Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Romantic Reads: Once Upon an Irish Summer by Wendy Wilson Spooner

Interview with Wendy Wilson Spooner about her book, 
Once Upon an Irish Summer:

Alexis: Congratulations on the publication of your first book, Once Upon an Irish Summer! Let’s talk about it. Why did you write this story?

Because I fell in love with this particular ancestor, Allen Hamilton, and what he overcame, and who he became. My love of what we can learn from history compels me to write the true stories I unearth as a Professional Genetic Genealogist, and I’ve found that truth is indeed, much more exciting, and inspiring than fiction!

Alexis: How did you research this story?

Wendy: For some years, my mom worked on this particular family line, trying to gather more information on the Hamiltons. And we’re talking about the late 1700s and early 1800s in Ireland. Anyone who researches Irish ancestors knows many record collections have been destroyed or are only partially intact. So, traveling to Ireland was our best bet to find more answers. I went with both my parents and my husband in 2013. We scoured town halls, libraries, the People’s Republic of Northern Ireland’s extensive archives, and we traveled the countryside, discovering ancestral sites and original places these family members lived, worked, attended church, and where they were married and buried. It was while standing in the original estate on the west coast of Ireland in County Donegal that I knew I had to share this family’s story. Then we came home, and I spent a few more years researching this line and who Allen Hamilton in particular became after he arrived in America.

Describe your day job and explain how it inspires your fiction storytelling. Have you always had a passion for discovering people’s stories that you learn through researching genealogy?

Wendy: I am truly, equally as passionate about other people’s ancestral stories as I am my own. And I don’t remember how far back I became intrigued with genealogy, but I know I was a child. I grew up listening to my grandparents telling stories about our ancestors, where they immigrated from, what talents and skills they brought with them, and the underlying theme was always based on their love of God, holding fast to His word, and religious freedom.

Alexis: What is the theme of this book?

Wendy: There are several themes ribboning throughout the book. One is a strong Christian theme of overcoming with God’s help. Other themes are conquering grief, art, and how finding our roots is like finding ourselves.

Alexis: What was your greatest challenge in writing this story? Explain.

Wendy: Oh, my. I never could have imagined the challenges I would face when I began writing. And isn’t that like anything we dare to take on in life? One test was when I had written the first six chapters and I was returning from a service project that required my laptop. I got out of the car and my laptop fell and shattered. I lost the first six chapters and never recovered them! But I learned from that mistake and had multiple backup options from then on. Another challenge was that I first wrote the entire manuscript in third person, only to realize it wasn’t right. So, I re-wrote the entire story in 1st person, which was exactly right. Additionally, I was writing dual timelines. And keeping both stories straight while making sure they intertwined in a satisfying way for the reader, was a huge task. And lastly, adhering to documented, chronological truth in the historical chapters, to really honor the family I was writing about, what they suffered and how they triumphed—was the hardest thing of all. And it was my deepest desire while composing.

Alexis: What about creating these characters and authoring this story gave you the greatest joy?

Wendy: I love this question! Writing the story of my ancestors to inspire others to delve into their own family trees was a journey of complete and utter joy—even through the rough spots. And creating the present-day characters gave me unspeakable happiness when I read through the completed manuscript for the first time and came to know the characters as a reader instead of a writer. It was then I realized they were amazing, compelling, wonderful people. I loved each one of them.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s hero Allen Hamilton. What is his motivation? Share details on his background, including how he grew up and why he wants to save his family.

Wendy: Allen Hamilton was the oldest living son of his parents’ five children—who survived. They lost five, which I didn’t realize until I was researching records in Ireland and this fact came to light. My mother and I documented the names of those lost kids so our descendants would know they were part of this amazing family too. They sadly, just didn’t make it past infancy, or childhood, in the harsh world of the 1800s void of modern medicine and hospital care.

Allen’s motivations to save his family began with these facts. His father was one of 18 sons of a landed gentry family, who didn’t inherit but was educated to become a Clerk of the Crown. But he was prone to drink as he despaired over the decline of Ireland’s economy, and he didn’t handle money well either.

Allen took it upon himself to find a new life for his family. Ireland’s forecast for famine and more financial ruin was imminent, and there were too many people living on the Emerald Isle at the time for the land to sustain them through that kind of natural disaster.

When Allen met a gentleman friend of his auntie’s, it sealed the deal. What Allen heard about the United States that day in 1817, swelled the hope of the American dream in the heart of this Irish teenager, and that’s what began his journey to and through, antebellum America.

Alexis: Describe Allen’s looks, personality and dreams. What makes him special?

Wendy: Allen was a red-haired, blue-eyed Irish lad, through and through, with the heart of a gentleman and the smarts, wits, and courage of a young man with the guts to leave his homeland, cross the hazardous Atlantic alone, and start over with nothing but massive amounts of faith in God to see him through.

