Flames lapped at the monk’s robes. He raced down the corridors that crackled with the collision of dampness and heat, dodging fire-lit debris. So this was to be the end, then. The night the stones of Ballyfir Monastery would tell their last tale…
So begins the tale of a humble monk, his unwavering courage, and the bronze bottle he sends into the night with a prayer that its contents might bring hope—the very word etched into the bottle—to someone, somewhere.
The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection follows the journey of that same bottle throughout the centuries in five novellas. It travels the world and touches hearts… and today, we’d like to invite you along for that journey.
Would you care to come along with us for a look behind the scenes in this short five-stop blog tour? At each stop, one of the five co-authors will interview another, to take you chronologically through the novella collection and unwrap some fun bonus material. Joanne is kicking us off with an interview of Heather, who wrote the first novella in the collection.
Oh! And don’t miss the chance to enter the giveaway (more information at the bottom of this post). Thank you for joining us, friends!
Go Behind the Scenes with Joanne Bischof
I'm delighted to be hosting Joanne on my blog today! I'm sure many of you already know and love her work, including her most recent full-length historical romance, The Lady and the Lionheart. Joanne Bischof has a deep passion for Appalachian culture and writing stories that shine light on God’s grace and goodness. She lives in the mountains of Southern California. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, folk music, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life. She is a Christy Award-finalist and author of Be Still My Soul, Though My Heart is Torn, and My Hope is Found (WaterBrook Multnomah).
1) Did you learn anything new in the research for The Swelling Sea?
Joanne: I learned a lot about rowboats in the Victorian era! It seems such a small thing but rowing plays such a large role in this story that getting the details as correct as possible was really key. Feeling really outside of my element, I read articles about the different types of boats available during that time—both for leisure rowing, and for sport, which is what the team of four young men in this novella do. I also studied up on which colleges did or didn’t have a crew team in 1890. I watched dozens of videos on the sport and the techniques involved from rower positions to signals and calls. A friend who’s a rower helped me immensely with the details and what began as one of the biggest challenges of the research ended up being a really special collaboration.
2) What makes your heroine unique in this story?
Joanne: I’d say definitely her memory loss. During a near-drowning, she suffered from oxygen asphyxiation as a child and has never fully recovered. Her symptoms not only included her having to relearn how to use some of her motor skills on one side of her body, but working on regaining her memory—and as the story plays out—learning to make peace with the possibility of not regaining some memories at all. Her personality is a lot of fun because she gets confused easily and it’s rather endearing. She’s also strong and determined, so she doesn’t let it beat her. I think it’s one of the reasons why the hero, Jonas, is first taken with her. She’s very unique and that made her a fun heroine to get to write.
3) What kind of role does the setting play in The Swelling Sea?
Joanne: The setting is a big one as the novella is set at the historic Hotel Del Coronado. As a native southern California girl, Coronado Island is one of my favorite places to visit. It’s just a two-hour drive from where we live and any excuse to head that way is worth it. Crossing over the great bridge is a magical experience and seeing the grand Hotel Del which was built in 1888 is even more special. I’ve visited it many times and each time, get to discover new nooks and crannies of the hotel. It’s iconic enough to have been filmed in “Some Like it Hot” alongside Marilyn Monroe, and has housed many famous actors and actresses as well as 14 US presidents from Taft to Kennedy. Walking its halls and corridors, and standing upon its beach is like experiencing a whimsical part of Victorian-era history. I hope that as readers discover it within Jonas and Rosie’s story, they’ll understand the magic pull it has and why I return to that place time and time again.
4) How does writing for a collection differ from writing your individual novels/novellas?
Joanne: It differs in the sense that we all have a common thread to stick to. With this series, of course, the bottle, and what a fun one it was! What made this collection extra unique, is that it begins with a unified prologue and ends with an epilogue, both which tie the stories all together. The bottle also travels from novella to novella, so there is a commonality touching the hands and lives of all our characters. That made it really special. Not only for the stories themselves, but for getting to work that closely with the other authors.
5) Any lessons or elements of encouragement you hope the reader will take away from your novella?
Joanne: This was the first time that I didn’t think I would be able to complete a deadline. Due to some personal trials, the writing for this novella was easily harder than any other story I’ve written. When I was near to giving up (and my agent and co-authors were rallying around me) what happened is that I began to simply write my heart right into the tale. Like Rosie, I didn’t have it all together, but like her, I wanted to cling to the promise that there is always hope. It was such a gift from the Lord, that amid my own struggles, I got to be a part of this collection centered around that one, incredible word. HOPE. My greatest wish for this story is to bring that very reminder to readers who might be going through their own trials or struggles. That it would be a reminder that we’re never alone, and the world is a large place filled with hurting people who struggle just like us. It’s a comfort in knowing that we walk shoulder to shoulder with so many others.
Thank you for being here! If you haven’t had a chance yet, do hop over and enter this hope-themed giveaway, which we hope will be a blessing to our readers.
Top 3 Reasons to enter:
- We want to celebrate you! We’re so thankful for our readers, and this giveaway is one way we’d like to thank you.
- Super quick and easy giveaway form—as simple as entering your name and e-mail, then clicking through to submit! As you’ll see, there is a chance for additional entries, but it’s entirely optional.
- …you could win a wee plot o’ land in Ireland!
Not to mention this. . .
And the . . .
This was the final stop in our Message in a Bottle 5-stop blog hop! (Psst, if you missed my interview on Maureen Lang's blog, you can find it here.)
If you’re just now joining us, do stop by Joanne’s post. She kicked us off with a wonderful interview with Heather and we’re so excited to share some behind-the-scenes fun from each story with you.
Thank you for joining us!
(One final note: If your comment doesn't appear on my blog at first, never fear. They will wait for me to moderate and approve them, which I will do as often as I can. Thank you for your patience with me on this, as I am finishing up my next novel this week, as well!)