TODAY ON THE YIELDED QUILL: A THREE-FER
So press in and say hello to Kathleen Fuller (The Calling), Margaret Brownley (A Pony Express Christmas), and Cynthia Hickey (A Christmas Castle).
Ladies, what made you write about your period in time?
Margaret - I love writing about the 1800s. The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian traditions, rigid manners and confining clothes and that’s not all they did; they brought churches, schools and newspapers to frontier towns, and helped build communities. The gun might have won the west, but it was the women who tamed it.
How is Christmas celebrated in your family and what effect did it have on your writing this story?
Kathleen - We have a very simple Christmas celebration—usually just my immediate family. We often go to Christmas Eve service, then open presents on Christmas morning and spend the rest of the day relaxing or playing games. When my children were small we would celebrate with a birthday cake for Jesus. But the celebration always centers around family. In creating the Christmas celebration in The Calling, there is a feeling of everyone being part of one family for one night.
Margaret - The hero and heroine in my story celebrate Christmas in an abandoned Pony Express station with a mule. If they saw my family Christmas extravaganzas they would have thought we belonged to the royal family.
Cynthia - Christmas is a very big deal in my family. My husband and I have a “yours, mine, and ours” family which gave us seven children and five grandchildren. On Christmas Eve, we have a huge breakfast. Our now grown children and grandchildren come over to eat and open gifts. On Christmas day, we start off with a prayer and a toast, then put something in Jesus’s stocking that only we can give him. Then we start on our own gifts. Later that day, we meet back with everyone for dinner and White Elephant gifts. The season is a big deal for us as we celebrate the birth of Christ
What research did you do to authenticate Christmas celebrations in your story?
Kathleen - I’ve written about the 19th century before, so I didn’t have to do much research about the celebrations. They were simple, and much like what I do now, very family oriented.
Margaret - Absolutely none. I wanted their Christmas celebration to be simple and rustic given the times and conditions.
Cynthia - Although I live in the Phoenix metropolitan area, I had to research the Tucson weather. Even that two hour drive can change things. Who knew it sometimes snowed in Southern Arizona? I also had to do some research on dugouts (basically a hole in the ground) since, thankfully, I’ve never had to live in one.
When you dreamed up your story idea, what came first, the time period, the story, the location?Kathleen - Location—I was very excited to set the story at Unionville Tavern, which is a real tavern in Unionville, OH. Unionville Tavern is currently unused, but there has been an effort to “save” it from further erosion and deterioration. Not only was it a stop on the stagecoach route from Buffalo to Cleveland (like in my story) but during the Civil War it was also a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Margaret - I’ve always wanted to write a Pony Express story but couldn’t figure out how to make it work. So the first thing that came to mind was why not have them celebrate Christmas in an abandoned Pony Express station?
Cynthia - The abode came first, then the story around it. I chose the location because dugouts were commonly used as Arizona was being settled.
What was the "germ" of your story idea and how did you flesh it out?Kathleen - Once I found out about the stagecoach stop, I immediately came up with the idea of a traveler stopping at the tavern on a regular basis. Then the idea blossomed to a story of a man who believed he was called to preach to the western pioneers. Like Jonah, he questions not only himself, but God.
Margaret - My heroine is searching for her brother, a former Pony Express rider. I was surprised to discover how little information is available on the Pony Express. It was only in service for 18 months and some station keepers didn’t bother to keep records. As a result little is known about many of the riders. We don’t even know where all the stations were located.
Cynthia - The germ of the story was contentment and the reason for the season. Most people today would have a hard time being content and celebrating while living in a hole in the ground.
Would you like to have been there?Kathleen - Definitely. Even now when I drive past the tavern, I imagine what it would have been like back in the day.
Margaret - I was there or at least it seemed that way when I was writing the story.
Cynthia - Yes, I think I would. Especially when the characters discovered that love makes any home a castle.
What aspects of your characters are reflected in yours?Kathleen - My characters struggle with doubt, something I also struggle with. I also wonder if I’m following God’s lead in the choices I make in my life. I was able to confront some of those issues as I wrote this story.
Margaret - Determination and stubbornness. Also, abiding faith.
Cynthia - I’ve learned to be content with where God has placed me. It took a long time, but I have finally arrived J
Have you been to the locations in which your story is set?
Kathleen - Yes, several times. The tavern is only a few miles from my home.
Margaret - My story takes place in Nebraska and yes, I’ve been there. Of course, it looks nothing like it did in the 1800s.
Cynthia - I’ve been to Tucson, yes, but not far into the desert where the ranches are. I visited Old Tucson once and watched a reenactment of a gunfight. Unfortunately, Old Tucson burned town quite a while back.
What surprised you the most about your story?Kathleen - How the theme is threaded through the story from beginning to end. I rarely know the theme of my books until I’ve finished them, and that was the same with this story. It’s always cool to see how everything comes together.
Margaret - The end surprised me the most because I had no idea what would happen until I got there. (But then of course I never do.)
Cynthia - How much my heroine cared for her late husband even though she’d never met him.
Would you have made a good pioneer?Kathleen - I’d like to think so, but then again, I like my comfort zone. Being a pioneer takes a lot of courage and an adventurous spirit. I do enjoy traveling, so I think I would have been one of those people who went west once it got too crowded in the cities.
Margaret - I would have made a great pioneer providing I had a modern bathroom and good mattress.
Cynthia - I doubt it. I like my air conditioning.
Were any of your ancestors pioneers? If so, where and when?Kathleen - Not pioneers but immigrants—both sets of grandparents emigrated from Europe. So they were pioneers in their own way.
Margaret - Crossing an ocean to get here makes them pioneers, right?
Cynthia - My great grandfather was the first white baby born in Nebraska Territory. His family owned a stagecoach stop and trading post. Someday, I’ll write a story based on true historical facts.
What spiritual themes did you deliberately incorporate into your story? Which ones did you discover later?Kathleen - I didn’t deliberately incorporate a theme, unless you call the Jonah story a theme. The theme of family celebration came about at the end of the story—I realized that the people who were stranded on Christmas Eve had come together as a family to celebrate Christ’s birth.
Margaret - The story involves the Chimney Rock in Nebraska and the spiritual theme is God is my rock. But family love and loyalty is also a strong theme.
Cynthia - I rarely deliberately put themes into my stories. I prefer the theme to come naturally. Contentment was the key to this story. I hope I pulled it off. J