who she thinks she is. Watching her blossom into the strong, resilient woman she wants to be and seeing her character accept herself as a beautiful, Godly woman still makes me teary.
I’m sure you won’t be the only teary one!
What did you enjoy most about writing Benjamin Coulter’s character?
Showing readers what a jewel my husband, Mike, really is through Benjamin’s character. Like my husband, Benjamin makes Ruth Ann laugh, holds her accountable to herself, and is very generous with his time and talents. He is extremely intelligent, and like my husband, Benjamin woos Ruth Ann with his guitar and teases her about her not-so-stellar singing voice. Like my husband, Benjamin also struggled with his pride and let vows, words he’d spoken over himself, dictate his choices. Benjamin’s journey is about finding the courage to challenge society’s idea of what success and beauty look like as well as trusting God’s plan for his life.
I’m pretty sure he’s not alone in that struggle!
Was there any historical tidbit you found especially interesting that you were able to incorporate into your story?
Definitely. I already knew I wanted my heroine to be a teacher like myself, but while researching A Love Restored, I came across a reference to a threatening note written by townspeople to a white teacher, Fannie Wood, schooling Negroes in a Freedman’s school. Although that particular incident took place in a town about forty-five minutes from where A Love Restored takes place, it really birthed the entire secondary plot line about the racial tension in the community when Ruth Ann takes on a similar assignment. Although the situation in nearby Warrenton, Virginia, did not escalate as tragically as it does in A Love Restored, there are many reports of extreme violence throughout the south during the Reconstruction years toward Freedman’s schools.
I so admire the men and women who braved social censure and worse to help Freedmen, women and their families.
What has writing this story meant to you as an author?
Of course I’m thrilled that A Love Restored earned a publishing contract with Pelican Book Group, but more than that, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds through this process. My writing journey began with a simple prayer for the Lord to give me a passion to serve Him in some way. But the path that lay ahead would not only prove to be challenging from a craft point of view, it would require me to face my biggest personal and spiritual obstacle—the fear of failure. What I discovered is that God sees not only who we are, but who we can be when we place our trust in Him. He calls us to tackle our biggest obstacles so that we can rest in total dependence on Him. Wherever the writing journey takes me, I’ve been irrevocably changed. There’s no going back and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Amen! Thanks for chatting with me today, Kelly!
~ Giveaway ~
Kelly is giving away a copy of her novel A Love Restored to one lucky person who comments on my blog. If the winner lives in the U.S., the prize will be a choice between either a paperback OR an eBook copy of the novel, and if the winner lives outside of the U.S., the prize will be an eBook copy of the novel. To enter, comment below and let us know if you have ever had to reconsider a resolution or promise you made to yourself (or just say Hi!), and then click here to go to the Rafflecopter form and enter your details: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bd61d44b35/?
Giveaway ends 11:59pm on 11 July 2018 EST.