About the Author
Kathleen Denly lives in sunny Southern California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.
Waltz in the Wilderness is Kathleen’s debut novel and the first in a series of three stand-alone historical Christian romance novels connected by secondary characters and their beautiful Southern California setting.
Kathleen would love it if you visited her website at KathleenDenly.com. You can also connect with her on social media:
1. What inspired the idea for writing Waltz in the Wilderness?
Waltz in the Wilderness began with research. I knew I wanted to write something set in California around the time of the gold rush, but I didn’t want it to be set in Northern California. Many wonderful books have already been written about that area during that time period and I wanted to feature my hometown, San Diego. Many people don’t realize how slowly San Diego grew, especially compared to San Francisco. In 1854, San Diego was still a relatively small port town with a county-wide population that could be counted in four digits. Also, its proximity to the newly established Mexican border gives this area a uniquely cross-cultural feel during that time period. Then I came across information regarding the mail system of the time and my mind took off with possibilities of how such a system might affect friends and families trying to stay in touch over long distances. Mail was frequently delayed for months or even lost entirely during this time period. I wondered, what would I do if someone I loved suddenly quit writing and no one knew where they were—whether they were safe or healthy?
2. What did you as an author take away from writing Waltz in the Wilderness?
The moment I became a mother I learned what it was like to have part of my heart living outside my body. It took a long time before I was comfortable letting my child out of my sight for longer than a church service. (Okay, so I sat in Sunday school with them a couple weekends before finally going in to hear the sermon.) I’ve always known in my head that God is in control and that He loves my kids more than I do—more than I can comprehend. He loves them enough to have sent His own Son to die for them. What more proof do I need? Still, I struggled with fully embracing that truth in my heart. Worry for them became a daily battle. As a foster parent and volunteer within the foster community, I witnessed and learned of many situations where the roles of care are reversed. In too many situations, otherwise loving parents struggle to overcome personal tragedies in order to adequately care for their children. In these cases, typically the child steps into the role of caretaker. The foster system—when doing what it is supposed to—helps these families return to their appointed roles and relieves the child of that burden while restoring the parent’s ability to care for themselves and their child. Writing Waltz in the Wilderness helped me process all of these various aspects of the parent-child relationship and how God is at work in each and every situation.
3. What was your research process like for writing this book?
I began in one of my favorite places to research—my local archives. Specifically, I began by reading the microfiche copies of the San Diego Herald and the Daily Alta California (a San Francisco newspaper). I came across announcements for the arrival of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company which sparked my curiosity. From there I read books about everything from the Mexican-American war, to collections of first-hand accounts of the California gold rush, to San Francisco’s early days. I studied the oldest photographs, drawings and written descriptions of San Diego and San Francisco. I discovered that although the Alcatraz Lighthouse had been built, it had yet to receive its light at the time my characters were sailing past. I learned that Mission San Diego de Alcala was no longer a mission in 1854 and had been taken over by the United States Calvary who used the bottom floor of the sanctuary as stables and the upper floor as a hospital. And really, I could fill several pages with all the fascinating facts I discovered while writing this book. Actually, I did. At the back of the book, I included a long Author’s section expanding on the parts of history I was able to incorporate into the story.
4. How did you decide that you wanted to write in this specific time period for this book?
I’ve grown up in California, so I have a personal connection to the history here. I have also always been fascinated by the nineteenth century in general. (Perhaps sparked by my love of Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.) So I knew I wanted to feature the American part of California’s nineteenth century, which meant it had to be after the Mexican-American War. So I began my research with reading newspapers from the years immediately following that war. The rest you already know from my previous answer.
5. When you are not writing, what else do you like to do? What hobbies do you have? Do you have a day job?
My day job title is Homeschooling Mama. I have four kids age 14,11,9, and 3 whom I homeschool full-time. The fun part about that is getting to impart my love of history and writing on the next generation, not only to my own kids but also as a teacher for our local Cooperative Class Day. For those unfamiliar, this is a day when members of our local homeschool group meet at a church once a week and have a class day similar to what traditional schools have. In our case, though, all the teachers are parents and all the kids have a parent on campus throughout the entire day. So, teaching takes up most of my non-writing time.
Outside of that, I squish reading into every spare minute I can find, and I LOVE crafting. If I weren’t an author, I’d probably open my own Etsy shop. (In fact, I might still try it once my kiddos all graduate!) I love to sew, knit, papercraft, paint, decorate cakes, build furniture…you name the craft and I’ve probably tried it. After that, my next love is hiking. There’s nothing as peaceful as sitting on a mountaintop with my Bible in my lap.
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