Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Delores Topliff. She's a sister author with Scrivenings Press, and has a fascinating history. And she finds the neatest stories to weave into her books. I think you're going to be just as intrigued as I am about her newest one. Read on!
Delores, your newest book, Wilderness Wife, is based on the story of a real-life woman, Marguerite McLoughlin. What was it about her that inspired you to tell her story?
I literally grew up in the shadow of Fort Vancouver, established by Marguerite and her second husband, Dr. John McLoughlin. Many know that the McLoughlins carved a vast empire out of a promising undeveloped wilderness. His accomplishments are well-known. Less is known about Marguerite. I researched her life and found solid gold.
Marguerite Wadin MacKay believed her seventeen-year frontier contract marriage to explorer, Alex MacKay was strong—until sudden fame destroyed it. He returned from accompanying Alexander Mackenzie across Canada to the Pacific telling Marguerite their frontier marriage was void in Montreal where he would now go to choose a society wife. Taking their only son, MacKay sent Marguerite and their three daughters to a North West Company fur trade outpost.
It wasn’t the first time she had been abandoned. Her Swiss fur-trader father was murdered before her eyes by a competitor when she was age seven. After abandonment Marguerite lived for her children but her courage carved out an unforgettable path and place in North American History. Together she and John are called the Mother and Father of the Pacific Northwest. She is known as "the kindest woman in Oregon."
What is one of the most interesting things you've come across when researching for your books? I know you've got lots of fun facts.
Marguerite's knowledge and use of natural plants was legendary. In college I worked summers for the US Forest Service and later in Canada identified noxious weeds for the Department of Agriculture protecting farm crops. I also did payroll and cost records at major forest fires. My lifelong interest in plants and remedies grew much larger from studying Marguerite.
You've traveled quite a bit in your life (including splitting your time between MN and MS each year). Is there a favorite place you've been? Any place you'd love to write about, but haven't yet?
This is a recording—because of Covid, little major travel has been possible. My two favorite international destinations are two choices: Eight trips I’ve organized through Israel totaling 120 days so far. (I've had to cancel a ninth trip but hope to reschedule.) I am writing a contemporary Romantic Suspense set there that I hope to finish soon. My other choice is places in Northern Ireland where area friends have taken me to including a terrifying and wonderful crossing of the choppy Irish Sea in a small boat!
I know you're also a college professor. Is there anything about teaching you've been able to incorporate into your writing? Has being a teacher helped with your writing in any way?
The best teachers are good storytellers. I love seeing students “picture situations” to gain understanding and that has helped hone my writing to make it more vivid and clear.
This is your first time to write split-time style, where you're partly in the past and party in the present. Is that a style you think you'll go back to again? What was the hardest part of writing that way? What was your favorite part?
Wilderness Wife, has morphed through many writing changes. First I wrote it as straight historical. Then it expanded into split-time with a contemporary young woman creating Fort Vancouver dioramas of Marguerite being inspired by Marguerite’s courage and writings. Then my editors (rightly) judged that Marguerite’s story was stronger than the contemporary parallel, which diluted and weakened the story. The book and I survived major surgery. It was the correct decision.
My first historical published in January 2021 was Books Afloat, based on true WWII events in the Columbia River in 1942. I introduced an idealistic young woman operating a floating houseboat taking library books to residents up and down the river while also networking with undercover volunteers to safeguard the area against Japanese invasion. A Japanese submarine really did enter the river in the summer of 1942. I had fun researching, reliving, and writing this story.
What are you working on next? Can you give us any hints?
I’m past halfway through writing the Book 2 sequel to Books Afloat in the three-book Columbia River Undercurrents series. Strong Currents involves hero Johnny Hofer’s niece, Erica, joining river residents as a German Christian refugee. Pastor’s son, Navy Seaman, Josh Vengeance, MIA after Midway, is found and undergoes rehab until he recovers enough to return home. He and Erica face dangers and enough prejudice to land her in a POW camp while exploring the question, “What is an American?” Strong Currents will release Nov. 29, 2022.
And one final question. Can you please tell us one interesting fact about yourself that very few people know?
I’m an American who married a Canadian. I lived many years in Northwestern Canada enjoying learning many more outdoor skills. That included giving such convincing moose calls that one young bull moose responded by running right up to the car visitors and I were in. My friends were terrified.
Thank you for the opportunity to blog and chat with you today,
This has been so much fun, Delores. Thanks for stopping by.
To find out more about Delores and her writings, keep scrolling!
How do you continue living when life collapses around you in a single day?
Marguerite Wadin MacKay believes her 17-year marriage to explorer Alex MacKay is strong—until his sudden fame destroys it. When he returns from a cross-Canada expedition, he announces their frontier marriage is void in Montréal where he plans to find a society wife—not one with native blood. Taking their son, MacKay sends Marguerite and their three daughters to a trading post where she lived as a child. Deeply shamed, she arrives in time to assist young Doctor John McLoughlin with a medical emergency.
Marguerite now lives only for her girls. When Fort William on Lake Superior opens a school, Marguerite moves there for her daughters’ sake and rekindles her friendship with Doctor McLoughlin. When he declares his love, she dissuades him from a match harmful to his career. She’s mixed blood and nine years older. But he will have no one else.
After abandonment, can a woman love again and fulfill a key role in North American History?
Delores Topliff grew up in Washington and Oregon but married a Canadian so enjoys US and Canadian citizenship. She taught college (still teaches college online), traveled, and published children’s books and non-fiction before writing novels. She brags on her two doctor sons and five grandchildren and divides her year between Minnesota and Northeastern Mississippi.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
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