Introducing "Breaking Ties" by Jo Grafford
Delighted to have as my guest, Jo Grafford, a new colleague at Astraea Press whose novel – Breaking Ties – has just been released.
I’ve been fascinated by the story of the Roanoke colony, Virginia Dare, and the word Croatoan (carved into the post/tree) since I was a school kid. Always wondered what happened to those folks … and the speculations (in history books of my school days) were awfully vague.
When I saw bits of a documentary or two (in the past year) about the map Jo mentioned and the first clues in a long time about what happened to that colony, I was hoping that somebody would do some serious investigation of the site(s).
Now, with the assistance of interested parties like Jo, it seems funds are being raised (under the auspices of A Thanksgiving Wish) to help launch a research effort which could conceivably solve this long-standing mystery.
I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I’m dying to read this new novel!
A cursed island, a chilling conspiracy, and an unforgettable love story. The 115 colonists on Roanoke Island couldn’t GPS, skype or twitter their ultimate destination back to their families and friends in 16th Century England. But modern laser technology has finally uncovered a clue – hidden beneath a patch on an ancient map at the British museum – that leads us to their whereabouts. Considered “lost” for centuries, these brave pioneers finally reveal the rest of their story in Book One of the Lost Colony Series.
Rose Payne’s world is left in tatters after a disastrous betrothal, making her an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies. Using every cent she has, Rose sails for the New World and a fresh start, vowing to never again fall for a wealthy man.
Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, Chief Manteo is bewitched by the fiery-haired ship’s clerk and determined to overcome her distrust. He contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one that forces her, honor bound, to serve as a slave to his tribe – a plan he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in Breaking Ties.
1. Was there anything in particular which compelled you to write a novel based on this specific bit of history?
Blind faith and years of research. Like you, Jeff, I have always been fascinated with the fate of the Lost Colonists. I remember as a student in junior high – then as a schoolteacher years later – being inexplicably saddened by the popular theory that these brave pioneers buckled beneath overwhelming odds and perished en masse at the hands of hostile natives. It was too tidy an answer in the face of no graves, no body, and no trail leading to their whereabouts until now. Quite simply, I did not want to believe such a senseless tragedy, so I continued to pore over original sailing journals and Lost Colony maps, hoping. Eventually this hope propelled me to write Breaking Ties.
2. What made you decide to use the actual names of the real members of that party for your characters? Did you find any research about any of those individuals’ personal characteristics … other than a few of the settlement’s leaders?
Actually, I started out with fictional characters. I re-wrote the first few chapters of Breaking Ties three times, and it still didn’t feel like I was doing the story justice. So I dug deeper. I pulled out the ship manifests and browsed through family histories and church registries online. I learned Eleanor Dare wasn’t the only pregnant passenger. Margery Harvye was expecting, and Audrey Tappan was nursing an infant son Tomas. There were several unmarried women: Rose, Jane, Agnes, Margaret, and Emme. Surely at least one of them admired Lord Anthony Cage, the Sheriff of Huntington, or cast an extra glance beneath their lashes across to the deck to their only Native passenger, Manteo, who was returning home after a diplomatic tour to the Crown. Described in the sailing journals as taller and more built than the average Englishmen, he would have made an exotic addition to their circle of friends…perhaps. At this point, the passengers rose from legend and became very real to me. They were a diverse group of passengers from varying social classes and ethnicities whose paths crossed in 1587 during a trans-Atlantic journey that changed history. I believe they banded together against overwhelming odds in order to survive in the New World. They – and none others – are our Lost Colonists, and this is their story.
3. How did you select Rose Payne, from all the female names on that list of real colonists, to be your story’s heroine?
I chose Rose from a sketchy bit of research that indicated she was working class. Can you imagine what an opportunity the Colonies would have presented to a young woman in her shoes? She was leaving behind oppressive working conditions and a rigid social structure in England where there was little to no opportunity for advancement. She was venturing into the unknown. For the first time in her life, she might have entertained thoughts of rising above her station, marrying up, and worshiping any way she pleased regardless of the current dictates of the Church of England. She would have been courageous, independent, and adventurous. The rest of her traits I filled in with heavy artistic license.
4. Is there any chance (in your opinion) that recently-discovered portion of the map is – in real-life – a misdirection or forgery?
Certainly. If so, this would not be the first time false clues were created, like the “discovery” of the Virginia Dare stones. However, the British Museum is a reputable organization as is the First Colony Foundation based in the U.S. I have faith in their expertise and hope that these historians and archeologists will soon uncover undisputable evidence of survivors.
5. From what you’ve already researched, do you have a strong opinion about what actually happened to this lost colony?
Oh, yes! Breaking Ties, book one in the Lost Colony Series, unravels a 426-year-old conspiracy and reveals who wanted the Lost Colonists to disappear and why. Trail of Crosses, book two, continues the saga of what happened. Sorry for not elaborating. No spoilers here today! Into the Main, book three, is based heavily on the recent discovery of a previously unknown fort site located beneath modern-day Scotch Hall Preserve in North Carolina.
Jo is pleased to announce “A Thanksgiving Wish” campaign. Each copy of Breaking Ties sold in November will help fund an archeological dig of the newly discovered Lost Colony fort site at Scotch Hall Preserve in Windsor, NC. Jo is also hosting a Rafflecopter contest to reward her guests and readers with the opportunity to win $50, $25, and $15 gift cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. All winners will be announced Thanksgiving Day at www.JoGrafford.com.
Jo Grafford is from St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author at Astraea Press, Jo writes historical fiction to spotlight unsung heroes and unsolved mysteries. She published her first poem in junior high, edited her high school newspaper while typesetting for a local news journal, and has been writing ever since. She holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, a junior college finance instructor, and a high school business teacher. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter. The mother of three children and the wife of a soldier, she serves as a literacy volunteer for elementary school students.