For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Susan G Mathis. Susan is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. She has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.
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 love to travel the world. I’ve been to more than 50 countries, spent more than nine months in South Africa, and still have quite a few more on my bucket list.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
It’s the Summer of 1904. Rachel Kelly serves the most elite patrons at the famed New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island. She has wondered about her old beau, Mitch, for nearly two years, ever since he toyed with her affections while on Calumet Island, then left for the high seas and taken her heart with him. Now he’s back, opening the wound she thought was healed.
Mitch O’Keefe returns to claim his bride but finds it more difficult than he thought. Returning to work at the very place he hated, he becomes captain of a New Frontenac Hotel touring yacht, just to be near Rachel. But his attempts to win her back are thwarted, especially when a wealthy patron seeks her attention. Who will Rachel choose?
Can you tell us more about the New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island in the 1904?
The New Frontenac Hotel graces Round Island in the St. Lawrence River. It was one of the grandest hotel resorts in the area. New York City tycoon Charles G. Emery built it, and Rachel gets to stay and work in the hotel’s Annex, where the most elite guests enjoy elegant suites.
Several famous guests visited the New Frontenac Hotel at that time. Can you tell us about them? Do they appear in your book?
William Howard Taft, Secretary of War in Teddy Roosevelt’s Administration, the Maharaja and Maharani of Baroda, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and Alva Belmont, the Russian Prince and Princess Engalitcheff, and a famous photographer, Chester Armstrong actually did stay at the hotel as did many other famous people. Rachel gets to meet all of them. I love adding these tidbits of information into my stories and letting my characters interact with them and learn from them.
Have you lived in or visited Round Island? Can you tell us more about where that is located?
I grew up just twenty minutes from the Thousand Islands—the setting for all my stories—in upstate New York. Actually, half of the 1,864 islands are in New York and the other half are in Ontario, Canada. So, I spent every summer exploring the beautiful region. I’ve stayed on several of the islands and camped and rented cottages there. So, after I wrote my debut novel about the largest island, Wolfe Island, I was hooked. There are so many fascinating stories to tell. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to visit Round Island, and the hotel isn’t there anymore. It burned to the ground in 1912.
What research was required to set a book there in the early 1900s?
I take an annual Thousand Islands Book Tour to the islands where I meet with fans, friends, and family. And I also take time to research my next stories. I’ve stayed in Singer Castle, Casa Blanca, and other places that are the settings of my book. I’ve talked with the owners of the islands, local historians, and researched in the Thousand Islands archives. And I’ve gleaned a lot of information from books, newspaper articles, and other reference materials.
All my novels are based on a specific place in the Thousand Islands and are the true stories of the owners of that island. So, my plot is generally true. Then I overlay the storyline of the fictional servants to create the story. This makes my stories a bit more challenging, but I love a good challenge.
You explore photography in your book. Can you tell us more about what that looked like in 1904?
It’s always fun to research new things, and I had fun learning about cameras and photography in 1904. The Century Camera was a favorite of professionals, and the Brownie was an all-around every man’s camera that was sold well into the 1960s. I actually played with one that I found in my attic growing up. So, of course, I added these as well as a handsome photographer who takes Rachel’s photograph and enters it into a contest.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
The internet is always a good place to start, but then I venture deeper into my topics. I never know where it will lead, and it’s always so much fun to add to my story.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
Did you know that George Eastman’s invention of photographic film camera changed the world? First sold in 1888, the first film camera had a single shutter speed and a fixed-focus lens. The “Kodak” had one hundred exposures loaded into it, but after the photos were taken, the camera had to be sent back to the factory to be processed and reloaded. By 1900, the Kodak company had developed box and folding cameras. The most popular, simple, and inexpensive was the “Brownie” that continued to be sold until the 1960s!
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
Yes, I have seven more planned. I just finished writing number ten, Mary’s Moment, and am working on eleven.
Here is the blurb for Mary’s Moment:
Thousand Island Park’s switchboard operator Mary Flynn is christened the community heroine for her quick action that saves dozens of homes from a fire. Less than a month later, when another disastrous fire rages through the Park, Mary loses her memory as she risks her life in a neighbor’s burning cottage. Will she remember the truth of her life or be deceived by a treacherous scoundrel?
Widowed fireman George Flannigan is enamored by the brave raven-haired lass and takes every opportunity to connect with Mary. But he has hidden griefs of his own that cause him great heartache. When George can’t stop the destructive Columbian Hotel fire from eradicating more than a hundred businesses and homes, he is distraught. Yet George’s greater concern is Mary … will she come to remember their budding relationship or be forever lost to him?
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Susan, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Rachel’s Reunion, where might they be able to do so?
You can get this and all my books on Amazon, Barnes&Nobles, etc. An easy way to do that is to go to my site and click the links. Easy as pie! www.SusanGMathis.com/fiction
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Please visit me at www.SusanGMathis.com and sign up for my newsletter to stay in touch and win fun prizes.
Sunday Dinner will return next week. See you then!