So it’s with great joy that I have the privilege of introducing to you her debut novel, Until the Day Breaks. Paula is with me today to tell us a bit of its back story and offer you a special gift in celebration of mothers and daughters. Details follow this interview. Read on…
Paula, welcome! Right from the first page that dropped me into immediate action, I felt completely immersed in the world you created—1846 California. What draws you to write about this era?
I’m a fifth generation Californian. My great-great-grandma came to California by wagon train. Right down the road from our house is where John C. Fremont camped with his soldiers in 1846 during the Bear Flag Revolt. I pass this historical monument on our back country road every day driving our kids to school. I love California and I love history, so combining the two was a no-brainer.
And when I was a little girl, my dad had an old western, leather book full of pictures of the Californios. That lost culture of horses and cattle and bulls and bears with dashing Spanish cowboys and pretty señoritas absolutely captivated me. I loved that old western book! As I got older, and began to write stories, I knew someday I would write about the Californios.
Your story addresses matters of class, racial bigotry, and religious tension. Why did you choose to highlight these issues?
California was an interesting place in the mid 1800s. It joined the union as a free state, and never allowed true slavery, yet many of the Indians were really slaves to the wealthy class, and the color of one’s skin in California mattered a great deal, especially if you were a woman. White women were valued as wives and mothers, while women of mixed heritage, or Indian women, were often abused and forced into sexual slavery.
Both sides of my family are racially mixed. Our family members come in all colors: black, brown, white, as well as fair and freckled like me. Even today, my two beautiful sister-in-laws with their dark skin have faced ugly racial situations because they married Caucasian men. My darling nieces are mixed. They are absolutely gorgeous girls. It troubles me a great deal to think had my precious nieces been born a 150 years ago in California, their futures would have been very different. Perhaps very difficult and dangerous for them.
About religion, the tension between Catholics and Protestants has always troubled and intrigued me. I grew up Catholic, but now worship most Sundays at a Protestant church. I wish Catholic and Protestants could set their differences aside and just worship Jesus together. I believe faith should unite, not divide us.
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Until the Day Breaks is a dramatic love story set amidst tumultuous times, and it contains a strong faith element. What do you hope readers take away from it?
Gosh– that’s kind of a hard question. I guess I hope readers will want to get to know Jesus if they don’t already know the Savior. I also hope the beauty of the Bible will come across in the story. The Bible is my favorite book.
I love that you love a happy ending, and I liked the way you wrapped up this novel—the first in the California Rising series—with major threads tied in a satisfying knot, while leaving one or two minor threads dangling. Can you give us a teaser as to what’s coming?
The second book in the series, Far Side of the Sea, is Maria’s story, and she’s a real challenge for me. Maria, a hot-headed Spanish girl, is nothing like Rachel in the first book. Maria learns lessons the hard way. Maybe more readers will be able to identify with Maria, since many of us are this way. Rachel was the good girl trying to tame the bad boy. In book II, it’s the other way around. Like San Francisco during the Gold Rush days, which is the setting for book II, Maria is young, impetuous, and beautiful. She’s also running from God. She will go to the far side of the sea and back to escape her Heavenly Father. Three men will vie for her affections. Let’s just say, not all of these men will survive loving Maria.
Your two daughters have had a hand in the publication of this novel. Will you share a bit of that story?
So this book would have never seen the light of day if it wasn’t for my daughters, Cami and Lacy. Cami especially wouldn’t let the book die in my computer. For the past three years, when I’ve asked Cami what she wants for her birthday, she has said, “I want you to publish Until the Day Breaks for me. It’s my favorite book!”
So happy 25th birthday, Cami! And as Mother’s Day is right between Cami and Lacy’s birthdays, we decided it was the perfect time to release Until the Day Breaks.
I wrote the first draft of this book when my girls were babies—actually Cami was on my hip and Lacy in my womb. Ten years ago, when the girls were teenagers, I completely rewrote the book for the Christian market. I used my daughters to create my character, Rachel. Rachel is very much like my older daughter, Cami, in personality. I gave Rachel my Lacy’s wide, blue eyes and that vein in her forehead when she cries.
I adore my girls and it was fun to model Rachel after them. I didn’t let my daughters read the story until they were older because I would rate this novel PG at least. I did my best to make it historically accurate, and I also tried to make it emotionally and spiritually accurate. Of course history, our emotions, and the spiritual battles we face can get pretty messy, so this book is not a clean book. But I hope it’s an honest book, and perhaps beautiful, because love is beautiful. Not just human love, but God’s love for us is beautiful.
The tricky part of this book is that it doesn’t fit the Christian market or the secular market. But my real audience was my daughters, and I’m so happy Cami and Lacy are delighted with the novel. Lacy stopped by my house again and again to pray with me as I edited and agonized over the book. And Cami just kept saying, “I’m so excited my book is going to be on Amazon!”
So in honor of my girls’ birthdays, we are offering the ebook free, as well as giving away one signed print copy. I never thought of giving a book away as party favors before, but I’m delighted to do this here today with my dear friend KJ.
Thank you, KJ, for inviting me here today! I faithfully follow your wonderful website to discover good novels, and honestly, I never dreamed a book I wrote would actually be featured here. It deeply humbles me and fills me with happiness. Thank you so much!
My absolute pleasure, Paula! So happy to celebrate your debut here today.
About the author: Paula began her writing career as a civilian contracted to write for the United States Air Force’s newspaper and magazines. Later, she wrote feature stories for a daily California newspaper. More recently, Paula has penned stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul and Guideposts Books.
A fifth generation Californian, Paula’s great-grandmother, Delcie Mae, came to California in a covered wagon, and then married a California farmer. Paula’s family has been farming ever since.
Paula is married to Scott. They have seven children, two golden labs, three cats, chickens, horses and a whole lot of fruit and nut trees on their California farm.
About this book: (from the publisher) A young woman finds her loyalties tested beyond limit and her desires torn beyond measure in 1846 California.
After sailing around Cape Horn, and barely surviving the perilous journey, devout Protestant Rachel Tyler, arrives in California just in time for her father’s wedding and the unfolding of the Bear Flag Revolt. Though already engaged to marry a minister in Massachusetts, Rachel’s ambitious father arranges her betrothal to Roman Vasquez, a blue-blooded Catholic son of the gente de razón, the ruling class of California.
Roman, a proud, Spanish soldier is ready to fight and die for his homeland. As the Yankee rebels raise their bear flag in Sonoma square, the last thing Roman wants is an arranged marriage to the American daughter of his enemy Joshua Tyler. But his Uncle Pedro, the Patrón of the family, has other plans.
Neither Rachel nor Roman desire this unlikely engagement that assaults their religious beliefs, but they cannot escape the passion flaming between them as war looms on the horizon and bitter rivals rise up to destroy them amid the breathtaking backdrop of the last days of the Californios.
Until the Day Breaks is the first book in the sweeping saga of California Rising, a tale of love, intrigue, and destiny, where passionate men and women lay the foundation of the Golden State with their very lives.
Suggested rating: PG-13 for sensuality
After words: To celebrate her debut release, Paula is gifting Until the Day Breaks as an ebook free (click here). To be entered into the giveaway for a print copy, simply leave a comment. Winner chosen at random.