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I was eager to learn more about the story behind the story of The Dragons of Alsace Farm from my guest, author Laurie Lewis. Her new women's fiction novel has some resonances with my new YA novel Almost There: family secrets tucked away in an elderly person's home, a French grandparent, dementia, and the haunting presence of WWII, though I deal with different generations--Millennial, Gen X and Silent Generation (born during the war).
The real-life issues she turns into fiction will resonate with many of us watching our parents or grandparents decline. And so will the hope infused in this novel.
What's the story behind your intriguing title?
Great question. I wrestled over that title for months, even up to the day I submitted the manuscript, and I still worry whether it will resonate with readers, but my heart told me this was the title, and I’m crossing my fingers that when the last page turns, readers will agree it was the perfect title.
Here’s how I came up with it. Agnes survived the bombing of the Alsace region of France during WWII, and when her family moved to America, they named their farm after their homeland. The Dragon reference ties into Agnes’s past, and a mystery in the book, so I can’t give that away, but because of Agnes’s past, “Dragons” became the catchphrase for everything that challenges or frightens her.
What drew you to write about a character with dementia?
My beautiful, gentle mother inspired the story. She had a ramshackle farm she loved, and sadly, she was diagnosed with dementia several years ago.
We were unprepared for the decisions we had to make on her behalf. I soon realized how many friends were experiencing the same challenges with their parents, finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of parenting a parent. We knew Mom was afraid of the changes over which she had no control, but she was also still Mom—fun, happy, loving, caring. So instead of just creating a WWII survivor, I ramped up the tension by placing Agnes on the dementia spectrum.
What special research was required to write this intergenerational story?
A lot came from personal observation. A young couple with mild disabilities moved onto Mom’s farm for a few months. Mom believed she was helping them, and they felt they were helping Mom. I was fascinated by the way these three disabled people strengthened one another and themselves through serving each other, and I wanted to introduce that element into the book.
I met with a social worker to suggest a program where people who need a home could be paired with people who had a home but needed a little help. I cited the story above, and they thought the idea had promise, but there was no funding to try such an experiment, and it never was implemented.
As for Noah and Tayte, I remembered a sequel I had written years ago to my first novel, “Unspoken.” I never published it, but I loved the personal dynamic of the emotionally broken characters, so when I began drafting “Dragons,” I placed them in the story, and had them fill that helping role with Agnes.
I interviewed doctors, caregivers, therapists, and other families affected by dementia in order to illustrate the challenges families face with this diagnosis. Two friends/family therapists helped me assure that all these complicated characters—Agnes, Noah, and Tayte—were accurate depictions of people with their mental and physical concerns.
Tell us a little about your story's themes.
My favorite theme comes from a moment when Agnes fights the pull of dementia by remembering love. “Remember love,” is my battle cry now.
The power of redemption runs strong through the book. I hope people will close “Dragons” and feel hopeful, empowered, and refreshed.
The book really is about families and love. The power of tested love, the promise of new love, the strength of family love, and the courage they require from us.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I had a long hiatus between my last book and this one, so I first relearned how much I adore creating stories and characters. I also wish I could get a do-over with Mom. I would have spent more time asking her questions, recording her answers, and her stories. So we have little adventures now. Agnes has taught me how to love Mom where and as she is.
Which chapter was your favorite to write?
Oh, that’s easy. Twenty-seven, with twenty-three coming in a close second. These are the chapters when Noah comes into his own, when he loses himself through helping Agnes, and in the end, finds the answer to question that most plagued him—what kind of man was he?
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?
Just start. We all have a story to tell. Just begin getting it down on paper. The editing and perfecting can come later, but get your ideas down on paper, for yourself, for your family, and for others who will be impacted by what you write.
Everyone has their secrets and Tayte, Agnes, and Noah are no exception. In Agnes’s home, though, those secrets—or dragons—might just tear them all apart. Part of the Kindle Scout competition, The Dragons of Alsace Farm, was hot and trending for four weeks before its launch. Find out why during this blog tour!
About the Book
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.
About the Author
L.C. Lewis (Laurie) was born and raised in rural Maryland, surrounded by history-rich Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore. She and her husband Tom reside in Carroll County, Maryland, where they raised their four children.
The Dragons of Alsace Farm, Laurie’s eighth published novel, was inspired by a loved one’s struggle with the dragon of dementia. Her women’s fiction novels include Unspoken (2004) and Awakening Avery (2010), 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, America’s nearly forgotten second war of independence: 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).
Dark Sky at Dawn and Twilight’s Last Gleaming were finalists in the 2008 USA Best Books competition. Oh, Say Can You See? was a 2010 Whitney Award finalist.
Three new books are in progress. Please watch for her remake of Awakening Avery, a political suspense novel titled The Shell Game, both of which are slated for later in 2016, and a March 2017 novella, Laurie’s contribution to the multi-author “Destination Billionaire Romance” series.
Laurie loves hearing from her readers and may be contacted through her website: www.laurielclewis.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @laurielclewis or on her blog at www.laurielclewis.blogspot.com. She also enjoys interacting with book clubs. Contact her to arrange a video chat with your group.
The back of the book contains some thought-provoking book club questions. Laurie would love for you to schedule a video conference with her if their book club chooses The Dragons of Alsace Farm as one of their selections in the next six months. You can email her at: email@example.com.
First and foremost, The Dragons of Alsace Farm is a love story, about the power of tested love, the promise of new love, and the strength of family love. Here's a love basket, with a fun date night, Agnes's favorite breakfast for the morning, and an autographed copy of the book to read on a lazy afternoon. Always remember love.
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Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction
Writing in the Light-Excerpt
Charity's Writing Journey-Excerpt
Ruth's Real Life-Excerpt
The Overactive Imagination-Author Interview
Author Franky A Brown-Excerpt
Rachel Rossano's Words-Excerpt
Rebekah Lyn Books-Excerpt
Kandi J Wyatt, author: Where Fantasy and Reality Meet-Interview with Noah
Zerina Blossom’s Books-Excerpt
Letters from Annie Douglass Lima-Excerpt
Laurel's Leaves-Author Interview
Good and Clean Reviews-Excerpt
Phrey Press-Author Interview
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Conclusion and Giveaway Announcement