Crafting Resilient Heroines – An Interview with Colleen Hall

Colleen Hall discusses her journey from hobby writer to published author, the influence of personal experiences on her characters, and her meticulous historical research.

Colleen Hall’s literary journey began in the third grade and has blossomed into a career that seamlessly blends her love for writing with her passion for history. Born in New England and now residing in the South, Hall has a unique perspective that enriches her historical novels. Her latest work, Her Traitor’s Heart, showcases her talent for crafting compelling stories set against the backdrop of pivotal moments in history.

Hall’s experiences, from her recovery from hip replacement surgeries to her love of horseback riding, deeply influence her storytelling. These personal challenges and interests have imbued her characters with resilience and authenticity, as seen in her novels like Valiant Heart and Warrior’s Heart. Her commitment to accurate historical research and vivid character development transports readers to the eras she portrays, making them feel like active participants in her narratives.

Through her Frontier Hearts Saga, Hall weave’s themes of faith and resilience, drawing readers into the spiritual and emotional journeys of her characters. Her dedication to avoiding preachiness while showcasing genuine growth and strength in her protagonists provides an inspiring reading experience. In this interview, Hall shares insights into her writing process, the influence of her personal experiences, and the meticulous research behind her beloved historical novels.

Your journey from writing in middle school to becoming a published author is inspiring. Can you share more about the transition from writing as a hobby to pursuing it professionally, especially during the challenges of balancing family and work?

Once Her Traitor’s Heart had been accepted for publication, I went into overdrive mode to edit the manuscript and meet deadlines. I stayed up after my family had gone to bed to make the revisions my editor requested. I declined social engagements on the weekends to work on the manuscript. Now that I know more about writing, my other novels haven’t needed as much editing, so the process takes much less time.

Her Traitor’s Heart was born out of a period of recovery and reflection. How did revisiting and reworking an old manuscript during your surgery recovery impact your writing style and perspective on storytelling?

I didn’t know it until I was an adult, but I was born with hip dysplasia. That condition wore out my hip joints much earlier than normal. Two hip replacement surgeries, eleven months apart, took me out of work for several weeks. The surgeon told me that, following my operation, I must use a walker for at least three weeks and after that a cane for several weeks. I was determined to beat his mandate. After each surgery I discarded the walker after a week, and I skipped the cane altogether. I gave my heroines this same grit and determination to overcome challenges. Their inner strength enables them to persevere despite adversity. Regarding my writing style, I made sure that my readers could visualize each scene like a movie. I put my readers right in the middle of the action. And my characters became so real to me that they took on a life of their own. I couldn’t make them do anything they didn’t want to do.

Your novels often feature strong female characters overcoming significant challenges. How do your personal experiences and faith influence the creation and development of these characters, such as Daisy in Valiant Heart and Coral in Her Traitor’s Heart?

I think I’m the type of person who meets adversity head on. Within the boundaries of their cultures and eras, I gave my heroines a similar mindset and a determination to overcome obstacles. Both Daisy and Coral had many hurdles that could have prevented them from reaching their goals, but they weren’t deterred. My faith has strengthened me during my life’s trials, so I wove their faith into Daisy and Coral’s experiences when failure seemed imminent.

Valiant Heart explores the aftermath of World War I and the personal struggles of its characters. What drew you to this historical period, and how did you research the era to accurately depict the emotional and societal impacts of the war?

My dad was a pilot and owned his own plane, and my cousin is a former pilot and flight instructor. My brother owned his own plane and made a career as an aviation consultant. I think airplanes are in my blood, and I especially love antique aircraft. Since the heroes in the last two novels of my series were the second generation of the Slash L ranching family, they were of the right age to fight in WWI. Making Rafe in Valiant Heart a fighter pilot was a logical choice. I started researching—online, books and documentaries—the broader aspects of WWI. I then narrowed my research to the fledgling air forces and the new field of battle—aerial combat. Much of my information on WWI fighter pilots came from documentaries. A documentary on Baron Von Richthofen—the Red Baron—taught me a lot about his fighting techniques that enabled him to survive the war for so long and then applied these techniques to Rafe. I also watched many movies about WWI aerial combat to get a feel for the actual combat and what it felt like to fly in a biplane. As I got further into my research, I learned what impact aerial combat had on the pilots and used that information to portray Rafe’s PTSD. When I needed information on a technical point about biplanes that I couldn’t find in my research, I consulted my brother. His knowledge of antique aircraft was invaluable.

Faith and resilience are central themes in your Frontier Hearts Saga. How do you weave these themes into your narratives, and what do you hope readers take away from the spiritual journeys of your characters like Della and Wild Wind in Warrior’s Heart?

My characters’ faith is an integral part of their lives, so their reactions to obstacles is an outgrowth of that faith. Of course, they make mistakes, but their “spiritual arc” shows growth. I always avoid being “preachy” in my novels. My characters learn life lessons through the challenges they face. I think resilience would have been a necessary attribute to people living through the Civil War and in the West during the 1870s, so my characters must be resilient to survive. I put them in situations that require them to make decisions or change their approach to resolving an issue. I hope my characters’ life lessons will encourage my readers.

As someone who enjoys activities like horseback riding, how do your hobbies and personal interests influence the settings and plots of your novels? Do they help you find inspiration or add authenticity to your stories?

My hobbies and personal interests definitely influence the settings and plots of my novels. People used horses for work and transportation during the time periods of my books, so horses appeared in my stories. Applying my knowledge of horses gave my novels greater authenticity. Regarding settings—even though I grew up in New England, I’ve always been fascinated with Colorado and the ranching life there. So, when Clint Logan took his family West to start a horse breeding program for the cavalry in Wounded Heart, I located his ranch in Colorado. That gave me the perfect reason to take two research trips there before I wrote Wounded Heart and Warrior’s Heart.  Visiting Colorado gave me so many plot ideas! While touring a museum near the Cripple Creek mine, a biography of Doc Susie—a woman doctor who practiced medicine in the Colorado Rocky Mountains during the same era as Valiant Heart—caught my attention. I knew then that the heroine of Valiant Heart would be a woman doctor.

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