Thursday, August 12, 2010

with purpose and promise

I'm so happy to have fellow Kentuckian K. Melissa Burton here today! We met at the Kentucky Book Fair last November and shared our love of Kentucky history and good books. She'd written a fine review of The Frontiersman's Daughter for Kentucky Monthly magazine. I fell in love with her book on Daniel Boone and knew she was a kindred spirit.

Now that her new historical novel, With Purpose and Promise, is releasing this month, I wanted to introduce her here. She's graciously provided a signed copy of her new book for one of you (and for me, too!). Isn't the cover beautiful? So without further adieu, here she is...

You write historical novels. What makes a historical setting more appealing to you than a contemporary one?

I like contemporaries, too, but have always been fascinated by history. It's a comforting escape for me. I don't enjoy military or political history so much as how people lived day to day. I derive great pleasure in finding out about their daily routines and struggles. I like knowing about the culture of the time and learning from it and contemplating about how I would react under the circumstances.

History is also personal. I have a great-grandfather who lost everything in the Great Depression. My husband's grandfather lost a parent and three siblings in the flu pandemic of 1918. Learning how major historical events impacted the average person is what appeals to me. That's what I enjoy reading about, so that's often what I enjoy writing about as well.

Tell us about your newest book, With Purpose and Promise.

One of my novel's settings, Kavanaugh School, was actually a well-known institution in my hometown back in the 1930's and 1940's. It was respected because its founder, Mrs. Kavanaugh, was a formidable taskmaster and excellent teacher. Even though the school was public, it operated like a private institution since it was her own home. She housed some students there and was most notable for prepping young men for the military academies. In its heyday, it was also known to be a basketball powerhouse.

I was aware of this growing up. My grandparents had met there, so it has a personal appeal to me. While in college, I chose the school as a subject for a research paper and ran across an old article that had 2 pictures from 1912. Both pictures showed five girls in middy blouses and skirts standing on the porch of the Kavanaugh school. One girl in each picture was holding a basketball.

The article accompanying the photo went on to explain how these young ladies introduced the town to a new game called basketball in the spring of 1912. They put on an exhibition at the local opera house as a means of raising money for the school library.

I was stunned! The boys got all the glory a few decades later, but it was the girls who started it all. This fascinated me. For years, I carried this little nugget of info around in my head and wondered about those young ladies, their trials and triumphs at a time before women could even vote. Yet they had the moxie to play an organized sport in public.

In my book, With Purpose and Promise, I take one of those girls and develop a story around her starting her childhood on a farm and follow her experiences on up through senior year when she plays forward on one of the teams.

How long have you been writing?

I've got journals that go back to the '80's, but professionally, I've only been writing about three years. I know that in this business, I'm still a newcomer. I'm learning and growing a little every day.

Being a Kentuckian, what do you like most about its history? Do you have a favorite historical figure or happening?

Kentucky's history is wonderful because there are so many colorful characters. Some were noble, some were not! That's what makes it fun.

My favorite is Jane Todd Crawford. In 1809, she was a patient of the esteemed Dr. Ephraim McDowell. What she thought might be twins turned out to be a massive tumor in her abdomen. Knowing any surgery was experimental, at best and with no anesthesia, she allowed Dr. McDowell to remove a 22.5 pound tumor! And by some miracle, she lived!

Dr. McDowell went on to become famous and even had a statue in the capital rotunda but I've always felt more credit should go to Jane Todd Crawford. Some day I'd love to write a book about her.

How do you spend your writing days? Do you set a daily word count? How long did it take you to write With Purpose and Promise?

I'm not one of those people who operates at a set time. Rather, I set small goals. If I'm working on a novel, I may set a daily word count. (And believe me, it's not something crazy high!). If I'm writing for magazines, I might break it down into research, write, and rewrite and work a little each day.

Part of what I love about writing is the flexibility, so I'm not going to lock myself in a room from 8-5. I'm sure I could achieve more, but I wouldn't be as happy.

What are you currently reading?

