Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Trix Lee-Rainwater is talking with Jill George, author of The Light Among Us: The Story of Elizabeth Carne, Cornwall.
FQ: This was an extremely well-researched historical fiction novel about a non-fictional woman. I am curious - what were your thoughts that day when you first chose to write about Elizabeth Carne?
GEORGE: Anger. It was a day during the lockdown so I wasn’t my best anyway. I was angry that what I found on the web about her said that she had inherited a box of rocks. I thought, “How dismissive and even lazy, what is written about her on the web! She was brilliant in so many ways.” I also feel like back in the early 1800s, she must have seemed like someone from another planet to those around her; she was so smart and capable. I tend to think of brilliant people of the past as people from another time or planet placed there to advance us significantly. I feel like Charles Darwin was one of these people, as another example. Yes, I was so mad that I said to myself, “I am going to correct this wrong by writing a book about her to demonstrate just how amazing she was.”
FQ: Henry Pearce is a fictitious character in the life of non-fictitious Elizabeth Carne. Aside from what he represents, could you tell us more about Henry as a character?
GEORGE: Henry is the adoring and needing public that Elizabeth serves as her mission, as you know. He was an impatient young man in the beginning, eager to prove that he was a capable, committed man, which is why he married. He thought a wife would add to his credibility and therefore help him advance, which he did, but not because of her. Henry liked to read, mostly about sailing ships and navigation, when he had time. He truly regretted never having any children but since he only truly loved Bess, he only wanted children with her. He thought her children would be mild-tempered, intelligent, and dutiful like her. He was so distraught at the end of the book, he gave up his lucrative occupation and bought a boat, where he could live and fish in seclusion, unbothered by the corruption and disappointments of the land-based world.
FQ: I was torn about Joseph Carne. I respect his unerring conviction to set Elizabeth as his heir apparent but, at the same time, I felt saddened by the fact that Elizabeth did not have a choice on the matter. Could you share with us your insights about this?
GEORGE:Elizabeth was not someone who was easily influenced but her father was one who could convince her when needed. While she did have many choices, more than any typical woman of the time, she actually chose the mission and inheritance a few times, based on her father’s discussions with her and based on her own feelings of the importance of meaning. When you read her book Three Months’ Rest at Pau, she reveals to you that duty to friends, neighbors, family, and work are where she believes the true happiness in life are found. Not in pleasurable vacations or other beautiful things. In fact, she says in a poem, “The road to beauty is curved and the road to duty is straight.” I think you can feel okay that she really had duty in her DNA and any other choice would have made her feel poorly later on.
FQ: Aside from Elizabeth, which character did you find most interesting to write?
GEORGE: Henry. I tried to pour lots of passion and emotion into him because Elizabeth and women of her time were not supposed to be loud or emotional as a rule. I attempted to make Henry a bit complicated in that he was a good man who married questionably. He was a kind man but could also get angry and physical. He was handsome but also no ladies’ man—he had integrity and ethics. When temptation came close, he was conflicted about what to do and felt bad about it. Tough choices that people in real life had to make back then to survive. It is truly amazing how many people made it to old age! In summary, Henry was challenging and interesting to write as I tried to add depth to him.

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FQ: Could you tell us more about your writing process for this book? Did you brainstorm the overall concept first before partnering with Dr. Dirring?