Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and best-selling author of more than a dozen historical novels, with a special affection for 18th century America.
Hi there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler, and today on Binge Reading Laura talks about her latest romance called A Heart Adrift, an American historical about a Virginia chocolatier and a privateering sea captain who collide again after a failed love affair a decade before.
We’ve got our usual free book offer, this time a joint author promo called Relax and Read, a selection of all genres for you to choose from. You’ll find the links for how to access these books plus any other information about this episode in the show notes on www.thejoysofbingereading.com.
A wide range of genres to choose from, including Books 1 and 4 of Jenny Wheeler’s Of Gold & Blood Old California mystery series.
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Links to this episode:
George Hume and Wedderburn Castle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedderburn_Castle
Daniel Boone daughter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_and_rescue_of_Jemima_Boone
An Uncommon Woman: https://laurafrantz.net/books/an-uncommon-woman
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34066798-a-gentleman-in-moscow
Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson: https://www.amazon.com/Run-Rose-Novel-James-Patterson/dp/075955434X
Liz Curtis Higgs: https://www.lizcurtishiggs.com
Kristen Heitzmann: http://kristenheitzmannbooks.com
Where to find Laura Frantz:
What follows is a “near as” transcript of our conversation, not word for word but pretty close to it, with links to the show notes in The Joys of Binge Reading.com for important mentions.
Introducing romance author Laura Frantz
But now, here’s Laura.
Jenny Wheeler: Hello there Laura, and welcome to the show. It’s so good to have you with us.
Laura Frantz: I’m so delighted to be here. I’m a fan and I’m always enjoy talking books. Thank you.
Jenny Wheeler: You are a bestselling author and an award-winning one with thirteen historical novels to your credit. The most recent one, and the one we’ll be focusing on for part of our time today, is A Heart Adrift. It’s set in 1755 when the prospect of war with France is looming over colonial Virginia. You have said that you are a real fan of the 18th century. What draws you to that time period?
Laura Frantz: Oh my, I could probably spend the whole show talking about that, but in a nutshell, the 18th century was a complete historical rollercoaster ride. There was so much going on in that century. You have, as you already mentioned, the French and Indian war, also two revolutions, both French and American, the flintlock musket and Indian warfare came to the forefront during that very tumultuous era. On a more personal note, the bedbug epidemic was out of control and personal hygiene was at a low. On every level of the 18th century, it’s kind of a hot, roiling, historical mess.
But there were good things that came out of that too. People began reading for pleasure. Books became more accessible. One of the things I have included in some of my novels is another invention by Ben Franklin – the Franklin stove. People began to warm up in a century that had been quite cold.
A love of the eighteenth century
You have a lot to draw from when you write in the 18th century, not only the United States but overseas. Your own history in your own country was quite tumultuous too if I understand it.
Jenny Wheeler: We hardly existed in the 18th century. The early 19th is mostly when the white people started arriving here. Of course, it’s terrible to even think of history starting when the white people arrived because the Maori were here for thousands of years before that.
You focus particularly on early American history, don’t you? I don’t know if you’ve done any novels outside of America, but the bulk of your work is when America is being framed as a nation, isn’t it? It’s nation building.
Laura Frantz: That’s a beautiful way to say it, when our nation was being framed. I do. I enjoy very much keeping that founding history alive – our founding fathers, like George Washington, our founding mothers, like Martha Washington and Abigail Adams and strong women who helped shape history.
There is a real joy in making that history relevant, because in our younger generations there’s a disconnect. They don’t know much about history. They’re just not interested in our history, so one of the joys of writing is trying to make that interesting to readers. It’s also – and I’m sure as a novelist you can say the same thing – you are always learning. It’s an ongoing education as a novelist, and I think the reader of historical novels feels that too. It’s a gift to read and you’re amassing this knowledge that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t read. Historicals are wonderful that way.
A family connection going right back
Jenny Wheeler: It’s interesting because there was a personal aspect to this for you as well. One of your direct descendants got exiled from Scotland to the American colonies in the 18th century, didn’t he?
Laura Frantz: Exactly. George Hume. I’m the sixth-grade granddaughter of a laird. He was titled, one of the gentry back in the 18th century. He ended up on the wrong side of the war. It was a Jacobite rebellion of 1715, and he and his uncle and his son – one of them – were exiled after sitting in London prison for a couple of years. The three of them were exiled to Virginia, and so I have ties with Virginia. Then a lot of those Virginians came into Kentucky, which is my home place, and so I do have a personal connection.
