Elise Cooper interviews

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor explores relationships, some tragic and some hopeful. This historical novel, inspired by true events, is a gripping story about the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers who lived one hundred years apart. 


Readers first see the real-life heroine Grace Darling who in 1838 in Northumberland, England at the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands rescued shipwreck survivors in a furious storm along with her father. This twenty-two year old woman became thrown into England’s national limelight, the subject of newspaper articles, poems, ballads, and plays. At the time, it was unheard of for a woman to be involved in such a rescue. They did reach a number of survivors, eventually bringing them to safety but the memory of what they saw and experienced was forever etched in their consciousness. What came out of the fame was the renewal of the friendship that had developed between Grace and a visiting artist, George Emmerson, who captured her with his brushes and in his heart. 


Fast-forward one hundred years to another lighthouse, this one in Newport Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old, pregnant, and unmarried, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay until her baby is born, with Harriet Flaherty, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper. Tired of sitting around Matilda finds a chest full of documents of her families past that includes a half-finished discarded portrait, which opens a window into Matilda’s family history. 


Although one hundred years apart both stories are one of heartache and inspiration. These three strong women are gutsy, courageous and brave.


Elise Cooper:  How did you come across Grace Darling?

Hazel Gaynor: It originated with the real-life person.  I learned about her in school as a young girl and was fascinated by her.  I really wanted to tell her story. I wanted to step into her heels to understand how she felt after she was catapulted into the public eye. Then I read about Ida Lewis, also a light house keeper off of Rhode Island, who was known as the American Grace Darling.  There was this incredible historic connection. 


EC:  Did you ever visit any lighthouses?

HG:  I took a boat to the Lighthouse and the island Grace lived on.  It made me realize how remote her life was and how she lived under cramped conditions. I also stayed at a lighthouse in Ireland with my husband and children. It is no longer a working lighthouse, but has been set up for people to stay in this 200-year-old structure. It was quite the experience, having to climb 190 steps from the bottom to the bedrooms that came off a spiral staircase.  There was no Wi-Fi and we were surrounded by nature, the country side, and the sea. I found it quite an emotional experience. 


EC: How would you describe Grace?

HG:  Amazing, complex, clever, vibrant, brave, and courageous. She was an earnest devoted daughter. The duty she had with the lighthouse conflicted with the human emotions of a young woman falling in love.  Being thrown into the public spotlight was something she felt very uncomfortable with. She could not handle the pressure, essentially being elevated into this Saintly woman. 


EC:  Did you stick to all the facts surrounding Grace?

HG:  Yes, including Sarah Dawson who was saved by Grace and her father, but not her children who did die on the rocks.  Although I developed the artist because there are only sketchy details.  George Emmerson is my fictional interpretation of that relationship. I obviously imagined how Grace and George would interact. As a novelist, I drew out the different relationships, what their life was like, and what happened.  


EC: There is some heartache to this story?

HG:  We scramble for the happily ever after but there isn’t always one.  As an author, I also struggle with giving my characters a happily ever after. We do lose people in our lives and must deal with the real human experience of grief. 


EC:  How would you describe Matilda?

HG:  Independent, rebellious, and brave. She did not follow what society expected of her and in the end knew she had to stand on her own two feet.  She was a young Irish woman who came to America to find a new life for herself.  Even though she lived one hundred years after Grace, she still struggled with having a say over her life.  While Grace felt isolated, Matilda felt it very freeing.  It is easier for her to shake off the social norms, able to make more choices than Grace.


EC: Was the lighthouse a character in the story?

HG: Yes.  It is strong, immovable, and permanent.  Bantered by the elements it tries to keep people safe. As I wrote in the book, it has the company of the “birds and the sea, with the wild winter winds and temperate summers.’ Grace was connected to the lighthouse, having a relationship of sorts because her life was rooted in this place. 


EC:  How would you describe Harriett?

HG:  A whiskey drinking, pipe smoking, grumpy, grouchy Tom-boy.  She is resilient, tough, yet hides behind this toughness with a vulnerability. Her story is centered around the 1938 hurricane, and the role of light keepers.  They must burn the light brightly, but it also their duty to go to the rescue of those in distress. She took her job seriously and was proud to help keep ships away from the rocks.


