Author Interview: Kaye Dacus on her new release Follow the Heart, Book 1 of the Great Exhibition Series

About Kaye Dacus

6032033597_ac2e9a62e5_zKaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing, Harvest House Publishers, and B&H Publishing. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a full-time academic advisor and part-time English Composition instructor for Bethel University.

About the Book

Kate and Christopher Dearing’s lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother’s brother in England with one edict: marry money.Follow the Heart

At twenty-seven years old, Kate has the stigma of being passed over by eligible men many times—and that was before she had no dowry. Christopher would like nothing better than to make his own way in the world; and with a law degree and expertise in the burgeoning railroad industry, he was primed to do just that—in America.

Though their uncle tries to ensure Kate and Christopher find matrimonial prospects only among the highest echelon of British society, their attentions stray to a gardener and a governess.

While Christopher has options that would enable him to lay his affections where he chooses, he cannot let the burden of their family’s finances crush his sister. Trying to push her feelings for the handsome—but not wealthy— gardener aside, Kate’s prospects brighten when a wealthy viscount shows interest in her. But is marrying for the financial security of her family the right thing to do, when her heart is telling her she’s making a mistake?

Mandates . . . money . . . matrimony. Who will follow the heart?

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How would you describe Follow the Heart in one sentence?

An American woman is sent to England to marry wealth, but finds herself torn between the poor man she loves and the viscount who offers the wealth and stability that can save her family.

Where did the inspiration for Follow the Heart come from?

vic01In 2001, I watched Victoria & Albert on A&E and fell in love with the love story of these two monarchs of England. But that wasn’t the only thing I took away from it. I was also fascinated by the scenes which portrayed the planning and opening of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition in 1851. Then, a few years later, I watched another mini-series: North & South. No, not the one about the American Civil War, the one based on the classic, but little-known, novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. It also has a scene that takes place at the Great Exhibition. Once I saw that, I was hooked—on the era and on the event.

How does Follow the Heart fit with the other books you’ve written?

Follow the Heart and the Great Exhibition series are similar to my contemporary series (The Brides of Bonneterre and the Matchmakers series with Barbour Publishing) as they are light-hearted, stand-alone novels which are tied together with recurring characters and a familiar setting. They’re also similar to The Ransome Trilogy (Harvest House Publishers) as I try to fully immerse the reader in the language, fashion, and details of the historical era. And each book fulfills my promise of “Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters” that my readers have come to expect.

What do you hope will stick with people when they finish reading the book?

Women, especially, tend to look at our choices as a series of obligations—we do what we feel we are obligated to do for the sake of our families, not necessarily what we feel our hearts are telling us to do. I believe, and it’s the theme of this book, that we spend too much time worrying about how we can fix/help/support our families (or those around us at work or in friendships) and not enough time listening to and trusting God. When we pray, we tend to tell God what’s wrong and ask him to fix it. But do we ever really take the time to just be still and listen to what God is trying to tell us? And can we really let God take care of those we feel responsible for and let go of that burden of responsibility that may not, in truth, be ours to bear?

Why did you choose to set this series in Oxford, when the Great Exhibition took place in London?

I read at least three or four British-set historical romances each month—and without fail, the majority of them are set in London. It’s a setting that has become over-exposed. Also, with a landscape architect as my main hero, I needed the action to take place at a country house, not in the city. By the 1850s, Oxford was a large enough city to have railway service to all of the other major cities, but still quaint/small enough to give the small-town feel that I love to use in my stories. Plus, there was a lot of chaos happening in London in early 1851 due to the final preparations for the Great Exhibition, and I felt like that could overwhelm what I wanted my story and settings to be.

Which character in this book was the most fun to write? Which character in this book was the hardest to write?

Christopher, being lighthearted and easygoing, was the most fun to write. I always found myself in a better mood when I was writing his scenes.

Lord Thynne (pronounced tine, like the tine of a fork) turned out to be the hardest to write—to get his motivations right but also keep him sympathetic, since he comes back in Book 3.

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What interests you most about the Victorian era? Any other eras you’d like to write?

I love that it still has the sensibility of the Regency era—from the activities like balls and dinners to the formality of courting customs—yet in 1851, the world is on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution: train and steamboat travel, telegraph, indoor plumbing (“retiring/refreshing rooms” with pay toilets at the Great Exhibition!). I also love that women were starting to come into their own a bit more. Still not considered equals, but at least starting to get some recognition for their contributions and accomplishments in society.

So far, I’ve written contemporary, Regency, and Early Victorian. I really like the flexibility of the Early Victorian setting (the industrial conveniences beginning to make life a little easier). If more historicals are in my future, I’ll probably stick with the 19th century. I have a good base of knowledge of it and I’m comfortable with the language and mores of the major social movements of that century.

How do you write both historical and contemporary?

The short answer is: I write both contemporary and historical because I’ve had ideas for both contemporary and historical novels. I also enjoy writing both. While they take the same amount of effort creatively to come up with the storyline and develop the characters, there is more work that goes into writing the historicals due to the higher amount of research (yes, contemporaries take research, too) and making sure I’m using era-appropriate language as much as possible. For me, I like alternating writing them, because one is almost like a palate cleanser for the other. Each challenges me in a different way, and I do truly love writing both.

What’s next?

I’m currently finishing up editing the second book in this series, An Honest Heart, and writing The Heart that Waits, which is the third and final book in the Great Exhibition series.  After that . . . who knows?

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