ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shirley Connolly presently lives in Brookings, Oregon with her husband Tom. The two of them have served in the ministry together in some capacity for over 25 years. They have three children now grown. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Shirley states she began attempting her writing career early. Although her creative imagination and love for make-believe keep her active as an historical fiction writer of mostly romance, she also wears other hats penning devotionals, teaching, and speaking at women's retreats and small seminars. Also a lover of research, Shirley keeps her books as true to life as possible, while hoping to lace them gently with nuggets of inspiration that will draw not only the believer but also the seeker to her pages. She focuses her light-hearted devotionals on simple everyday living as books of encouragement to women young and old.
Visit her blog as well as her web site to learn more about her.
THE FLAME WITHIN
by Shirley Kiger Connolly
Published by Vintage Romance Publishing
ABOUT THE BOOK
A journey across the sea begins a journey of healing for Aimée's soul and a discovery of love and faith she thought she'd never find. When a Yankee-induced fire destroys her family and her home, young plantation-bred Amethyst Rose finds herself on the run. Angry towards God and the men in blue, Amethyst's only choice left is to move in with her elder and controlling sister, who runs a bordello in The French Quarter of New Orleans-a decision guaranteed to destroy Amethyst's personal respect and tarnish her family name. With her bitter hatred towards all Yankees plunged into high gear, nothing seems to matter anymore, until, on a riverboat en route to New Orleans, she finds herself intrigued by the presence of not one, but two Union officers. Each in his own way find ways to tug at the heart and soul of this woman lost.
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1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?
At first it was from reading an old romance about New Orleans back in the late 70s. I wanted something inspirational to read so I thought I would try to write one. But later, after my husband and I lived on the east coast and worked at the United States Military Academy (West Point) for a while and traveling to the Old South, we learned more about the history of the U.S. It was then I wanted to bring out my old manuscript and make it into a well-researched historical romance, not just a flimsy romance about a man and a woman.
2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that are theirs and theirs alone?
Good question! I don't see much of my own personal experience in the life of my heroine, Amethyst Rose or her situation, but as a pastor's wife, I would have to say my husband and I have dealt in the past with many dysfunctional families who have tried hard to mask the true nature of their characters around others before they have come to know the Lord. In the story I used some of those situations in a way to bring out the nature of Amethyst Rose. Readers may not read the specifics of what happens to her, but it is there nonetheless, written between the lines. Amethyst Rose (Aimee's) unspoken abusive past becomes part of the reason she begins her life so bitter and full of hatred but without anyone to share it with. A lot of healing needs to take place in her life. It is pretty interesting to see who she ends up admiring the most in the story to find her way to the truth!
3. What themes exist in The Flame Within that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
The main theme that exists throughout the story was the importance of love, acceptance, and forgiveness working together no matter who you are or from what station you come from. But the golden nugget that developed as the story progressed was compassion.
4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
I think the most difficult parts for me were getting the first five pages down the cleanest, and the ending done in a way that would make my reader want to say, "Ah, now where is the next book! Will there be a sequel?"
My favorite part to write was going back over the manuscript because I wanted to make it better. I could never get it just right. (I am not good at grammar. I know I will improve as I continue to grow as an author.) To me, there is always room for improvement.
I would also like to add what I did NOT like finding was the mistakes that were there and not corrected when the book came out and knowing it was then too late to fix them. I still have so much to learn. But I'm getting there. (It's interesting how they begin to jump out AFTER they are in print.)
5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?
I also write light-hearted nonfiction devotionals. I have a three-book series coming out beginning in 2009. And I am just about ready to finish up another historical fiction manuscript that takes place in the year 1877. This one is about a middle-aged backslidden mother with two illegitimate daughters who is anxious to finally be able to introduce her girls to their military father for the first time out in Kansas...that is, until everything under the sun begins to go wrong before they get there. I'm looking forward to sending that out soon.
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Thank you, Shirley, for being in the spotlight with us.
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