EC:  What role does the weather play?

HG:  A very dangerous storm was the catalyst that would change the direction of Grace Darling’s life. The storm spiraled Grace’s notoriety. People can hear the wind and feel it shaking the lighthouse, with waves pounding in a very dramatic way.


EC:  What about the cameo locket?

HG:  I write in all my books about family connections. It is a theme of sorts. In this story, it unlocks the real story of Matilda’s family. It represents a legacy of something physical passing down from one member of the family to another. It is something substantial yet quite a delicate connection of passing on a story of what was important to our ancestors’ life.


EC:  A shout out about your next book?

HG:  I am writing a book co-authored with Heather Webb.  The title is Meet Me In Monaco and it will be published in July 2019.  It is inspired by the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier.   


Rogue Gunslinger and Rugged Defender, the second and third books of the Clementine Sisters series by B. J. Daniels blends a great plot, setting, and characters. People cannot imagine how this author can improve, but each book in this series just keeps getting better.


In Rogue Gunslinger, T.J. Clementine is a mystery author that is being stalked. Receiving mail from one particular fan escalates into threats because she is not following their writing advice. Hoping to escape from possible danger she travels to her childhood home to be with her other two sisters in Whitehorse Montana. Coincidentally she again meets in Montana, the man, Silas Walker, who either saved her or pushed her into an on-coming truck while in New York City. Deciding to investigate Silas, she realizes he protected her, and that as a former policeman he can actually help her find the culprit. This loner and mountain man becomes not only her savior, but they form a bond, while trying to keep each other safe.


The next book of the series, Rugged Defender, focuses on the third sister, Chloe.  She lost her job as an investigative reporter.  Now in Montana for the holidays she decides that sitting around is not for her.  Realizing that a high school classmate, Justin Calhoun, left in disgrace with many unanswered questions about his brother’s death, she searches out the truth. Chloe and Justin decide to team up to find out what really happened to his brother, having their lives threatened in the process.


As a recap, the first book in the story, Hard Rustler, begins with a city gal, Annabelle (Annie) Clementine, traveling back to her home town of Whitehorse Montana. After high school, she decided to escape the monotony to become a famous model, leaving her love interest, Dawson, behind. Now, thirteen years later, she is back to sell her late grandmother’s house and to get out of town as soon as possible. Confronted by someone who wants to find something in that house she realizes her life is in danger. Annie and Dawson must sort out the mystery and determine what her grandmother was hiding. 

These books are about estranged sisters coming to terms with the past and making amends. It’s a love story and a mystery, with a lot of suspense. Each sister in their own way are strong independent women who know themselves and end up knowing what they want out of life.


Elise Cooper:  You were spot on with the interactions of the three sisters.  Please explain.

B. J. Daniels: I wanted to be able to write a book that is sister oriented.  I do not have any sisters, but I do have a sibling.  For me the dynamic of families is interesting.  I did meet a lot of people who had sisters so I was able to observe them and how they got along. I also think that someone’s profession has an influence.  TJ being a writer never wants to be in the spotlight, while her sister Annabell, a former model, enjoys it.  The other sister, Chloe, an investigative reporter, enjoys digging for dirt.


EC:  The boyfriends from previous books just get a cameo appearance?

Daniels: I hope each book stands on its own.  Because of that, if people do not read the books in order they might not know about the hero.  In addition, by the third book there would be too many characters to include so I basically kicked the previous boyfriends off to the side.


EC:  Since TJ is a writer is that you?

Daniels: There is some of us in our characters even if we do not like to believe it. In Rogue Gunslinger, I got into what it is like to be a writer, including all the demands.  I have often told my agent I just want to write books, but was told that is not possible.  TJ and myself are not fond of social media.  I have said, ‘the day I quit it will be because of social media.’ If someone reads a book and likes it that is when readers go looking for the author. 


EC:  Which of the three sisters are you most like?

Daniels: Of the three sisters, I am most like TJ. In high school I was a day dreamer as she is.  Sometimes the story feels real to life for me.  For example, I moved things around in a town to represent how I saw it. When I visit there, some things seem out of place. TJ and I had writing choose us with our characters taking on a life of their own.  


