Katt: Welcome Amanda. I am so pleased to be interviewing you today. I enjoyed Paper Roses so much. There are several questions I want to ask you about your novel. So, let's begin.
Although Clay and Sarah are interesting characters, I found myself drawn to Thea. Why did you decide to put a child as a secondary character?
Amanda: For me, Thea was an important part of the story, because she provided Sarah's primary motivation. Had it not been for the need to protect her little sister, Sarah would not have felt compelled to leave Philadelphia, and there would have been no book. Once Thea came alive for me, she demanded a bigger part of the book, which is why she serves as the catalyst for many of the key events.
Katt: The mail order bride concept is quite interesting. It did happen back then and does today. It helped Sarah find a home for her and Thea after their parents' deaths. How did you become interested in mail order brides?
Amanda: I've always been intrigued by the reasons people marry. In modern day America, we expect it to be for love, but that wasn't always the case. (Think of all those centuries of arranged marriages, including my maternal grandparents'.) It seemed to me that a woman to marry someone she had never met, with her only contact with her future husband being letters, would require more courage than a marriage arranged by her parents. That piqued my interest, especially since I love writing about courageous women. Although there was no doubt in my mind that only a strong woman would agree to be a mail order bride, I kept asking myself what circumstances would have forced her into such a proposition and what would happen if the marriage didn't turn out the way she expected. One thing led to another with Paper Roses as the result.
Katt: It seemed all through the book that Austin had a premonition of his death. Was that something you planned or only a comment?
Amanda: I believe that some people do have premonitions of death. Abraham Lincoln is famous for having dreamed of his own death only days before it happened. Others may not realize it consciously, but in retrospect their lives show that they were preparing for early death. The dear friend whose final months on earth led to Paper Roses lived her life as if she somehow knew that she wouldn't see three score and ten years. She packed a lot of living into the years she had and, when she was in the final stages of leukemia, helped others prepare for life without her. I envisioned Austin doing that.
Katt: My grandmother grew up in a mining town in Virginia. The different nationalities lived in certain sections of the community. Your description of Ladreville made it seem like a real place and much the same. Were Germans on one side of the street and the French on the other or did they have different sections of town where they lived?
Amanda: I'm so glad that Ladreville came alive for you! One of the things Michel Ladre insisted on when he founded the town was that the two groups intermingle, and so you'll find the homes of French and German settlers next to each other. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that they lived in perfect harmony. As you know from reading Paper Roses, that;s far from the case, and I don't think I'm spoiling the story by telling you that the troubles continue into the next book.
Katt: Clay and Sarah seemed to be drawn to each other from the beginning. When you explained the "paper roses" it was such a sweet idea. How did you come up with that?
Amanda: Believe it or not, it came from a book I read many years ago which stated that Russian brides had a tradition of wearing a wreath of paper roses. I loved the image of paper roses but wanted to make it figurative, not literal. That's why Sarah calls the letters that won her heart her paper roses.
Katt: Historical novels should inform us about some historical event. The Alsace region became interesting to me and I had never heard of it before. Do you have a connection with that area of France and Germany?
Amanda: Not exactly. Although my maternal grandparents were German, they did not come from that part of Germany. However, I majored in French in college and was fortunate enough to spend a semester in France (not the Alsace region. though). I also spent six months living in Germany when my husband was stationed there with the Army, so I had some exposure to both cultures and the history of Alsace-Lorraine. When I read about a real Texas town being founded by settlers from Alsace, Ladreville came to life for me.
Katt: I don't want to give away any secrets, but the things that happened reminded me of a Victoria Holt novel. I was spellbound until the very end when I found out who the murderer was. I had suspected someone else. There were several indicators that it could have been any number of people. That makes an interesting book. Why were there so many suspects and why two mysteries?
Amanda: I'm incredibly flattered by the comparison of Victoria Holt, since she was one of my favorite writers when I was growing up. I loved the suspense in her books and those of Mary Stewart so much that I once thought I'd write romantic suspense. Paper Roses is certainly not a romantic suspense by the modern definition, but I enjoyed adding the mystery elements and hope they keep readers turning the page as they struggle along with Clay and Sarah to discover who killed Austin.
Katt: Sarah was a peacemaker in the book. Did you have a person you patterned her after?
Amanda: No, I didn't. For lots of reasons, I don't base characters on real people. I find it more fun to take a personality characteristic and build a whole new person around it.
Katt: The two main characters are very strong people. They were in control of the whole book. Did their background play an important part of their lives?
Amanda: Without a doubt, yes. I believe that our past shapes who we are, and so whenever I meet real people, I try to figure out what made them the way they are. For me, one of the pleasures of being a writer is being able to create characters with human flaws and watch them heal. In the case of Sarah and Clay, their pasts strongly influence their present, and it's only by overcoming the burden of the past that they can build a future. I think that's true for many of us.
Katt: How many books are going to be in this series? I'm looking forward to the next one.
Amanda: My contract is for three books set in Ladreville, so there will be at least that many. I say 'at least' because several of the people who read early copies of Paper Roses have suggested that Thea needs a book of her own and that David would make a wonderful hero for a different book. So ... we'll have to see. It'll all depend n readers' reaction. If enough people ask for more books, I'll write them!
Katt, thanks so much for the time you've spent with me, especially since I know it was time that could have been spent on your own writing. It was a pleasure getting to know you through our interviews. I wish you and your readers a Happy New Year and much success.
Thanks so much Amanda. This has been a wonderful adventure for me and I have enjoyed it very much. I wish you much success with this book.