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Meet My Character Blog Hop

Karin Rita Gastreich, author of Eolyn and High Maga, tagged me on this blog hop. I’ve reviewed her first book, Eolyn, on this site. High Maga is just as engaging. Check out her website! You won’t be sorry!

So this blog hop comes at an amazing time! UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY just came out, and UNDER THE ALMOND TREES is due out May 18. I have a terrible problem, though–which character should I choose? Since the originator of this blog intended it to be historical fiction, I will concentrate on UNDER THE ALMOND TREES.

1. What is the name of my main character? Is he/she fictional or historical?

Ellen VanValkenburg was a real person who lived almost 100 years–from 1827 to 1922.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story begins in her family’s home in New York, 1850. It follows Ellen through two marriages and moving to California. Once there focus shifts to Emily Williams, sister of Ellen’s daughter-in-law, and wraps up with Eva VanValkenburgh, Ellen’s granddaughter. We see the remainder of Ellen’s life through Emily and Eva’s eyes. Eva was my own grandmother.

3. What should we know about her?

She truly loved her first husband, and wore black for the rest of her life after he died. Only her sister was able to talk her out of wearing black at her second wedding! I wish I had room in the novel to include the plethora of strong women in my family. Ellen’s sister Coelia owned a dress shop in San Francisco and patented an improved design in  undergarments. Her daughter, Mary Curtis Richardson, became a famous Impressionist artist. A cousin of Ellen and Coelia’s was courted by Mark Twain. Her father, however, refused to let her marry an artist. They remained lifelong friends. With such a wealth of characters, it was difficult to pare down the novel to just three.

4. What is the personal goal of the character?

Ellen and her sister got involved with women’s rights in New York before moving to California. It’s not until her second husband is killed, leaving her pregnant with their third child, that she really comes into her own. She runs his lumber mill in Santa Cruz, California, and chafes at the restrictions that being a woman impose on her. She strongly believes that being able to vote will give her the power she lacks.

5. What is the main source of conflict; what messes up her life?

All of society works against Ellen. Long before women focused on the right to vote, they worked for temperance and to abolish slavery. It wasn’t until twenty years after her arrival in California that Ellen sues the county of Santa Cruz to vote. While she was not a man hater, she was a strong woman with firm belief in the power of women. She never married again after her second husband’s death in 1862. When her three children near adulthood, Ellen wonders if she was really the mother they needed–but that’s getting too far into the story.

6. Is there a working title of this story and can we read more about it?

It’s called UNDER THE ALMOND TREES. You can find links to other reviews and  purchase locations under the tab at the top of this page for My Projects.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

May 18, 2014! It will be available as a paperback and ebook on Amazon.


Next week, visit Emily Thompson’s blog to meet her steampunk character. Her first book, Twist, is reviewed on this site. The second one, Trick, is just as good!

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