Laurie (L.C.) Lewis will always be a Marylander at heart—a forever bride, mother, grandma, and a craft-challenged, weather-whining lover of crabs, American history, and the sea. Her ninth published book, Sweet Water, which is also her first romance novella, was inspired by a visit to Oregon’s magnificent coastline, and time spent with Mother Eugenie, upon whom the character Mother Thomasine is based. Laurie’s women’s fiction novels include The Dragons of Alsace Farm (2016), Awakening Avery (2010), and Unspoken (2004), written as Laurie Lewis. Using the pen name L.C. Lewis, she wrote the five volumes of her award-winning FREE MEN and DREAMERS historical fiction series, set against the backdrop of the War of 1812: Dark Sky at Dawn (2007), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2008), Dawn’s Early Light (2009), Oh, Say Can You See? (2010), and In God is Our Trust, (2011).
Welcome to my blog, Laurie. This book is set after World War II. Even though it’s listed as a woman’s fiction, it also has some romance. Please tell us about The Dragons of Alsace Farm.
The Dragons of Alsace Farm is actually set in 2016, but one of our main characters—Agnes—is an eighty-year-old French woman with dementia, who survived the bombing of Alsace France. Agnes survived the bombing, but internal scars and secrets left by the war continue to plague her. Her grandmother survived the attacks of the Prussian dragoons during WWI. As a child, Agnes transferred the term dragoons to the Nazis, calling them “dragons.” Now every problem that confronts her is a dragon.
Here’s the back-cover blurb: In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia. Despite all Agnes has lost, she still has much to teach Noah. But the pair’s unique friendship is threatened when Tayte, Agnes’s estranged granddaughter, arrives to claim a woman whose circumstances and abilities are far different from those of the grandmother she once knew.
Items hidden in Agnes’s attic raise painful questions about Tayte’s dead parents, steeling Tayte’s determination to save Agnes, even if it requires her to betray the very woman she came to save, and the secret her proud grandmother has guarded for seventy years. The issue strains the fragile trust between Tayte and Noah, who now realizes Tayte is fighting her own secrets, her own dragons. Weighed down by past guilt and failures, he feels ill-equipped to help either woman, until he remembers Agnes’s lessons about courage and love. In order to save Agnes, the student must now become the teacher, helping Tayte heal—for Agnes’s sake, and for his.
Is Agnes taken from history? Where did you get your inspiration for this story?
I originally intended to write a WWII novel about Nazi-stolen art, but Agnes’s personality and situation was changed after my mother’s diagnosis of dementia. Agnes is a composite character drawn from many interviews with caregivers, loved ones, and patients suffering with dementia, but it was Mom who inspired our beloved Agnes. The characters Noah and Tayte are loosely based on Mom’s interactions with two mentally disabled tenants who came to live with her during her last year on the farm. Two family therapists helped me fashion the delicate and vulnerable characters of Noah and Tayte, who come to help Agnes, and end up discovering that Agnes has actually been the one helping them.
Interestingly enough, right after The Dragons of Alsace Farm launched, I met a real life Agnes, a true survivor of the bombing of Alsace France, who served as a courier for the Allies when only twelve years old. She and I have become dear friends, and we are in the process of getting her life story down so I can write her memoir.
What kind of research did you do?
Besides online research about the bombing of the Alsace region and Nazi-stolen art, I think my greatest research tool was interviews and conversations on varied topics from the impact of abuse and neglect to how to build a deck. One of my funniest research topics was how to birth a goat.
Tell me about one of the main characters and what you love about him or her?
Oh, that’s like asking to pick my favorite child! I love them all. Agnes is probably the most beloved of any character I’ve ever written. Everyone loves her and knows someone like her. She is strong and brave, even while being terrified about the changes occurring within her mind. Her love is deep, and loyal, but those who have broken her trust reap her wrath, which is no pleasant thing. She is a very intelligent woman, which is actually a hindrance to getting her properly diagnosed because she is able to compensate so well for her diminishing capacities. In Noah’s presence, she feels safe enough to let down her guard and make some peace with the changes, but Tayte’s need to hold on to the grandmother she remembers pushes Agnes beyond her mind’s limits, and leads to a dangerous outcome.
Where is your website and blog so my readers can check out your recent and past books that you have written?
www. laurielclewis.com. Thanks so very much for the interview, Linda! I hope readers will subscribe to my monthly newsletter and receive news about upcoming books, my favorite recipes, some of my friends’ book deals, and excerpts of current projects.
Thank you so much for this interview, Laurie. I read this book and enjoyed it. Here is my review of this book.
“This is a romance/drama filled with mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed this story because I totally fell in love with Noah. He is an awesome young man, so understanding and tender with the elderly woman he is assigned to take care of who has dementia. Noah has to help the heroine of the story to understand her grandmother’s needs. Tayte is a perfectionist and is quite stressful if there is no order in her life. This couple made for a fun but intense relationship throughout the story. They didn’t hit it off so well at first but soon realized the importance of compromise so they can help her grandmother. As the romance develops, it becomes more difficult to put the book down.” –Review by Linda Weaver Clarke