EC:  The suspense part of the story has TJ stalked?

Daniels:  I have never been stalked.  I remember writing another book where a character was attacked in a grocery store parking lot at night.  I had just read something about the ways a woman could protect themselves and what to look out for.  A friend of mine stated, ‘I never knew you were attacked.’ But I hadn’t been.  What I want to do as a writer is put myself in that place, show the reader how it works, and make it real enough for people to believe it. 


EC:  In the last book, Rugged Defender, the relationship is based around that kiss?

Daniels:  I have fallen in love and often felt that it is real after that one kiss.  Anyone who has had one of those kisses knows what I mean. 


EC:  TJ says throughout the book she is not like her character Constance?

Daniels:  I think TJ and I have that in common where our characters are braver, more loyal, and become heroines. As writers, there are so many times we are hidden away from people while characters like Constance are out there kicking butt.  


EC:  TJ speaks of how she wakes up at night with characters getting into her head?

Daniels:  Yes, that is true. My characters do talk to me.  There are days it seems they have come from outer space and I just type.  I will be working on one book and then a character from another book pops into my head and starts talking to me.  Then I always write it down.  I hear scenes and just start typing.  Sometimes I feel I have painted myself into a corner and just wait for the answer to come to me.  The characters come to life.


EC:  How would you describe TJ’s boyfriend, Silas?

Daniels:  He is a big tough guy.  TJ realizes he actually led the life she writes about but never lived. I think he is in awe, intrigued, and captivated by her. I compared him to a mountain lion because of his intensity.  When TJ comes in contact with him, it is dangerous like coming across a mountain lion.  He can be protective but also thoughtful, gentle, and charming.


EC:  How would you describe Chloe’s boyfriend, Justin?

Daniels:  He is trying to make amends.  Strong and independent. 


EC:  Montana is very prevalent in all your books?

Daniels:  I live in the prairie and just as with the town of Whitehorse you can see the Little Rockies in the distance.  I weave in the real life of the small town.  We don’t even have stop lights and the nearest Target is three hours away.  People love to dance and often go to bars to do it.  It is also true that guys wear jeans almost any place including weddings, funerals, and churches. I once wrote ‘a guy wearing a suit is either an undertaker or a lawyer.’ I describe in the books as I see Montana with “the wild prairie, the endless sky, the wide-open places… The peace and quiet. Not one siren to be heard. No traffic. No honking taxis. No loud music from the apartment next door.”  I meant it when I said ‘I just love this place.’


EC:  Next book?

Daniels: Unfortunately, these characters will not come back.  I understand people fall in love with them and want to see them again but there is no easy way to bring them back.  My next book will be out in November, titled Wrangler’s Rescue.  It starts out with Cyrus falling off a cruise ship and believed dead.  He is from Montana and his gal did not believe that he had died.  She goes in search of him, which lands them in the Caribbean. I hope readers feel it is a fast-paced novel.



With Death Is Not Enough Karen Rose has out done herself. This story highlights love and friendship, romance and passion, gruesome murder, frustrating injustice, with an engaging hero/heroine.

Although Rose’s readers have seen Thomas Thorne and Gwyn Weaver in previous books this novel is their story.  Thorne actually gives defense attorneys a good name, always attempting to help those unfairly charged, as was the case when he was young. His backstory is very compelling, having been falsely accused while in high school. It seems Déjà vu when he once again becomes the main person of interest in a murder. He is found in bed, drugged senseless, next to a woman beaten and knifed to death, with his fingerprints on the weapon. His friends circle the wagon, standing by him and searching for details that will prove his innocence.  It becomes apparent that someone is setting him up, out for revenge, and wants to slowly destroy his life, piece by piece. The various attacks on his friends, his business and his reputation are intended to get at everything he holds dear and values.

Readers will not be disappointed with this suspenseful story.  They will be riveted hoping beyond hope that justice will prevail, and that the psychopath attempting to frame Thorne will get his due. Although the romance was not at the forefront, it added to the storyline.


