The Erie Canal Brides Collection
I’ve been privileged to write three novellas for Barbour Publishing, and of these three my favorite is The Battlefield Bride, from The Courageous Brides Collection.
This week I’m interviewing three authors from a new collection, The Erie Canal Brides, about their novellas set in Rochester, Little Falls, and Albion, New York.
Ramona: Hi! My name is Ramona K. Cecil. I live in Seymour, Indiana—the “small town” rocker John Mellencamp made famous in his song of the same name.
I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, and history buff. I consider writing my ministry. Digging for Love is my fourteenth published novel/novella.
Lauralee: I’m a published author of over twenty-five romance novels and novellas in both historical and contemporary. My desire is that readers will come away with both an entertaining story and a lesson that speaks to the heart and soul.
I’m a native New Yorker and my husband also spent his young adult years living near the Erie Canal. I like to weave unique historical lessons into my fiction. I make my home in Virginia with my husband and furry pals Eve, Buddy, and Skye.
Sherri: Hi! I’m Sherri Wilson Johnson. I live in Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta. I’m an empty-nester, spending my days with my Cheagl named Sawyer in my lap. I also work as a virtual assistant to authors and speakers. I enjoy binge watching crime shows with my hubs, writing, spending time with friends, and trying my hand at oil painting. The Bridge Between Us is my seventh published novel/novella.
What is your story in Erie Canal Brides about?
Ramona: Digging for Love is set in Rochester, N.Y. in 1822. For budding artist Emily Nichols, the coming Erie Canal brings dreams of leaving Rochester for the art markets of New York City. As he builds the canal, Irish laborer Seamus O’Grady is building his American dream in Rochester. When hearts meld, divergent dreams and old prejudices threaten burgeoning love.
Lauralee: The Way of a Child is a story of conflict between David Marshall, whose prosperous farm exits in the very land agent Roy O’Neil must have to fulfill the land acquisitions for the Erie Canal. His daughter Melanie acts as the liaison between her father and David, of which she has some unlikely help in the venture—David’s children, who come to adore her.
Sherri: The Bridge Between Us is about Susannah Higley and John Hawkins, who experienced a generational feud that tore their families apart. John returns to town hoping to settle the feud and reclaim Susannah as his own. However, Susannah longs for travel and adventure as far away from the Erie Canal as she can get.
Why did you choose the specific town/location for the setting of your story?
Ramona: I liked the name. When the seven of us in the novella group were choosing sites along the canal for our stories, Rochester just jumped out at me.
Lauralee: My parents and in-laws all came from the Mohawk Valley region, and I searched for an interesting setting. The modest town of Little Falls fit the bill for its uniqueness, picturesque setting, and history.
Sherri: A friend of mine from church was helping me do research for the setting and she found the story about the bridge collapse in Albion. Immediately, I knew this would make a great start to my story!
Had you ever visited that town/location before writing your novella?
Ramona: No, but I’m itching to go visit! From the pictures I saw while researching for my story, the place looks stunning! I learned so much about Rochester and its history while researching my story. I’d love to see it in person, especially the falls.
Lauralee: Yes, and had a wonderful tour via the Little Falls Historical Society of the old and new lock system, and the falls itself, necessitating the locks, both back in the time of George Washington to the present day.
Sherri: No, but I’d like to. Several bookstores and gift shops along the Erie Canal have invited me to come for a Q&A, so I might just have to make the trip!
In your story, did you mention any foods associated with Western New York that readers in that area would recognize?
Ramona: The main food item featured in Digging for Love is the pasty—a small meat and vegetable pie much like the Polish pierogi. My heroine, Emily, makes them at her parents’ inn and sells them to the canal workers near the aqueduct construction site.
Lauralee: Cheese, glorious cheese! The area of Little Falls westward towards Utica was known for cheese making in the nineteenth century. So I had great pleasure giving my hero an active and profitable cheese-making business.
Sherri: Cinnamon rolls and beef stew were mentioned in my story as well as a corn husking bee where women made traditional fall foods to bring to the event.
What did you learn about the Western New York area during your research?
Ramona: Since I knew nothing of Rochester, New York before, I learned a lot including the fact that the Genesee River flows through Rochester dividing the city in two, and has two falls near there—a large falls and a smaller falls. After the Erie Canal came to Rochester, the town earned the nickname of Young Lion of the West.
Lauralee: I learned to appreciate the Mohawk Valley region more, not only for the Erie Canal that helped so many, but the same area where my parents taught as teachers and where I was born!
Sherri: I learned so much about the Erie Canal in general that I didn’t learn in school. The fact that this waterway brought everything to this region until the railroad came through fascinated me. It connected Albany to Buffalo and changed the lives of many.
What did you learn about the construction of the Erie Canal during your research?
Ramona: I learned that the aqueduct built to carry the canal across the Genesee River was made from red medina sandstone quarried in the nearby town of Greece, New York.
Lauralee: As difficult as it is, many farmers were obliged to give up their precious and fertile land for the construction of the canal. Their sacrifice led the way to this major enterprise that helped businesses flourish.
Sherri: I learned that they used a special kind of cement that hardened underwater. So they didn’t have to drain the whole area in order to pour the foundation.
What’s next — What are you working on now?
Ramona: The Bridge at Bramble Ford, a full length historical romance novel. Inspired by historic events in my hometown of Seymour, Indiana
Lauralee: My next novella, Only Forever, set during World War II, and explores the advent of the Victory Garden. It shows how families at home helped support a nation and each other during a time of conflict. It’s due out in 2020 in the collection “Homefront Heroines.”
Sherri: I’m currently writing Inheriting Trouble, a contemporary romantic suspense story set in Kansas.
Ramona Cecil: Website: https://www.ramonakcecil.com
Lauralee Bliss: Website: http://www.lauraleebliss.com
Sherry Wilson Johnson: Website: https://sherriwilsonjohnson.com/
You can order or peruse The Erie Canal Brides Collection HERE.