Susan, what number book is A
Sound Among the Trees for you?
This novel is my thirteenth, and
the fourth to include a historical/contemporary blend.
How is this
one different from the others?
A Sound Among the Trees
is set in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in both the current day and during
the Civil War, and all the action takes place inside the same house,
Holly Oak. The book is told in five parts, starting with the garden,
then the parlor, the former slaves’ quarters, the cellar, and then all
of Holly Oak itself. I use letters written by a young Southern woman in
love with a Northern solider to transport the reader to the past.
Current day gossip says this young woman was a Yankee spy and that
Holly Oak is haunted by her remorseful ghost. This is not a ghost story
but a story about how we sometimes allow the past to tether us to fear.
And that fear keeps us from moving forward in faith. This is the part
of the story that is unique from the others.
How is it
As I did in The Shape
of Mercy, I allow the past to tell its story through the
written legacy of a young woman who makes the ultimate sacrifice for
love. In The Shape of Mercy, I used a diary. In
this book, I use letters. Some were sent to a cousin in Maine. Some
were never sent. They are buried somewhere inside Holly Oak and my
current-day new-bride protagonist, Marielle, is on a quest to find
them. And like Lady in Waiting, this book is about
the choices we make when it seems like we have none. There is always a
choice to be made, even if it’s just how we respond to things outside
You’ve built a
fan base in your years of writing. What do you hope your loyal readers
take from your books?
All of my books revolve around
family relationships. These are the relationships where our best
virtues and our worst flaws show up. Whether I am writing about
husbands and wives or mothers and daughters or sisters and brothers,
I’ve found the family is an amazing laboratory to discover what we
value, what we fear, what we are passionate about, and what we are
willing to sacrifice everything for. At the heart of every choice we
make in a family is the absence or presence of love. I hope readers get
the idea that, likewise, love is at the heart of every choice we make
in our relationship with God. We make our spiritual choices along that
same gradient. God summed all His laws and
of us with just
that one word: love. He wants us to love Him and
love others. It’s that simple and that amazingly complicated.
did you get the idea for A Sound Among the Trees?
I’ve always been a quiet devotee
of the human element that was the Civil War. I’m not a fan of war, but
I am drawn to any backdrop of human drama where the stakes are high,
courage and sacrifice go hand-in-hand, and relationships are refined by
fire. I’ve watched Ken Burns’s The Civil War on PBS
several times over the course of my adult life; it moves me
every time I see it.
I modeled Holly Oak after a
house in Fredericksburg that sits on Washington Street. I made
logistical adjustments, like moving it to another street closer to the
river, and since I didn’t go inside this house I had to imagine the
interior. I chose Fredericksburg after contemplating many other cities
made famous by the battles that took place there. I chose this Northern
Virginian town for two reasons. One, it is only fifty miles from the
line that separated North from South, and two, the battle that took
place there in December of 1862 was unimaginably tragic, and the
civilians in Fredericksburg witnessed it all.
What’s up next
I just finished a book called The
Girl in the Glass, which will release next year with
WaterBrook. Part of it is set in Florence, Italy—one of my favorite
places. I have a young travel book editor headed there for lots of
compelling reasons. While there, she meets a woman who claims she is
the last of the extinct Medici family and that the great paintings and
statues of the Italian Renaissance talk to her. This book is about
acceptance of things we cannot change and the courage to live with
expectation and not resignation. My travel book editor lands in
Florence disillusioned with life, and the first thing that happens to
her is she meets a woman most people would say is delusional. What do
you get when you mix disillusion with delusion on the beautiful streets
of Florence, Italy? Stay tuned and I will show you …
Award-winning writer Susan
Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and workshop leader with
a background in community journalism. Her novels include The
Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly
as one of the Best Novels of 2008. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother
of four young adults. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small
Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.