Susan started writing novels in her mid-thirties at the encouragement of her twin sister, who said, "Write something for me, and I'll read it." She has completed five novels and has currently published three of them. The first two are contemporary Christian fiction and the other three are historical fiction, all with serious themes but with a dash of romance.
Life with the Huguenots
My fifth novel, Ellen's Endeavors, was just released last Saturday. In many ways, this book was the most labor-intensive of all of them. It occurred not just in a historical setting, like its prequel Johanna's Journey, but with a specific group of people that many Americans know little about - including myself before I started researching them!
The Huguenots were French Protestants in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France, followers of Jean Calvin (aka John Calvin). Although theologically they resembled the Puritans in England, they differed from the Puritans in the fact that they lived in an overwhelmingly Catholic country and had relatively little political power. As a result, they suffered severe persecution at different points in their history, to the point where there were nearly eradicated in France. Many Huguenots fled the country during these persecutions, ending up in Switzerland, England, Holland, and America.
Ellen's story takes place in America, when Ellen escapes her broken heart by traveling with her friend to a small town in New York settled by Huguenots. (This town, although fictional, was based on New Rochelle, NY.) Although the characters have left France, several flashback scenes describe their trials and persecutions in their home country, which become relevant as the story progresses. To research this time period, I traveled to New Paltz and New Rochelle, both towns settled by the Huguenots in America, and also read several books, one about the first-hand experiences of a French galley slave!
I also needed to research various medical procedures, since Ellen as an aspiring midwife helps to deliver a baby and also amputate a leg. I read a whole book about smallpox in order to describe a case in the story.
Writing Ellen's Endeavors was a lot of work, but also fun and educational as well. I hope that my readers will learn something about history while reading a great story!