Elise Cooper: Why the Thorne story now?

Karen Rose:  In Monster In The Closest he helped the good guys find a killer that made him the target of a vicious gang leader. I knew from the first Baltimore book of this series, back in 2011, I wanted to tell his and Gwyn’s story. I actually was able to speak with someone who was in the FBI, became a prosecutor, and then a defense attorney.  In some ways, I based Thorne’s character on those that believe everyone should have due process.


EC:  The rule of law is important to him?

KR:  He was upset when he saw due process circumvented and abused.  This country is built upon being punished for what you actually do.  Defense attorneys are part of the check and balance systems.  Justice is done in my books.  It can be a good thing, but if used improperly it can be turned into a weapon.  Thorne takes this very seriously making sure that the Constitution is enforced, and that the prosecutors do not get away with bullying the system.


EC:  Thorne’s friends seemed to circle the wagons?

KR:  The police did not overreact because he had worked with them and had proven himself to have integrity.  All of his friends are good people who realize he is good person that was framed. I had everyone get involved. 


EC:  How did the romance come about?

KR:  Thorne had a fling for Gwyn for years.  It never seemed the right time because both were unattached at the wrong times.  He was biding his time.  They both danced around each other.  He had to work up enough courage to tell her how he felt.  I liked writing this friends to lovers’ story. They were best friends who have kept deep secrets from each other. They knew each other well, but have been holding back traumatic issues.  They never displayed all their cards on the table.


EC:  How would you describe Thorne?

KR:  He is a large tough guy on the outside, but on the inside, he is vulnerable.  His mom threw him away, he lost his high school sweetheart, and was falsely accused of murder when younger. Thorne is definitely trustworthy, protective, and honest.  He is a good guy and someone special.


EC:  How would you describe Gwyn?

KR:  She is trying to get her life back together, now 4.5 years after being horrifically assaulted.  I would describe her before the assault: sassy, someone who wanted to be the center of attention, had a good heart, and blunt, while afterward she withdrew.  She had to overcome the emotional scars that ran deep, including trust issues.  I think by the end of the book she becomes her old self; what you see is what you get.


EC: I would describe your women characters, using the Helen Reddy phrase, “I am woman hear me roar.” Do you agree?

KR:  Strong women are a crucial element to a romantic suspense book.  They take their lives back.  I am used to strong woman because my circle of friends are intelligent and strong women.  They have spines of steel and will not let anyone push them around.  Lucy, Stevie, Paige, and Gwyn all rallied around Thorne because they created a family around the circle of friends.  They took control over their own destiny and never cowered.


EC:  Which is easier to write, the romance or suspense?

KR: Writing suspense goes faster in my mind. I can rat-tat-tat the scenes when bullets fly.  Also, if someone is justifiably irate my fingers fly.   Writing romance takes more emotions so it will take me longer.  My personal pacing is slower for the romance scenes.  It is a slow dance compared to a fast dance. 


EC:  What did you want the readers to get out of it?

KR:  Good entertainment.  Beyond that I wanted to show that both men and women are tough, but do have vulnerabilities.  People should be who they are, not who they think they need to be. I see this as my responsibility as an author.  Women need to stand up for themselves and to take matters in their own hands.  My men characters see women as equals and not as delicate flowers. I hope my characters are role models. Strong women should be thought of as cool and not the “b” word.  My fictional world is a world where people of all kinds play a role including those with disabilities. 


EC:  Can you give a shout out about your next book?

KR:  It will not be a Baltimore series book. It is “ta-ta” for now.  The Baltimore series is a good-bye for now.  But I am excited, coming out in February I will have a new series.  The first novel in the Sacramento series is titled Say You’re Sorry.  A serial killer is on the loose and grabs Daisy Dawson who manages to flee and grabs a necklace that she tears off the killer’s neck. This is my first book where the setting is out west.  There will be carryover for some characters, but the only Baltimore characters are Daisy and her father Frederick. 


A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd is a suspenseful story with engaging characters.  Their best books are the ones that flesh out the hero and heroine, allowing readers to get to know more and more of the beloved characters, in this case Bess Crawford. The story delves into the very dark aftermath of WW1 that has left many embittered and broken men.

