Welcome to the Overweight Bookshelf! A very big thank you to the lovely Holly Weiss for taking the time to answer my questions. (For my review and the first chapter, follow this link.)
Congratulations on your debut novel! Have you always had the passion to write?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but was not serious about it until 2006. I was a professional singer for thirty-five years. My main means of creative expression was through song. About five years ago, I contracted Post-Polio Syndrome, a late life extension of the polio I had as a child. The increased weakness and fatigue put an end to my singing career. God led me in the direction of writing. One voice led to another, so to speak. Writing is now my means of creative expression, but music will always be an integral part of me.
Any specific reason you chose to set the story in the 1920s?
What a fascinating era! Women fighting for the right to vote, prohibition, the growth of jazz, fashion, cuisine—I found all of this intriguing. I stayed overnight at the present day Crestmont Inn. An old staff dormitory built in 1926 has been converted into luxury suites for present day guests.
The United States has so many historic inns and hotels. Why did you choose the Crestmont Inn?
I’m so glad you asked this question. I believe God led me to the Crestmont. My husband and I needed a stop-over while travelling. I researched places on the internet and The Crestmont Inn popped up. Once there, ……inspiration………
How much of your passion and background in singing is reflected in Gracie? Did you feel a special connection to her?
Gracie at age twenty-two is quite emotionally fractured when the novel begins. I found myself in a similar state at a later point in my own life.
The Crestmont Inn is just as much a living and breathing character as the humans in the story. How important was it to fully capture the essence of the Inn?
I’m glad you asked about the inn first, because I wrote it as a caretaker and an agent of grace. The inn functions as a refuge for many characters in “Crestmont” and has been a comfort in my own life. A strong sense of family abides outside the novel as well, evidenced by the three generations of the Warner/Woods families that ran the inn for eighty years and by the number of families who continue to flock to the Crestmont year after year.
I travelled to Eagles Mere, PA, to the current day Crestmont Inn several times during the writing of the novel to interview the current owners, former staff and townspeople. As soon as people heard I was writing a book about the Crestmont, they perked up and said things like, “My mother used to work there.” Or “Oh, the Crestmont was quite a place.” During one of my book signings there, an elderly lady brought me photos and mementoes from when she worked there as a teenager. She was thrilled to share them with someone else who cared about the old Crestmont. Frankly, I felt a responsibility to these people who loved this place so very much. I wanted to be true to their memory of it.
Finally, the Crestmont Inn is a survivor. The “big house” had to be torn down in 1981, but the Crestmont still exists in a different form. The laundry house was converted to a gorgeous dining room and reception hall. Luxury suites evolved from a hot, cramped dormitory. What clinched the concept of the book for me was the story about the Mennonites purchasing the wood from the old Crestmont, hacking it off the building and loading it onto their trucks to build barns and so forth. I saw the “big house” living on in different forms. The image brought tears to my eyes when I heard it and when I wrote the scene in the epilogue.