What is Fool’s Gold about?
Fool’s Gold is about a widow living in Gold Rush-era California who is desperate to save her niece from an insidious killer in Louisiana. In exchange for her performance as his wife, Sebastian offers to pay Melissa’s fare from San Francisco to New Orleans via the Isthmus of Panama. As they set out on their journey, first one passenger, and then another, are found dead aboard the steamship Fool’s Gold. Melissa is convinced the deaths have something to do with her family and fears even more for the safety of her niece. Together, she and Sebastian must discover the truth before it’s too late.
Ok, but what is the theme?
I understand the importance of theme. I took my fair share of English Lit courses in college. And I had a theme in mind when I wrote Fool’s Gold. As a reader, though, I get annoyed with novels that are heavy-handed with the theme. I want to enjoy a good story without being lectured about how to better my life (that’s what self-help books are for). I also prefer novels to be open to interpretation, so that each reader gets out of the story what they need to get out of it. With that said, I’d rather leave the discussion of theme up to my readers.
Why did you specifically chose the year 1851 for Fool’s Gold ?
Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. By 1849, the California Gold Rush had begun and was in full swing by 1851. I wanted to begin the story with Melissa already be impacted by the challenges created by the mass migration to the state. I also wanted Sebastian to have shifted his focus from extracting his fortune from the hills to settling down in the fast-growing city of San Francisco. Fool’s Gold isn’t about life in a mining town or even about the mad rush west to get rich. Instead, I wanted to show the effects of the time period on the characters as well as the challenges of going against the tide to head east instead of west.
What was the most difficult thing to research when writing Fool’s Gold?
The route through Panama during the Gold Rush was by far the most challenging. There are a ton of resources if you want to research the building of the canal or the presence of the United States in the country. Most mentions of Panama in books about the Gold Rush, however, are brief notes, sometimes only a sentence or two, about crossing the isthmus on the way to the California. I had to conjecture and fill in a lot of blanks.
What was the most interesting fact you discovered while researching for Fool’s Gold?
When I was researching arsenic in the 19th century, I came across an ad for arsenic complexion wafers that stated they were perfectly safe for everyone. They came out a few years after 1851, but I discovered women used Fowler’s solution (an arsenic tonic) for the same purpose prior to the use of wafers. Of course, I had to have one of my characters swear by it.
How much research do you do for a novel?
Too much! I’m a bit of a research addict and can get lost down a maze of rabbit holes of information. I heard recently that James Rollins will research for ninety days, and then start writing on day ninety-one. I think I may have to adopt his technique!
Why do you write historical romantic suspense?
As a reader, I love the roller-coaster ride of romantic suspense. The combination of justice being served with a Happily Ever After love story makes the best ending in my opinion. I’m also an amateur history and cultural anthropology buff, so I love being seduced into the settings and time periods of historical romance. Joining the two genres in my writing just makes the most sense to me.
Why aren’t there any dukes in your novels?
I know London-set Regencies are all the rage, but the market is already filled with amazing authors writing about dukes. What about other time periods? Other countries? There is an audience for other settings. I know because I’m one of them. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” So, that’s what I’m doing.
Why are you drawn to writing novels set in 19th century America?
There are examples of strong women throughout history, but there seems to have been a certain awakening in America during the 19th century. From the women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848 to Victoria Woodhull’s presidential campaign in 1872, women from all social classes and backgrounds really started to push hard to gain the rights that we take for granted today, and those women are the inspiration for the strong heroines I write.
Fool’s Gold earned the Legend Award for best hero in Heart Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest. What makes Sebastian a great hero?
As one contest judge commented, “he was very three dimensional.” When I was writing the earlier drafts of the novel, I attended a critique group on a weekly basis. If the women in the group didn’t swoon enough over Sebastian, I knew I needed to make some changes. On the other hand, if the men said he wasn’t realistic — that men don’t think/act/talk like that — then I knew more edits were needed. I think in the end, I struck a good balance.