Guest Post: Jill Marie Landis shares what inspired her new historical novel Heart of Lies, the second of three volumes in her Irish Angel Series. Set in the Louisiana bayou in the 1870's, this story of kidnapping, deception, and conflicting loyalties is full of romance and suspense. Jill writes:
Before she follows her heart … she has to change her ways.
Maddie Grande grew up as a thief and a beggar in a tribe of street urchins in New Orleans. As an adult hoping for a new life, she moves to the bayou with her twin “brothers”—who were fellow tribemates—and learns to love the serenity of the swamp. But when her brothers stubbornly continue their lawless ways and kidnap the daughter of a wealthy carpetbagger, Maddie is forced to hide the precocious eight-year-old.
Suddenly Maddie finds herself at another crossroad in her life—the perfect place to start a different story. This is where a heroine’s journey begins: where crises arise and choices are made—some good and some bad—epic choices guided by either a strong faith or the struggle it takes to survive while searching for one.
I try to create heroines who are out of the ordinary—determined women who are strengthened by the adversities they have to face. Maddie was inspired by The Little Robber Maiden from "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen; Oliver in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; and from news accounts of children who were kidnapped, brainwashed, and raised by their captors. Out of those stories came Maddie Grande, a lovely young woman who wanted to do the right thing but didn't know how—especially if it meant giving up a long-held dream.
To me the setting of a novel is just as important as a lead character. The setting must sweep the reader away as they become immersed in a sense of time and place—which are usually past times and places that resonate with me.
By placing Heart of Lies in the Louisiana bayou, I was able to work with one of my favorite settings—the swamp. Years ago, I traveled to southern Illinois for research and was taken to Heron Pond, a bald cypress swamp along the Lower Cache River.
Heron Pond inspired the setting of Heart of Lies.
To me, there's something so enticing about the primordial feeling that oozes from the opaque waters, which are covered with floating duckweed, and the knobs of cypress that barely show above the waterline. Gazing toward the tops of towering forests of cypress trees with sunlight sifting through their lacey, green needles, I was reminded of the way light streams through the stained glass windows of a church or cathedral.
The vast bayous and marshes of Louisiana are just as haunting and serve as the perfect setting for Maddie Grande, a woman whose past is as murky as the waters she plies in her pirogue.
About the Irish Angel Series
The Irish Angels Series relates the stories of four sisters of Irish heritage from New Orleans who were separated after their parents' deaths and somehow come to find each other after over twenty years of separation. The eldest, Lovie, is forced into prostitution in Heart of Stone; Maddie's is the second story to unfold and is found in Heart of Lies; Kate dreams of becoming an architect and not only restores an antebellum mansion but saves the man who has locked himself away inside it in the upcoming Heart of Glass (available early 2012).
About Jill Marie Landis