Although I had met the delightful Dorothy Stewart online through the English Association of Christian Writers group to which we both belong, I didn’t get to know her charming vivacity until we met in person. (There are some things electronic media still can’t quite communicate.) When I spoke at the Felixstowe Book Festival last June Dorothy drove for well over an hour from her home in Halesworth to be there for the event.
It was a busy morning, but we did manage to share a quick cup of tea— a great start, but not nearly long enough to talk about all the things we would have loved to explore. Now we continue over the miles (7000 of them) and invite our International Christian Fiction Writers friends to listen in. So go get yourself a cup of tea and join our virtual tea party.
Donna: Dorothy, I’m so excited to hear about your new book. Congratulations! Tell us about When the Boats Come Home.
Dorothy: The Great War (1914-18) had a devastating effect on families as well as on the men who fought. When the Boats Come Home tells the story of one family, the Rosses, a fishing family whose eldest son is killed, their daughter widowed. But behind those simple facts lie secrets that are tearing the family apart. Every year, the herring fishing fleet descended on Great Yarmouth for the autumn fishing, but 1921 was a bad year and the boats were kept in harbour, the men idling round the town. But (this is the factual bit!) Jock Troup, an evangelist from my home town of Wick, took the opportunity to preach to these men one evening in the Market Square – and God sent revival. The book follows how this affects the Rosses, how God can rebuild and restore. There’s pain as the secrets have to come out but there is a happy ending – oh and romance too!
Donna: That sounds great. I love historical fiction. What piqued your interest in the topic?
Dorothy: I’m a lay preacher serving a group of nine churches. Kind folks in the congregations sometimes invite me to lunch after the service. One Sunday, I was relaxing over coffee with my host while my hostess was busy in the kitchen. When he heard I came from the small town of Wick in the far north-east of Scotland, he said ‘You’ll know all about the Fishermen’s Revival at Great Yarmouth?’ I had to admit I had no idea so he told me how, in the autumn of 1921, a great revival spread through the fishing towns of the East Coast. I always take Monday off as my ‘Sabbath’ when I’ve had a busy Sunday so I had time to take a look at the internet – and was deeply moved by the story. Especially when I discovered that the Wick fishermen brought their new-found faith back home and built a mission hall near the harbour – where I came to faith forty years later! I knew then this was a story I had to tell – but in fiction. And that’s how it began.
Donna: How wonderful that this turned out to be such a personal story for you! Is this your first novel?
Dorothy: It’s my first published novel – but I had another ten under the bed! Apprentice pieces, I think you could call them! I’ve had ten other books published – one children’s book (It’s Hard to Hurry When You’re a Snail) and nine non-fiction, mainly prayers and meditations.
Donna: Oh, yes. I always thought of all those “under my bed” as paying my dues. What launch events are you doing for When the Boats Come Home?
Dorothy: This is the first – thank you, Donna! I’ve got interviews set up with local radio, a tea party at my local Christian bookshop, and bigger events at the two wonderful specialist museums in Wick and Great Yarmouth. Everything’s happening very quickly but I love to give talks and interviews so I’m really looking forward to it all.
Donna: What an honour that ICFW is your maiden voyage! And what’s next in your writing agenda?
Dorothy: I’ve taken advantage of NaNoWriMo to get the next one (or maybe it’s a trilogy!) underway. Because I won’t work Sundays, I’ve been doing 2,000 words a day six days a week. Hard work but enormous fun! The new one is also a Christian historical, weaving the stories of four families – starting again in my home town in Scotland, but moving out to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898, ranching in Manitoba, the high life in San Francisco and Buenos Aires – and that’s only the first half of the first book! There’s romance, adventure, a feisty heroine – and a happy-ever-after.
Donna: Oh, good. I hope all our Canadian readers caught that. We’ll definitely want to hear more when that book is out. Since we invited the ICFW community to listen in to our conversation, what else would you like to tell them about yourself?
Dorothy: I’m a Scot from the far north of Scotland and I’ve loved to write since I was a young child. My first job was as trainee reporter on my local paper, The John O’Groat Journal, where I learned the discipline of sitting down and writing. I was 18 when I came to the Lord and though my life has been full of ups and downs, He has never let me down – though I reckon I’ve let Him down more times than I care to remember! I worked in book publishing most of my life but am now enjoying seeing my early dream of being a published fiction writer come to pass.
Donna: And tell us more about your preaching.
Dorothy: That’s something I love. I love the study that goes into preparing a Sunday service. I love choosing hymns. And I love the actual delivery on a Sunday. It’s an enormous privilege to serve God’s people this way. I believe that the writing and the preaching are complementary parts of my ministry to nourish and strengthen God’s women in particular.
Donna: What a busy lady! Thank you so much for taking time to have a cup of tea with us today, Dorothy. Where can our friends find you and When the Boats Come Home on the web?
Dorothy: When the Boats Come Home will be available around December 12th as a paperback as well as Kindle and other e-formats. My publisher, Zaccmedia, tell me it will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble among other outlets. They also have a web page for direct purchases. And I blog at dorothystewartblog.wordpress.com
Donna Fletcher Crow's newest release is A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, book #4 in her Monastery Murders series.