A former Editorial Director at Focus on the Family and Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine, Susan G. Mathis is the author of numerous non-fiction books, has published hundreds of articles and columns, has coached and/or consulted many other writers and editors, and is a sought-after speaker. In February, she released her first novel, which can be most aptly described as “the story of her heart.”
Susan and her husband, Dale, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy (CreateSpace, February 2017) is your first novel. Please tell us about the story—and the detour it involved.
My journey has indeed been multi-faceted. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.
As a Tyndale published author of two premarital books—The ReMarriage Adventure and Countdown for Couples, two children’s picture books—Lexie’s Adventure in Kenya: Love is Patient and Princess Madison’s Rainbow Adventure—and now a debut novelist—The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy—my writing journey has been a diverse one.
The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy is a story about an 1850s Irish immigrant and a 21st-century single mother (who) are connected by faith, family, and a quilt. After struggling to accept the changes forced upon her, Margaret Hawkins and her family take a perilous journey on an 1851 immigrant ship to the New World, bringing with her an Irish family quilt she is making. A hundred and sixty years later, her great granddaughter, Maggie, searches for the family quilt after her ex pawns it. But, on their way to creating a family legacy, will these women find peace with the past and embrace hope for the future, or will they be imprisoned by fear and faithlessness?
How long has this story lived in your head, trying to get out?
Oh my! My entire life has led to this novel. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy is based on my family story—my great great grandmother, Margaret, and loosely based on my personal story as well. The hardest part about writing Maggie’s story was not holding too closely to mine!
The historical family, my ancestors, has six children from ages nine months to thirteen years. Can you imagine immigrating on a famine ship with six kids? And how did they feel leaving Ireland and moving to the New World? The contemporary character has struggles of her own similar to my past. She’s a single mother who has lots of challenges, especially when her only daughter nearly dies in Africa. Yes, it is two stories of my personal journey in one novel.
Those who create usually tap into a personal toolbox of elements to define their style. For example, a painter might use color, light, and/or shadows in a certain way to “sign” his work. A musician might use syncopation, key changes, and/or vocal intonation to set herself apart. What two or three elements most define who you are as a storyteller?
Interesting question! I’d have to say cultural context, emotional connection, and compelling drama.
Stories and/or parables are an integral part of both the Old and New Testaments. Is there a Bible story, parable, or passage that has been particularly important to you and/or describes your personal journey of faith?
The story is based on Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m halfway through writing my next novel. It’s called Katelyn’s Choice, and it’s the first in the Thousand Islands Summer series. It’s the story of nineteen-year-old Katelyn Kavanagh who leaves her family’s struggling farm to work on Pullman Island for the famous George Pullman. There she finds herself serving powerful men such as President Ulysses S. Grant, and Generals Sherman and Sheridan—and falling in love with her best friend’s brother. Katelyn gains popularity with some of her friends by spilling the sensitive high society gossip she’s privy to. But when she overhears a possibly damaging presidential conversation, she knows she can’t tell anyone. She could lose her job—and endanger the president’s 1872 reelection—and jeopardize her relationship with the man of her dreams. Still, the scandalous news just keeps begging to be told…
Thanks, Susan! It’s great to have you back at Divine Detour.
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