My interview with Elaine Dodge:
What inspired you to write Harcourt’s Mountain? Where did the idea come from?
I have always been interested in ‘arranged marriages’ and although the one in the book isn’t the traditional arranged marriage, Luke and Hope still have to face many of the same challenges. I’ve always loved North-West Pacific forests as well (even though I’ve never been in one) so it made sense to set the book there. As nearly every ‘pioneer/western’ story is set in the USA, I chose instead to set mine in British Columbia, Canada. The book reflects a lot of my own literary likes – reluctant heroes, adventure, sail ships and wild country.
Do you have a dream cast for your characters? If so, who?
Daniel Craig for Luke Harcourt, Morgan Freeman for Mr Samson. I didn’t really picture the other characters in terms of who would play them.
If you could be best friends with one of your characters who would it be and why?
Hope and Rachel. They both are the kind of women I’d choose as friends. Warm, kind, intelligent and even though shy, are both strong women.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which of your characters would you want with you?
Luke Harcourt. Heck, I wouldn’t mind being stranded in a lift with Luke Harcourt!
Did you bond more with a particular character? Who was it and why?
I liked all my characters, except the bad guys, of course. But if I had to choose it would be both Luke and Hope. I could relate to both of them easily. They are both intelligent introverts with a healthy dose of honesty and integrity.
What’s your favourite colour?
What’s your favourite food?
Anything I don’t have to pay for and or cook.
If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be?
After visiting family and friends in Australia and New Zealand, I’d want most to go to Canada, France, Italy and Iceland – the new book’s location draws a lot of inspiration from there.
Who or what inspired you to be a writer?
Writing has been a part of my entire career but it was the encouragement of the romance writing course facilitator to write Harcourt’s Mountain that got me started as a fiction writer.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Read, walk, play tennis, coffee and dinners with friends, movies, theatre, mystery dinners, games evenings.
What are you writing now?
The Device Hunter. Actually, it’s in its second draft and first edit. It’s a steampunk story.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read good books, be insatiably curious, do the research, find a good course or two and do them. Be willing to learn. Read good books on writing. And write.
What’s the hardest part about being an author? And the easiest?
In that order? Waiting for the New York Times to call for an interview (ROFL). Coming up with ideas. I’ve got about 25 books waiting to be written.
How do you handle writers’ block?
There’s no such thing.
Have you learned anything from your readers? Or had a response that especially touched you?
All my reviews have been so encouraging, but being compared favourably to Diana Gabaldon, Francine Rivers and M.M. Kaye was rather nice.
Spring, 1867 – The western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, HOPE BOOKER is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride’ ship. LUKE HARCOURT happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped, Luke promises never to touch her. Being a man of his word, this is a pledge he quickly finds almost impossible to keep.
Battling their growing attraction to each other, they must learn to live together in the forests of the wild and almost unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, and dangerous men.
No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town—and disappears.
Alone and pregnant, Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years. The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labor, but the baby is stuck. Luke meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who plans to murder him. Will Luke survive and make it back to Hope in time?
Harcourt was grateful she was quiet. Despite the fact that he didn’t like chatterbox women anyway, there was no room for further conversation at the moment. He had to concentrate on threading the wagon through the crowded street.
Other wagons were also making their way out of town, some moving either towards the gold claims or the lumber mill. A few would be heading north—they would be the trappers. For a while they’d share the same road. They usually parted company late on the second day.
The street was so crowded Harcourt couldn’t get through. They came to a halt outside the brothel. With the bride ship in town it was a relatively quiet day for the girls of the Bright Star Saloon. They crowded the balcony watching the to-ings and fro-ings, calling out ribald remarks to men who had been customers only the night before.
A brightly coloured redhead spotted their wagon. “Mr. Harcourt has himself a bride,” she exclaimed in a sing-song voice. “Heard you paid a lot of money for her, Luke.”
“She doesn’t look like a lot of fun, Luke,” mocked a brassy blonde. “You could have had all of us for that amount of money, honey!”
“At the same time!” yelled the redhead. The girls screeched with laughter.
“Come on Luke, ditch the stuck-up bride and come and have some fun with Babette and the girls!” The blonde wriggled her hips invitingly.
Hope sagged a little beside him and Harcourt felt a blush surge up. He wasn’t sure if he was more embarrassed by the girls’ attention or the flush in his face. He expected Hope to say something. It would be the predictable response. She sat up a little straighter but stayed silent. That was a surprise. Clearly, she’d decided discretion was the better part of valour. She shot a quick glance in his direction and then looked down at her hands.
He tipped his hat to the blowzy girls. “Afternoon ladies.”
“Oooh,” cooed the girls, giggling.
“Honey,” the blonde one called, leaning as far over as she could, her straining bodice barely holding her ample self from tumbling out. Hope realised the girl was talking to her. “You going to let that new man of yours come by and visit with us next time he’s in town? Or you going to keep him on a tight leash? We would hate to lose touch with a man we know so well.”
The other whores roared with laughter at her emphasis on the word ‘touch’.
