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Interview with Pamela S. Meyers

Writers are often told to “write what you know.” Inspirational author Pamela Meyers blended that philosophy with “conduct a lot of research” for her new historical romance, Tranquility Point, the third book in her Newport of the West series. The book was released in May 2020.

The setting of the series is Pam’s hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The stories start in in the late 1800s and will end during the WWII era, and follow several generations of the same family. She combines her firsthand knowledge of the region with her love of delving through old newspapers and magazines to learn about the history and customs of the past.

Welcome, Pam. How did you come up with the idea for your Newport of the West series?
I was raised in Lake Geneva. Beautiful old mansions and stately Queen Anne houses have filled its lakeshore for decades. Many of these old homes came into existence following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Well-to-do businessmen were displaced in Chicago. They knew that Geneva Lake was just a two-hour train ride away. At the time, virgin forests filled the lakeshore and building lots could be had for a song. These men snapped up many of the lots and built large beautiful homes for their families to live in while the city was restored. Now, some of the very old homes have been replaced by beautiful modern mansions and homes, but the new structures lack the history of the older ones.

I decided to write to start the series with a fictional well-to-do family whose Chicago home was destroyed by the fire in 1871. They decide to move north to Lake Geneva and start life over. Each book happens about 20 years after the previous book and involves the eldest daughter of the couple featured in the prior book.

Tranquility Point takes place during WWI. Book Four will be the final book in the series and takes place in the 1940s, during homefront WWII. I’m toying with skipping a couple of generations for my next book and making it a time slip. Nothing set in concrete yet, but the wheels are turning.

How much research is required to add accurate details to your stories?
Lake Geneva is a history-rich area. The original residents were the Potawatomi Indians led by Chief Big Foot. The tribe was forced to go a reservation in Kansas. Newcomers often have no idea of the history of the town or the area itself.

I tend to conduct research in fits and starts. In the beginning, I drove to the Lake Geneva library and searched the microfilms for the historic weekly newspapers. That’s how I got information for my stand-alone book, Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. That story is centered on the Riviera building that was built in 1933. I also visited the museum. Now all the historic and current papers are digital, and I can read them online any time.

For Tranquility Point, I wanted to tell the story of how those big houses came to be built on the lake. I did a lot of research online and in books. The fire in Chicago was a catalyst for growth in Lake Geneva, along with the new railroad that opened up between the towns.

It was through research that I first learned about the WLA (Women’s Land Army) that came about during WWI. That intrigued me so much I knew I need to include that in the story line of Hannah.

For Ted’s story line, I researched the types of planes used during WWI. I realized after I’d turned in the manuscript that in the bi-plane bombers the pilot actually sat in the second seat. I had to quickly contact the publisher so I could change a couple of the scenes. That was close! I also read a book about WWI pilots that described how they flew in a zigzag pattern. I used that in the book.

I learned about the Admiralty Building in London where enemy communications were intercepted and decoded.

I researched PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) when I was working on a novella that involved a Wounded Warrior who had lost his leg in Afghanistan. PTSD shows up again in Tranquility Point. It's more than what used to be called shell shock in WWI.

I looked at ads from specific time periods to find out what types of clothing people wore. Also, there is line of helpful books out with titles like “Everyday Fashions of the Forties.” There is a book for every decade.

Reading old newspapers helps me to find real names of stores to use in my stories. Some of them were still in Lake Geneva when I was a child. I find out which movies were actually playing at the theater for the time period. I got the idea for the luxury cars in Tranquility Point from an old Ladies’ Home Journal article. These little pieces of research add authenticity to the series.

What is a “hello girl,” and do you have firsthand experience? Were bilingual women like your character Clarice really recruited from America to work in Europe?
The term “hello girl” was coined when telephone operators were hired to run the switchboards in the central telephone offices as people began getting phones in their homes. When you picked up your receiver, the operator would come online and say, “Hello. What number please.” It kind of stuck and when the military hired telephone operators to man the switchboards in France near the front they were called the “hello girls.”

I did work for a couple of summers for my local telephone company as a telephone operator. My grandfather who was a lifelong employee of Ohio Bell called me a “hello girl.” The military hired bilingual women to work in France back of the front line to connect the various clusters of troop leaders through the telephone cables they had strung across the landscape. They tried men but they were too clumsy with the cords. They needed them to be bilingual in French and English because they had to be able to communicate with French operators at times when connecting calls.

What is a farmette? Was the WLA limited to New England?
The Women’s Land Army of America was modeled after a similar group in the UK that had been operating since the war first began over there. The US didn’t join the fray until the last year and a half of the conflict so the WLA didn’t really have a chance to branch out much.

