CATHERINE’S PURSUIT by Lena Nelson Dooley
The search for her sisters will become a spiritual journey for the entire family.
Raised by her father, Catherine McKenna has never lacked for anything, surrounded by people to take care of her every need. On her eighteenth birthday she discovers that not only did her mother die when she was born, but she has two identical sisters. Although her father vowed not to look for his daughters, Catherine made no such promise. Setting out on her own with one clue and her maid in tow, she’s determined to find her sisters.
Collin Elliott has seen better days. After losing his ship to a violent and unexpected storm, he is trying to recover–physically and emotionally. When Angus McKenna sends him to find, follow, and protect his daughter, he wants nothing more than to finish his task and return home. Can he help her find her sisters?
And will the discoveries they make along the way teach them both what’s most important in life?
Today is my third interview with Lena Nelson Dooley. We’ve focused the interviews on her latest series, a trilogy called “McKenna’s Daughters.” In this interview, we’ll discuss the third book, “Catherine’s Pursuit.”
The trilogy follows three daughters, separated at birth after their mother dies tragically during a difficult wagon train journey to the west. This last interview concerns Catherine’s story, the daughter who was kept and raised by the father of the girls, Angus McKenna. The book also brings together the narratives of the other two daughters, and brings a satisfying conclusion to a very enjoyable series.
Hi Lena! I finished reading Catherine’s Pursuit, the last book of your McKenna’s Daughter’s Trilogy and I loved it. You did a masterful job of weaving all three stories into the final book, and ending the trilogy wonderfully. So, I’ll begin the interview by asking about the trilogy.
I thought it was interesting how contact with Mary, and her very different life experiences facilitated a great change in Catherine’s heart. Did you plan this story thread out before you began writing, or did it evolve as the story did?
I had a general timeline for each story, but it’s just basic. The story evolves as I write it. As I was writing Catherine’s story, I realized that the timeline I’d made wouldn’t work with the other two stories. All three overlapped in the last part of the year. So I printed up a calendar for 1885 and put in the dates that had been in the first two books. Then I worked the events for Catherine’s story in the times that would work and transferred that to Catherine’s timeline.
That’s a great idea, using a timeline. I’ll have to remember that! I’m curious, did you find it harder to write from any of the male characters’ perspectives, or easier, or about the same as writing from the females’ perspective?
I do find writing from a male character’s POV to be hard. But I have studied a lot about the way male’s think. Then taking into consideration how individual each male is, I work out a way of thinking and speaking that is true to males in general and my male character individually. I have had several men tell me that I really “got” the male perspective.
Good for you! That can be challenging. So, how did you feel once you finished this series?
With each series I’ve written—this is my second one—I’ve missed the characters. In one way, I’m glad it’s over, but in another I want the series to go on and on. There are plenty of unattached characters who would make good heroes or heroines.
True. Who knows? You may re-visit them in the future. Do you plan on writing another series ?
I have started another series—Love’s Road Home. I’m most of the way finished writing book one—A Heart’s Gift. It is set in Summit County, Colorado, in 1891-2. The second book is set in Grape Vine, Texas (modern day Grapevine), and the third book is mostly in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Sounds interesting! Do you ever go back and re-read your published stories? If so, which ones?
Not often. I finally did read my first book about two years after it was published. I have read parts of books when I choose to use the selections when I’m teaching a writing class.
What’s the best part about hearing reader reactions to your books?
When they like my books, it’s like getting applause in live theater or a concert. If they don’t really care much for my books, and if they give a good reason why, it can influence my later writing.
If you’ve ever received a less than positive review, how do you handle that, and how does it affect you?
I won’t lie, it hurts. But I’ve learned not to let it hurt long. I let myself have half an hour to mourn. Then I move on. You can’t please all the people all the time. I’m writing for those who do like my writing.
What advice would you give to someone who tells you they’d like to write a book?
I hear that all the time. I do talk to them to find out why they want to write a book and what kind of book they want to write. Then I try to get them as much help as I can. I really don’t have time to give much help to every person who asks.
Before you started writing, if you’d known how much time and effort it required, would you still have become a writer?
God created me to be a writer in my mother’s womb. If I don’t write, I’m not happy or fulfilled the way God wants me to be. Some people are created to be writers who encourage other people, and they may never be published. Others write other things. God did bless me to be able to see my books published and my plays performed.
How much time per day, or week, do you usually spend on writing?
I’m in my home office at least 6 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, according to deadlines. Some of the time is writing manuscripts. Other time is maintaining my Internet presence or doing research for the books.
Do you have any pointers on which social media you feel is most important for a writer to utilize?
I actually utilize these: a Facebook page, a Facebook profile, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Linkedin.
Did any of your books stump you to the point where you had to do a major re-write or step away from them for a time?
Writers often have to step away from a story and let it stew in our brains. When we come back, we have a fresh perspective. That’s just part of writing.
Thank you, Nancy, for having me.
And thank you for the interview, Lena! It’s an honor to speak with you.
Okay readers, I’m including an excerpt from the first chapter of “Catherine’s Pursuit” below. Enjoy, and leave a comment for a chance to win this wonderful book!
September 19, 1885
San Francisco, California
Catherine Lenora McKenna could hardly believe the long-awaited day was here. Her eighteenth birthday.
Now she was an adult, and her father would have to stop hovering over her as if she were a fragile china doll in one of his stores. She would be free. Holding her hands above her head like the ballerina in the music box on her bureau, she whirled in a circle that lifted the hem of her blue taffeta skirt to a scandalous height. That didn’t matter, because no one was here to catch a glimpse of her ankles anyway. Not even her personal maid, Julie, who had gone downstairs to grab Catherine a more substantial breakfast from the kitchen before she fainted dead away.