Luke grinned up at them. “Now ladies, you might know my name, but that’s about all.”
They immediately came up with a variety of ways they could get to know him.
“It all sounds very intriguing,” he replied, “but I’m afraid I will have to decline, yet again.”
The blonde leaned out even further. “We’ll get you one day, Luke Harcourt.”
The girls all laughed. A space had opened up; he flicked the reins, tipped his hat again at the whores and the cart pulled away.
Glancing over at Hope he saw a small curve flicker across her lips. Although she was trying hard not to smile at all, her laughing eyes gave her away the relief she obviously felt. He wasn’t sure why he’d wanted her to know he didn’t visit the Bright Star, but it had been a good idea. Even though they barely knew each other, Harcourt didn’t want her thinking he was the type of man who visited prostitutes.
Buy Harcourt’s Mountain here:
You might also like:
Bloody Parchment: Blue Honey and The Valley of Shadow (Anthology)
Elaine Dodge featured story: The Man with a House on His Back
Blurb of The Man with a House on His Back:
They say when you aid a stranger you could be entertaining angels. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Unless you can see beneath the skin, you might want to be careful who you invite in.
It is night, in a small village surrounded by a mist shrouded forest. A young boy begins the tale, but soon his grandfather, Old Jack, takes over. It is after all, his story; the legacy of the family. He recalls a similar night when he was just a boy and a tall, dark stranger arrived, begging for shelter. But the stranger is not all he seems.
By the time his true identity is revealed, he has almost persuaded Jack’s father to strike a bargain with him. A bargain that will tear his family apart. No matter what decision Jack’s father makes, their souls will be forfeit to the stranger forever. But the stranger hasn’t reckoned on Jack’s young sister.
They say time heals all wounds. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Bloody Parchment excerpt:
The fog has arrived. Silently, like the breath of the Scythe Man, it has surrounded the cabin and muffled the dogs. The evening meal finished, we sit silently in a half circle, like subjugated felons around the hearth. Even the fire is sullen. The meagre amount of warmth from the pale blue flames is hardly enough to keep the shadows in the corners of the cabin where they belong. My grandfather, Old Jack, sits, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. It’s a night for stories, for dreams of the past. He stirs.
“When I was a child,” he begins…
The forest was thicker. You could walk for days, weeks, without seeing its end. The trees were older and darker. You stayed on the path or you lost your way. And no one would search for you. There were tales of wild beasts, evil spirits and the heads of the dead. It rained. Not like now, but nearly all the time. Even on those strange, dry days the mist hung low in the air, coiled and sliding around the roots of the trees, masking the trails. Hiding the way out.
Very few strangers stopped in our village and we seldom went beyond its outskirts. It was a bad way to live. It made us silent, solitary and suspicious. But not, it appears, suspicious enough, because one day a man with a house on his back arrived.
He stopped at the well for a drink. It couldn’t have been very pleasant. The water was brackish at the best of times, but we were used to it. He’d been travelling for many miles. Weariness and despair had carved deep ruts into his clay-like face with a heavy, ragged-nailed thumb and his eyes were dark, hollow caverns. He unstrapped the heavy structure he carried and lowered it to the ground carefully, muttering under his breath. He laid a hand upon it and breathed out, a long, dragging sigh. He looked slowly around the village square.
If it hadn’t been for the light in our small house slicing its way out from under the door, he may have moved on, taking his unbearable burden to another village. But he didn’t. Not then.
Buy Bloody Parchment here:
Meet Elaine Dodge
I was born in Zambia, grew up in Zimbabwe and am currently living in South Africa. I did my first round-the-world trip when I was four years old, and have travelled a lot since then. When I can I’m going to visit countries for myself to do research for my books rather than rely on Google.
Writing was an aspect of each part of my career – I trained as a designer, worked in Advertising and Design and then moved into local and international Broadcast Television when I emigrated to South Africa. Now, I’m a freelance Content Creator.
Wanting to expand my writing skills, I did a romance writing course where I tried out scenes from a story I had been thinking about for years, At the end of the course, the facilitator took me aside and told me I must write the book. So, nights, weekends and the Christmas break later, I had written Harcourt’s Mountain. I realised that apart from white-water rafting down the Zambezi, I feel most alive when I’m writing. That’s what I want to do more than anything else!
My first book, Harcourt’s Mountain, signed by Tirgearr Publishing, was launched 15 August 2013. The reviews have been marvellous! Mostly five stars. And, Harcourt’s Mountain was nominated for the 2014 RONE Awards. It’s also one of the four highest rated books at Tirgearr Publishing. Because so many readers have asked for it, I’ve also begun the plotting and researching a sequel.
Recently a short story I wrote, The Man with a House on His Back was featured in an anthology called Bloody Parchment: Blue Honey and The Valley of Shadow. It is, as you can imagine from the title, best described as weird fiction. It was published by Crossroad Press.
My second novel, The Device Hunter, which is an altogether different animal, both in genre and temperament is in its second draft and first edit!
Social Media links:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ElaineRosemaryD/