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Interview with Carrie Turansky

I really enjoyed reading your latest book, Shine Like the Dawn. You seem to be someone who loves flowers, pretty dresses, and high tea. Does that influence you to write historical fiction?

I've always loved flowers and gardening. When I was young, I had a sweet, elderly neighbor who befriended me, and she was a great gardener. I spent almost every afternoon in the summer out in the yard with her and she taught me a lot. It was natural to bring that into my stories. I usually have some scenes in my books that are set in a garden.

As I researched the time period of my recent novels, and actually visited England, I became more interested in tea and costumes.

While reading Shine Like the Dawn I was transported to another time and place. Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong century?

Although I like a lot of things about the Edwardian period in England, where I've set my last five books, I was born in the right century. There were a lot of health and psychological issues in England at that time. People were hesitant to shake hands because they were afraid of communicable diseases. That affected their culture. I like living in a modern time where we have more access to health care.

Your book covers are lovely. Do you help design them?

I have a degree in fine art, so my covers are really important to me. When I signed my first contract with Waterbrook I asked for input on my covers. It's kind of an unusual arrangement. I worked carefully to build relationships with my designer and editors so they would feel comfortable with my ideas. Now I have a lot of input.

My covers aren’t stock photos, but are created through photo shoots. The designers hire a model and rent costumes. Then they give me options. What do I think about the cover? Does the model look like my heroine? It’s fun.

For my next book, I was given the option of choosing from ten different models. I have already sent in some ideas for the costuming. My designer at Waterbrook worked with a theater rental company to choose three potential outfits. We found one that worked well. For my latest books, a lady actually created the hats that were used on the covers. Waterbrook gave me the hats afterward, and I’ve enjoyed wearing them for different events.

Will Shine Like the Dawn be part of a series?

No, it is a standalone. In my Edwardian Bride series, each novel had its a unique hero and heroine, but the characters are related. You can read each book individually, but it's fun to read them all in a series because members of the family pop up in each one.

I only write one book a year because I do a lot of research for my books. My husband and I have a busy ministry, and I have a large family. Some bookstores are hesitant to keep a series on the shelf for three years.

How do you come up with all the elements in your books that are appropriate to the time frame? What research did you do for Shine Like the Dawn?

When I start my research, I am looking for a setting. Sometimes that inspires the story. The photographer who took the background photo for my Highland Hall series proposed a house in Northumberland County, England called Cragside as a possible setting for a story. I looked it up and saw a beautiful home with great gardens.

When I did some research on Cragside, I learned about William Armstrong who was an industrialist and inventor in mid 1800s. I read his biography. I decided his time period was too early for the main characters in Shine Like the Dawn, but decided he could represent the father of my hero. Like the fictional father, Armstrong had an engineering company and worked with hydroelectricity. He created beautiful gardens out of a rocky moor. I used a lot of the true facts as background to my story.

In your story, Maggie's grief is a central theme, but you managed to deal with it without weighing down your readers. Was that a difficult balance?

It was. I didn't want to make the story too dark, but I did want to make it dramatic. The drama in the prologue helps the reader to connect emotionally with Maggie and to want good things to happen to her. I also wanted to portray how people struggle with grief and God can help them become whole and healthy. I had to stretch myself emotionally to write about that kind of strong loss.

Did you do anything new with this story?

I always wanted to write a story where childhood friends grow up and fall in love. This is the first time I've done that. Also, I had never written a mystery—my focus is usually the romance. I don't read mysteries or watch crime stories. When I was halfway through with the book, I went on a writer's retreat with two author friends. They helped me realize I was making the mystery too easy to figure out. My editor helped me even more in making the mystery elements stronger.

You managed to tie up all the loose threads in your story very well. Do you think the happily-ever-after theme is one reason people are drawn to Christian fiction?

I do think that is a key element. Our books offer hope, and people who read them are encouraged. Hopefully, there are also points about the story that help people think about their faith and their relationship with the Lord. For me, I want to offer hope. I believe that God has a happily ever after for us, and I want to include that in my stories.

What do you hear from your readers?

Sometimes feedback from readers is something you wouldn't expect. One new Christian shared with me that she didn't really know how to pray, and appreciated that I added prayers in my story. I would have never thought someone would learn how to pray from reading my book.

Another young woman was given one of my stories about a child and father who had been separated. After reading the last page, she closed the book and called someone from whom she had been separated for many years. When I hear something special like that, it really helps me to realize that God is using me to touch people.

When I give my characters a conflict or challenge, I wonder how am I going to help them get through it and learn the truths they need to learn. How can I help them overcome? I think about my own life and different ways God has helped me. I try to make the story as natural as possible so that it doesn't seemed forced. God works in a lot of different ways in our life: a sermon, a friend, or a walk. I get reminded of what I need to do in my own life. How can I open up to really hear from the Lord and let him help me?

What do you do when not writing?

My husband is a pastor. We have a church and I'm involved in women's ministry and Bible study. He is the author of non-fiction parenting books and travels to speak around the country. We homeschooled our children who are grown now, but we have a lot of connections in the homeschool community. I'm helping him this week with a big homeschool conference we’re attending. I’ll be at the booth with our books.

I'm very excited that I'm going to get to meet some of my teen readers. Parents seem to appreciate my books because they have the history element, but they are also very clean and sweet and appropriate for most teens.

Do you have advice for new writers?

I love ACFW and believe it's a great place to learn the craft and connect with other authors. The conferences are very helpful and meaningful for me. You learn by writing, but also by reading as much as you can. I wrote five complete novels before the first one was accepted. Some people get their first novels published, but that's not the norm. Most people have their "learning how to write" novels. It's like going to college, but you are self-studying. You have to be committed to putting your time in and learning. Don’t quit.


Teresa Haugh, a graduate of the University of Montevallo, is a public affairs specialist for the federal government. She writes feature articles on the dedicated men and women who work for the U.S. Forest Service.

She and her husband, a wildlife biologist, live in Southeast Alaska and love exploring the Last Frontier. She plays the piano at her church, and enjoys photography. She is currently working on her first novel.

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