Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Q&A with Adrienne Morris, Author of The Tenafly Road Series

Please join me in welcoming Adrienne Morris to Let Them Read Books! Adrienne is celebrating the release of The Grand Union, the newest book in her Tenafly Road series, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about her inspiration, her characters, and the rewards of writing a series. Read on and grab the first book in the series, The House on Tenafly Road, for free!

When Gilded Age banker Buck Crenshaw’s career plans are ruined on the eve of his honeymoon in 1887 Saratoga Springs, he must learn how to love his new wife while hustling for clients to secure their future. A faith healer arrives on the scene shaking Buck’s confidence yet again, but this time he has a wife who refuses to let him fail. Will his eyes be opened to the gifts before him or will he turn in bitterness away from all that is good?

Books in the historical family saga:
The House on Tenafly Road
Weary of Running
The Dew That Goes Early Away
Forget Me Not
The One My Heart Loves
The Grand Union

Hi Adrienne! Welcome to Let Them Read Books!

What inspired you to write The Tenafly Road Series?

Originally I wanted to write a miserable story about a Christian missionary from New Jersey who travels West to “save” the Native Americans while abandoning her own family. I realized as I researched post-Civil War America that the “Indian question” and the motives behind the assimilation movement were a lot more complex -- and a lot more humanitarian in some cases than I had imagined. I discovered that corruption and greed existed not only among the U.S. government but also within the Indian tribes. The first book became an exploration of human frailty (as a universal thing) in the face of a world more complex than most of us can fathom and how, within this world, small acts of kindness and forgiveness can sometimes lead to redemption.

This redemption plays out in a more personal way in the relationship between Sergeant John Weldon and his wife’s family as he struggles to hide his addiction, save his marriage and keep his place in the military. His mother’s Delaware Indian roots only add more complexity to his desire to “fit in.”

Your stories take place during a tumultuous time in American history and feature some dark themes such as addiction and racial and gender inequality. What kind of research do you do to bring your characters and their surroundings to life?

Without fully realizing it, Civil War veteran John Weldon’s addiction to opiates was inspired by the sadness I felt for my first love (a boy also named John) who joined the military hoping to escape his addiction. It didn’t work.

Post-Civil War America is a study in contradictions, especially within the military. Union soldiers who had been hailed as heroes for freeing the slaves were now vilified for mistreating Native Americans. West Point cadets who had abolitionist parents sometimes still carried prejudices into the academy, making life difficult for the first Black cadets. Women, despite not having the vote (and many did not particularly want it), were stronger and braver than they were sometimes given credit for. Following their husbands into the military while trying to raise families in remote and hostile environments took guts.

Research has taken me into military libraries, battlefields, old diaries, and abandoned Victorian houses. I even found a brush with death to be useful as research into how one feels on hardcore pain meds.  For a while I portrayed a Civil War nurse at re-enactments to immerse myself in the smells of open fires, sweaty wool uniforms and horse hay. I wore hoops and corsets which transformed my opinions about womanhood in surprising ways. I read Walt Whitman’s poignant war poems and Louisa May Alcott’s little book on her own experiences nursing the troops. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being obsessed with the period.

Do your characters pop into your head fully formed, or do you discover them as you write?

Once I name a character, it’s as if their total essence magically appears. Discovering how they got to be who they are and where they are going with their mix of flaws and talents is the exciting part. I knew Buck Crenshaw was an uptight cadet with a ton of moral ambivalence, but I didn’t realize initially that the emotional walls he had created had their beginnings in severe childhood abuse. I also didn’t know yet how witnessing the abuse of her brother would affect the way Thankful Crenshaw sees herself as an adult either. Yes, my themes are dark, but there’s always hope!

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects about writing a series?

I loved every minute of writing the series. I was so emotionally taken in by the two families and the time period that it never occurred to me to stop until everyone was where they needed to be.

There were only two challenges. I worried that Buck Crenshaw and his protective armor might be too much for readers and that they might give up on him too soon—though I never could. The other challenge has been letting the characters go. I fantasize that I will one day meet the Crenshaws and the Weldons in “real life.” There’s a mourning process that comes with spending fifteen years with your characters.

What was your favorite scene to write in your newest release, The Grand Union?

Buck Crenshaw finally lets down his guard enough to marry an optimistic girl who happens to have eye trouble. When a faith healer on their honeymoon in Saratoga Springs cures Lucy’s eyes against Buck’s will, Buck (who has given up all faith) worries that Lucy will now see his many flaws. Lucy is so perfect for him, but Buck does everything in his power to bungle things—it makes for a few sweet scenes. Love always wins the day.

What are you working on now?

I’m researching a new novel about my Civil War-era relatives and how the war takes its toll on the tiny Upstate New York community where they all live. Again I’m interested in the redeeming power of love in families and what makes people do heroic things.

The discovery of letters and a few old photos of these young soldiers and their parents has been my greatest find so far. I’m already in love.

About the Author:

Adrienne Morris is author of the novel The House on Tenafly Road (selected as an Editors’ Choice Book by The Historical Novel Society and a Notable Indie Book of the Year) and The Tenafly Road Series, the continuing family saga of the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey.

Musty old libraries, abandoned houses and corsets bring to life the many characters crowding Adrienne’s imagination, but it’s the discovery that people, no matter the century they live in, share the same struggles, hopes and desires (the greatest desire being love) that keeps her up at night writing. Adrienne’s novels are love letters to those of us who feel less than perfect. They are an invitation to love ourselves and others despite our many imperfections.

 Adrienne also milks goats, chases chickens and sometimes keeps her dogs off the table.

Amazon Author Page: Adrienne Morris
Instagram: Middlemay Farm


  1. I really enjoyed reading this background info about your characters and how you developed them throughout your series. It's interesting that you based some of your Civil War characters on family or people you know, showing that human foibles and ambition are not confined by time or place, but part of human nature, likely from the first person to climb down from the trees and realize that walking upright was doable.

    Thank you, Jenny Q, for an terrific interview with one of my favorite people.


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