INTERVIEW | Lena Nelson Dooley, Author of Catherine’s Pursuit

By | February 6, 2013

Lena, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Texas with the love of my life. We’ve been married over 48 years. All our children, grandchildren, and great grandson live near us, except our Army grandson who is deployed. Writing is my fulltime job, and I love it. I have an office in my home.

What was your inspiration to write McKenna’s Daughters Series?

The idea for the series came to me seven or eight years ago. It simmered in my mind for several years before I put it down on paper. I’m sure the inspiration came from God, because the series deals with bitterness, unforgiveness, a poor self image, and a lack of commitment and trust in God. The Lord led me through the growth of the characters in a marvelous, revealing way.

How much research did the McKenna’s Daughters Series take?

Lots and lots. It’s very important for me to get the details of a historical novel correct—society, setting, everything. Probably I spent the most time on researching the settings. At least, it’s easier to do that than when I first started writing historical novels. The Seattle Public Library resource person helped me find so many things I needed. With Seattle and the other settings—Portland, Oregon City, Little Rock, and San Franciso—I also used online maps and books of old photographs from the time period.

The next thing I used the most time on was transportation, because it’s important in each story—wagon trains, railroad, trolleys, ocean liners. And I loved researching the clothing.

Will you please give us an overview of the McKenna’s Daughters Series? Does each book in the series need to be read in order to fully get the gist of the story?

The series is about identical triplets, born on one of the last wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. Their mother dies giving birth to them, and they’re separated. They don’t find out until near their eighteenth birthday that they have sisters.

Maggie’s Journey and Mary’s Blessing can be read in any order, but the reader will want to read both of them before they read Catherine’s Pursuit. If not, there will be spoilers in book three.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing McKenna’s Daughters Series?

Oh, my goodness. I found so much. Oregon City had a large round walk-in safe installed in their bank. The whole town celebrated when it was installed. And mountain goats were trained in Portland like the dog teams we hear so much about in Alaska. Then they were sent to Alaska to pull sleds. I didn’t find out how successful they were.

I have been to San Francisco, but I didn’t know that there were many natural springs in those hills. One was used by a brewery.

In winter, the wooden water towers, where the trains got their water for steam power, would often freeze and expand until there were openings between the boards. Then the water would seep out and build up into a huge pile of ice that looked like some kind of strange sculpture.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story?

It’s always difficult to get into the mind of the male characters. I have to pray a lot when I write them. The Lord gives me insight, and I’ve had male authors tell me they’re amazed at how well I “get” the male mind.

Do you write by the seat-of-your pants letting the story unfold as you write, plot the entire story; write with an outline, or a combination of the above?

I make a timeline, which is an outline of sorts. Then I write by the seat of my pants. I tried plotting once, and it strangled my story. However, I do believe that what some authors put down on paper while preparing to write a novel is also done by SOTP authors in their mind. Stories rumble around in my head and take shape before I start writing.

Do you make up the setting in advance? 

I have to be able to picture the setting. With Mary’s Blessing, I couldn’t get a grip on Seattle, Washington Territory in 1885. So I stopped writing and did a lot of research. Finally, the librarian pointed me toward a site where they had digitized thousands of historical photos of Seattle, by decade. Those pictures with the accompanying explanation of what was in the picture allowed me to put together a complete picture of the setting I would use in the book.

How many more books will be in the McKenna’s Daughters Series?

Catherine’s Pursuit is the last book.

What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?

A major publishing house is interested in my next three-book series. We’re waiting for that to work out.

And I’m anticipating a promised contract that will take me back to a former kind of writing I did over two decades ago. It will be exciting.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading McKenna’s Daughters Series

God loves you. His plans for you are awesome, and He will walk with you through the hard times.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I love my readers. I love hearing from them on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Shoutlife. They are the reason I write books. I even welcome hearing from readers who found something in my books that they didn’t like—if they are kind in the way they tell me.

One thought on “INTERVIEW | Lena Nelson Dooley, Author of Catherine’s Pursuit

  1. Shaina

    I loved reading your interview, especially learning about the aspects of research. It all seems so seamless when you’re reading but you never realize all the background that goes into it. And what would happen if an aspect of the history was incorrect? It could shatter the illusion fiction creates. Loved reading. :)


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