Today’s Wednesday Writers guest is Liz Tolsma, who will be talking about how she got into writing suspense. She’s also sharing an excerpt from the Pink Bonnet, so keep reading to the end. Welcome, Liz!
I wouldn’t consider myself a suspense writer. Not at all. I don’t even read suspense. Give me a sweet romance with a hunky hero and a happy ending, and I’m good to go. But then I started writing WWII fiction and discovered that I love writing a story that is going to get your heart pumping and that will leave you breathless.
Fast forward to about a year and a half ago when I got an email from my agent. Barbour Publishing was looking for suspenseful writers for a new true historical crimes series. My agent thought of me and how I write WWII and believed I could write this type of book. Barbour listed several different crimes, and my agent urged me to send in a couple of synopses.
I did, never thinking I’d be offered a contract for either of my ideas. Imagine my surprise when I got a contract for both of them! I had to get busy reading suspense novels (I now kind of like them) and learning how to write them. The Pink Bonnet underwent an overhaul halfway through the writing of it, with just eight weeks until the deadline. But I got it done!
The story about a woman who has her child stolen from Georgia Tann of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in the 1930s was difficult for me to write. I’m an adoptive mom, and the idea of such widespread black market adoptions during that time was hard for me to stomach. And I had to change my point of view from an adoptive mom to a birth mom. It really gave me pause and some food for thought. I hope that I presented all sides in a thoughtful, careful, and non-judgmental manner. Enjoy this preview!
The Pink Bonnet
By Liz Tolsma
How far will a mother go to find out what happened to her child? Widowed in Memphis during 1932, Cecile Dowd is struggling to provide for her three-year-old daughter. Unwittingly, she trusts a neighbor who puts little Millie Mae into the clutches of Georgia Tann, corrupt Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society director suspected of the disappearance of hundreds of children. With the help of a sympathetic lawyer, the search for Millie uncovers a deep level of corruption that threatens their very lives.
“Have a seat.” Mrs. Ward hardened her gray eyes the same way Momma used to when she was upset with Cecile.
She thumped into the well-worn chair, and Mrs. Ward settled beside her. “I’ve seen how hard it’s been on you, darlin’, since your husband died. Bless your heart, Millie is a handful, and you need more work to support yourself.”
“We’re managing.” They were for now, but how much longer could she go on this way?
“Remember I mentioned the Tennessee Children’s Home Society a few days ago?”
“Yes.” What was this about?
“It was for the best, dear.”
“What was?” Her middle cramped. Where was Millie?
“I couldn’t bear to see you struggling. And with you having to work, the child needs to be cared for.”
“I’ll figure it out.” She swallowed hard.
“I called Miss Tann.”
Cecile jumped from her seat, her heart doing the Charleston in her chest. “You did what?”
“She’ll take care of Millie. Find her a good family, one who can give her the things you can’t.”
A buzz filled Cecile’s head, drowning out the rest of what Mrs. Ward said.
“Millie is . . .” “With Georgia Tann. She does such wonderful work for children.”
Cecile again lost track of Mrs. Ward’s words. Millie gone? That couldn’t be. She was Cecile’s daughter not Mrs. Ward’s. “You had no right. How could you give away my child?”
Now the old lady had the decency to study her short fingernails. “Well, I . . . It was quite easy. And Miss Tann told me it was fine. That we had to do what was in Millie’s best interest.”
Cecile’s chest was about to explode. “Her best interest? What about being with her mother? A mother who loves her more than the sun and the moon? What did you do, forge my signature?”
Mrs. Ward picked at a hangnail.
Cecile grabbed Mrs. Ward by the shoulders and almost shook the stuffing from her. “My baby! My baby! Where is she? I have to get her back.”
“I don’t know.” Mrs. Ward leaned back in her chair.
Cecile released her grip. “How could you? That woman kidnapped my baby.”
“Don’t get yourself in a fuss. Think of Millie. She’s the most important person in this horrible mess.”
“She’s mine. No one else can have her.”
“You’re hysterical. Let me get you a drink of water.”
“Water isn’t going to solve my problems. I need my daughter back. Millie! Millie!” She ran from the apartment, down the stairs, and to the street.
“Millie! Millie!” No sweet chatter. No big hugs. No snuggles in the night. Nothing.
Cecile fell to her knees in the middle of the walk. “Millie, oh Millie!” She sobbed for a long while. When she’d exhausted her store of tears, she wiped her eyes and raised her focus to the heavens. “I promise, Millicent Mae, I swear to you, I will find you and get you back. I will never give up on you.”
She had to act. Fast. Before Miss Tann snatched Millie away forever.
About the Author:
Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, prairie romance novellas, a romantic suspense, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son is a U.S. Marine, and her oldest daughter is a college student. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. Please visit her blog, The Story behind the Story, at http://liztolsma.com/ and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), and Pinterest. She is also a regular contributor to the Midwest Almanac blog.