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Author Talk: March 2012

Lisa Norato’s PRIZE OF MY HEART is set in a small Massachusetts town in the early 1800s. Ex-privateersman Captain Brogan Talvis has been in search of his lost son for years --- but when he finally finds him, the situation is far more complex than he expected. In this interview, Norato shares her inspiration for writing the book. She also describes her research process and discusses key moments and themes in the novel.

Question:  What was the inspiration for PRIZE OF MY HEART?

Lisa Norato: The character of Captain Brogan Talvis first came to me as a man searching for his lost son, a man who valued family above all else because he’d never belonged to one of his own. His son is his sole relation, the most precious thing in his life. This reminded me of the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. What if Brogan were forced to choose between his greatest love and obeying God?

Q: What inspired you to choose this specific location and time in history?

LN: As a native Rhode Islander, I was influenced by the fact that I’ve always lived close to the coast. I knew I wanted to write a seafaring novel but not necessary to have the entire story take place aboard ship. I was inspired by an issue of Colonial Homes magazine that caught my eye while in line at the grocery store. It featured a story on the historic seaside village of Duxbury, Massachusetts. As I read about the town’s shipbuilding history, ideas started flowing and I knew this would be the setting for my novel.

Soon after, I visited Duxbury and toured one of its historic houses --- the King Caesar House, the Federal-style mansion of shipbuilder and merchant, Ezra Weston II, built in 1809. Lloyds of London named his one of the largest shipbuilding and merchant operations in the country. He inherited the business from his father, who was christened King Caesar by the locals and so the name of the house. As I walked through its rooms I began to envision my characters interacting there. The King Caesar House became the inspiration for my heroine’s family home.

This also settled the time period of my story. At the end of the War of 1812, well-built vessels were very much in demand, and Duxbury had developed into one of the country’s leading shipbuilding centers.

Q:  Why is the town referred to as “Duxboro” throughout the novel when the actual name of the town is Duxbury?

LN: The area was settled in 1627 by a group of Mayflower pilgrims who sailed across the bay from Plymouth. In 1637, the town was officially incorporated as Duckborrow. In 1779, the name was changed to Duxbury, but in 1813 the town clerks adopted the spelling of Duxboro, which persisted until 1824 (the time period of PRIZE OF MY HEART), until the name was permanently restored back to Duxbury. There are many theories, but no one knows for sure the origin of the name or who chose it.

Q: Did any interesting scenes or story lines develop as a result of researching this time period?

LN: I found myself drawn to children’s toys of the time. Wooden toys were popular, and with a major shipbuilding operation employing carpenters and carvers, it seemed only natural that the child character of Drew would have an abundance of them. And as shipbuilders, who better to construct a replica of Noah’s ark? I was able to view an authentic toy Noah’s ark from the early nineteenth century, complete with carved Noah and animal pair figurines, at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Several of the toys and games I learned about are mentioned in the novel, including draughts, which we know today as checkers. I also learned that cloth dolls were popular with both boys and girls, and since sewing was a required art among women and many men at this time, I imagined they would be quite lovely and detailed. This inspired the idea for Drew’s cloth doll, Captain Briggs, which is clothed in the uniform of a privateer sea captain to represent his father, his one link to a man he once loved but had been too young to remember. Drew’s doll developed into a significant piece of the mystery carried throughout the novel.

Q: What themes are explored in PRIZE OF MY HEART?

LN: The predominant theme is one of the bonds of family and the virtues of love, devotion and loyalty.

Another strong theme is the importance of forgiveness. Both the hero and heroine face situations where they are called upon to forgive in order to move on with their lives. So he might find happiness with Lorena, Brogan must come to a place of forgiveness and release his bitterness at his late wife’s betrayal. Lorena calls it a brave decision. It takes courage to forgive and release the hurts and injustices we bear.

Also present in the story is the theme of how God can take what others meant for our harm and turn it around for good. Even though we might not see a way for our troubles to work out, God has a way.