For this third book in my Michigan lighthouse series, I wanted to pick a location that was different than the other books. The first two books, Love Unexpected and Hearts Made Whole, are set in the "Mitten" of Michigan. So to add variety to the series, I decided to place Undaunted Hope in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior.
In doing my research of Michigan lighthouses, I learned that there are lighthouses dotted all over the coast of Lake Superior since it was such a treacherous lake to traverse and an important place for steamers due to the rich natural resources that were available. As I studied the various lighthouses, I finally landed upon Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in the Keweenau Peninsula because not only was the area rich in resources, but it was rich in history and the makings of a really great story!
2. Each of your lighthouse books is set at a real lighthouse that once existed in Michigan or still does exist. Tell us a little about the lighthouse in this third book.
Yes, my first lighthouse book (Love Unexpected) is set at Presque Isle which is on Lake Huron on the north eastern side of the state. The second book (Hearts Made Whole) is set at Windmill Point Lighthouse that once existed on Lake St. Clair near Detroit.
Undaunted Hope is set at Eagle Harbor Lighthouse which is in the far north of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In fact, it's about as far north as you can go in Michigan. During the mining boom in the Upper Peninsula, Eagle Harbor saw a rapid increase in the commerce in the area with ships arriving to supply miners as well as load up the valuable copper that was being mined. Due to the dangers of a rocky ledge in the harbor, the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse was established in 1851 to guide ships safely to and from the docks in the harbor.
3. What special research did you do in writing Undaunted Hope?
As I wrote this third book in the Beacon's of Hope Lighthouse Series, I had the wonderful privilege of visiting Eagle Harbor and the lighthouse that serves as the setting for this book. In fact, I was able to stay for a whole week in the assistant keeper's cottage that now sits next to the lighthouse.
The large covered front porch of the assistant keeper's house overlooked Eagle Harbor and Lake Superior, so it was a gorgeous view! Every morning I woke up to the sound of the crashing waves and every evening I watched the sunset. It was one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I've ever stayed.
Not only did I get to do in-depth research on the lighthouse (and walk around inside it as many times as I wanted!), but I also was able to research the entire area taking lots of pictures of the lake, flowers, wildlife, and the numerous waterfalls throughout the peninsula. It's a remote wilderness area of Michigan, sparsely populated, and cold! I visited at the end of June and brought short sleeve shirts. I had to wear sweatshirts almost every day instead.
4. The heroines in the first two books actually live in lighthouses. In Undaunted Hope, the heroine is a school teacher. Why did you decide for her to be a school teacher instead of a light keeper?
As I researched the area and the Keweenau Peninsula, I came across the diary of a real school teacher, Henry Hobart, who lived and taught in Clifton which was just a few miles down the road from Eagle Harbor. He wrote a detailed account of his life as a school teacher to the mining children.
I loved reading his diary and learning about all he experienced, especially those unique things that came with being in such a remote area of Michigan and living among the mining community.
I used many of Hobart's experiences in Undaunted Hope. For example, he boarded with a Cornish family, the Rawlings, and Mr. Rawlings was a prominent mine engineer and mechanic. So I had Tessa board with this particular family. Hobart faced many hardships like bedbugs, lice, scarlet fever, the harsh winter, and much more. So again, I had Tessa experience many of those same things.
Eagle Harbor itself has an old one-room school house now known as the Rathbone School House. While it's no longer in use and serves as a museum, during my research trip I was able to visit it. I used it as the inspiration for the school house in this book.
5. The location of Undaunted Hope is in the Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan. Tell us a little bit about what makes this setting unique.
The Keweenaw Peninsula is known as "Copper County" because it has a rich vein of copper running down the center of the peninsula. In the 1800's early explorers to the region discovered the copper. And by the mid 1800's miners and their families were flocking to the numerous towns that formed around the mines.
Due to the decline of the copper mining industry in England at approximately the same time as the mining boom in Michigan's UP, many Cornish immigrants came to the Keweenau Peninsula to continue mining. To this day, the Cornish have left a heritage in the area including homemade famous "Pasties" that can be found at most local restaurants. These were the hot meat pies that miners would carry in their pockets down into the mines to eat for their midday meals.
The bustling copper mining community was a rough and wild area that resembled the Old West. If the danger from the mines wasn't enough, the residents also faced incredibly harsh winters where they were cut off from supplies from the lower part of Michigan.
