Julie here! I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend, Laura Hodges Poole. You might remember a few months ago I interviewed Laura Hilton from the critique group we belong to. Laura Poole is also in that group. Laura has a new release, and I loved it from the first chapter I critiqued. I interviewed her for Inspy Romance, and I believe you’re going to love getting to know her and want to read Return to Walhalla.
Before meeting Laura, I also wanted to let you know today and tomorrow two of my eBooks are free on Amazon. Engaged is my latest contemporary romance and the final book in my Surrendering Time series. It can be a stand alone. You’re Beautiful has a romance thread and was co authored by our teen daughter, Hannah. Don’t forget to check them out after reading Laura’s interview!
Interview with Laura Hodges Poole, author of Return to Walhalla
- Please tell us about yourself. I’m a Christian writer with a heart for hurting people. Life is difficult, whether you’re a Christian or not. I’ve dealt with a lot of heartache and death in my life, particularly that of my sister and, more recently, my daughter. I’ve written a blog for the last six years, A Word of Encouragement, and a devotional, While I’m Waiting, because people desperately need encouragement in this broken world. They need to be reassured that God is present in the waiting for answered prayers. Even through the toughest trial on earth, God will be there with you. He’ll also be there in the daily grind of life, in what might seem insignificant to someone else. I also love to hike in the mountains; actually I love just being outdoors in nature. I enjoy playing the piano and taught both of my children to play some. I live in the upstate of South Carolina, only a short drive from the mountains and the small town of Walhalla where my current book is set.
- How long have you been writing? What was it that gave you the motivation to pursue publication? I’ve been writing all my life, though seriously toward publication for the last twelve years. In 2005, I turned 40 and my sister had passed away two weeks before, so that milestone birthday didn’t really sink in. I drifted through my grief, not knowing what to do with my future. Then I picked up the newspaper one day and saw a mystery serial contest already in progress. One installment a month was published, and they were halfway through for the year. I thought, “I can do this.” So I submitted a chapter and was totally surprised when the features editor called me and told me I’d won. I had presence of mind to ask if I could enter again. I won the next five installments. It gave me practice writing something longer than a short story along with character and plot development. This small success was the catalyst that pushed me to write seriously toward publication.
- Tell us about your new release. Return to Walhalla is a Christian romance, Penny and Tommy’s love story. But ultimately, it’s a story of brokenness, redemption, and love—the three basic things of life, right? It’s also about complex family relationships and God’s grace covering even the biggest mistakes of your life. Walhalla is a real town in South Carolina, about an hour from where I live. The book provides an authentic experience of Southern small-town living and hopefully, the descriptions of the upstate of South Carolina, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, do it justice.
- What inspired you to write this? The first time I rode through Walhalla was on the way to one of South Carolina’s numerous waterfalls, Isaqueena Falls, although in Return to Walhalla, another well-known state park, Twin Falls, is featured. The beauty and charm of Walhalla caught my attention on this excursion, so I returned another day to sightsee. I noticed quilt blocks on various businesses around town. I stopped into the Oconee Heritage Center Museum, where I learned about the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, which commemorates the quilting heritage of the community. Each quilt block had a story behind it, which intrigued me. One day, as I thought about more about the town, the title Return to Walhalla popped into my mind, along with two characters, Penny Ruskin and Tommy McAllister. I knew I had my next story. I followed the story where Penny and Tommy led me, through past heartache, forgiveness, and redemption, along with the humor of Southern family and church get-togethers. Secondary characters like one of the church ladies, Miss Betty, and teenager Emma Johnson play important roles in Penny’s life, and of course, the quest to keep her in Walhalla. Naturally, I also included a quilting storyline.
- Did you face any challenges writing this book? Not really. The challenging part was after I signed the contract, which I did four days before my daughter passed away unexpectedly. There was a year and a half publishing process with edits and deadlines to meet when I often didn’t feel like sitting at the computer. I definitely felt God’s hand on me in the process.
- What is your hope that readers take away from it? Return to Walhalla is as much about facing life’s tough challenges with God’s help as it is about romantic love. No matter what we go through, we can count on God’s comfort and peace to see us through. You’re never so far from God that turning back isn’t possible. I hope readers are both entertained and inspired as they read Penny’s story of returning to Walhalla.
- What are you working on now? I’ve started on the next book in the series after Return to Walhalla, which will be Emma’s story. I’m also revising an earlier Christian romance manuscript for my agent to shop.
- How can readers find you?
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/LauraHodgesPoole
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+LauraPoole#
- What is something most readers would not know about you? I love to cross stitch and play the piano when I have time. I also love to cook.
- Do you have any questions for the readers? What inspires you most about Christian fiction—romance, in particular?
Laura Hodges Poole is a freelance writer with dozens of articles, devotions, and short stories in publication. Her books are available on Amazon. Laura is the 2016 ACWC Badge of Honor winner, a 2014 ACFW Genesis semi-finalist, and a 2012 RWA Emily finalist. As an editor, she enjoys mentoring and helping other writers polish their work. Laura is also a non-fiction ghostwriter/collaborator. Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk through her blog, “A Word of Encouragement.” When she’s not writing, you might find her hiking, playing the piano, or being crafty. A mother of two, Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband and son.
Return to Walhalla
When financier Penny Ruskin returns to Walhalla, South Carolina, she has one purpose—to settle her grandmother’s estate and sell the Victorian house she grew up in. Not an easy task with the downturned economy. What she doesn’t count on are all the roadblocks thrown in her path.
Walhalla is Tommy McAllister’s life. Between his family’s feed-and-seed store and the bank he’s vice president of, he’s stretched thin trying to survive the recession. But when a girl he hasn’t seen since high school breezes back into town, he’s ready to push himself even further to help her feel at home—and convince her to stay. He reaches out to Penny, but the last thing she wants is to be trapped in a small town that holds painful memories—one dark secret in particular.
The town matchmaker and bank manager, Miss Betty, a motherless teen Emma who lives down the lane from Penny, and the church ladies of Walhalla’s First Baptist add both heartwarming and challenging moments to Penny’s life.
With the past dogging Penny’s steps, dredging up painful memories she’s tried to outrun, relatives threaten the future she has begun to hope for…But somewhere deep inside her, a spark of hope remains. Tommy isn’t the only one praying for a miracle.