Our interview today is with Lucinda Sue Crosby as she discusses her book Francesca of Lost Nation (4.8 stars, 21 reviews). Before we get to the interview a brief book description: This book is about an unconventional 59-year old woman, Francesca, and her resourceful 10-year old granddaughter, Sarah, who share the adventures of a lifetime over the summer of 1947 in Lost Nation, Iowa. Together, they enchant barnstorming pilots, wow Clinton County Fair attendees, conquer the skies, confront an escaped arsonist, discover how Lost Nation got its intriguing name, and eventually demonstrate to one another the greatest truth about love. Anyone who loves their grandmother will enjoy reading this Romance Fiction about family, friendship and strong women.
Author Interview with Laura Dobbins
1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance the story?
There were two main reasons for the Iowa circa 1947 setting of Francesca of Lost Nation. The first and most important is that the book’s title character was based on a real person who was born in the early 1890s on a farm in Iowa. The story encapsulates the life and times of small town mid-western life in a rural community – and whenever I think of that stage setting, I naturally think of Iowa.
The second reason is that 1947 was a year of optimism and peace not to mention bustling commerce for America. It was a year when the idea of who we are at our core and where we were headed as a nation existed in happy upheaval. Rosie the Riveter and her sisters were returning home from the work force but they didn’t stay home long. Military men and women were returning from duty, bringing their visible and invisible scars with them. Radio and air travel were becoming mainstream/ordinary, thereby expanding our experience of other regions and other countries. The US was opening up technologically, culturally, educationally.
2. What specific themes did you wish to emphasize throughout the novel? What were you trying to get across to the reader?
In this story, we encounter the sometimes devastating consequences of sibling rivalry, a July October love affair under the constant scrutiny of quirky small town gossips and a solid life-long friendship between two people who were born 60 years apart. So, an examination of familiar yet unusual relationships would have to top the list of themes.
I also wanted to highlight the desirability of certain character traits over a lifetime in a way that was naturally embedded in the give-and-take of conversations about things that matter: Courage; individuality; curiosity;resourcefulness; a tidy soul; generosity of spirit; the ability to embrace change.
3. Do you feel the characters seem real and believable? What about their predicaments? To what extent were they based on you or someone you know?
Many of the plot points actually happened. Which ones? Good question. Let’s just say that about half the narrative actually occurred over my grandmother’s lifetime and leave it at that. As a child, I spent hundreds of hours at her feet listening to stories about her life and drank it all in like milk and honey. Additionally my relationship with my grandmother echoes the one in the book to a great degree.
Since the story is character driven, I placed as much emphasis on the emotional peril and many uncomfortable implications of Francesca and Matt’s growing regard for one another as I did on the danger presented by “The Scarecrow.”
Put another way, I focused on how The Scarecrow affected Sarah through her love for Babe the dog or how The Scarecrow ignited a young girl’s bravery along side the threat he posed.
Additionally,I worked hard on all my beloved townsfolk, even those with lesser roles, until I found them vivid, multi-faceted and displaying relatable idiosyncrasies. I hope the reader sometimes gets that “fly-on-the-wall” feeling – especially in scenes between Matt and Francesca and Francesca and Sarah.
4. How do your characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
The 10-year-old Sarah comes of age – and so, in a funny way, does her grandmother,Francesca. They each make peace with important and difficult experiences past and present and wrestle with the idea of a future neither could have foreseen.The idea of Daddy boys moving his family to New York to take up his writing career in earnest presents a scary new frontier for everyone. But Sarah and Francesca face the biggest gains and losses by far and we see that fallout as it happens.
In a specific example, Sarah realizes that her grandmother is a woman, a human being apart from herself. That is significant. When a child looks at a caregiver/parent/guardian and sees a human being for the first time – and begins to understand that there is an independent spirit over there with emotions and needs, uncertainties and weaknesses … that new viewpoint can throw a youngster off kilter while allowing for the onset of empathy and mutual understanding.
5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of your world view?
I think having interaction with other cultures is requisite for a full and informed life. So, we learn a bit about American Natives, something about France and England in the mid-20th century. We encounter the energy and drama of New York and come face to face with the aftermath of war – with so much of all these discoveries seen through the eyes of a man (Daddy boys) and a woman (Francesca) who were born and raised in a really small and somewhat isolated town. My real grandmother was like that – a country girl who reached out to the world and its people in an inclusive way.
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
The last chapter, the one where Francesca and Sarah say their ultimate good-bye, was terribly difficult. It mirrored real events, devastating events in my life. I wrote the chapter in one session. I proofed it once then gave over control to my editor. I have never read it through since – it’s still too painful.
7. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
I thoroughly enjoyed the research I did for this novel. I learned a lot about Fort Dodge, post-War Europe,the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the Clinton County Fair – you name it!
There’s ascene where Air Force pilots have gathered at the Clinton County Fair – thefirst large Peace time get-together. I started to learn more about and therefore think more about what those pilots had faced and how what they faced had affected them than I ever had before. It was a revelation.
8. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/storybuilder or an outliner or some other method?
Luckily,I love to write. So, as yet, I haven’t needed a set routine. I usually start with a title that inspires everything else. The people come before the action and their names are terrifically important. I don’t usually outline in the traditional sense of that word. But I do know where I am headed in both the short term and long-term.
Most significantly, when in trouble or stuck, I believe in getting the skeleton down and rewriting until it’s beautiful.
10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
I don’tget distracted easily. I do get burnt out sometimes. Let’s face it … I write a LOT, blogging, poetry, songwriting and my own web content, tweets, press releases and … and interesting blog questionnaires like this one. I am blessed that writer’s block is rare for me but when I do feel out of sorts, I either rewrite some part of the current manuscript or dash out words and phrases for upcoming sequences. One word or phrase leads to another. Then I might add a flash of an idea here or there. Little by little I connect the bits and pieces into strands; the strands into sentences;the sentences into paragraphs – then move stuff around to its proper order –and begin the extensive rewriting process.
11. Favorite book from childhood.
At age 3,I taught myself to read accidentally. My mother read me the book Eloise by Kay Thompson so often that I memorized the entire text, down to and including which words appeared on which pages and even where on the pages the words were located. One day I was hunched on myparents’ king-sized bed pretending to read Eloise to my mother when I realized that the sound I was making corresponded to a complex symbol on the page! That was the Big Bang moment of my life and informed and fleshed out almost everything I have been passionate about since.
12. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
My desk sits by a window in my office and is an antique,white-washed knee-hole model I bought at a resale shop in Kernville, CA.There are over 100 books standing proud in two large dark wood shelves.
I have a white board on the wall covered with long-term and short-term goals. This hangs near a number of writing awards won by me and my business partner, Laura Dobbins. On another wall, I see photos of me with some famous folks – Frank Sinatra; Arnold Palmer; Roy Rogers (my godfather); and Charlie Daniels, among others.
It is an efficient space, tidy enough to make finding things easy.
Get your copy of Francesca of Lost Nation on Amazon.
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