Thanks to my publisher Ravel I was able to write one story that was partially set in Scotland, and it involved coming to America like my Humes did. That came out a couple of years ago, and currently I just submitted a story set entirely in Scotland based on my human ancestry. Look for that in January of 2023. The title is The Rose and the Thistle, which I think is lovely.
Jenny Wheeler: Very appropriate. Your books are inspirational, but not in a way that detracts or overwhelms the story. Do you find holding that balance between the inspirational aspect and everything else tricky at times?
Doing inspirational romance well
Laura Frantz: Not really. It’s organic to the story. Publisher’s Weekly calls me spiritually subtle and I probably am. I’m not attracted by a lot of religiosity. You’re not going to see a lot of conversions in my books. There are those but they’re more organic to the story. They’re more natural, more part of the story. It’s not something that’s inserted to make a point – you know, we’ll dump in a little spirituality here or there. I don’t do that, and I don’t enjoy that in books.
One thing I have going for me probably is that the 18th century was a very religious time. People were quite religious. That was a loose word. You have your Protestants, your Anglicans, your Quakers, you have native American beliefs, a lot of different belief systems in the 18th century.
But on the whole, there were not many atheists or agnostics. That century was kind of baptized in faith and we’ve since grown away from that. So, it’s quite natural. If you set a novel in the 18th century and try to divorce what you’re writing from the faith element, it would be historically incorrect. So it’s easy for me to do that.
Jenny Wheeler: In A Heart Adrift, Esmee is a very independent young woman, and that’s a theme also in your books. A lot of your heroines are definitely independent young women. Some people would see that as slightly unusual for an inspirational book because if they don’t know too much about faith, they might have that idea about Christian wives being very docile and having to be submissive. Your women aren’t those sorts of women at all, are they?
Strong women found in all generations
Laura Frantz: No. My women are strong women and if you look back historically, there are many of those women, as you say, docile, subservient, never make an independent move. There were many women like that. Women were still sadly thought of as second-class citizens in the 18th century.
There were some very strong women like Abigail Adams. She was wife to John Adams, who was a President. She was very much an advocate for women’s rights, she opposed slavery, she was an advisor to her husband on business and political matters when he was President. There were women like Abigail Adams who had their own mind, had their own beliefs, weren’t afraid to speak out, really movers and shakers.
I call them the founding mothers. We don’t just have the founding fathers. We have the founding mothers in America, and she was one of them. Another one was Deborah Franklin, wife of Benjamin Franklin, who was the entrepreneur who did everything and usually did everything well. Ben would sail away and leave her, and she ran all his businesses very successfully and even the U S postal system at that time.
We tend to overlook those women. But I have to credit their men here because their husbands allowed and fostered them to be like that, so kudos to the men behind the women and the women behind the men.
During the time of the French Indian war
Jenny Wheeler: In A Heart Adrift Esmee is in love with the sea captain Henri but they are separated by the sea because she doesn’t want to become a sea widow. She holds off from accepting him until he’s a land lubber, and by the time that arrives the French war is looming, and he’s being called into service. There is a very strong element of being parted by what’s happening in the world around them as well.
Laura Frantz: Right. It was interesting writing that because I don’t know a lot about the French and Indian war. I think people in Europe call it the Seven Years War, especially people in England. It was a very interesting time. Henri, and I love that you pronounced it correctly – I have to think about it sometimes and not call him Henry, but our captain hero Henri Lennox is the prototype or the template for the privateers who eventually became the US Navy.
At that time Britain was the powerhouse and nobody wanted to fight Britain. He was a privateer working for the British Navy in a sense, although he was independent and helping this expedition against the French in order to thwart the war. That was a very nice element to insert between them because that’s the kind of conflict that had driven Esmee and Henri apart before. They both were a bit adrift, and they have to make a choice. What does our future hold? Will a war and a cache of regrets keep us apart or will a new shared vision reunite them?
How Laura Frantz first got published
Jenny Wheeler: You say that you simply love to write and that you didn’t even start out having any idea about being published. Tell us a little bit about that journey for you.
Laura Frantz: That was 40 years in the wilderness in biblical terms. I’ve written since I was seven years old. My mother said she thought I had a special gift for that. She was a reading teacher; our house was all about books and she fostered that, so I continued to write stories.
