Welcome reader friends! Today I am pleased to have author Bonnie Leon talking about the development of Emmalin Hammond, the heroine in her new novel One Hundred Valleys, which releases today!! This book is on my TBR pile (my review will be coming in April), and the cover is absolutely gorgeous. Don’t you think!?
After the death of her mother, Emmalin Hammond discovers she is not the heiress she’d always assumed she’d be. The revelation exposes her fiancé’s true intentions when he withdraws his marriage proposal, leaving Emmalin heartbroken and humiliated. When she discovers the father she believed to be dead is still alive and living in the Oregon Territory she decides it is time to meet the man who has been hidden from her all of her life.
Accompanied by her Uncle Jonathon, she sets out for the Oregon Territory in search of answers and hoping for a renewed relationship with her father. When tragedy strikes, she confronts the terrifying challenge of completing her quest alone. Faced with few options, she entrusts her life to a mountain man named Jacob Landon who agrees to transport her to a small settlement in Southern Oregon called Deer Creek, a place also known as the Land of One Hundred Valleys.
Emmalin is not prepared for the hardships of life in the Oregon wilderness. Each day presents a new challenge. Newfound friends, including the reserved Jacob Landon, who unexpectedly stirs her heart, come alongside to help her adapt. Yet she feels out of place. Should she brave the arduous journey back to Philadelphia for the life she once knew or remain and hope for something better in the Oregon wilderness?
For each of my books I work out a detailed outline for the major characters. Creating characters is one of my favorite steps of novel writing. The discovery of who that person is, inside and out, is great fun and the process continues throughout the writing of the book and sometimes even in to final edits.
Here is a photo I used while creating the heroine in my new book, One Hundred Valleys. Her name is Emmalin Hammond. I love the depiction of her on the completed cover. I think the publisher got it just right.
When I create a character I always begin with a photo and then go on to include physical information, background, emotional characteristics, including greatest fears, dreams, personal strengths and so on. I even think about favorite or lest favorite foods. Emmalin, for example, has a special love for strawberries and ginger cookies.
It’s important that a character is real to me if I want them to be real to readers
Emmalin is twenty-two at the opening of the story. At 5’5” she is tall for a woman of that era. Her eyes are a vivid sky blue, which turns out to be an important detail in this story.
Emmalin was raised as part of high society in Philadelphia during the mid-nineteenth century. She grew up without a father, but she and her mother lived in her uncle’s mansion, cared for by a full staff of servants. She and her uncle Jonathon are very close and he had a hand in spoiling her.
Life for Emmalin was one of prosperity, anything she needed was soon at hand. Her future was all laid out for her and life was predictable, or so she thought. She is well educated for women of her time and is an accomplished pianist. While living in Philadelphia, she loved to help tend the groomed flower gardens on her uncle’s estate and often rode her white Arabian filly. In Philadelphia a woman would never have ridden astride, but in Oregon it is a necessary skill and Emmalin is shocked at the unlady-like manner of riding.
Emmalin is a stunning woman, but she is only vaguely aware of her beauty, seeing, instead, her perceived flaws. She disdains the brown and ginger-colored tresses God gave her and wishes she’d been born a brunette. And though her complexion is flawless, she thinks her tone is too pale. She has a perfectly adequate nose, but Emmalin sees only that it is slightly crooked.
Well read, Emmalin’s two favorite books are Jane Eyre and The Last of the Mohicans. She never tires of reading them. And even when crossing the broad open plains, deserts, and mountains of America she keeps her books safe.
Though something of an old maid, life is nearly perfect for Emmalin. However, with the death of her mother the dream comes to an end. She loses not only her mother but her expected inheritance, and her fiance, who sadly cared more about her money than his counterfeit devotion. The Christian faith Emmalin took for granted is more fragile than she could have imagined. After the cascade of troubles, she no longer knows if she believes in God, and if he does exist she doubts he cares about her. Under the pressure of her new circumstances, she needs to dredge up courage and strength she’s not sure she possesses.
When she discovers that her father is alive and still living in the Oregon Territory she grabs hold of what little strength she has and decides to make the arduous trek to Oregon to find him. The journey reveals much of Emmalin’s strengths and weaknesses. On the trail, she soon realizes that she is a bit of a snob, which is not well received in the wilderness territory. In truth, her attitude sometimes got under my skin but in spite of her naïve perspective a good heart beats within her soul and like one of my own children, I love her.
It was fun searching for clothing styles Emmalin would need to in her new life. She’d been used to the elegant gowns made from the very best fabrics, but none of those are suitable for her new adventure. She has to adjust her expectations and the transition isn’t easy for her.
Here are a couple examples of her new attire. She has managed to keep a trunk of her gowns and wears one of the simpler frocks to a community dance. I had the help of followers on my author page in choosing what dress she would wear to the dance. We all agreed that the dimity gown would be just right.
I also had to find hairstyles Emmalin would likely wear. She would need something that wasn’t difficult to create, but that was still a challenge for our spoiled heroine. Servants had always helped her with her coiffure. Here are two styles I came up with that she would be able to manage on her own.
Emmalin faced a difficult challenge in learning a new way of living. I hope readers will stay with her through the book to discover how she faced each of those tests and what the outcome is for Emmalin Hammond.
Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-two novels, including the recently released One Hundred Valleys, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.
Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, Poland, and even Africa. She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and mentoring up and coming authors.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
Visit Bonnie’s website today!
What did you learn about Emmalin today? Does it make you want to read this book!?