The Governess of Highland Hall
Returning to England from the mission field in India, Julia Foster accepts the position of governess at Highland Hall to help support her parents. But she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected. Sir William Ramsey, widowed and left to care for his two young children along with the two teenage daughters of his deceased cousin, is consumed with saving the estate from financial ruin. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith. Will Julia and William be able to cross the great class divide that separates them, or will the pull of wealth, power and position drive them apart?
- ISBN: 1601424965
- Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Interview with Carrie Turansky
By Emilie Hendryx - October 21, 2013
Tell us a little bit about your latest release, The Governess of Highland Hall. How did you come up with the idea for the novel?
Watching the British TV series Downton Abbey stirred my interest in life in England during the Edwardian period, especially life on a country estate. I have a good friend and fellow author, Cathy Gohlke, who wrote a beautiful book set in England during this same time period, Promise Me This, and that also piqued my interest in the period. Cathy and I attended the American Library Association Convention in Philadelphia in early 2012. While I was there I had a discussion with an editor about the success of Downton Abbey, and she encouraged me to create a story with a heroine who was a governess and set it in England on an estate like Downton. That got my mental wheels turning. But I was hesitant to follow up on the idea at first because I knew it would take a lot of research to create a story that rang true for that period. But Cathy encouraged me and loaded me up with research books . . . and the journey to Highland Hall began.
I see that it’s compared to the popular Downton Abbey and Jane Eyre. Why is that?
I compare it to Downton Abbey because it is set in England on a large country estate in the same time period, and it features a cast of characters from both the aristocratic family upstairs and the loyal servants below stairs. It’s a little like Jane Eyre because the heroine is a young governess who comes to work on the estate, although my story is not quite a gothic or dark at Jane Eyre. I did include a few references to Jane Eyre in my novel. I thought that would be fun for people who are familiar with that classic story.
Tell us a little bit about the main character, Julia Foster. What one characteristic about her is your personal favorite?
Julia and her family were missionaries for twelve years in India before the story opens. They return to England because her father has some serious health issues, and Julia must find a way to support her parents while her father recovers. She takes the job as governess with the hope that it will only be for a short time and she will be able to return to India. Julia comes from a very loving family and has a strong faith. I admire her for her commitment to living out her faith even in difficult circumstances. I think readers will connect with Julia and want to see what will happen to her.
And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I love being able to weave spiritual truths into my novels. As my characters face conflicts and challenging circumstances and they must make choices, I am able to show how some depend on God and look to Him for help and guidance, and others do not. I show the results of their choices and illustrate some important truths while I am hopefully telling an entertaining story. Hearing back from readers who were impacted by these elements in my novels is one of the most rewarding parts of being a novelist.
Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
As I look back, I would say joining ACFW in 2000 was one of the most significant turning points in my writing journey. Up until that time I had been working on my own and just moving along at a slow pace. But after I connected with others who loved to write and wanted to develop their talents and skills to share the stories God put on their hearts, then my writing took off. I am very grateful for those who reached back to mentor and encourage me, and I try to do that for others now.
Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I have always been a creative person, and I’ve enjoyed using those creative gifts in many different ways—arranging flowers, painting, gardening, decorating my home, cooking, and writing. I think I enjoy using those creative gifts because they are a reflection of God in me. He is THE Creator . . . and when we create, we connect with Him in some special ways.
Most of the ideas for my stories and characters come out of my research. As I pour over books and articles about a particular time and place and look at images, the story seems to rise out of that research. I do use character worksheets and look for character images online to help me flesh out my characters.
What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I think my artistic background gives me the ability to “see” what I am writing and describe it in a way that transports people to that time and place. With this series I feel my true writing voice is shining through. Reviewers and readers often say my stories are heartwarming, inspiring, and romantic, with themes of God’s love, His forgiveness, and His ability to take even the most difficult problems we face and work them out for good.
What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities like being a wife, author, speaker, and leader of women’s ministry at your church?
Finding that balance is a constant quest! I am blessed to be in the season of life where my kids are grown and out on their own, so that gives me more time to focus on writing and ministry opportunities. My husband and I try to meet each week and talk over our schedules and pray together about opportunities and what is ahead. I am grateful he supports and encourages me in my writing. That is a huge help. I recently heard a speaker say, “Slay your dragons before breakfast.” She meant she spends time with the Lord and exercises before breakfast each day. That’s great advice, and I am trying to follow it. Put Him first, and other things seem to fall into place. And when things get out of balance, God’s grace is there, and when we call out to Him, He pulls us back to the center.
The leaves are turning and the weather is growing cooler. That can only mean one thing – fall! What is one fall tradition that you are most looking forward to?
I love fall! It’s such a beautiful season. I like to bring down some special decorations and make plans to get together with family and friends for Thanksgiving. I also like baking pumpkin muffins, picking apples, and taking a walk and seeing all the beautiful leaves.
Any parting words?
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to connect with my ACFW friends! This is a wonderful organization that has been a huge blessing in my writing life. I love to connect on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter! I hope to see you there!
Thanks for sharing with us, Carrie!
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