My first one was at seven. Then I continued to write as I went on. I even wrote a sequel to Gone with the Wind in my teens, which was just horrendous. That was the big novel a long time ago. Then there was Dances with Wolves, I wrote a sequel to that. I’m not very original. Those were big blockbuster films and books. I never stopped writing, but I never wanted to write for an audience. I knew it was magic when I wrote for me, but it was very selfish.
My brother, who has lived in Spain and all over the world, came to visit me one day and I was pecking away. I didn’t even have a computer. He said, I’ve watched you do this for years and I think you have a gift, so why don’t you try to use it? It’s a shame you’re not. You could be a benefit to someone.
I never viewed writing in those terms. I thought it was like a kind of a passion, an intense hobby. But I took him up on it, and I said, I don’t have any writing friends, no writing contacts, no literary agent, and from what I’ve heard, it’s very difficult to break into the market. This was before indie became so popular, when you could do it yourself.
Thanks to her brother
I said to him, I’m going to prove to you how hard it is. I was literally laughing because I thought it’s not going to work, and he’s going to see. I submitted something to a Christian clearing house called The Writer’s Edge that feeds your few chapters into editorial houses or publishing houses.
Within a few days I had several publishing houses interested, and I still didn’t have an agent. Soon after that I was awarded a three-book contract, so my brother, bless him, had the last laugh. I said, thank you, Chris. I still say thank you, Chris. I’m very thankful.
People come into your life who spur you on and open the window of your mind and enlarged my vision of what I should be doing, and alerted me that what I had been doing, writing in the closet, was quite selfish. We’re not made to hoard our gifts. And they are a gift. I always wanted to be a musician. I can sing a little bit, but I can’t play anything. Can you imagine having a gifted musician go in a locked room and not share that?
Jenny Wheeler: That’s right. You did mention about aspects of your own history that are not so well known, and there is another book I finished listening to on audio last night, An Uncommon Woman. It is one of your more recently published ones as well. That was a fascinating story about people who had been taken captive during the Indian wars and lived for maybe a decade or so with Indian tribes before they then, under different terms, were returned to their white families.
What happened to the war captives?
They might be redeemed by paying a ransom or freed in a bargain of exchange of prisoners, and often they found it very difficult to settle back into European society. You’ve got a very interesting story built around the experiences of those people.
Laura Frantz: Yes. It was very fascinating to me. Ever since I was a child, one of my heroes is Daniel Boone. He became larger than life. A lot that we know about Boone is fable. You know, he wears a coonskin cap – he actually hated a coonskin cap. Native American Indians got along with him very well. He was adopted into an Indian tribe at one point and lived with them for quite a long time. His wife gave him up for dead.
He is my frontier hero. An Uncommon Woman, which you so graciously listened to on audio, is one of my favorite frontier stories because it does have that native American theme. Daniel Boone’s daughter was also captured by Indians briefly. He went after her and redeemed her before she could be assimilated into the tribe, but that’s always been fascinating to me.
One thing especially noteworthy is that these captives, once they had lived with the Indians for a certain amount of time, had no desire to return to the white world. That says a lot about the white society at that time. Women were so oppressed in many cases then. They were no better than servants in their own households. It was sheer drudgery.
The complex relationships in colonial times
The Indians had a fascinating system. They gave a lot of power to women. They had tribal leaders who were women. They had warriors who were women. Outstanding women in these tribal systems, and so it was interesting to have a woman named Keturah in that story, who never wanted to leave once she had a family and a life with those Indians. She represents what happened, no desire to return, as hard as it is to believe. I’m trying to take an honest look at that.
In my author note at the back I gave a little more explanation as to the dynamics of that – what it meant to be taken, what it meant to be returned. It’s quite poignant and heartbreaking often.
Jenny Wheeler: You mentioned a book there that really sparked my interest, although I will probably never have time to read it, called White to Red, which goes into that. There was also a fascinating quote from an Italian adventurer who saw the Delaware Indians in the 16th century, before white men even arrived in America, and spoke incredibly highly of what the tribe was like and the relationship they enjoyed, in a short visit there. It almost had the feel of an Eden kind of community before the modern Europeans arrived.