Oh my! I'm one of those whacky people who juggles several books at a time. Let's see...
The Greatest Life of All: Jesus - Chuck Swindoll
The Secret of Sarah Revere - Ann Rinaldi
Courting Morrow Little - Laura Frantz (Yes! It's true! Started it 2 days ago!)
Love and Respect - Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

I also have two books waiting to be reviewed and at least half a dozen books that I've purchased to help me with research for my next children's books.

You are also a reviewer for Kentucky Monthly Magazine, a teacher, and travel a great deal. How do you find balance in your very busy life?

I don't teach now. When my first book was published, I left the classroom, but I feel very much like a teacher at heart. I do visit a lot of schools, but unlike teaching, when I leave, I'm truly finished. There's no homework to grade, plans to make, meetings to attend, etc. So, in a sense, that's much easier.

Still, life can get hectic. A writer has many elements to juggle.

However, this past January, my husband had a stroke at age 39! Talk about a wake up call! That certainly puts everything in perspective. Miraculously, he is fully recovered. But now, I don't fret when I tell someone no or berate myself when I'm spending time on the couch watching TV with my husband instead of completing an article. I treasure those simple moments more and my writing successes less...which is as it should be.

Ultimately, I've had to learn to say no to some opportunities, even if they seem good. Success is not the ultimate goal anymore. Fulfillment with my husband is.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I love to bake! My character, Lilly Kate, is quite a baker, and that comes from personal experience. However, I'm not a snobby cook. I haven't met a cake mix I didn't like or a shortcut that I didn't think had merit.

I do love to read. I don't think you can be a good writer without first being a good reader. But I don't feel the need to finish a book simply because I started it. If a book isn't holding my interest, I let it go! It doesn't have feelings and won't know the difference, so why waste my time?

My husband and I don't have children (yet), but I love "aunting." I have two nieces and a nephew that I enjoy spoiling and making feel special. They call me "Aunt Missa" which I love!

What are you writing now?

I have articles for Kentucky Monthly and Missions Mosaic in the works, but my biggest project is the next book in the Now That's Interesting series from McClanahan Publishing. This one will be about Kentucky during the Civil War. I hope to not only have information about the battles and skirmishes but also about the daily lives of people and the tension between neighbors because loyalties were so divided. Of course, since it's for school children, I'll have to include some gruesome information about sickness, wounds, and weaponry. They love that stuff!

What do you like most about being a published author? Least?

God put the dream of writing in my heart for a reason, and I feel great satisfaction because I'm in His will. There's a peace that's indescribable. Meeting different people is also wonderful, and since I visit dozens of schools each year, I get the pleasure of meeting many more readers than some authors. I get a lot of hugs, too!

And I won't lie. The flexibility is fabulous. After ten years of teaching and having minutes to each lunch, I'm still amazed that I have a job that lets me get out and run errands between the hours of 7 and 3! Every teacher out there knows what I mean!

The least is the money. Just because you have a book or two published doesn't mean it's a lucrative job. It isn't! But there are other things more important than income.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

I have a website and blog! It's You can also reach me via email at

Please leave a comment to be entered in the book drawing. Winner announced next Monday, August 16!


  1. Great interview! I'm glad to "meet" you, Melissa. Your book sounds fascinating. Will it be sold at amazon (in case we don't win)? I love historicals and learning about new "characters" from history.

    You're reading some of the best right now :). Of course I'm a fan of Laura. Love & Respect is a great marriage resource and I sure learned a lot from it :).

    Anyway, I would love to be entered.


  2. Oh, how fabulous! The cover is gorgeous! Please count me in for the drawing.

    Michelle V

  3. Ok. I can't even type my own email address right today. UGH! It's actually:


  4. Wow that sounds like a really interesting book. I love hearing about new authors. I will definately have to look for her next time I am at the bookstore. I would love to be entered in the drawings, thank you~


  5. I agree about the cover; it's subtle and beautiful.

    But I'm most intrigued about the sports aspect. Having sports in a book seems like a hard sell; but here it is in historical fiction!

