Behind the Story is a new regular feature on my blog where you get the chance to know an author as well as her book. Find out what inspired the story, get to know the characters.
For my first post, I’m so excited to introduce you to Andrea K. Stein, who’s book “Fortune’s Horizon” was released last week. Let’s give Andrea a warm welcome.
Tell us about “Fortune’s Horizon”
“Fortune’s Horizon” is tale of Civil War blockade-runners. A spoiled American heiress tangles with an arrogant British sea captain on a mission for the Confederacy on the high seas.
She risks everything to deliver gold to the Confederacy. Lillie Coulbourne marks time in Paris while the Civil War rages back home. In the midst of translating dispatches from the Confederacy for the French Finance Ministry, she accepts a spy mission through the Union blockade. When the captain of the only blockade-runner headed back to a Southern port won’t deal with women, or spies, she sneaks aboard as his cabin boy.
He refuses to risk his ship, or his heart. Blockade-runner Captain Jack Roberts has never been caught and he’s not about to let a spoiled American heiress ruin his perfect record. After he discovers her deception, he fails miserably at keeping her at arm’s length and vows to send her packing on the first mail ship back to England.
When she surprises him with her skill as a seaman and navigator, he grudgingly allows her to finish the run. But ultimately, he has to choose what is closer to his heart – Lillie or his ship.
What inspired you to write this book?
I spent a number of years working with a British delivery captain. We took many boats out of Charleston Harbor to destinations up and down the Caribbean. One night we discovered from a local history buff that the blockade runners during the Civil War would anchor near where we were waiting for our boats to be commissioned. There was a mill nearby where they would load cotton bales for the run back out.
Both of my main characters are based on the lives of real people who grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let go. Lillie Hitchcock Coit of San Francisco lived through many of the same adventures as my heroine. Charles Augustus Hobart-Hampden, the third son of the sixth Earl of Hampden, ran the blockade many times and was never caught. A post captain on half pay from the Royal Navy at that time because England was not at war, he sailed under the alias of Captain Jack Roberts. There is no way to know if their paths ever crossed, but I like to think they might have.
What do you love best about the hero and heroine?
Jack grew up in an aristocratic family with high expectations. When he failed at the exclusive private school where his father and all his brothers were educated, he was sent off to the Navy as a boy of thirteen. His unflinching honor and sense of responsibility for all who serve under him came from his brutal experiences in that life. Lillie represents everything he thinks he doesn’t deserve.
Lillie grew up in an unconventional family. Her mother was a dedicated Southerner, her father, a surgeon in the Union Army. Lillie grew up surrounded by her father’s doting fellow soldiers. They taught her to shoot and ride. She also traveled extensively with her mother on long journeys back to her family plantation in the South.
When she first meets Jack at his family estate during a weekend house party, there is a collision of cultures. She is everything a proper young English woman isn’t. She’s irrepressible and says exactly what she thinks. And she doesn’t care. Her behavior is so outrageous and his attraction so strong to a much younger, unsuitable woman, that Jack flees back to his ship at the first opportunity.
What was the hardest thing about writing the book? Any tough scenes? Emotional ones that choked you up?
Lillie’s first taste of the deprivations families faced behind the lines of war was very hard to write. I relied on letters and journals of women who lived through the war in the South. Even harder was making sure her character arc changed in reaction to what she saw. Before that, war seemed a grand and glorious adventure to her. After that, she had to grow as a woman.
Tell us about you and your life.
I live and write full-time in the Colorado Rockies, but volunteer in the winter as a safety patroller with ski patrol at a resort near here. We assist with traffic control at wrecks and ski trails looking for guests who need help. I worked full-time with ski patrol for seven years and got to know a lot of great rescue professionals. They now grace the covers of my novels as “working hero” models. I am also a certified sea captain who teaches sailing and conducts tours in the summer on a mountain lake. I retired early from careers in news writing and editing, printing, and publishing.
What’s next? Is this book a sequel?
“Fortune’s Horizon” is the first of four titles coming out in 2015. All of the releases are romances set on the high seas, but in different time periods. The second release, “Secret Harbor,” (May 2015) is set in 1759 in the sugar islands. In that title, a French Caribbean widow and plantation owner risks everything to save the crew of a charismatic smuggler. Release #3 (August 2015) is a sequel to “Fortune’s Horizon,” and #4 (November 2015), a sequel to “Secret Harbor.” Both sequels are novellas.
Any quirky or fun facts about the writing process that you learned from writing this book?
I spent a lot time trying to over-organize my books, and then had an epiphany — my process is what it is. My writing flows much better when I use the following formula: When characters try to crawl into my head or under my skin, I let them. No more making them wait until my current WIP is put to bed. If the intruder is a character from the current WIP, I don’t make him follow the scene outline. I listen carefully to how they interact with each other. If she says or does something outrageous, I don’t let her get away with it. The other character in the room, or on the ship, reacts. If she needs a spanking, she gets a spanking. If she needs a hug, she gets a hug. And yes, I realize, in a “normal” profession, my coworkers would have called in a therapist by now.
You can buy Andrea’s book, “Fortune’s Horizon” at Amazon. Available soon from other outlets
One lucky commenter will win a copy of Fortune’s Horizon. Here’s an excerpt from Fortune’s Horizon:
After Martha swept out of the room, Lillie jumped off the bed to find Giselle laying out her clothes. A steaming tub of water tempted her in the far corner. She shed her mud-soaked traveling dress and sank into the water with a sigh of relief. Her maid held her hair up and began skillful spot repair of the mud damage in her heavy, dark curls.
Nothing like a short nap and hot water to lift a girl’s spirits. She had begun to rally her strength when there was a knock at the door. Her maid adjusted the screen around the tub and went to investigate.
“Lillie, you’ll never guess who we’ve drawn for partners.” Sarah’s bright, annoyingly chipper voice floated across the top of the screen.
“Please,” she groaned. “Tell me it’s not the ‘odious one.’”
“Yes, and I’m to go in with his friend, Edward.”
“Is there a gun anywhere out there?”
“Of course not. Why would you ask such a horrible question?”
“I was hoping you could just shoot me and get it over with. At the rate this whole affair is going, I’m probably going to be shot as a spy eventually, anyway. If we do it now, then I won’t have to endure all the torture in between.”
“It’s only dinner,” Sarah said. “We can maneuver them between us at the table so they’ll talk to each other and ignore us.”
Lillie stood, reached for the drying sheet her maid handed her, and moved resolutely toward her clothing.
Author Andrea K. Stein lives and writes at 9,800 feet in the Rocky Mountains, just fifteen minutes from the Continental Divide. A retired newspaper editor, she is a USCG certified sea captain who spent a number of years delivering yachts out of Charleston Harbor to destinations up and down the Caribbean. Many nights her ships were moored near the site where blockade-runners took on loads of cotton for the run back out through the Union blockade during the Civil War.
You can find Andrea on Facebook, Twitter, and at http://www.andreakstein.com
Your book sounds as interesting as your life, Andrea. Great to meet you! Oh, and I love your blog, Eileen! 🙂
Thank you Dora! Thanks for stopping by. I love that Andrea is tackling the Civil War.