Like a ‘Garden of Eden’ to some eyes
Laura Frantz: Exactly. Then the modern Europeans arrived with all their biases and pride. We made so many mistakes, beginning at Jamestown in 1607. Speaking for Americans, my own people, I was horrified. I wrote another story about that called Tidewater Bride which revolves around that first colony in which we seem to do everything wrong with the Indians when we could have made great gains.
That quote, it was like something out of Eden, I think was an honest quote. So much of what we read is embellished or revised history, but he was an Italian and he was coming to America with not the same prejudices we have. Before the native Americans or Indians were decimated by disease and prejudice and things like that, they lived as idyllically as possible in an unspoiled wilderness. The wilderness can be an enemy but at that time, before the whites came and took over and mowed them down in many respects, it was quite Edenic if you want to use that word, which I do like.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. Turning away from your specific books to a wider look at your career, on the commercial side of your publishing – you would obviously have kept writing for evermore for your own pleasure but in terms of an author career, is there one thing you’ve done more than any other that you would see as having helped you get to where you are today?
Advice for beginning writers – Laura Frantz
Laura Frantz: That is such an interesting, insightful question. Being consistent, consistently writing books that you put your heart into, that you research as thoroughly as you can. Passion drives a lot of what I do. I’m absolutely passionate about the 18th century and all that was happening at that time.
I’m very grateful for our founders. There is a lot of history I would like to change, but we can learn from our history rather than rewrite it. Consistency for me is key. Trying to turn out quality prose and caring about my readers. Consistency and caring, I guess are the two watch words for me.
Jenny Wheeler: Great. Laura, this is The Joys of Binge Reading and we are starting to come to the end of our time together. I always like to ask our authors what they’re reading at the moment and what they’d like to recommend for others, particularly in the area of commercial fiction. What do you like to read for entertainment and pleasure?
Laura Frantz: The best book that I read not too long ago, and it might be on your shelf too, is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. He is remarkable. I have since learned that is being spun into a series or a film or whatever. A Gentleman in Moscow is extraordinary. I have always wondered and have wanted to live in a hotel and the Metropole hotel in Moscow would be quite fine, thank you. He does it so well. That’s general market fiction and that’s huge. He’s huge.
I recently got Dolly Parton and James Patterson’s new book, Run, Rose, Run. Dolly Parton is a famous country singer and James Patterson is the number one selling author worldwide. They teamed up to do a novel. I think it’s suspense, kind of intrigue.
Books Laura Frantz loves reading now
As for the inspirational market that I’m so much a part of, I absolutely adore Liz Curtis Higgs books. She writes Scottish novels, she’s been to Scotland multiple times. Liz Curtis Higgs writes the most beautiful books. She also does a lot of Bible studies and things like that.
The other one is Kristin Heitzmann. Her historical fiction is extraordinary. There is a series she did called Diamond of the Rockies which is on my keeper shelf forever. Those are the ones that come to mind right now.
Jenny Wheeler: What is happening in that niche of inspirational fiction? Is it growing?
Laura Frantz: I believe it is. I see a trend to kind of cross over into the general market, which is good. I don’t know what to think of it. There are a lot of people who don’t want to read about God in a book. They don’t appreciate spiritual threads in a novel. But there are a lot of people who are hungry for that and want that. When spirituality is well done and is true, it enriches a novel rather than takes away from it. There is definitely a place in the general market for our kind of fiction.
We tend to have a small audience. A Heart Adrift has done well, and it might be my crossover novel. I’m seeing wonderful things happening with that, and I’m very appreciative. I’d love a wider audience, and certainly your having me here today is a wonderful way to expand that reach and get to know new readers.
Inspirational fiction with wider appeal
Jenny Wheeler: I had a quick look on Goodreads and it looked to me as if quite a number of your readers are from the wider market. They are not necessarily looking specifically for inspirational books but they’re into historical fiction. Also, often a lot of historical readers prefer light romance. They don’t want a lot of heavy sexuality. They very much prefer not to have the foot too hard on the pedal where sex scenes are concerned, so that helps as well.
If you’re doing historical, it probably fits a bit better with the times as they were as well. It means they can enjoy a book without having a lot of heavy sex intruding into the story.
Laura Frantz: I find that so refreshing. I have streamlined my own taste and to have a clean read is a delightful thing. To follow up on that, most readers now are not thinking mostly in terms of inspirational or Christian fiction or general market fiction. What a reader wants is quality well-written fiction. If it’s well-written they are going to appreciate that. Who said, if a book is well written, I always find it too short? Was that Jane Austen?
