Meet the Author: Louise Lenahan Wallace

My guest this week is Louise Lenahan Wallace, award-winning author of four novels and many short stories and articles. Her newest novel is Day Unto Day.

With the Civil War behind them, Ethan Michaels, a widower with a young daughter, and Larissa Edwards, whose husband was killed in the war, look forward to living out their days on the family farm in Ohio. Fate, however, has other plans. Larissa’s daughter survives a deathly illness, but with tragic, far-reaching consequences. Larissa and Ethan have planted their marriage in the rich soil of shared love, but when someone from Larissa’s earlier life appears, the roots stretching deep into their separate pasts yield heartbreak that threatens to destroy their new-found happiness.

Welcome, Louise. Day Unto Day is a sequel to Days of Eternity, a novel of the Civil War. How did you come up with the idea for this series?

The first two books, The Longing of the Day and Day Star Rising, take place in Wyoming Territory in 1886-1887, during the “Winter of the White Catastrophe” when blizzards killed off the cattle herds and ended open-range ranching. Days of Eternity and Day Unto Day take place in Ohio before, during, and just after the Civil War. Although each of my novels is able to stand by itself, the characters from the third and fourth books “meet” the characters from the first two books, thus providing a twenty-years-earlier glimpse into the lives of the Wyoming Territory folks—their hopes, fears, and dreams at the beginning of the trail that leads them to a June evening in 1887.

When did you start writing and why?

I started writing when my older daughter was five and my younger daughter was three months old. I wanted to do something as a way to take time for myself, yet remain at home with my children. When I was growing up, before falling asleep, I entertained myself by mentally creating characters and spinning stories around them. I recall that one such saga continued each night for a year as I kept adding more storyline and additional folks to the mix. It is, undoubtedly, fortunate for the reading world that I never wrote it down. I now remember only bits and pieces, but all these years later, I can still feel the joy and anticipation of executing the next chapter. When I started writing down my stories, I never dreamed that I’d actually get published. Nevertheless, I found it to be a great comfort in moments of stress and life-changing circumstances, even when my characters became ornery and wouldn’t do what I told them, but went their own ways. It took a while to get used to them taking over, but when I let them, their version of the story invariably turned out better than mine. I take directions from them much more cheerfully, now….

How long did it take you to be recognized for your writing and to get published?

Although I won several short story and nonfiction awards over the years, The Longing of the Day, my first book, took exactly twenty-five years from the time I started writing it. I know, because I actually received and held the first copy in my hands on my birthday (a glorious way to celebrate!) in August 2000, just one month before my younger daughter turned twenty-five.

You have a strong faith-based theme in your books, but you are not just “preaching to the choir.” Your books would appeal to all types of readers. How important is that to you?

Men and women, teenagers and eighty-somethings, have read my books.  Many readers, when telling me how much they enjoyed them, said they became so immersed in the characters’ lives, they felt they were actually witnessing the scenes. One reviewer said of Days of Eternity, my second book, that “… the scenery she paints is rich; one can easily imagine the wagon that creaks down Main Street or the sheets crackling in the wind on Larissa’s line.” The reader’s sense of being there is deeply important to me. One of my goals is to portray ordinary people, going about their day-to-day lives, who suddenly find themselves in extraordinary situations—ones that could happen to you or me.

 The American frontier’s unwritten code decreed that a man’s word, once given, was as unbreakable as if he had signed the agreement in stone, no matter what circumstances might later befall him. In The Longing of the Day, a family raises a little boy as their own son after his parents are killed in an Indian raid. Now grown to manhood, having lived with this code and seen it in action all his life, Matt is forced to choose between love and loyalty, honor and desire. The devastating blizzards of 1886-1887 caused hundreds of ranchers to lose most or even all of the herds they had spent a lifetime acquiring. In many cases, these owners had to start from square one to rebuild their livelihoods and their lives, even while bankruptcy from the losses loomed over their heads. In Day Star Rising, Will, a young rancher who has been jilted by his fiancée, becomes a reluctant participant in a range war—this one a battle that will shape a new way of life from the bleaching cattle bones of the old. Hannah, deserted by her husband, is left to raise their four young sons and keep her ranch going as best she might during a time when even seasoned cattlemen are going under. Trapped in a briar patch of circumstance as they struggle to rebuild their lives, sharp-thorned vines of suspicion, cultivated by narrow-minded townspeople, coil about them. In Days of Eternity, Zane, an Ohio farmer planning to live out his life quietly, suddenly finds himself thrust into the Civil War and its attendant violence, while his family waits at home day after day, not knowing if he will ever return to them. In Day Unto Day, a couple copes with the tragic consequences of their young daughter’s illness. Rose survives, but because medical knowledge in 1866 is limited, she is doomed to a bleak future. In seeking the means to return her to her rightful place as a productive member of society, her family discovers that the soul has many ways of speaking, but the heart must listen carefully.

During this period in history, many people put a quiet reliance upon their faith to get them through difficult situations. Sometimes, that belief was all they had to lean on. That’s how I’ve portrayed my characters. Without a lot of fanfare, faith is as much a part of their everyday existence as wind, blizzards, drought, and the vastness of the stars on a hot summer night.

Please stop back tomorrow as we talk to Louise about research, publication and the writing process.

Louise’s books include Longing of the Day, Day Star Rising, Days of Eternity and Day Unto Day. These books are available through her website and Amazon. 

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Louise, thank you for being my blog guest this week! Your books are very enjoyable reads, and you’ve worked hard on your craft.

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