Check out an interview with the author... Elsie Whitmore by Amy Lynn Walsh (Interview & #Giveaway) #cleanromance #sweetromance #romancebooks @Celebrate_Lit

Welcome to my tour stop! Check out an author interview and giveaway below...

Elsie Whitmore:
A Star from Oak Hills
By Amy Lynn Walsh
Contemporary Romance, Sweet and Clean
Paperback & ebook, 235 Pages
March 16, 2021


Elsie Whitmore, a teacher from the small town of Oak Hills, Pennsylvania, is shocked when one of her YouTube videos goes viral, drawing the attention of the famous actor Graham Thurston. When Thurston seeks to cast her in a film that he is directing, Elsie is conflicted: Should she give up teaching, a career she finds deeply fulfilling, for her childhood dream of becoming an actress? Join Elsie Whitmore as she travels down the bumpy road of being cast in a film production and falling in love with a movie star while being homesick for her family, friends, and students back home in Oak Hills. Will Elsie return to teaching and her close-knit community, or will she pursue her love for Graham Thurston and acting for Proscenium Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard?

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Author Interview

What inspired you to write Elsie Whitmore: A Star from Oak Hills?

I started Elsie Whitmore on Election Day 2020 as a way to stick my head in the sand. I was getting so wrapped up in politics and the pandemic that I knew it was time to take a mind-break. I saw that a few publishing companies were interested in stories with a “return to close-knit community” theme, so I brainstormed some ideas. I had been teaching virtually due to the pandemic, so I was heavily involved in recording lessons and posting them for students. I was also sharing many YouTube videos that other teachers had made -- some had many followers. So it is easy to see how “A country teacher’s video goes viral, and she becomes a celebrity overnight” popped into my brain. That idea was the beginning of Elsie.

Would you tell us a little more about the main characters?

Elsie is a teacher in the small town of Oak Hills in northeastern Pennsylvania. After a disappointing audition when she was in high school, her mother had talked her into toning down her love of drama and focusing on a more realistic career. Elsie loves teaching, and she invests much into her lessons and her students. It is a total shock to her when her principal calls her into his office, and Graham Thurston, the famous actor turned playwright and producer, is there to meet her.

Graham appears to be the typical multi-talented, spoiled-yet-neglected former teen star in some ways. But what surprises Elsie when she gets to know Graham is that he is so determined to live a more grounded and meaningful life than his parents have led as famous actors themselves.

Ironically, both Elsie’s and Graham’s ideals and strengths (and some stubbornness) are what eventually keep them apart.

Which character do you most relate to and why?

It is pretty evident that I would relate most to Elsie in many ways: We are both teachers -- and we both love the arts. Like her, I have a wonderfully supportive family, and I grew up in a rural setting. Unlike her, I struggle making YouTube videos, and I am not drawn to the acting world -- though I love to sing!

Parts of Elsie’s life are a tribute to beloved people and things in my own life. Her dog Copper is a shout-out to a pet we had growing up who was quite the character. Her Grandpa Whitmore tells a tale similar to a story my grandpa told about his family. And, the inclusion of the clearing under Big Maple as an essential setting in the story has roots in a tree I love. In my blog, Writing from Walsh Mountain, I talk about my Grandpa Cooley and the giant maple tree on my parents’ property.

What one piece of advice/tips would Elsie give?

At one point in the novel, Elsie takes a teen with social anxiety under her wing and gives her a tip that helped Elsie conquer her own teen shyness. I think the gist of this tip is crucial with dealing with anxiety and depression, but it also could be helpful with any issues we may have in keeping the right heart attitude. Elsie uses some Socratic questioning to help this child see that the times she feels more comfortable interacting with others are when she is more outward focused -- when she is thinking of others and allows herself to get past the dialogue going on in her own mind.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has stirred up so much angst in the minds and souls of so many. At first, people dreaded the isolation it brought, but then they got comfortable with the isolation. I think Elsie would want to remind us to find ways to encourage others even when we are going through hard times ourselves -- that there is a joy found in self-forgetfulness. During Elsie’s heartbreak in the novel, she finds comfort by investing her time with her students and family. I believe this would be true for all of us -- that being outward-focused bring healing and joy.

What are you working on next?

One of my current projects is Voices in the Sanitorium. It takes place on the grounds of the West Mountain Sanitorium overlooking Scranton, Pennsylvania -- in the 1930s and modern times. Aislyn, the main, modern character, starts having major mood swings when her parents relocate the family to their new home. When she purchases an old diary written by a young lady with tuberculosis who once stayed in a “cure cottage” on the grounds, she becomes more interested in her surroundings. She tries to be more positive, but then strange things begin to happen….

I love writing this dual timeline story, but it is also much more challenging to write than my prior novels. Since it involves local history, I am trying to be so careful to get the details right, but I keep on running into roadblocks with my research. For example, there are contradictions in local stories that I can’t get to the bottom of as of yet. There is also an unexpected twist to the story that takes some delicate handling as a writer.

