The Love Finds You™ series by Summerside Press delivers a healthy helping of the flavor of local life across the United States. The novels feature unique but authentic American towns with unusual yet captivating names that inspire romance and fun. Each Summerside Press fictional story is a romantic and inspirational tale that draws on the gripping history or the distinctive charm of a real place in the United States.
Author Irene Brand sits down for an exclusive interview with Life Love Beauty, where she shares the scoop about her latest inspirational romance novel, “Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska,” as well as sharing pieces of her own life with us. Read on for details, an excerpt, and tips for your own fabulous love life.
Q – Life Love Beauty: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you enjoy most about this kind of writing?
A – Irene Brand: I’m a native of West Virginia and have lived in the same community all of my life. Although we’ve visited all of the 50 states and traveled in 35 foreign countries, there’s no place like home. The longest I’ve ever been away from West Virginia is three weeks. I’ve been married for more than 50 years to my husband, Rod. We have no children. I was a public school teacher for 23 years – teaching History and other Social Studies subjects to ninth graders. I retired in 1989 to devote more time to my writing.
I’m very active in my local Baptist church where I’ve been a member since I was eleven-years-old. I’ve taught Sunday School classes since I was sixteen. I currently teach a class of young adults. I’m active in the musical program of the church and I serve as the church treasurer.
I’ve been publishing inspirational romances since 1984 and have a total of 45 published books to my credit. Most of these are fiction books.
With my church responsibilities and writing, I don’t have much free time for hobbies at the present. We live in a rural area and we walk a couple of miles several days each week, depending on weather conditions.
Q – Life Love Beauty: Do you write from a completely creative standpoint, or do you weave in bits of truth or experience from your own life?
A – Irene Brand: I never write about my personal life. In other words, I’m never a character in the book nor do I pattern my characters after “real” people. However, I believe that all of an author’s work is a composite of what the author has read, listened to, participated in or seen during his/her lifetime. My plots are original and all of my characters are fictitious, but I endow them with characteristics that I’ve observed in people. I do, however, write about real places and historical events and use historical characters in my books.
Q – Life Love Beauty: What are the underlying themes in your book, Love Finds You in VALENTINE, NEBRASKA?
A – Irene Brand: Love is great enough to overcome any or every obstacle that would keep the hero and heroine from finding true happiness.
Before people can receive God’s forgiveness, they must forgive themselves.
Q – Life Love Beauty: Can you tell us anything about your characters? Who can identify with them?
A – Irene Brand: One of the main characters is a dog named Wilson. He’s important enough to be pictured on the cover of the book. Wilson will steal the heart of every dog lover who reads the book.
The heroine, Kennedy Blaine, is an only child and is mourning the death of her father when the book opens. Among her inheritance is the Circle Cross Ranch near Valentine, Nebraska, which had belonged to the Blaine family over a century. Kennedy had never visited her ancestral home because of a long-running feud between the Blaines and her maternal family, the Morgans. But when she has an offer to sell the ranch, Kennedy decides to check out her Nebraska property before she settles the estate. Kennedy has many relatives in the area, most of whom she’s never seen, including her maternal grandfather, Gabriel Morgan.
When Kennedy arrives at the Circle Cross Ranch, she meets the manager, Derek Sterling, and an immediate attraction builds been Kennedy and Derek. Up until this time, Kennedy had never encountered anything she couldn’t buy if she wanted it. Now she meets Derek, an adopted kid, who comes from an unknown background. He’s already made up his mind that he won’t marry and perhaps hand on a tainted heritage to his progeny. In spite of the fact that he loves Kennedy and believes that she loves him, he never lets her forget the wide chasm that keeps them apart. His background doesn’t matter to Kennedy, but she has little hope of changing his mind. Besides, Derek has a secret past when he was involved in questionable activities as a youth. He hasn’t forgiven himself and he doubts that God has forgiven him. He doesn’t want Kennedy to know about the past.
(b) Most any adult who has loved the wrong person (or who seems to be the wrong person) can understand the trauma between the two protagonists. The numerous people who are adoptive parents or those who’ve been adopted should be able to identify with Derek’s fears and concerns. Anyone who has a secret in his/her past that they fear will become known and ruin the relationship they have with others could empathize with Derek.
Those who have strayed from the biblical teachings of their parents and gone their own way only to find that God is able and willing to forgive regardless of what they’ve done.
Q – Life Love Beauty: Have you ever visited Valentine, Nebraska? Either way, can you tell us a bit about its charms or challenges?
A – Irene Brand: My husband is a native of Nebraska, and we’ve averaged at least one yearly visit to the state during our married years. We’ve been in Valentine a few times – once we went with a large family group to a trout farm in the Sandhills of Nebraska near Valentine. We caught our “dinner” in the local lake and the trout were prepared by a local restaurant and served to us in style.
Our most memorable visit occurred in April of this year while I was making final edits on my book, LOVE FINDS YOU in VALENTINE, Nebraska. Our Nebraska sister-in-law died and we went to the funeral. When we made flight plans we arranged two extra days to drive to Valentine and do some last minute research – mostly to confirm things I’d already written about. There were blizzard warnings, but we continued with our plans. We did have a fruitful afternoon and evening the first day. We went to Young’s Western Wear shop where I gleaned some information. We ate in a restaurant where I subsequently took my characters. We visited the newspaper office and went to evening services at one of the local churches.
The blizzard struck the next morning. We had 250 miles to drive to catch our plane for home the next day, so we decided to leave before the storm worsened. We drove about 20 miles and the roads were so treacherous we turned around a
nd returned to Valentine. We spent that whole day and night in the Holiday Inn. Fortunately our rental vehicle was a sturdy van with 4-wheel-drive. The next morning, we started out early and the weather was horrendous. For the first several hours, we encountered blowing snow, slick roads, and white-outs where we couldn’t see the road. Only by the grace of God did we arrive at the airport eight hours after we started from Valentine. That probably ranks high as one of the longest day of my life. And BTW, I didn’t have a blizzard in my book.
But don’t let our experience deter anyone from visiting Valentine. It’s a Paradise vacation spot. The town of 1200 residents has an Old-West flavor to it. The people are friendly. Accommodations are great. One of the interesting points is that red valentines are painted all along the sidewalks on Main Street. The Niobrara River offers canoeing, tubing and kayaking, Merritt Reservoir located 28 miles south of Valetine is a mecca for fishermen or hunters. Valentine is the county seat of Cherry County, located in the Sandhills of Nebraska, which is one of the best rangelands in the country. Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is nearby. Historians will enjoy the Arthur Bowring Ranch State Historical Park, which offers an opportunity to see early ranching methods
Keep Reading: Q – Life Love Beauty: Do you have any tips for readers and their own love lives…?