For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Carolyn Miller. Carolyn is an Australian author of contemporary and historical romance, longtime fan of Jane Austen and LM Montgomery, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives.
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’m fairly musical, and have written and recorded songs, including an album that was used in churches across Australia. I play keyboard and lead worship in church most Sundays. It’s partly why I love to incorporate characters who have music skills into my books – which I hope readers find relatable!
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
My most recent historical, Dawn’s Untrodden Green, is the third book in my Regency Wallflowers series (but can be read as a standalone). Here’s a bit about the story:
Not much happens in Theodosia Stapleton’s tiny Northumberland village. Certainly not to her. She has resigned herself to spinsterhood, caring for her ailing mother in the home of her grandfather, known to the locals as “General Contrary.” When her dear friend dies and leaves behind a daughter, it’s simple enough to take the child into her own quiet world. That is, until her ward’s famous uncle unexpectedly arrives and throws Theo’s tidy orbit completely off-kilter.
Fame was the last thing Daniel Balfour sought when he fought in the Peninsular War. But his brave exploits caught the attention of the King, and now the honors he was given hound him everywhere . . . even on his rushed trip to rescue his orphaned niece.
Theo’s quick wit and warm smile reassure him that Rebecca is in good hands, and he finds himself free to swiftly return to London and his responsibilities. But those caring hands are beginning to look like they could also safely hold his heart, and he’s tempted to linger. Unfortunately, marriage is simply not in the cards; the army is spouse enough for him.
Why did you choose to write a story set in England in 1813?
I’ve long been fascinated by the Regency era (1811-1820) as it was a time of great social and technological change. Add to this the challenge of soldiers returning to life after the Napoleonic wars and you have many fascinating stories to explore.
Have you lived in or visited England? What research was required to set a book there in the Regency era?
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to visit my sister in England a couple of times now. The first time I visited a number of places that I used as inspiration in my earlier books, such as the Cotswolds and London in The Elusive Miss Ellison, Brighton (The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey), Bath (Winning Miss Winthrop – you can see my pictures online here), and Scotland which I used in Misleading Miss Verity. During my most recent visit (in May this year) I made sure to visit the Lake District which is where I set Dusk’s Darkest Shores, and Northumberland, which is the setting for my most recent two Regency books, Midnight’s Budding Morrow and Dawn’s Untrodden Green.
And while I’d love to visit for longer, because I live in Australia I’ve had to rely on the trusty internet for most of my research. It’s fascinating to see what you can discover online! I also have had access to some fabulous reference books, and have enjoyed using everything from books about the architectural plans for Brighton’s Marine Pavilion (used in The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey) to 1800s-era art magazines that I came across in a local market, that proved perfect for research in Miss Serena’s Secret. God is good in making things happen, even when you live on the opposite side of the world!
Your characters tend to be older, less pretty, and not titled than the common Regency characters. Can you tell us more about why you chose to write about that side of the era?
I’ve read a lot of books (and written a few too!) about the usual kinds of heroines who often seem to be pretty, young, from aristocratic backgrounds, and with money, and to be honest I was getting a little tired of reading the same kind of story. While we may love the glamor of Pride and Prejudice-style stories there are equally important tales to be told about those who are a little more relatable – who aren’t beautiful, who didn’t have the advantages of money or social connections.
When soldiers returned from the Napoleonic wars they were grossly outnumbered by women, and as so many men had died it meant a lot of women in that era didn’t marry. And many of those ‘left on the shelf’ would’ve been the ladies deemed less attractive, less monied, etc etc. Writing the Regency Wallflowers series allowed me to ‘redeem’ these women and make them the stars of their social spheres. Just as God delights in redemption, so I enjoyed showing just how worthy and wonderful women without good looks, fame or fortune could be – that they are just as worthy of a handsome hero (& a book!) as any pretty young thing. ☺
You also write about soldiers returning to war. What types of research did you do in order to write about their experiences?
I came across some soldier’s notebooks that had been put into digital records online, which made for fascinating reading, as they gave all kinds of details about not only battles, but how they interacted with each other and their superiors, their deprivations, health crises, and more. There were so many fascinating accounts, like “Letters from Flushing” written by an unknown officer from the 81st regiment who wrote of one of the commanding officers who took his pet turtles to war, while troops under his command suffered from illness and cold and were forced to share one blanket between twelve men!
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
One of my favorite resources for Dawn’s Untrodden Green was the Northumberland Archives, which includes digitized copies of everything from marriage certificates to photographs, maps, manuscripts and more. I also loved reading accounts of ‘Toll-booth’ marriages, where runaway couples would cross the border to elope, which often saw some hilarious accounts of desperate people – both the couple in love, and those frantically trying to stop them. I loved including an aspect of this in several scenes in Dawn’s Untrodden Green, too.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
Well, I do love that turtle story… (honestly, how could any person rate turtles as deserving more care than the men who are giving their lives to protect their country?)
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
In addition to writing Regency books I have a number of other contemporary books I’m writing as well, and I’m excited about Muskoka Spotlight, the next book in my Muskoka Romance series, out next month.
For any Anne of Green Gables / LM Montgomery fans, Muskoka is the real location for ‘Mistawis’ in LM Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. I visited this part of Ontario, Canada a few years ago and have since set a number of books there, and have had so much fun writing about characters who enjoy Jane Austen and Anne of Green Gables – just like me! Muskoka Spotlight is a fun small-town story about an aged-home carer and a movie star who’s in hiding – so it has some similar themes to Dawn’s Untrodden Green, with a hero wanting to stay incognito who finds genuine connection with a woman who might seem too ordinary for the extraordinary things God wants to do through her.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’d love for readers to come visit my website and sign up for my newsletter (if they do they’ll get a free book!). I have loads of pictures from my research and travels there, so if people are interested in knowing more, they can find out plenty of behind-the-scenes details at www.carolynmillerauthor.com
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Carolyn, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Dawn’s Untrodden Green where might they be able to do so?
You can get your copy at Amazon, and all locations where good books are sold.
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Thanks so much for having me!
Over Sunday Dinner next week, author Tanya Stowe will be joining us. See you then!