I am so excited to be a part of Lynn Austin’s book launch team for her newest book, Waves of Mercy! That means that I get to be among one of the first to curl up with a cup of coffee and lose myself in a world long past. Stay tuned for my review of the book!
But until then, Lynn graciously answered questions from our team to allow us to get to know the author who has made history come alive for so many. If you haven’t read any of her works yet, I suggest that you head to your local bookstore or download some on your Kindle – some of them are ringing up for as low as $1.99 right now!
Launch Team (LT): What inspired you to write this particular story?
Lynn: I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, MI, for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. It intrigued me to learn that the first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. Since that’s true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered in the process of founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.
LT: Are the characters based on actual people?
Lynn: The only “real” person in the story is Reverend (Dominie) Van Raalte, who led the Dutch immigrants to America in 1846. When researching the book, I read a collection of memoirs written by the first settlers, so I combined a lot of their stories when creating my characters. My main characters—Maarten, Geesje, and her family—are products of my imagination. No one by those names immigrated with the original settlers.
LT: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
Lynn: In a way, this was a fairly easy book to write because I live in the community where it takes place. I could easily walk to the site where the Hotel Ottawa once stood if I needed inspiration. And everything I needed to research Holland’s history was readily available. My biggest challenge was making the story realistic but not too sad. I had no idea how much the early settlers suffered until I started reading their story.
LT: What is your favorite quote from the book?
Lynn: It’s actually a promise from Jesus that the characters often refer to: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them . . . I give them eternal life . . . and no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
LT: How long did it take you to write Waves of Mercy?
Lynn: One year, including the research.
LT: Which character from Waves of Mercy is most like you and why? Which character most inspired you and why? And which was your polar opposite?
Lynn: I suppose Geesje is somewhat like me because she dares to get angry with God and question why He allows pain and suffering. Geesje and I both know that a real relationship is an honest one—and besides, God knows that we’re angry, so we can’t really hide anything from Him! I was most inspired by Geesje’s parents—who didn’t question God, and were willing to do His will, even if that meant suffering. They also lived out their faith in their daily lives, no matter what. I’m probably least like Maarten, who never seemed to have doubts and lived a solid, consistent, Christian life, sacrificing for others.
LT: What was your biggest hurdle when researching Waves of Mercy?
Lynn: There was so much information available—including an entire VanRaalte Research Center at Hope College—so it was difficult to do a thorough job and not be completely overwhelmed. I knew I was leaving out a lot of good information but I had a story to tell, first and foremost. I hate reading novels with too much history tossed in. Keeping the history and the story in balance was challenging at times.
LT: What do you hope readers will come away with after finishing Waves of Mercy?
Lynn: I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.
LT: Can you give us a little glimpse into your writing process?
Lynn: I begin a new book by reading everything I can find on the topic, going down rabbit trails, gathering information, visiting the book’s setting if possible. Pretty soon, I begin to envision characters in that setting and historical era and they start “talking” to me. Next, I develop their personalities, collecting pictures, writing “resumes” for them until I know them thoroughly. Then I start writing, making up the plot as I go along. I write every day, 5 days a week when possible, and aim for a goal of 5 pages a day.
LT: How did you start writing?
Lynn: I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids and I loved to read, but I got tired of reading books that offered no hope. The theme seemed to be “Life is hard and then you die.” I agree that life can be hard, but God is good! So I sat down one day when my kids were napping and decided to try to write the kind of book I loved to read. Writing turned out to be so much fun for me—creating characters, making up plots—that I’ve been doing it ever since.
LT: Do you have a favorite author?
Lynn: I have quite a few, including Maeve Binchy, Chaim Potok, and Rosamunde Pilcher.
LT: What words of encouragement can you give to aspiring authors?
Lynn: Don’t quit. Yes, it’s a hard road to publication, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve been called by God to write, then write—and trust Him for the outcome. A successful writer isn’t the person who is published—it’s the person who keeps writing.
LT: What have been some challenging aspects of being a writer? What are the most rewarding?
Lynn: Being a writer involves a lot of self-discipline. I have to make the very best use of my time and energy so that I can get the job done on time, and to the very best of my ability. It takes me a year to write each book, and during that time I have very little feedback. I’m essentially working all alone. That’s hard, at times. And lonely. The most rewarding part is when I hear from my readers, telling me how my book has influenced their lives. That makes it all worthwhile!
LT: Is there a theme that seems to show often in your writing?
Lynn: Life is hard but God is good—and He always has everything under control.
LT: You’ve covered a lot of ground, historically speaking. Is there an era that intimidates you or one that you’d like to write about but haven’t yet?
Lynn: Aside from my biblical novels, which go WAY back in history, the earliest time period I’ve written about is the mid-1800s. I don’t think I’d want to go back any earlier than that in U.S. history. Researching the time of the Pilgrims or the Revolutionary War would scare me.
LT: Most history lovers have an antique or two around their home. Assuming this is true, do you have a favorite? Do you have a wish list?
Lynn: I love antiques, but my husband doesn’t care much for them, so I have to keep my collection under control. (No wish lists!) My favorite pieces are the ones that were handed down through my family, such as the mantle clock that my great-grandfather bought for my great-grandmother as a present on the day my grandmother was born. I guess he wanted her to know what time it was when she got up to feed the baby in the middle of the night! I also have a huge, wooden steamer trunk from 1812 that I bought before Ken and I were married to serve as my “hope chest.” We’ve been dragging it around ever since. My oldest antique is an oil lamp I purchased in Israel that dates to the time of King Hezekiah.
Which has been your favorite era to research?
Lynn: The Civil War. I did a lot of traveling when I researched my three Civil War novels, and I enjoyed every minute. The battlefields and cemeteries were very moving, especially seeing the grave of my husband’s great-great grandfather, who died in the war. And I loved visiting the beautiful plantations in the South. This time period also brought a lot of good changes for women, so that made it interesting, too.
LT: Do you have any writing must-haves?
Lynn: I must have my daily quiet time for prayer and Bible reading—or else I don’t get anywhere at all with my writing.
LT: What is your least favorite phase of the publishing process?
Lynn: The part I hate the most is getting the first editorial review my finished manuscript. I just want to be done with the book (and of course I’m convinced it’s perfect) but my editor always has a few suggested changes.
LT: How do you recharge your batteries?
Lynn: I go out and play! I love to ride my bike, walk in the woods, and play with my granddaughter. My husband is a professional musician, so going to his concerts recharges me, too.
LT: What are a few of your favorite things?
Lynn: The beach on Lake Michigan near my home—lounging on the sand with my husband and watching the sailboats. The floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my great room with a sliding library ladder—and all of my books, of course. Spending time with my children and my granddaughter. Going on vacation to fun, new places.
LT: Is it possible to get a small clue, say, the year of the setting on your current work-in-progress?
Lynn: It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.
Now I am off to finish her latest book, so I can give you my honest review on that. But trust me – I just got it today, and I’m already almost halfway through it even with three children in the house and homeschooling going on! Happy reading!