For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Susan G Mathis to talk about her latest historical romance Mary’s Moment. Susan is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has ten in her fiction line including Mary’s Moment. Find out more at SusanGMathis.com.
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 something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I take an annual Thousand Islands book tour each summer to visit the islands, my fans, friends, and family, and research my next few projects. I grew up in the islands and have stayed on several, including in Singer Castle on Dark Island, setting for Devyn’s Dilemma; Casa Blanca, setting for Reagan’s Reward; and Calumet Island, setting for Peyton’s Promise. When my mom was alive, we’d take an annual trip to the Thousand Island Park on Wellesley Island where she told me about the two summers she spent serving her aunts in the Park, so I’m thrilled to have Mary’s Moment written in her honor.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
About 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 terrible 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 who she is 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 remember their budding relationship or be forever lost to him?
Readers of Christian historical romance will enjoy this exciting tale set in 1912 Thousand Island Park, NY.
Why did you choose to write a story set in Thousand Island Park?
My mother, Mary, inspired this story. When she was a young woman, she spent two summers serving her aunts in the Thousand Islands Park. Every summer she’d take me there for an ice cream at the Guzzle and tell me stories of her time in the Park. So, it was always my desire to write about it. When I began researching and discovered the tragedy of the three 1912 fires that nearly destroyed the Park, I had my story, especially because my mom nearly lost her father in a barn fire when she was just fourteen.
Is Thousand Island Park near where your previous books were located? (Find Susan’s past interviews here)
Yes, I grew up just twenty minutes from the Thousand Islands—the setting for all my stories—in upstate New York. TI Park is just over the Thousand Islands Bridge. Actually, half of the 1,864 islands are in NY and the other half in Ontario, Canada. So, I spent every summer and more 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.
In your book, there is a fire threat. Was this a unique event at that point in history or something that occurs every year?
The Great Fire of 1912 in the Thousand Island Park is seared into Thousand Island history, especially into the hearts and memories of the Park community. That summer, three major fires nearly destroyed the Park. Hot, dry, and busy, the area was primed for trouble. In May, eleven boathouses and three launches were destroyed in a riverfront fire (east of Thousand Island Park). In June, an entire block of new cottages burned down. The cottages were being rebuilt to replace cottages lost in a fire eight years prior. Then, in July, the Great Fire razed the Columbian Hotel and more than a hundred businesses and cottages to the north and east of today’s Commons.
How did the people of Thousand Island Park work to prevent fire? Is it the same or different than how we can prevent fires today?
Unfortunately, besides being very different fire prevention than today, the Park’s equipment was subpar, and being on an island, calling for help from the mainlands of New York and Ontario, Canada, took time. I detail the 1912 firefighting techniques in detail.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
I began researching online, in books, and with interviews. But greatest resource, was the very thorough book, Thousand Island Park: One Hundred Years, and Then Some: a Centennial Year History by Jr. Helen P. Jacox and Eugene B. Kleinhans, written in the 1970s. In it, the authors detail first-hand accounts of the Park and fires. With these details, I wove a story that is visceral, interesting, and I think, memorable.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
There were lots of heroes who help save people and property. I write about many of these.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
A Summer at Thousand Island House is coming out in July with Wild Heart Books. It’s part of their Gilded Age series.
About A Summer at Thousand Island House:
Thousand Island House, Alexandria Bay, NY
Addison Bell serves children of the Thousand Island House guests on Staple’s Island. Part nanny, part entertainer, she’s full of creative energy and endearing love for children. While thriving in her work, Addi’s vivacity attracts the attention of the recreation pavilion’s manager, Liam Donovan, as well as the handsome Navy Officer Lt. Worthington, a lighthouse inspector, hotel patron, and single father of mischievous little Jimmy.
When Jimmy goes missing while in Addi’s care and former President Chester Arthur finds the child a stowaway on his fishing boat, her job and reputation are endangered. How can she calm the churning waters of Liam, Lt. Worthington, and the President, clear her name, and avoid becoming the scorn of the Thousand Islands community?
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Technically, the sub-genre I write in is called “faction”—factual fiction. The setting and owners of that castle, mansion, or resort are all real characters and stories, and then I overlay fictional servants who tell the story. It’s rather complicated, but oh so much fun.
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 Mary’s Moment, where might they be able to do so?
You can find links to Mary’s Moment and all my books at https://www.susangmathis.com/fiction-books/
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
With Easter coming soon, Sunday Dinner will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. When we return, we’ll be chatting with author Penny McGinnis. See you then!