Nowadays, except for a few tourist towns, the area is a graveyard of ghost towns and abandoned mines. During my research trip, I was able to walk deep underground in one of those old mines and get a firsthand look at just how dark, damp, and dangerous the mining life was.
6. This is now the sixth book that you've written with a Michigan setting. What draws you to write stories set in Michigan?
I've lived in central Michigan for the past sixteen years. All but one of my five children have been born in Michigan, and this is where I've raised my family. So Michigan definitely has a special place in my heart.
Not only has it been a wonderful place to raise a family, but it's also a beautiful state. Michigan is a peninsula and is bordered by 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, giving it approximately 3,200 miles of shoreline which is the most of any state except Alaska. Michigan not only has lots of beaches and sand dunes and hiking trails and state parks, but it also is home to the most lighthouses.
Aside from the beauty of the state (which makes for very picturesque book settings!), Michigan has a rich history due to the lumber and mining era that attracted many settlers to the state, but also attracted plenty of colorful and dangerous characters as well.
All that to say, Michigan is full of wonderful, interesting, and fascinating stories of real life people. I've only begun to touch on some of those people, and I hope that I'll be able to bring more of them to life in the future.
7. In your other lighthouse books, the heroines are inspired by real women keepers. Did you use a real light keeper as part of the inspiration for the heroine in Undaunted Hope?
Most of us gravitate toward the stories that glamorize lighthouse life and honor the women who served in them. That's only natural. And I hope in my other two books in this series, I give those women the laud due to them.
However, I didn't want to neglect the women who served in lighthouses whose experiences weren't quite as glamorous, who served even though they disliked the duty. One woman in particular inspired this book. Her name was Cecelia Carlson McLean who was married to keeper Alexander McLean who served at various lighthouses around Lake Superior. When she was interviewed later in her life, Cecelia was very forthright in stating that she hated lighthouses, that they were lonely places, and that she'd had to sacrifice a great deal to live in them. She claimed that if she had to do it over, she wouldn't choose life in a lighthouse.
Of course her story made me think about the many hardships that light keeping entailed, especially for women–the extreme isolation, the lack of luxury, and the constant threat of danger. So out of Cecelia's hardships, I created Tessa and tried to imagine the underlying motivations for what might cause someone to hate lighthouses. Although I had Tessa work through some of her fears and dislike of lighthouses, I'm sure most women like Cecelia took their resentment of lighthouses with them to the grave.
8. Do you base the villain in Undaunted Hope on a real Michigan criminal as you do in previous books? If so, who did you pick this time?
The villain, Percival Updegraff, is based on a real rogue from Michigan history, Albert Molitor. Molitor lived in Rogers City and ruled as "king" over his wilderness lumbering community. He controlled who was hired and fired. He had a company store and held a monopoly on all food and merchandise.
He was also a sexual predator. Since he had so much control over the people who worked for him, if he took interest in a woman, he would walk into the woman's house and order her into bed. If she refused or resisted, he'd fire her husband and force the family to leave the company owned home.
He "ruled" this way until the people in the community finally revolted. They held secret meetings to plan to overthrow him. And while it took a couple of attempts, they attempted to assassinate him. He was mortally wounded and eventually died which finally freed the town of his cruelty.
9. What have you enjoyed most in writing this lighthouse series?
Over the past couple of years of writing this series, I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to visit numerous lighthouses throughout the state. Not only have I attempted to visit the lighthouses that are used as settings for the books, but I've also been inspired to visit many others. Every time I do, I learn a little bit more about how lighthouses were operated and have come to realize that they're all so unique.
During the past summer of 2015 I toured several lighthouses including: Tawas Point Lighthouse, St. Joseph Lighthouses, and Mackinac City Lighthouse.
Each time I climb a tower, reach the top, and gaze out at the spectacular view, I'm always amazed by the beauty. I never tire of the experience and can completely understand the fascination so many people have with lighthouses. I think I caught the "lighthouse bug" and will forever be visiting them!
10. What do you hope readers take away from Undaunted Hope?
I pray that this story will encourage readers with renewed hope. Just like Tessa, I hope that readers will find the strength to face their fears. We all have things that frighten us, and many times we find it easier to run away from those things that scare us. Sometimes, however, God calls us to walk directly into that thing we fear most. He wants us to know that during those times, he's there walking right beside us and that he'll help us come out on the other side stronger as a result.
Thank you, Jody! It was great to hear about lighthouses as well as more insight about your story Undaunted Hope. I'm looking forward to reading your next installment in Beacons of Hope: Forever Safe.
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