When I received the chance to read and review Elaine Littau's historical fiction novel, Nan's Journey, I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. There is nothing I love more than a good Christian historical fiction novel and a lazy summer afternoon.
I've read a lot of Christian historical fiction as I'm sure you might have guessed. While there were many elements of this book that were similar to the tradition of the genre, what makes Nan's Journey stand out is Elaine's willingness to tackle difficult issues. And through these horrible circumstances, Elaine keeps pointing us back to the promises of God, His love and salvation.
NOTE (and a minor spoiler): When I say this book tackles difficult issues, I must alert you to the fact that the main character, Nan, endures beatings and rape (no specific details). In light of this, the book is for more mature audiences, 15 and up.
The book follows the story of a young girl, Nan, who deals with several horrible experiences on her way to faith in Christ. So, as you can imagine, it was difficult for her to trust others and, in turn, God. Hers is journey of healing and learning about God's unwavering love, trust and mercy even through extremely painful circumstances.
In addition to Nan's Journey, Elaine has written a whole series following Nan's family and heritage. I am looking forward to reading the rest of series and learning about how God works in the lives of her family members. You can read a review of the whole series HERE.
I would also like to share an interview with Elaine. It's always fun when we can get a glimpse into the thoughts and ideas behind a book.
How did you become a writer?
As soon as I learned how to read, I devoured books. As a child I loved reading historical fiction and stories about horses. In Junior High I found “Gone with the Wind”, “The Good Earth”, and “That Jones Girl”. I couldn’t get enough. I wondered how the authors put those stories together.
My parents were born in 1909 and 1913. They told me stories about their parents and grandparents. My imagination went wild. Mom explained to me many times about the struggles of making a life on the prairie and the challenges of cooking and cleaning while living in virtual poverty. I realized that most people of my generation had never heard these things. I wanted to write, but didn’t think I was good enough.
As a young mother I read while my children were in bed. I found a lot of books to be predictable and lacking…something. I began thinking about how I would change those books up to be more satisfying to me. When I heard the statement that every person has a book inside them, I decided to write my book.
What inspired you to write the Nan’s Heritage Series?
I liked the Western era and chose it to be the setting of “the book I had in me”. I had no idea of writing a series until after Nan’s Journey was going through the publishing hoops and I realized it was really going to be a book and not just a stack of papers my sons would find in a drawer after I die.
Where did you get some of your ideas for a Christian Historical Fiction?
For “Nan’s Journey” the idea came while I was doing dishes one day. I remembered a scene from the television series, Gunsmoke. A teenaged girl had been severely beaten. Her back was bleeding. As a little child, I had never seen anything like that. My mind whirled. Who hurt the girl? How did she get to the doctor? What happened to her after she was treated?
I couldn’t remember how the episode ended so I sat with a legal pad and began to write Nan’s story. I spent a couple of hours writing and my sons got home from school. It was time to be a mom again. I put that legal pad up and dug it out several times in the seven years it took to write it.
For “Elk’s Resolve” I decided to write a sequel for “Nan’s Journey” while I still had some courage. My husband helped me brainstorm with ideas about how and when some of the characters would find one another. Many times, just before awakening, ideas of the next scene would go through my mind.
“Luke’s Legacy” was the book that left me in tears most of the days I wrote it. I think it is an emotional book. I find it interesting that this one is my husband’s favorite. I love the character called ‘Purdy’. She says what a lot of us would like to say but have been taught not to say.
“The Eyes of a Stranger” came to me as I was thinking about mail-order brides. My first thought was, “If someone ordered me, I’d be sent back for a refund.” The story went on from there.
Some of the chapters from “Timothy’s Home” came from something that happened when I was three or four years old. My nephew and I were playing with my teenaged brother’s twenty mule team model. Somehow it was broken. Fifty years later I found a model and began putting it together. The kit had a history and interesting facts about the mule team. I researched online and had to use this hard fought knowledge in a book. I don’t like to waste a bit of research if possible.
The Series was completed with those five books. I sort of thought I was through writing but…
What is the most challenging part of writing for you?
The most challenging part for me is to actually sit down and begin writing. I can easily get bogged down with research because I find discovery so interesting. Also, developing a good title can be challenging. As far as writing the book, my approach is thinking about a movie I would be interested in watching and then I write down what I see in my head.
Who is your favorite author? What books have influenced you most?
Living authors: Janette Oak and Francine Rivers. Those from the past: Grace Livingston Hill and Hilda Stahl.
Janette Oak’s “Love Comes Softly” series influenced me a lot because it begins with the start of a family and continues through the generations. I like that format. Hilda Stahl’s “White Pine Chronicles” had such unexpected twists and turns, I want to write like that.
How have you found time to write eleven books? When and where do you usually write?
I am an empty-nester and have quite a bit of time on my hands. I also have suffered with some pretty awful pain. Keeping my mind busy has made dealing with it easier. Now, I am feeling better and have the desire to keep writing. Eleven books is a testimony of the grace of God that got me through some pretty bad days. I am humbled that the Lord held my hand through it all and caused the pain to bear some fruit for Him.
I have a big double-wide chair with an ottoman in my living room. I sit there with my laptop and write. I tried sitting in my home office and it just doesn’t work for me. I write here and there all the time. I asked for a Dragon speech recognition set up one year for Christmas and got it. I thought I could do double-duty while writing a book. Armed with my sewing machine and quilt pieces, I began dictating. I proceeded with this for probably three hours and then closed the computer and turned off the sewing machine.
The next day I looked at my manuscript and couldn’t figure out what on earth I had said. The dragon had tried to understand my Texas accent, but it had gotten so much of it wrong, I had to start that part over. I still use the dragon, but I watch it as it types and fix the mistakes as I go. (I still have a pronounced Texas accent.)
How does your family feel about your career?
They are very proud of me. I think it has given them inspiration to write their own books. My grandkids are also in the process of writing. None of them have finished a manuscript, but they will. I guess they think that if their mom can do it, they can, too.
Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
Each book has an overlying theme, but the main thing each book carries is that God loves you. He has provided a way for you to overcome your struggles and He will never leave you in your mess when you ask Him for help.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Learn all you can about the writing process and how to write a strong story. Write the kind of story you would like to read. Don’t let trying to get published hold you back. God will help you find the right publisher at the right time. Do not be afraid to self-publish.
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
Currently, I am writing a serial novel. It is Episode five of Restored. Restored is the third book in The Nashville Series. When I finish writing the episodes I will join them all together into one novel called, “Restored”.
After that, I want to write another Western in the Rescued series and then a devotional book as well as the book my family really wants me to write- a book about the humorous things that have happened in our family. I also want to write some books that are not a part of a series. My goal is to write one hundred books before I die. At this rate…I don’t know about that!
Thank you so much for doing this interview and caring about the story behind the books I write.