  6. So I am not sure if the first comment I left worked or not but I really enjoyed reading your interview. Her book ground really interesting, I will definately be looking for her next time I am at the bookstore. Please enter me in on the drawing! I hope you have a wonderful and blessed day~


  7. Thanks so much for stopping in, Julia. P&P is available at Amazon - yay! I love Melissa's reading list, too:) I have a feeling I'll be a fan of hers from now on. The upcoming Civil War themed book sounds so interesting to me and would be a great homeschooling resource. I have a feeling a great many libraries will pick these titles up and there is always my favorite, inter-library loan:)

    Bless u today!

  8. Michelle, I so love your enthusiasm! Thanks so much for stopping by twice:) I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who makes these typos. I recomment so much on Blogger!

    I'm with you and just LOVE the cover. It's so vintage and beautiful and elegant. And I love the title only I kept typing in "With Purpose and Passion" this morning for some reason. Anyway, thanks so much for visiting and entering the drawing!

  9. Yay, Cassie is here! Thanks so much for taking time to read the interview and entering the drawing. I think you and Michelle should be entered twice because of your persistence:) Bad blogger! I'm so glad you like historicals and are one of my readers. Bless you bunches!

  10. Sally, So good to see you here again! I'm intrigued by the sports aspect, too, as I know that for those of us us writing within the CBA that it's not commonly done, especially with historicals. I'm thinking that since Melissa is a Kentucky author and KY is just plain rabid for basketball, that it will do well. And it might just make me a sports fan:)

  11. It is so wonderful to meet you, Melissa! This interview was fantastic! I love the title of your book and the cover is so very beautiful, too- I love the collage look on a book cover, especially when it's of pretty history :) Historicals are my favorite for pretty much all the same reasons you gave. Reading of their day to day lives is the best part and makes history more personal and identifiable. And it appears Kentucky is rich with some incredible historical inspiration AND some very talented writers :) Wonderful to see Courting Morrow Little on your reading list, too- it's just overflowing with all the reasons I love historicals!! I know your gonna love it :)

    Thank you for all the history, inspiration and powerful testimony you shared with us today, and for the opportunity to win your book!! Praying the Lord will continue to bless and inspire you on your journey!

    Amanda Stanley

  12. Hi Amanda! Welcome to the book celebration:) Thanks so much for your kind words to Melissa. She really has a gift for writing. I opened the book last night and read a random page in the middle and it really spoke to my historical loving heart. The cover is beautiful for all the reasons you said. Thanks so much for reading and entering!! Bless you today!

  13. Southernwoman and Sparkles aren't able to access Blogger but both emailed and asked to be entered in the drawing. So now they are:) Thank you both!

  14. Okay -- now I totally have to visit Kentucky some time. Between the two of you I am sold on the state and the history. Love the history behind 'With Purpose and Promise'. It's fun to discover the spark that started the inspiration that turned into a book.


  15. Thanks for the interview Laura! That book looks lovely, and the cover! Too pretty! The premise for the story and the school sound absolutely fascinating. I love small town lore! Count me in for the contest :)

  16. Laura and Melissa, thanks for the great interview! This book sounds like just my cup of tea. History and basketball are two of my favorite things. And I can't wait to head back to Kentucky one day.

    Thanks for the chance to win!


  17. Hello Julia, Michelle, Cassie, Sally, and Amanda! So glad you like the cover! I must say, I was very pleased with it, too. I'm also happy you're all so intrigued. Historical fiction is my genre of choice, but really, I like anything that's good in front of a fireplace or cuddled in bed.

    Apparently, the book is now available at Amazon! Ya-hoo! Or, you can order directly from Tate Publishing. Feel free to contact me. I'd love, love, love to hear from readers!


  18. I saw this on face book from Laura's comments, I would love to win this book, I love historical books and I read all the time. Great new author to me

    I follow you everywhere Laura


  19. This is a wonderful interview. Thank you for introducing us to Melissa! Lovely to meet another Kentucky writer. Looks like a very intriguing book. I would love to read it. Since it's a Kentucky book, I suspect Lexington Public Library will get it. If not, I'll fill out a recommendation form!

    Melissa, I love that your grandparents met at school, so did mine.

