Waves of Mercy, the latest novel by Lynn Austin, has launched! A prolific author, Lynn Austin stopped by to share details of her most recent project.
Lynn, what inspired you to write Waves of Mercy?
I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch and visited Holland, MI for the first time when I attended Hope College.The community was proud of their faith and Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we moved back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history. The first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. I knew the story would resonate with readers whose ancestors were immigrants. Their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.
Are the characters based on actual people?
The only “real” person in the story is Reverend (Dominie) Van Raalte, who led Dutch immigrants to America in 1846. When researching the book, I read a collection of memoirs written by the first settlers, so I combined a lot of their stories when creating my characters. My main characters—Maarten, Geesje, and her family—are products of my imagination.
What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
This was a fairly easy book to write because I live in the community where it takes place. I could easily walk to the site where the Hotel Ottawa once stood if I needed inspiration. And everything about Holland’s history was available. My biggest challenge was making the story realistic but not too sad because of the settlers’ suffering.
How long did it take you to write Waves of Mercy?
One year, including the research.
Which character from Waves is most like you and why? Which character most inspired you and why? And which was your polar opposite?
I suppose Geesje is somewhat like me because she dares to get angry with God and question why He allows pain and suffering. Geesje and I both know that a real relationship is an honest one. God knows we’re angry, so we can’t hide anything from Him! Geesje’s parents inspired me—they didn’t question God and were willing to do His will, even if that meant suffering. They also lived out their faith in their daily lives, no matter what. I’m probably least like Maarten, who never seemed to have doubts and lived a solid, sacrificial Christian life.
What was your biggest hurdle when researching Waves of Mercy?
There was so much information available—including an entire VanRaalte Research Center at Hope College—so it was difficult to do a thorough job and not be completely overwhelmed. I knew I was leaving out a lot of good information but I had a story to tell, first and foremost. Keeping the history and the story in balance challenged me.
Which has been your favorite era to research?
The Civil War. I did a lot of traveling when I researched my three Civil War novels, and I enjoyed every minute. The battlefields and cemeteries moved me, especially seeing the grave of my husband’s great-great grandfather, who died in the war. I loved visiting the beautiful plantations in the South.
Most history lovers have an antique or two around their home. Assuming this is true, do you have a favorite?
I love antiques, but because my husband doesn’t care for them, I have to control my collection. My favorite pieces were handed down through my family, such as the mantle clock that my great-grandfather bought for my great-grandmother as a present on the day my grandmother was born. I also have a huge, wooden steamer trunk from 1812 which served as my “hope chest.” My oldest antique is an oil lamp I purchased in Israel, dating to the time of King Hezekiah.
Is there a theme that seems to show often in your writing?
Life is hard, but God is good—and He always has everything under control.
Do you have a favorite author?
I have quite a few, including Maeve Binchy, Chaim Potok, and Rosamunde Pilcher.
What are a few of your favorite things?
The beach on Lake Michigan near my home where I lounge on the sand with my husband to watch sailboats. The floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my great room with a sliding library ladder—and all of my books. Spending time with my children and my granddaughter. Going on vacation to fun, new places. Riding my bike and walking in the woods. And finally, attending my husband’s concerts, as he is a professional musician.
Is it possible to get a small clue on your current work in progress?
It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.
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I’ve enjoyed enjoyed catching up with Lynn Austin and hope you have, too. ‘Til next time, let me know what’s on your bookshelf!