The story compassionately relates how the war has ended, but the suffering and agony of the injured has not disappeared. Bess is tending to soldiers who lost limbs and are suicidal.  A group of Welsh soldiers, whose serious injuries make their future employment doubtful, feel they have no reason to live. Worried about being a financial drain upon their families, they often commit suicide in an effort to eliminate the problem. Coal miners by profession, they are now unable to perform the grueling, physical labor required. This includes Captain Hugh Williams, someone Bess has built a bond with. After being discharged, he writes Bess a letter detailing the suicides of some soldiers she nursed back to health, and asks for her help in preventing others from taking their life. Able to get a few days leave, Bess seeks out Williams, ending up in a desolate, secretive, and isolated town on the Welsh coast. When bodies wash ashore, it becomes clear, that the villagers have a secret, one that they are willing to kill for. Because she assumes it is her responsibility to investigate she puts her life in danger as the villagers’ hostility towards her increases.

The vivid description of the Gower Peninsula in southern Wales creates the right atmosphere for a suspenseful story. Its stormy weather, harsh, unforgiving landscape, and unfriendly citizens adds a level of menace to the mystery. 


Elise Cooper:  The setting plays an important role in the story?

Todds:  It started out when we were in Wales and stumbled across this area.  We went down to this peninsula and saw it is very isolated.  There is this beautiful bay at its end.  If you look at the jacket you can see a pale blue line below Bess.  This is the actual view we had looking down at the bay.  We knew we had to set a story here.  


EC:  You mention a piece of land called “the Worm”?

Todds: It is a peninsula within a peninsula that looks like a worm or dragon.  It is a spit of land that almost has a natural break water.  Think back to the old maps of the world where in the sea there would be these sea serpents jetting out from the headland.  If you go on line you can see pictures of “The Worm” in Wales.


EC:  It is also a story about amputees?

Todds:  German machine gunners took people out from their knees down, basically mowing them down.  They did this knowing an injured solider would take two fit men to take them off the battlefield.  A lot of men lost legs as a result of these machine gunners. We wanted to show the psychological burden these men had to go through, because back then many did not have a way to regain their place in society. These men did the physical work of mining and their injuries prevented them from being employed.  We wrote this book quote, “Their wounds had done what the Germans never could-broken their spirits.” A prayer of almost every man in the Great War, ‘I don’t mind dying, but please don’t maim me.’


EC:  The book also has a mystery element?

Todds:  Bess had to solve the mystery by putting the clues together bit by bit.  The townspeople didn’t want strangers to come down and take everything away.  They were desperate to keep their secrets.  They live their lives by their own set of rules where everyone knows each other’s business. They resent newcomers coming in and spoiling their world. The mystery is centered around “The Worm,” the isolation of the small town, and a shipwreck during the Charles II era that we twisted to make a story. 


EC:  Two townspeople that helped Bess were Captain Hugh Williams and his sister-in-law Rachel.  How would you describe them?

Todds:  Hugh is a survivor, responsible, and protective.  He found he was still useful after moving in to help Rachel.  He is a success story.

Rachel is dependent on Hugh and seeks his companionship. 


EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book? 

Todds:  It is an Ian Rutledge novel, entitled, The Black Ascot, out in February 2019. Based on a true event, a murder cold case, he looks into years later.



The Sound of Distant Thunder by Jan Drexler presents a unique look at the Amish society.  This first in a series uses the backdrop of the Civil War as the characters struggle to reconcile their convictions and desires with the national interest.

Jan Drexler brings an understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. She takes the saying, “write what you know,” to a whole new level. 

 The story explores two divisions, North versus South during America’s Civil War, and the Amish Church, Mennonite versus the Old Order Amish.  Through the hero Jonas’ eyes, readers see his struggles with his own principles, beliefs and how these affect his life. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother's name comes up on the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother's place. But this means Jonas must put on hold his commitment to marry his long-time love, Katie Stuckey.  

As readers turn the pages they seek answers to the questions, will the relationship survive the separation and how will Jonas be viewed in this pacifist Church? Amish traditions and beliefs are brought to the forefront with the Civil War as a backdrop. 


