For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Shannon McNear. Shannon is a historical romance author and she’s here to talk about her latest historical novel Mary and the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. Her first novella, Defending Truth, from A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® nominee, and her most recent novella, The Wise Guy and the Star in Love’s Pure Light is a 2021 SELAH winner.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I’m Shannon McNear—military wife, homeschooling mom of many, history and research nerd, and though born in the lower Midwest, I lived in the South for a solid 25+ years before my husband took another job and we moved to North Dakota nine years ago. But I still say “y’all.” Before that, I was an intense book- and horse-crazy girl, and started writing my first novel at age 15.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Mary is book two in Daughters of the Lost Colony and is both a parallel story and sequel to Elinor. Reading book one is helpful but not necessary.
The book blurb, as written by my fabulous publisher:
Worlds Collide Along the Shores of the Outer Banks
Immerse yourself in the “what if” questions related to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. What if an English boy and a native girl met in the wilderness? The push-and-pull between two very different worlds begins as one seeks simple friendship and the other struggles to trust. And can it–dare they–allow it to be more?
Sparks fly between Mushaniq, free-spirited daughter of Manteo, and Georgie Howe, whose father was brutally murdered by undiscovered native warriors before they’d been on Roanoac Island a full week. As Georgie struggles to make sense of his life and to accept that not all they call “savage” are guilty of his father’s death, Mushaniq grapples with her own questions about who Manteo has become. As tentative friendship becomes more, forged in the fire of calamity and attack upon their community, both must decide whether the One True God is indeed who He claims to be and whether He is worthy of their trust.
What made you choose the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island as your setting?
My editor, Becky Germany, suggested the concept, but the story idea kind of ran away with me. 😊 The time period was somewhat out of my wheelhouse (my favorite before that was the later colonial era, especially the American Revolution) but I saw it as a challenge and didn’t want to be guilty of turning it down just because it was more difficult.
What research was required to set a book in a different historical time period?
Reading (and re-reading) of primary source accounts while studying the geography and overall history of the time as well as everything I could get my hands on about the Lost Colony—theory, archaeology, Native history and culture.
Did you need to, or have you, traveled to Roanoke Island?
Yes. 😊 Three times! I love the area and really want to go back.
What is Roanoke Island like today? How is it different from when the Lost Colony lived there?
The most obvious is the population. The island was actually just a seasonal hunting retreat for Native peoples of the time, so it was mostly overgrown. The walking trails near the Fort Raleigh park on the north side of the island and the wildlife refuge on the northwest side give you a taste of what that might have looked like. There’s also been quite a bit of erosion over the years—apparently there was once a whole cluster of tiny, hummocky islands between Roanoke and the mainland, which you can see on the John White map.
Were resources easy or difficult to find? Do you have a favorite resource?
Yes. (Both easy and difficult.) 😊 The internet really makes it all so much easier, although I discovered there were resources I thought I didn’t need that proved invaluable. My favorite on Native history and culture is a whole set of works by Helen Rountree. My favorite on the Lost Colony itself is probably the volume by Lee Miller and then definitely Scott Dawson’s work.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
Honestly, I had a hard time thinking of anything. There was more that fit into this category for Elinor than for Mary, but I suppose one thing is my wish I could have better captured Manteo’s experience in his two visits to England and the voyages there and back, around the perimeter of the Atlantic Ocean—all he would have seen and experienced.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I’m currently on deadline for Rebecca, #3 of Daughters of the Lost Colony. For this one, I created a fictional connection (or possibly fictional, LOL) between the Lost Colony and the original Jamestown, so it’s my Pocahontas story. (Rebecca is the name she took after being baptized as a Christian.) All I can tell you is—this is so not the Disney version! 😊
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Shannon, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Mary, where might they be able to do so?
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Over Sunday Dinner next week Heidi McCahan, a Love Inspired author, will join us. See you then!