Names: Maxine Beck and Marie Lanser Beck
Ages: Maxine Beck, 62, and Marie Lanser Beck, 58
City in which you reside: Waynesboro, Pa.
Day jobs: Maxine is a retired high school English teacher; Marie is a freelance writer
Book title: "Royers of Renfrew — Threads of Change"
Genre: Historical fiction
Quick synopsis of book: "Threads of Change" is the second volume in the continuing saga of the Daniel Royer family, which operated an industrial farmstead east of Waynesboro in the early 1800s that is now Renfrew Museum and Park. The daily life and struggles of these hardworking Pennsylvania Germans is seen through the eyes of 9-year-old Susan, one of the Royer's 10 children.
Publisher: Little Antietam Press
Facebook: Find us on Facebook at Royers of Renfrew
To purchase: In addition to the Renfrew Visitors Center's Gift Shop, 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa., copies of the new volume are available at Waynesboro's Dru's Books 'n Things; Green Arbor Flower & Shrubbery Center; the Waynesboro Hospital Gift Shop; and at Sweet Myrtle in Greencastle, Pa. Chambersburg, Pa., outlets include Northwood Books, 59 N. Main St.; the Wilson College bookstore and the Franklin County Visitors Bureau on Chambersburg's Center Square. Copies are also available at Turn The Page Books in Boonsboro, and at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, W.Va. The books can also be ordered through Amazon.com. in paperback and as e-books.
"Royers of Renfrew — Threads of Change" is the second book in your triology of the real-life Royer family who has a connection to Renfrew Museum and Park. Please tell us a little bit about the Royers and who they were?
Marie: Daniel Royer was a real mover and shaker in the early history of Franklin County, Pa. He was a tanner, gristmill operator and farmer, who married Catherine Stoner and raised 10 children on the farm that has become Waynesboro's beloved Renfrew Museum and Park. He was also a tax collector and county commissioner who oversaw a successful industrial farmstead and built the impressive limestone farmhouse that celebrated its 200th anniversary in September.
How does this book connect to the first book, "The Royers of Renfrew — A Family Tapestry." Will people have to read the first one to understand "Threads of Change"?
Maxine: "A Family Tapestry" is the first in the series. It introduces readers to the Royer family in 1812 and sets the stage for what is to come, but each book speaks for itself. While it is would be instructive to have read the first one, this is not necessary to enjoying the unfolding drama of the second volume that takes this sprawling family through 1815.
A lot of experts say "Write about what you know." Does that apply to your book? How?
Marie: We're more city girls than farm girls, so much of our knowledge of butchering, raising chickens and 19th-century housekeeping has come from research.
Maxine: But both of us have been closely associated with Renfrew as volunteers and board members and are familiar with the historical interpretation and education that goes on through the excellent programs provided by the staff at Renfrew Museum and the Renfrew Institute for Museum and Cultural Studies. They have been a tremendous source of information and inspiration. A portion of the books' sales goes to these two fine organizations.
"Threads of Change" opens up in the War of 1812, which celebrates a significant birthday this year but seems to have been overshadowed by the Civil War's 150th. What do you think readers would be surprised to learn about this area in connection to a war?
Marie: Living in an area steeped in Civil War history, it is easy to lose sight of what a battleground this region was during the French and Indian Wars of the 1750s (when the Renfrew sisters were reportedly killed), and 60 years later how closely citizens of Washington, Frederick and Franklin counties came to the fighting in and around Baltimore and Washington during the Second War of Independence against the British. Details of the War of 1812 and its effect on those living in this area will come as a surprise to many. Perhaps the widespread interest in the devastating impact the Battle of Antietam had on local residents at that time will kindle curiosity about the effect of an earlier war in the same general vicinity only a few decades before.
How long did it take to research this series?
Marie: I began collecting books and information about life in the Cumberland Valley in the 1800s more than 20 years ago, but it wasn't until Maxine asked me to edit her first novel (a young adult coming-of-age novel titled "Chagrin Falls") in 2009 that I thought we might collaborate on a historical novel about this impressive family.
Maxine: With Marie's historical background and materials and my flair for fictional intrigue and portraying complex personal relationships, the narrative emerged. The writing of the first book took two years and we were able to complete the second volume in one year.
What surprised you in your research about the Royers or about the era?
Marie: We knew that our forbearers worked hard, but we didn't fully appreciate just how much labor went into food production and preparation, the making of cloth and clothing, keeping the family in wood and grain as well as the tasks of daily life.
Maxine: All the laundry and mending they did would have been enough to fill a week, much less all the cooking, baking and spinning. After writing about Catherine and Daniel Royers' days, we were exhausted just thinking about their 19th-century to-do lists. Our lists didn't look so bad after that.
You are sister-in-laws, correct? How was it to work with family?
Maxine: Yes. We married brothers and oftentimes people mistake us one for the other even though I am a native of Waynesboro and Marie is not. But writing the books together has been a wonderful adventure that has given us a chance to explore family dynamics through fiction and share our mutual love of the written word.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Maxine: We hope that after reading the books, visitors who come to Renfrew, tour the Royer house, walk the farmstead sites and wander along the creek might be able to visualize the hardships, challenges and delights of living close to nature, having been introduced to our fictionalized Royers.
Marie: In this technological age, today's children and adults rarely experience the connection between landscape and livelihood the way previous generations have. The early settlers who came to this area had hard lives, but they also treasured family relationships and valued the interdependence that often meant their very survival.
Are you working on another writing project?
Maxine: Yes. We have begun writing the third volume in our trilogy, which begins in 1821. Susan, who was 9 years old when our journey began, is now 18 and facing adulthood and the life choices she and her siblings must make in the aftermath of the War of 1812. "The Fabric of Life" centers on the personal crises of faith and decisions individual characters will make amidst the rapid change in American life as the region moves from a primarily agricultural to a manufacturing economy. Readers will find out what happens to the Royers, many of whom they have come to identify with and love.
— Crystal Schelle, Lifestyle editor
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