Interview with Award-Winning Author Yvonne Lehman

TitanicGet to know Yvonne…

Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 copies of her books sold. She founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years and now directs the Blue Ridge“Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held annually in October at Ridgecrest/LifeWay Conference Center in NC. She mentors students for the Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. She earned her Master’s Degree in English Literature from WesternCarolinaUniversityand has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her recent publications include Aloha Brides (Barbour, a collection of three historical Hawaii novels), A Knight to Remember (Heartsong, April 2012), the second in a series set in Washington DC, and Let it Snow (Heartsong, December 2012), third in the DC series. Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the Titanic  is her 50th novel. To purchase her books, click on her Amazon page.

Let the conversation begin!

Tell us about your new book!

The ship of dreams vanished, disappeared as it sank into the sea. In its place emerged a nightmare. The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic was not the end of the story for over two-thousand passengers and crew. It was the beginning of an unforgettable event that changed history, changed culture. There were only a few hundred saved in the 20 lifeboats. Not only were hundreds and hundreds of souls lost that night, but the event touched people throughout the world. Each person had family, friends, acquaintances and their lives too were touched and changed.

Some may want to compare this story with the book and award-winning movie Titanic, as I did when beginning this project. There is no comparison however. That is their story. This is mine and my desire, hope and prayer is that my readers enjoy this book, find it entertaining and filled with events and characters that come alive in their hearts and minds, and know what it means for a heart to survive. 

How do you make your readers care about your characters?

My readers might care about them because they are like people around us, some we label as noble or cowards, those lovable or unlikable, giving or selfish. The story is populated with those like us and make us wonder how we would behave in the situations faced by these people as they read the three divisions of the novel–the before, during, and after the sinking of that ship called the greatest ever built and then became known as one of the greatest tragedies.

If you were the casting director for the film version of your novel, who would play your lead roles?

If I were the director for the film version I’d find the most difficult role to cast would be Craven because he is an enigma. Since there is the movie Titanic, I think it would be great if Leonardo Decaprio were to play him. Craven is entirely different from the young man Jack in the movie. Now that Decaprio is older, I think it would be wonderful to watch him play the mature role of Craven and it would be a terrific challenge for him to convince an audience he is not Jack, but Craven.

Caroline would be someone like Annette Bening in The American President who was very likeable and yet a strong, independent person. Lydia is the most beautiful blue-eyed blonde in the world, so we’d have auditions.

What kind of research did you do?

I had done some research several years ago and made notes. After this project was accepted I read every book I could find about the Titanic, watched every movie, searched the internet. There is plenty of information about the Titanic.Nova Scotiais important to the story but I knew nothing about that area. My contact with other writers led to Janet Burrill who lives inNova Scotia. We exchanged emails almost daily and she had already researched history of the area in writing a book of her own and eagerly supplied me with invaluable information. 

Poetry, which I know very little about, is an important element in the story. I asked, and Dr. Donn Taylor who has a PhD in Renaissance literature and has 20 years’ experience teaching poetry, wrote a poem for me. Another character claims not to be a poet but wrote a poem. My son-in-law, who doesn’t claim to be a poet, agreed to let me use a poem he wrote. My agent did some research for me on a matter of concern. 

My acknowledgements in the book go into more detail on how so many people were eager to help with this project. 

Not only did I need to research everything about the ship and events of the sinking, but needed to research the people and times of the early 1900’s and the ensuing fifty years since my story covers half a century. What I enjoy writing most are emotions and reactions. That doesn’t take a lot of research because I look within myself and at other people’s experiences and life itself. 

TitaniceHow has your background influenced your writing?

In every way. This book is a composite, or culmination of all I know in craft and creativity that has developed in the thirty years I’ve been writing.  Many incidents and events in the story are based on personal experience or experience of people I know. It’s what I’ve learned as I’ve lived my life with successes, failures, negatives, positives, little faith, strong faith. My characters are who I am and what I know of myself, others, and life. 

Why do you think there’s such a fascination among the public with the Titanic?   

People are naturally fascinated with tragedy, perhaps because we all are so closely akin to it, personally or with those close to us. We tend to want the answer to why. Being a writer, I know there must always be conflict in a story. That’s what readers expect and must have in novels. It’s what we have in life. We identify with difficulties whether they’re labeled big or small. We seek answers. I think we want to know why such a thing as the sinking occurred. We care about lives lost needlessly had more precaution been taken. Lessons are learned from that tragedy. We see history and society changing. We can see the horror, feel a bit of the terror dying passengers experienced, wonder about the survivors, see how history and society is changed for the better by a horrible event. We see the best and most exquisite (the Titanic) has imperfections, and from the most tragic (the sinking) good can come. 

Who do you think would most enjoy this novel?

This is not a category novel, nor can it be put in a so-called box. It is a mainstream work that would appeal to the general audience, male and female, sixteen to one-hundred sixteen, and anyone who likes to read about adventure, mystery, tragedy, class distinction, romance, secrets, grief, loss, and survival. My endorsers range from a widely known, professional Dr/Professor/writer/teacher to a beginning novelist. Each acclaimed this work as being “master storytelling.” Anyone to whom I’ve mentioned Hearts and the Titanic show excitement and interest, therefore I can only conclude it is not restricted to age, gender, or literary preference.

If you had to describe Hearts That Survive in two or three words, what would you say?

I prefer to choose the description from what my endorsers say which includes:

“Wonderful. Chilling. Compelling.”  

How do you come up with your characters’ names in relation to your subject matter?  

My story covers fifty years, but begins in 1912 so my names are compatible with those who would be in first class on the Titanic. I also tend to visualize a person by a certain name. Lydiastrikes me as not being a stereotypical name, but that of a pretty, plucky person. Caroline is a basic trusted name of one I’d like for a friend. Craven is one who craves certain things and indeed he does. Last names depict nationalities. John is a name that is accepted, popular, and doesn’t depict anything in particular. William comes from royalty. Armand is FrenchJoAnna was a name her parents chose and I used it because it’s a playful pseudonym of a writer/friend who first suggested I write about the Titanic. 

What keeps your mind from wandering away from the discipline of staying on subject each day?

I can’t say that I always keep it from wandering. But the acceptance of this book came late because Ramona Richards wanted a Titanic novel and I had a proposal for one. I had to write the entire book in about six weeks. No time to think. The thirty years I’ve had of learning the craft and practicing the creativity kicked in. When I awoke at night, I went straight to the computer. When I had a moment of looking out my office window at my panoramic mountain views I would recall an incident that could be included in the story, such as the way my neighbor got her dog. Now that experience is in my book. If I felt an instance of concern, I went immediately to my knees at my bedside and prayed. I ate at the computer. When my mind wandered, it wandered to my characters and story. 

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