Elise Cooper:  Why write about the Amish?

Jan Drexler:  My ancestors were Amish.  Also, I lived in Indiana and they were part of the community so I grew up with them.  I think my experiences mostly came from the stories my family told.  I explored why we were not Amish anymore.  I took a journey into my heritage with the stories growing out of that.  


EC:  The book touches on the divisions that were happening within the Amish Church?

JD:  Jonas does not yet have the conviction or commitment to join the Church because he is unsure about some of its doctrines and teachings. I wrote into the story about the unraveling that actually occurred between the 1830’s and 1878. The seam that bound the change-minded members, Mennonites, and the tradition-minded members together, unraveled thread by thread. And like the greater conflict happening in the United States in the same era, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and neighbors and friends found themselves on opposite sides of the division. But the resulting split in the Amish church didn’t happen quickly. Leaders of the church on both sides worked tirelessly for many years, traveling between the settlements to bring healing to the threatening division. I put into the book about the annual ministers’ meetings, called Dienerversammlungen, that were held during the middle of the century for several years as an attempt to restore unity.


EC:  The Amish would be considered conscientious objectors today?

JD:  They were non-resistant.  As with the Quakers, they thought killing is wrong.  But Jonas questions if there is a justification for war during certain circumstances. Most of the “English” world would say they have an equal allegiance to G-d and country, but the Amish feel their allegiance to G-d comes first.  


EC:  How were the Amish looked upon because of their beliefs?

JD:  Back then people could not conceive that someone would not support their country by fighting. Even during the Revolutionary War the Amish had problems because people thought if they did not want to fight they must be Tories.  The story takes place in Ohio and I was able to write in the real facts of how an Ohio Congressman was able to get passed that the non-resistance religions could hire someone to take their place or pay a fee that would go to the war effort.


EC:  Can you explain this book quote by Jonas’ brother, “If I pay the fee, I’m showing them that my life is more important to me than another man’s.”

JD:  The Amish believe as a member of the Church, if they die, they will go to heaven.  But they had guilt because they felt if they took a life, and that person was not Baptized, that person would go to hell. I think he wanted to avoid survivor’s guilt. While doing my research I actually read about a man who did hire someone to take his place.  Subsequently that person was killed and the man had a very hard time living with that guilt.  


EC:  Is the Civil War a character or background for the story?

JD:  It is more of a background.  In specific situations, the characters interact with the Civil War, but are not immersed in it, except for Jonas. I hoped I showed how men 18 to 22 years of age were looking for an adventure.  They really believed it would not last more than three months.  I read numerous diary entries from that era where boys told their parents, ‘I have to join up now because I do not want to miss out.’

EC:  How would you describe Jonas?


JD:  Stubborn, intelligent, and caring.  He has a softness of heart, but is also stoic.  


EC:  You also explore how war effects relationships.  The heroine, Jonas’ girlfriend is Katie; how would you describe her?

JD:  Naïve, loveable, and looking for someone to help her navigate issues.


EC: It seemed she chose Jonas’ mother Lydia as a role model, not her own mom?

JD:  She did not have a good relationship with her mother who was tired and depressed.  Katie felt she never lived up to her mother’s standards so she gravitated towards Lydia as a substitute mother.  


EC:  Can you give a shout out about your next book?

JD:  The story revolves around Jonas’ unmarried sister Ruby.  An Amish family moves to Weaver Creek to escape the Civil War.  The wife dies and then the father is left to raise his children on his own.  It takes place a few months after this book ends, the spring of 1863.



Latest comments

23.10 | 11:23

Awesome interview! B.J. Daniels books are just GREAT!! Always anticipating the next one! Appreciate her talent, and bringing us wonderful hours of reading!

22.10 | 18:12

For one, I’m glad you can come up with ideas and that the characters talk to you. Keep them talking and thank you and your characters.

22.10 | 17:30

I adore B J Daniels’ books. She grabs me from the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the last sentence. I loved this interview.

01.10 | 16:20

Happy Birthday! I remember when book club started when you turned 50. OMG! 100% agree with political status. So disappointing. Happy Foliage!