It was first started in New England and Hilda Loines spearheaded the expansion into other states. They started on in Illinois on a small farm in Libertyville, Illinois. It’s a suburb of Chicago now but I expect it was farmland at that time. I used poetic license in my story to have some farms in Wisconsin fall under the jurisdiction of the Illinois group. The idea was that while all the young farmers had been drafted to serve in the war, women would be trained to take over the chores and duties of the farmers. They learned how to plant, plow, and do just about any chore or activity the farmers would be doing to keep their farms going. I do have a disclosure statement in my author notes that the WLA wasn’t operational in Wisconsin.

Where did you learn about the kind of discrimination your German characters faced during war time in the early 20th century?
My family name on my dad’s side is Meyer. And when he was a kid, his parents had him and his brother wear little US Army uniforms and walk around their Ohio neighborhood to show people they were for the U.S. and not Germany. There were internment camps for Germans who lived in the U.S. but were naturalized U.S. citizens. One of the internment camps was in Georgia for those east of the Mississippi.

Any Germans not naturalized had to register as enemy aliens. I learned a lot about this by reading articles online. People were very wary of anyone with a German last name. That’s why my grandparents added the “s” to our name in the hopes it would sound less German. Personally I don’t think it worked. But back then it was easy to respell your surname. Not like today when it has to go through the courts to make it legal.

Hannah and Ted both have strong faith that sustains them through very difficult times. What would you like readers to take away from their story?
The verse printed at the beginning of the book, Psalm 91: 1-2 is the basic theme of the story. God is our refuge and strength no matter the trials and we need to fully trust Him at all times. Of course Hannah has to learn this the hard way, but don’t most of us?

Is there anything else you would like readers to know before they read Tranquility Point?
You don’t need to read the first two books, Safe Refuge or Shelter Bay, to enjoy Tranquility Point. I think if you do, knowing the backstory will be helpful and you’ll be enriched by the history of Lake Geneva.

When I started writing the series my focus was on the history and, of course, the romance. But as I got to Tranquiltiy Point, I recognized another theme winding its way through each story. Each heroine is a strong woman, not afraid to push through the strictures of society that kept women from becoming the person God created them to be, and they learned that they didn’t have to forsake or water down their faith in God in the process.
The next heroine will be one of the women trained to deliver bomber planes during WWII. I have women doing the unconventional in every book.

Do you plot everything out before you write?
I'm a plotter. Like my friend Ane Mulligan says, we plot, but within scenes, sometimes our characters take over. When I was writing Surprised by Love, I didn't realize the sister of my main character was adopted until she told me. I sat back and said, “Laura's adopted?” I had no idea. It turned out to be a really important plot point.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I came to writing novels later than a lot of people and my dream was to be published by a large publisher. As the years passed and it didn’t happen, I finally signed with a small publisher a pair of cozy mysteries, only to have that publisher go out of business.

After that, I wrote Safe Refuge and my agent at the time sent it out to all the large Christian publisher and not a one wanted the story. Then a couple of years later, I decided to send it out to several small presses and one of them immediately sent me a contract. My series found a home. The covers have been outstanding and the people that I’ve worked with there have been wonderful. I have realized that I don’t need to be with a huge publisher to be a success at my writing.

I sell a lot of books at places in Lake Geneva and a fair amount online, but I’ll never make the New York Times best seller list and that’s okay. I’m right where the Lord wants me and the Christian message that is woven through my stories is making its way into the hands of people. People God wants to read my books. An agent I had a long while ago said something very profound. Sometimes our story is only intended for one reader, and He’ll make sure that person gets a copy. All other readers are frosting on the cake.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?
I don’t know if it was very funny at the time. But I was scheduled to give a presentation on my current book at an assisted living facility a hour or so drive from home. I prepared my presentation on Keynote, a Power Point type software from Apple. When I arrived I realized I’d left my computer at home! I brought my own projector and never missed my computer bag. Fortunately, I had the presentation on a flash drive but I needed a Mac in order for it to work. It took some doing but they found one that belonged to one of the employees and the program went on.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
I’m very active in my church’s ministry to the homebound, visiting them in their homes to chat and pray together. But Covid has brought all that to a halt. Nowadays I send them cards. I also lead a women’s life group in my home. Hopefully by fall, all that will start happening again. It’s all in the Lord’s timing. Otherwise I enjoy watching movies on my TV, reading and spending time with my two rescue cats.

Any sage advice for new or aspiring ACFW authors?
The same thing I always say: Don’t give up. Keep persevering and growing in the craft. Try to attend writers’ conferences for the workshops and the chance to network with other writers. ACFW isn’t having a conference this year because of covid, but they are having a two-day online conference and the cost is only $199. They have a great lineup of workshop teachers who will be teaching on Zoom and if you want to pitch an editor or agent, you’ll be able to do it through Zoom. It’s an affordable way to attend the conference and still get much of the same help with your craft as you would have going there.


Teresa Haugh lives with her husband in sunny Prescott, Arizona. When she is not writing, she enjoys music, hiking, reading, and visiting the gym (with audiobooks, of course). She loves meeting and talking with other authors about their writing journeys.

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