Gail: I’m excited to have with me today, Sandra Ardoin, author of The Yuletide Angel and her latest A Reluctant Melody. And let me take this moment to say if you haven’t read it you don’t know what you’re missing. I recommend picking up a copy today for your next summer read.
Hello, Sandy. Glad you could stop by and talk with us. I loved A Reluctant Melody! It had everything you could want in a novel. History, Suspense, Romance, and the Gospel. I enjoyed watching your characters grow in their Christian walk.
For those who haven’t had the chance to read it, would you please take this moment and tell us a little about it.
Sandra: Thank you for your kind words, Gail, and thank you for having me on your blog.
A Reluctant Melody is set in North Carolina in 1892. It’s a story of two people with a shared and sorry past. Joanna is haunted by the consequences of her sins. Kit knows he’s been forgiven of his sins, but can’t give up the idea of atoning for them. It’s a story of grace, redemption, and second chances. Here’s the back cover copy, which explains a little more:
Kit Barnes’ alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past.
Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life.
When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?
Gail: Nothing like a second chance story. In fact, it’s the story of our lives. I absolutely love reading them. I would love to hear why you chose to write one.
This story began with the Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel. I needed a problem for my hero Hugh, so I created a drunken brother, a rift between them, and a need for forgiveness. I decided to reform that brother (spiritually and physically) and have him visit Hugh, forcing Hugh to either forgive Kit for once dallying with the woman he’d hoped to wed (the rift), or not. If so, the brothers are given a second chance at a relationship.
As I wrote the novella, I became curious about Kit’s relationship with Joanna, the woman who caused the estrangement between the brothers. I guess I’m just a romantic, but I saw them as needing to be together and knew I had to write her story. In A Reluctant Melody, Joanna is in dire need of a second chance at understanding salvation and living a good life, however, she can’t see Kit being part of either one. However…well, it is a love story.
Gail: I know when I’m researching a story, truths often fall into my lap that I wasn’t looking for, but somehow it was the very thing I needed for the story and for myself. While researching the spiritual thread, did you come across something that made an impact on you?
You’re so right when you say truths fall into your lap. I love it when I’m working on a manuscript and the pastor says something during a sermon or I read something in my daily reading that stands out and I know the gist of it has to be put into my story. To me, those are faith-building moments, times when I witness God as my writing partner.
For A Reluctant Melody, I think the spiritual thread that stands out to me is Kit’s thinking he has to make amends for his mistakes in order to make everything right. Yes, there are consequences for sin, but he can’t “make everything right” and neither can we. He can’t do something good and wash away the past. Only Jesus can do that.
Personally, I’ve found my faith and my Biblical knowledge has grown stronger as I’ve written of characters who find that God can bring them through their struggles.
Gail: Let’s talk about research. I love history. I could get lost in researching the past! Of course, I know you love old pictures. What else did you do to prepare for your story?
Ha! Yes, I think my Facebook page shows how much I love the old photographs.
In choosing my setting, I came across information about a community in Charlotte, NC, and its creation. It had some unique elements—a park and manmade lake with recreational activities, a variety of housing and businesses, stops on the trolley system. Then, I spent a while drawing a map of my fictional town so I’d have my directions right in the story and could picture the sights my characters saw as they traveled from one place to another.
I also used a business directory for my area. In it, businesses were listed (both types and names), churches, government and law enforcement offices/titles, products raised and made. It was a wealth of information and allowed me to add little historical tidbits to the story as well as choose to center things around a broom factory. I researched the industry and watched numerous videos about the craft of broom-making. That was fun.
Gail: I enjoyed getting to know all of your characters. Not just Kit and Joanna, but the supporting cast. What made you decide to incorporate a used up boxer?
Ah, Donovan “Dynamite” O’Connor. What a sweet guy…sort of. As a writer, you know you can be writing along, minding your own business, when bam!, an unplanned character pops up. As Kit walked through town, he came across a man sleeping in an alley. The next thing I knew, the man hit him—not through meanness, it was simply a reaction when Kit tried to wake him from a sound sleep after a night of drinking. I asked myself why someone would strike out like that at a total stranger for no reason. That’s when I realized Dynamite was a former fighter down on his luck. He turned into an important player in the story and one of my favorite characters. Don’t you love it when that kind of thing happens?
Gail: I noticed Joanna’s love for music and her propensity to play an imaginary piano on her lap. Do you play?
I don’t play any instrument, but my daughter took piano lessons for years and we own a piano. However, I love music and will often surreptitiously “direct” the choir while seated in the pew. J Joanna has an amazing ability, but playing is also her way of escaping things that trouble her. So when she’s nervous or in the midst of some kind of difficulty, she plays the piano, even when one isn’t around.
Gail: Thank you, so much, for sharing your thoughts with us today, Sandy! Congratulations on the 5-star reviews. I’m looking forward to your next project.
Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, and antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.