Author Talk: October 2012
Josephine vows to rebuild her family’s plantation after the Civil War. But in Reconstruction-era Virginia, life has become a matter of daily survival. When faced with the destruction of her entire world, can she find the strength to carry on? In this interview, Lynn Austin reveals why she decided to return to the Civil War period in ALL THINGS NEW, what makes this setting so compelling for her, and her future writing projects.
Question: ALL THINGS NEW is your first time returning to the Civil War period since your top-selling, most beloved series ever, Refiner’s Fire. I know that’s excited a lot of your fans! Did you always plan on coming back to this setting?
Lynn Austin: When I finished the Refiner’s Fire series, I felt that I had barely begun to tell the stories of the brave men and women who lived during that era. I received many wonderful letters from readers telling me how much they had enjoyed reading about this time period, so I decided to return to this setting. ALL THINGS NEW doesn’t feature any of the characters from the Refiner’s Fire series, but I hope readers will enjoy making new friends with the women in this novel.
Q: What is it about this period that you find so compelling?
LA: I find it intriguing to see how people who suffered so much during the war years managed to courageously endure change and loss without losing their faith. During the unsettled economic times we live in, I think many of my readers can relate to the difficulty of facing unwanted change. I’ve spoken with a lot of people who have been forced to start over after their lives have turned upside-down. Can they find the courage to do it? Can their faith survive the test of difficult times? These questions became catalysts for ALL THINGS NEW. Like the women who lived through the Civil War, we can face the worst and find that God is still there, loving us and strengthening us --- giving us the courage to carry on.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about ALL THINGS NEW?
LA: It’s the story of three brave women: Eugenia Weatherly, her daughter Josephine, and their former slave, Lizzie, whose lives have been changed forever by the Civil War. In its aftermath, Eugenia, used to having a household of slaves at her beck and call, must change a lifetime of habits and attitudes if she and her family are going to survive. Josephine is willing to adapt to the realities of post-war life, but her faith in God has been shattered by the losses she sustained; her struggles are deeper, spiritual ones. Lizzie, a former slave of the Weatherly family, wonders what will become of her own family now that the war is over, and endeavors to discover what freedom really means. The novel follows these three women’s journeys as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives and, in the midst of change and uncertainty, try to find hope and love again.
Q: You get into some tough issues in this book, including the difficult transitions facing freed slaves and their former owners now that the war has been lost. Can you tell us what that period was like for those involved, and how you explored this topic?
LA: The reality of this time period is that the laws concerning slavery had changed but attitudes had not. Tensions escalated to a dangerous level as former slaves tried to exercise their freedom while their embittered former owners looked for ways to regain control over this mass of people who they now feared would rise up against them.
With no other way to support themselves and their families, most freed slaves ended up back in servitude. ALL THINGS NEW explores all these issues by taking readers into the everyday lives of my main characters as they confront these challenges and prejudices.
Q: What do you hope readers come away with after reading ALL THINGS NEW?
LA: I hope that readers who are enduring unwelcome change in their own life will find renewed hope and faith in the God who loves us and is unchanging. I hope they will see the courage of the women in the novel and ask God for the courage to endure loss and unanswered prayer.
Q: What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
LA: Readers who enjoyed my series The Chronicles of the Kings will be excited to learn that I’m currently working on a new biblical series based on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The first book is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2013.
My first non-fiction book will also be published in the fall of 2013. It’s a memoir of sorts, telling of my pilgrimage to Israel in search of spiritual renewal. Surrounded by reminders of the past and with the Bible for a guidebook, I’ll share the insights I gained, and the renewed hope and direction for the future that I found.