    Also love that you mentioned Dr. McDowell and Jane Todd Crawford. I did an internship at McDowell House while I was in college, and wrote a paper on the restoration of the house and apothecary shop. It was definitely quite fascinating. If anyone is interested, they do have a website at:

  20. Kav,
    I feel the same way about Canadian history! Just north of us is a treasure trove waiting to be mined, but as an American I don't think I could do it justice. Am wondering if your stories are set in your homeland ~ or your "real" homeland of Ireland? Janette Oke wrote a series years ago that I loved but now, with my faulty memory, I can't recall the titles. I liked them much more than her usual prairie romances.

    Was so hoping you would stop by and meet Melissa. Thanks so much! I'd be happy to send a book to Canada:)

  21. Thanks, Heather! I actually thought of you when I saw the vintage cover:) KY lore really is so very intersting and Melissa seems to have it covered very well! Bless you and hope all that art is going well!

  22. Mary, I was remembering your pictures of Kentucky and your visit there:) And I'm glad to know you're a basketball fan. You'd fit right in - GO CATS!!

    Would love to send a book your way, dear friend!

  23. Hi Edna, So glad you've stopped by! I think you'd love this book. It has all the elements of great fiction. And I'm so glad you follow me everywhere:) That blesses me. I need more Ednas:)

  24. Yay, Melissa made it! I'm never sure how Blogger will treat guests so always hold my breath:( Glad for the heads up on where to order and how to reach you. Thanks so much for that.

  25. Michelle,
    You are full of surprises:) That's so neat about the good doctor/Jane connection:) I was always fascinated with that story myself. And amazed she didn't die!

    You've brought up such a good reminder of what we can do through our local libraries. Anyone can request a title/book and most libraries are very obliging and will order. Since Melissa is a KY author, I'm sure the book will be popular there especially. Thanks for getting the word out - that means so much and keeps us writing!

  26. LOVED this interview! Melissa, I can't wait to read your book - and I can't wait to order it for my library! I'm sure it will be a hit!

    It's interesting that you mention the Depression, and the Flu Pandemic. My great-grandfather lost his farm in the depression, and my husband's grandfather was almost buried at sea during WWI. They thought he was DEAD, and a medic happened to see him breathe! There are so many stories yet to be told, aren't there?

    Thank you, Laura, for sharing Melissa with us!

    (psst - it RAINED today!!)

  27. I enjoyed the interview. Nice to meet you, Melissa!
    The book sounds interesting. I love historicals the best and this one will be on my list of reads.

  28. Laura, I've had the pleasure of reading "With Purpose and Promise" and it is great! Her writing style is similar to yours. I love both Morrow and Lilly Kate because they are turned into strong, determined, independent people!

    Great interview!

  29. Cool, another Ann Rinaldi and Laura Frantz fan! :-D

    This book looks terrific and sounds right up my alley!

    XOXO~ Renee

  30. Regina, YAY! I wanted you Kentuckians to meet:) I'm sad I won't be at the book fair this year as I know Melissa will be - Bobbi, too! Hopefully next November...

    You are one of the most blessed people I know (besides Kav) with your library background and connections. Your family hx is fascinating ~ and novel-worthy!

    I am so glad you all got some rain. The heat index is terrible for you right now. My folks fly out here in just 10 days. They're going to freeze though Seattle is supposed to hit the lower 90's this weekend. Love, love, love:)

  31. Renee,
    I thought the same thing:) I was thrilled to see Melissa is joining us in our Rinadli fervor:) I still have yet to read her latest though it's sitting here by my writing chair. Sigh. I bet you are absolutely counting down that Julie's book, A Hope Undaunted, will soon be in hand!!

    I'd love to send Melissa's book to PA:) Bless you for stopping by! I really do smile when your name pops up!

  32. Bobbi,
    So happy to see you here! I saw your wonderful thumbs up to WP&P on Facebook and was so glad to find you and Melissa are already acquainted:) I am trying to get Ann Gabhart over here, too, but she has her hands more than full at the moment. Thanks for encouraging both of us with your very welcome words. You are a blessing!

  33. What a wonderful interview!

    I am already getting my own copy to review, so don't put me in for the drawing- I know one very lucky reader will get their hands on it!

  34. Sicily,
    Welcome! So happy to have you here today. And very glad you are getting your very own copy:) I can't wait to read mine. Melissa is blessing so many people with her gifts!