Alexis: Who is your story’s heroine? What is her name? Describe her looks, personality, and heart.

Wendy: Elizabeth Wilson, or Bethy, as her family calls her, is our present-day heroine. She’s a fictional descendant of Allen Hamilton five generations later. She’s also a gifted artist, and a struggling teenager suffering from debilitating grief after a sudden death in her family.

Bethy has the sandy blonde, wavy hair of her father, and the bright green eyes of her grandmother. As an only child, Bethy has a lot to learn about giving to others, as well as working through grief and navigating her family’s financial troubles. But she’s about to grow up a lot quicker and change her perspective forever, when her grandmother hires her for the summer to research an ancestor’s life. Allen Hamilton.

Why did you make your heroine an artist? What type of art does she create?

Wendy: Bethy is a realist painter (like me), so her paintings are real-life likenesses of people, places, architecture—everything she desires to recreate on canvas. Her completed paintings mirror photography because of her skill. As an artist myself, I decided to write something I know about to flesh out this character in a realistic manner. I ended up loving Bethy to pieces, and actually wishing I had been more like her as a teenager.

Alexis: How do Allen’s story and your heroine’s story weave together in this plot?

: The two stories intertwine with parallels and analogies that are timeless. Like the overwhelming grief of losing loved ones, never giving up on your dreams no matter what you face, and coming to know who you really are—God’s children on this earth, and the descendants of remarkable people who came before us, even if they really struggled. No matter what time period we live in on this earth, we will face similar trials to those who came before us. And God is always there. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Alexis: As a woman of faith, how does your belief in God impact your storytelling?

Wendy: My stories are clean, inspiring, and full of faith. My tales are an extension of my own devotion, which is founded in my complete identity as a daughter of God, which is my motivation for every choice I make—to glorify Him, and to do his will. I wrote Once Upon an Irish Summer to interest people in their own families—to turn their hearts to their ancestors, to seek them out, to know them, and honor them. This was God’s will for this book, and He helped me write it, every step of the way.

Alexis: What made writing and publishing this story special to you?

Wendy: Sharing a true story from my own family tree that I really couldn’t not tell, felt like an overwhelming privilege—to honor my ancestors in this way. And then to have an Irish publisher who loves Ireland as much as I do was just the icing on the cake.

What do you want readers to remember most about Once Upon an Irish Summer?

Amid their journey with Allen and Bethy, I want readers to remember their own ancestors. As a highly adventurous person, and world-traveler, I’ve never had a greater adventure than getting to know my own family. Traveling to their homelands and immersing myself in their lives, their records, ancestral sites, and historical facts, shed a grand light on who they were and what they overcame. I’ve been so incredibly inspired by my own ancestors, that’s what I want most for my readers. That’s why I write.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Wendy! Do you have closing comments to share?

Find your family, honor them, then stand on their shoulders to become someone even better.

Author Bio:

Wendy Wilson Spooner, Lic. G., LCoT, is a professional Genetic Genealogist by day, a writer by night, and an artist in between. 

Her love of what we can learn from history compels her to write the true stories she unearths during research, and she’s found that truth is indeed, much more exciting and inspiring than fiction. Wendy writes about family, faith, grief, art, and overcoming obstacles in life by coming to know who we really are—children of God, and, the descendants of remarkable people who paved the way for us—even if they really struggled. She believes in learning from ancestors, honoring them, and then standing on their shoulders to become someone even better.

As an award-winning author of professional articles and poems, Wendy Wilson Spooner turned to novel writing to share what she knows with a greater audience. Her debut novel, Once Upon an Irish Summer, released April 3, 2020. It has been an Amazon best-seller in the several different genres. She’s looking forward to releasing book two in the series!

When she is not writing or researching, Wendy currently serves as National Vice Chair for Daughters of the American Revolution over Art & Sculpture in the annual American Heritage contest. She also serves as Chairman of the Advisory board for Century Vital Records in Bengaluru, India. As well, Wendy loves to read, hike, paint, travel, binge on Bollywood movies, and spend time with her greatest loves—her family.

Blurb for Once Upon an Irish Summer:

A gifted artist suffering from debilitating grief finds healing and inspiration in her Irish ancestry and goes on to paint a masterpiece. 

Once Upon an Irish Summer is a dual timeline novel of two teenagers, two centuries apart, in one city; the untold chronicle of Irish Allen Hamilton's journey through antebellum America to find a way to save his family, woven with the struggle of his 15-year-old descendant 200 years later, battling through grief to find herself again.

Buy Wendy’s book:
Ambassador International ~ Christian Book DistributorsBarnes & Noble ~ Audible  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Wendy_W_Spooner
Website: https://wendywilsonspooner.com/

Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

  1. There are times that I would love to Know and then there are times that I wished that I did not know.