Demi: Your Grace series of historical romances is set in post-Civil War Tennessee. What research did you have to do to pull those books together?
Elizabeth: The idea for these books actually came from a documentary I watched on the History Channel about the Ku Klux Klan. I’ve always been drawn to history, especially this era, and wanted to write a book set at this time. Both the institution of slavery and the concept of white supremacy I find appalling, and it fascinates me that anyone could believe these things are okay. This became especially true when I discovered my great grandfather, who I remember fondly (he died when I was 12), was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. General Robert E. Lee was also an inspiration. It is known that he didn’t necessarily believe in secession, yet still fought for the South. His viewpoints on slavery and civil rights were also of particular interest. In addition, I read many memoires and letters written by southern soldiers and their wives to get a better feel for the mindset. It was important to me to create characters that were flawed, because we, as people, are flawed. Sometimes those flaws are born from our culture and environment. And I wanted to show that people can rise above circumstances and change. We all have that power within us.
Demi: Many of your books feature characters with musical talents. Is this a gift you share in common with them?
Elizabeth: Music has always been an important part of my life. I began piano lessons at age five, violin at nine and guitar at eleven. In my teen years I don’t think a weekend went by that I didn’t have a competition, recital, audition or orchestral event. I went on to study Music Education in college. Somehow though, life tricked me and I ended up on a different career path. Immersing myself in the beauty of sound became nothing but a closely kept hobby. Then, in 2005, new doors were opened when I joined a praise band. Through the band I was challenged to not just play other works, but to write original songs. I discovered I could write poetry… never knew I could do that!
Demi: You actually wrote lyrics to
several (just so I can start with the word several in the response) songs in your seventh book, Broken and Beautiful. How did that come about and what was the process like?
Elizabeth: Several of the songs in Broken and Beautiful were actually written before the novel. They were written to be sung by my church’s praise band. There for a while, I was on a song writing binge, so I had plenty to choose from. Others were composed to fit with the storyline. But since I’d already written so many, it wasn’t difficult to get back in song-writing mode. Once the message I wanted to convey became clear in my mind, it was merely a matter of finding the right words to make that message come alive in verse.
Demi: That same book broaches the topic of foster care and adoption, which I know is close to your heart. Tell us a bit about your non-profit foundation (and how proceeds from your books sales help needy children and families!).
Elizabeth: My husband and I became foster parents in 2009 and three years later, adopted our foster children. Because our kiddos came to us when they were older, any funds we manage to accumulate in college accounts won’t amount to much. This got me thinking, there have to be other kids (and parents) in the same boat. When I researched it, I found scholarships and grants available for foster children, but none for kids like ours. Because they’re no longer in the foster care system, kids who have been adopted are not eligible for these programs.
The other piece of this is that I would have never had time to finish any of my novel ideas—no pun intended—if it weren’t for the kids. I write while they’re at school. So it made sense to me that I should give back to them, and all other kids like them, any proceeds from my work. I set up the Third Chance Foundation to do this. My hope is to have many authors participate, covering different genres, so that we’ll have a good selection of books to choose from. The more books we sell, the more we’ll earn for scholarship funds. How awesome will that be?
Demi: How can my readers find your books and connect with you online?
Elizabeth: You can find my books on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/elizabethcourtright. I have a website, www.elizabethcourtright.com, and the Third Chance Foundation has a website, www.thirdchancefound.org. Through Facebook @elizabethcourtrightauthor and @thirdchancefound. Please also feel free to e-mail me, Elizabeth@elizabethcourtright.com, or Elizabeth@thirdchancefound.org. I would love to hear from you!