One of the book’s highlights is that Brighid, the main character from the 1930s, gets to meet Dick Smith, who wrote the lyrics to Winter Wonderland during his stay in the West Mountain Sanitorium. In addition, I tried to bring in as many other actual workers and patients as I could into the 1930s portions of the novel. Knowing what the patients suffered and how brave many of them were, makes me put so much pressure on myself to write this novel with care. The modern portions are easier to write because

I can use my imagination with much fewer limits.

About the Author

Amy Walsh is a 5th-grade teacher who loves teaching children about what she loves to do herself: reading and writing. She enjoys outdoor activities, especially hiking and camping with her Scouts BSA Troop. Amy also appreciates opportunities to share her faith through singing, teaching and writing for her church family. Amy and her husband, Patrick, have three children: Bree, Spencer, Liz, and a son-in-law, Kyle. Amy and her family love to spend time together celebrating special occasions, listening to great music, swimming and kayaking, and having occasional ping pong tournaments.

More from Amy

The Creation of Elsie

Elsie Whitmore came into being on Election Day 2020. I needed a little escape from the reality of being an urban public school teacher in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the political turmoil in the United States. I decided it was time to take on a big writing project.

Wanting to create a “happy escape” for both myself and readers, I put the best of two worlds that I love into the settings of the novel: farm life in northeastern Pennsylvania and drama in New York City. I created a character who had already overcome childhood anxiety, and in the process of conquering her painful shyness, she had grown strong, wise, and firmly grounded in what she considers important. Elsie had also long ago given up her dream of becoming an actress in order to pursue the more “realistic” career of teaching, which she finds quite fulfilling. But sometimes life has some unexpected twists and turns….

Mrs. Whitmore’s Upsidedown Apple Sticky Toffee Cupcakes Recipe

Graham is so determined that Elsie will give him and his film production a chance that he pulls out all the stops with a lovely dinner after her day of screen tests at Proscenium Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He even goes so far as to google the most delicious dessert in the world so that his housekeeper can create the perfect end to the meal: English Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Eventually Elsie’s mother puts her own Pennsylvanian spin on this delicious dessert in an Oak Hills sequel. She substitutes apples for dates, adds some molasses and ginger, and makes them into smaller portions perfect for a church concession stand at the county fair.

Here is her recipe:

1. Dice apples and place them in the bottom of a greased muffin pan. (You may prefer to slice the apples for a fancier look, but that will increase baking time.)
2. Heat ¼ cup of salted butter, ¾ cup of brown sugar, ½ tsp of ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. (Mrs. Whitmore just throws everything into a frying pan, quickly stirs once everything has melted, and then turns off the stove as soon as the mixture begins to bubble.)
3. Cover the apples with the hot mixture. (Mrs. Whitmore uses a gravy ladle to scoop the toffee sauce into the muffin pan.)
4. Melt 1 stick of salted butter in a mixing bowl.
5. Add 1 and ½ cup of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp baking soda, ¾ cup of light brown sugar, 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 3 tbsp of molasses, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground ginger.
6. Mix the ingredients with a spoon like you would mix pancake batter — no need to beat. The consistency will be more like biscuit or cookie dough than cake batter.
7. Put a scoop of the dough on top of apples and toffee in the muffin pans.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 25 minutes. (The top of the cake should look dry.) If you are using regular cupcake pans, you can make 12 and they should be done in 15. If you are using larger muffin pans, you can make 8 and they need to bake for about 20 minutes. If you are baking multiple items in the oven, it will take closer to 25 minutes.

Sometimes the toffee comes up the sides of the cake, so it is best to put a larger tray on the rack underneath or line the bottom of the oven with foil. (Elsie forgot to do this the first time she followed her mother’s recipe. Graham, being a bit over-protective, made her evacuate due to the smoke coming from the oven.)

1. Immediately after taking out of the oven, turn the muffin pan upside down on a tray, waxed paper, or cookie sheet. Tap the top of the pan and then lift up. Mrs. Whitmore uses a small spatula to collect any apple and toffee still in the pan and puts it on the cakes.
2. Serve while still warm, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Sometimes, Mrs. Whitmore makes a smaller batch and then puts the rest of the dough in a bread pan to bake. She warms this up the following night and serves with warm lemon pudding and whipped cream — which is very much a northeastern Pennsylvania county fair treat.


Tour Schedule

Texas Book-aholic, January 24

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, January 31 (Spotlight)

Pause for Tales, January 31

Wishful Endings, February 2 (Author Interview)

Stories By Gina , February 4 (Author Interview)

Tour-Wide Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Amy is giving away the grand prize package of $50 Amazon gift card along with the eBooks of three novels, A Cursed Enchantment, A Misplaced Beauty, and Elsie Whitmore: A Star from Oak Hills!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

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