ELLISON BAY – The six books Judy DuCharme previously authored, whether romance novels, sci-fi mysteries or Green Bay Packers-related words of wisdom, all have something in common — a faith-driven, Christian direction.
Her new novel also delves into the Christian spirit while exploring genres and settings the Door County-based writer hasn’t explored before — young-adult historical fiction, set in Door County.
Released July 24, “Lainey of the Door Islands” tells the tale of a pre-teen girl growing into her teenage years as the niece of the lighthouse keepers on Pilot Island in the 1880s and 90s. The title character encounters a number of hardships and tragedies along the way but relies on her inner strength as well as her faith to get through the challenges.
Except for the spirituality, most aspects of the book were new to DuCharme, a self-described “Christian fiction” author who has won national awards from Christian and independent publishing groups for her previous works, including the Packers-based meditations of “The Cheesehead Devotional Hall of Fame Edition” and the mystery “Blood Moon Redemption.”
The new experiences start with the setting.
“My very first novel (“Society of the L.A.M.B.”) is a futuristic one in the woods of Door County, but it never mentions Door County. If you read it and you’re familiar with the area, you might know it,” DuCharme said in an interview from her Ellison Bay home. “But yes, this basically is the first one set in Door County … I was really ready to write a book about Door County.”
Then there’s the historical fiction aspect.
Like other books in that genre, DuCharme’s novel blends a handful of actual events, including the wrecks of the ships A.P. Nichols and J.E. Gilmore within 11 days of each other off Pilot Island in 1892, with events based on actual events. The story also merges fictional characters with those based on real people. The only character who really did exist is Rasmus Hansen, a well-known fisherman from Washington Island, and DuCharme said she received permission from Hansen’s great-granddaughter to use him in the novel.
DuCharme said she spent parts of the past three or four years on research. That included tours of the Pilot Island and Pottawatomie lighthouses, walking the perimeter of Rock Island, and relying on the historical knowledge of Capt. Jim Robinson, a shipwreck diver and operator of the Shoreline Scenic Cruises boat tour through Death’s Door, and Washington Island archivist Barbara Ellefson, who died in December 2018.
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Finally, there’s the young adult aspect. The book’s publisher, Ambassador International, labeled “Lainey of the Door Islands” as that type of book because it has a teen girl dealing with challenges as she grows up, but DuCharme said she wrote it to appeal to all ages and genders.
“My publisher put it in the category of teen and young adult fiction,” DuCharme said. “But (a variety of) people have expressed interest in it. Men and women can enjoy it. My niece … she’s about 50, she texted me and said she laughed, she cried, she didn’t want it to end.”
If Lainey’s tale, and its potential broad appeal sounds a bit like “Anne of Green Gables,” the classic novel of an orphan girl about the same age as Lainey growing up with adoptive parents in rugged, rural Canada around the turn of the 20th century, DuCharme said there are similarities and compared Anne’s never-give-up attitude to Lainey’s.
“(Lainey) faces a lot of tragic events in the book,” DuCharme said. “A lot of (how she gets through them) is that spunky personality she has … It’s also (about) the attitude of surviving things. This is a book of hope.”
However, DuCharme said instead of going into the writing with a set idea of Lainey’s character, it came together and developed as the story did.
“She just kinda grew,” DuCharme said. “She was 11 years old when the book starts, 16 or 17 when it ends. Like ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ she’s a spunky kind of character. She just grew and became her own personality … I discovered that in (writing ‘Blood Moon Redemption’), where the characters just take over the story. You’re really just watching them and writing as (the story) happens.”
As for the Christian aspect, DuCharme said it blends with Lainey’s spunkiness to help her out as the story progresses. The spirituality is not all serious, DuCharme said, citing a lighthearted segment when Lainey and her friend Rose wonder about the best protocols for communicating with God — must they kneel, must they close their eyes?
DuCharme noted that religion and spirituality was part of people’s lives at the time the book is set.
“I write Christian fiction, so that perspective is ingrained in me,” she said. “I have certain characters where a certain amount of that is ingrained in them. And in that time period, a certain amount of that was in the culture.”
With all that in mind, DuCharme expects the book to appeal to the broad swath of people, residents and tourists alike, who basically are interested in Door County, its culture and history.
“People who live here, everyone who comes here wants Door County shirts, Door County things,” DuCharme said. “It’s written to tourists, anybody who likes lighthouses, anybody interested in shipwrecks, Door County history, anybody who’s been to Rock and Pilot islands. It’s really aimed toward them.”
To augment the book, DuCharme is posting a series of short “Lainey’s Tour” videos on her Facebook page that show some of the its featured sites.
Above all else, DuCharme said she believes the main thing readers should expect to get out of the book is the same thing she got out of writing it — enjoyment.
“I just thoroughly enjoyed creating Lainey and her friends and the people and places,” DuCharme said. “And I learned a lot. I feel like I created something that people who come to Door County or live in Door County will enjoy.”
Judy DuCharme’s new Christian, young adult, historical fiction novel, “Lainey of the Door Islands,” is available in paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon.com and paperback from barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers. It will be for sale soon in Door County book stores and other shops that sell books.
DuCharme will talk about the book during an online Zoom chat held by the Door County Library at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 (visit doorcountylibrary.org/lainey to join) and has scheduled a meet-and-greet book signing for Aug. 13 at Jackson Harbor Soup, 1904 Indian Point Road, Washington Island. Other book signing appearances will be announced.
For more information, visit judithducharme.com or the “Judy DuCharme Author” Facebook page.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or email@example.com.