Aunt Kirstin wanted Catherine to eat very light before her party tonight, where a sumptuous banquet would precede the ball. There would be presents to open as well. Catherine hoped her father planned a spectacular gift for her birthday … maybe to send her on a tour of the Continent. Of course, Aunt Kirstin would probably accompany her, but at least she would be able to see more of the world for herself, not just read about it.
Europe should be beautiful in the autumn, or in any season of the year. Since both of her parents were born in Scotland, she wanted to visit there as well as London … Paris … Rome. She had read every book and magazine she could get her hands on, so she knew so much about Europe. A thrill of anticipation shot through her whole body. Visions of crossing London Bridge, strolling along Avenue des Champs Elysees, or touring the Colosseum danced through her head. Pictures she’d enjoyed studying with their Holmes stereopticon. She wondered if Father would accompany her or if he would allow Aunt Kirstin to be her only escort … besides a few servants, of course.
“Where is Julie with my food?” Catherine huffed out an exasperated breath. “Am I going to have to go to the kitchen myself?”
She thrust open the door and hurried down the hallway, the sound of her footsteps lost in the thick cushioning of the carpet. At the top of the front stairs, she stopped to see if she could figure out where her aunt Kirstin was before she sneaked down the backstairs.
Peering over the balcony railing, she caught a glimpse of her aunt’s face through the partially opened door to the library. Her brows were knit together into a frown as she stared at someone in the room with her. Catherine had never seen such a fierce expression on her aunt’s face.
Father’s voice was muffled as he said something to his sister-in-law. What is he doing home at this time of morning? Catherine wished she could tell what they were talking about. She had never heard her father use that tone with anyone, especially not Aunt Kirstin. As if he were angry or terribly upset.
Catherine leaned farther over but kept a firm grip on the railing so she wouldn’t tumble down. A drop like that onto a marble floor could be deadly.
Aunt Kirstin gripped each hand into a fist and planted them on her hips. “Just when are you going to tell her?”
Come to think of it, her aunt was using a harsher tone than Catherine had ever heard her use.
Father didn’t answer.
Catherine quickly crept down the stairs being careful not to place her foot on the second step from the foyer, which would squeak and reveal her presence. At the bottom, she straightened and checked her reflection in the gilt-framed, oval mirror beside the front door. When she found everything satisfactory, she tiptoed toward the library.
“I don’t know.” Her father’s words stopped her in her tracks.
What did he not know?
“Angus.” Aunt Kirstin’s voice was firm and insistent. “She deserves to know the truth. And now she’s old enough to understand.”
Catherine didn’t hesitate to enter her favorite room in the house. She pushed the door farther open, and both her aunt and her father turned startled eyes toward her. The two looked as if they had been caught in an act of mischief.
“Tell me what? What will I understand?” Her questions hovered in the air, quivering like hummingbirds without a way to escape the net of tension that bound the three of them together.
Her father glanced at her aunt, then turned his attention back to Catherine. The deep scowl on his face dissolved, and he dropped into the closest chair, dejection dragging his shoulders into a slump. Tears welled up in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks unheeded. He didn’t even blink.
“I knew this day would come eventually.” Each word sounded as if it had been wrung from his throat.
Catherine had never before seen her father cry. And he had always been such a strong man. But right now, he was draped in defeat. Her heart hitched in her chest, making her breathless. Something must be terribly wrong. Was he sick with a deadly disease? About to die? How would she live without him? She wanted to grab him in a tight hug and cling with all her might to keep him close.
Aunt Kirstin dragged two chairs closer to where he sat and offered one to Catherine before settling on the other. She smoothed her skirt over her knees and clasped her hands tight enough to blanch her knuckles.
Fear swamped Catherine, trying to drown her in its depths. The strong foundation her life had been built upon shuddered, then she felt as if a crevasse opened deep within her. Tears leaked into her own eyes, blurring her vision as she stared first at her father and then at her aunt who, were always anchors in her life.
Her father raised red-rimmed eyes toward her, his face a pale, scary caricature of the man she’d always leaned upon. “There’s so much you don’t know … my precious daughter.”
Such a formal way for her father to talk to her, as if they were separated in some unseen way. Trembling started in her knees. She was glad she was sitting, so she didn’t sink to the floor in a swoon. The tremors rose over her whole body, and she shook as though a chill wind had swept through the room.
Dare I ask another question? When she tried, her tongue stayed glued to the roof of her mouth, so she waited for him to continue.
Aunt Kirstin didn’t utter a single word either.
“I’ve brought Miss Catherine a bit of a snack.” Julie bustled through the open doorway, breaking the unbearable tension for a moment. “There’s enough for all of you … and a pot of that new tea you just received from China.” She set the tray on the table that stood beside Aunt Kirstin’s chair, then exited the room.
Mechanically, Catherine’s aunt poured three cups of the steaming liquid and added just the right amount of milk and sugar to match each person’s preference. When she handed the saucer and teacup to Father, both of their hands shook, rattling the china.
Catherine received her tea and kept one hand on the cup, warming her icy fingertips.
“Would you like a sandwich or a piece of cake?” Aunt Kirstin’s whispered words were only a bit louder than the clink of the dishes.
Catherine didn’t think she could get a single bite down her throat that now felt like a sandy desert. She shook her head.
Father didn’t glance at her aunt before he handed his cup back without even taking a sip. He turned his gaze toward Catherine and took a breath, releasing it as a soul-deep sigh. “Some things happened when you were born … that I’ve never shared … with you … with anyone, except your aunt.”
Remember to leave a comment to be entered in the book drawing! To learn more about Lena and her books, here are some links:
Lena’s webpage: http://www.lenanelsondooley.com/
Lena’s blog: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/
Lena’s books: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/p/books.html