I’d like to welcome, Judith Redline Coopey to Layered Pages. She was born in Altoona, PA holds degrees from the Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University. A passion for history inherited from her father drives her writing and a love for Pennsylvania sustains it. Her first book, Redfield Farm was the story of the Underground Railroad in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The second, Waterproof, tells how the 1889 Johnstown Flood nearly destroyed a whole city and one young woman’s life. Looking For Jane is a quest for love and family in the 1890s brought to life through the eyes of Nell, a young girl convinced that Calamity Jane is her mother. Her most recent work, The Furnace: Volume One of the Juniata Iron Trilogy, is set on an iron plantation near where she grew up and tells the story of an ill-conceived marriage of convenience as it plays out over a lifetime. As a teacher, writer and student of history, Ms Coopey finds her inspiration in the rich history of her native state and in stories of the lives of those who have gone before.
Hello, Judith. Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, The Furnace. Please tell me a little about your story.
I’ve come to writing through my father who was a voracious reader of historical fiction, and a writer himself, though unpublished. I grew up with a conscious sense of history and I just never grew out of it. I taught history for twenty-two years, loving every minute of it, and I study history in just about any form – genealogy being one of my favorites. So when I came to the point in my life where I could devote myself to writing, historical fiction was the logical choice.
How did you come to choose your period and setting for your story?
The setting for The Furnace is about a mile from where I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania. It was an iron plantation in the 1800s, and my curiosity was aroused when I realized that despite its derelict condition in the 1950s when I lived nearby, it was once a major iron producing enterprise. Once I got interested in the nineteenth century iron industry, my story grew out of my research.
What is an example of how Ellie deals with her life with Adam?
Ellie is very young when her path in life is determined by the actions of others – all men. She is angry and immature – a dangerous combination. So she takes her anger out on Adam because he is handy, and she withholds affection, favors her son over him, and is given to fits of temper. Her attraction to Timothy Judge, disastrous though it may be, is one example of her attempts to deal with the lot life has given her.
Why did you choose the iron industry as Adam’s profession?
That all goes back to Mt Etna as a place familiar to me and my curiosity about what went on there in the past. I wanted to write a family saga based on what was then a major industry in Pennsylvania.
What in the nineteenth century interest you the most?
I love the whole 19th century. It was such a time of change because of industrialization. It wasn’t so long ago, really, and it begins with life pretty much as it had been for centuries and ends with a totally changed, mechanized society. People went from living on self-sufficient farms to living and working in cities, in factories. While there were improvements in the quality of life, they came at a high price, and at a rapid rate. We live with extremely rapid change now, but for an agrarian people to experience change at the rate they did was unheard of and probably very hard to adjust to. There was so much happening against this background of change: the United States was establishing itself as a sovereign nation, the westward movement, the struggle over slavery, the Civil War. It’s a treasure trove!
You deal with-what I think-is an important theme in your story. The lack of women’s rights. I’m sure without a doubt there were many strong women during this time who did not deal with it well. I know I wouldn’t. What do you hope women who read your story will come away with? Surprisingly, I’ve come across women who do not have an awareness of how it was for women…
I hope readers will realize what little power women had then, but I also hope they will think about the history of women’s struggles and realize that in much of the world today women are just embarking on the journey toward equality. The struggle has been and continues to be long and difficult. We owe a debt of gratitude to the women who’ve come before and who were willing to fight the good fight for women’s rights. The women’s movement began during Ellie’s lifetime, and while I chose not to have her involved in it, I wanted readers to realize the need for it.
Why do you choose to write in this genre?
I like to tell the story of Stephen King, who, when asked why he writes about scary subjects, replied, “What makes you think I have a choice?” That’s my reply to the questions of genre, time and place.
How long did it take to write your story?
It’s always hard to answer that question because I work on more than one project at a time. I may be writing a first draft of one book, doing research for another and revising a third. Not all in the same day, mind you. But I usually research for about a year before I write anything. I know the research is about done when I start to read the same things over and over about my topic. The story usually grows out of the research, but that doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it has to settle for a while. Once I start writing, I can get the first draft out rather quickly, but that doesn’t mean I’m done. By far the most important part of making a good book is revising, polishing, working it until you feel it is as good as you can make it and ready for the world to judge. So I can’t really say for sure, but a minimum of two years, usually.
How often do you write?
I write every day. At least I work at writing every day. What I do isn’t always seat on the chair, fingers on the keys, but I work at it all the time.
What do you love most about writing?
Thank you, Judith!
You’re welcome. Thank you for your interest in my work.
Judith Redline Coopey Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, March 17 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (The Furnace)
Wednesday, March 18 Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Thursday, March 19 Review at 100 Pages a Day (Looking for Jane)
Friday, March 20 Review at Rainy Day Reviews (Waterproof)
Monday, March 23 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (Looking for Jane)
Wednesday, March 25 Interview at Layered Pages
Friday, March 27 Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing
Saturday, March 28 Spotlight at Mythical Books
Friday, April 3 Review at Book Babe
Saturday, April 4 Review at Book Nerd (The Furnace)
Monday, April 6 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (Redfield Farm)