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. As you’ve been talking, I think of that old saying that there aren’t many atheists in a foxhole. In the times we’re living in, people maybe tend to think a little bit more seriously about life and death and everything, don’t they?
Laura Frantz: The pandemic has made that crystal clear. Yes, I agree.
If you could change on thing what would it be?
Jenny Wheeler: Looking back down the tunnel of time, Laura, if there was one thing about your creative career that you’d change, what would it be?
Laura Frantz: It would be to embrace the gift early on and not resist it. Be good to yourself, realize what you’ve been endowed with, what your giftings are, and then really work at that. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. I love what you said at the beginning of our talk. You are prolific with 10 novels. I’ve only written 13. I have author friends who have written 100, which boggles my mind.
Embrace the gift, go with it. 10,000 hours writing is not going to make you a master in my book, because there’s always so much still to learn and we’re always an apprentice, never a master in writing. But we can always grow and be better.
Jenny Wheeler: What is next for Laura as author? Looking ahead over this next 12 months or so, what have you got on your desk that you’re working on or about to publish?
Laura Frantz: I just came through the release of A Heart Adrift in January, and the very day it released was the day I turned in my next novel to my publisher. It’s quite the interesting timeline – you get one in and one comes out.
What Laura is working on now
I’m anticipating edits. There’s been a title for that one, the Scottish novel that’s coming out next January, The Rose and the Thistle. It’s in-house with the art team. My publisher does beautiful cover art, so I’m excited to see what direction they take for The Rose and the Thistle.
Then I’m writing a novel set in Acadia, present day Nova Scotia. Another tragic bit of history about the Acadian expulsion beginning in 1755. I’m not Acadian, so I’m treading lightly with that, but I’m hoping to represent that Acadian history, Canadian history, as best I can.
It’s going to be a busy year. I also travel to France in three weeks and then Scotland after that. I wish I could come over to you. My grandmother absolutely loved your country. Out of all the travel she did, she said your country was her favorite. I’ve never forgotten.
Jenny Wheeler: When was the last time you left the USA?
aura Frantz: It was about five years ago, even before the pandemic. I tend to like to travel internationally and I’ve done quite a bit, but I had a Kentucky cabin at that time and I kind of settled in. It was my dream to have a cabin, and we just enjoyed that. Then the pandemic hit and we couldn’t do anything, so we are making up for lost time now. I’m sure a lot of people can say that. I’m very thankful that we’re hopefully seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Where to find Laura Frantz online
Jenny Wheeler: Have you been to Paris before?
Laura Frantz: Never. My brother who is well traveled said once that was his favorite city. Paris in the spring sounds wonderful, does it not?
Jenny Wheeler: Yes. Do you enjoy interacting with your readers and where can they find you online?
Laura Frantz: I love interacting with readers and I try to answer every reader personally when they come in on social media, if they send me an email or a private message. I have a Facebook author page, Laura Frantz Author. I also have an Instagram account, Laura Frantz Author once again.
I have a new website coming up that I’m very excited about. It will make access even easier. Laurafrantz.net is my web home and it will stay my web address. I have a lovely site now but it’s going to get even more updated soon. I have a newsletter I love to have readers jump in on. It’s seasonal. It goes out four times a year and I try to make it as beautiful and historic as possible, so I invite them to join me. I love my readers. Reading people are the best people in the world.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s wonderful. We’ll have all the links to those contact points in the show notes for this episode, so they will be there forever online.
Laura Frantz: Thank you.
Jenny Wheeler: Wonderful to have talked today, Laura. Thank you so much for your time.
Laura Frantz: I appreciate it, Jenny. All my best to you.
What’s Next for Binge Reading?
If you enjoyed hearing about Laura Frantz you might also enjoy Karen Brooks’ Restoration Thrillers
Next week on binge reading: Carol Wallace and Gilded Age New York
Carol Wallace has written more than 20 books, including the New York Times bestseller To Marry an English Lord, which was an inspiration for the Downton Abbey TV series. Next week she’s on the show talking about her latest historical fiction called Our Kind of People. It’s set in the golden age of New York, bringing the class wars of Downton Abbey to the New York metropolitan scene.
That’s next week. Carol Wallace on The Joys of Binge Reading.
That’s it for today. Happy reading and see you next time.
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