Interview with author Elisabeth Grace Foley


Welcome Readers to another installment of our author interview series. Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Elisabeth Grace Foley, author of numerous historical fiction books.


JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Elisabeth. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

EGF- Thank you so much for having me! I currently live in upstate New York, where I was born and raised. In my life as it looks right now, a perfect day would involve putting in a few good hours writing, a good amount of time spent outside walking or gardening, some time spent reading a good book, and time spent with my family.

Besides reading and writing, some of my hobbies include music, crocheting, genealogy, and watching old movies and German football.


JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

EGF- Broadly speaking, it’s late 19th-century and early 20th-century America. I went through a Civil-War-buff phase as a teen and I go on a bit of a World War II kick from time to time, and those two events kind of bookend my era of interest. My special interest is the American West during that period, simply because the history of it fascinates me. I think when most people think of “westerns” they tend to think of the 1870s-1880s, the era of the great cattle drives and most of the famous (or infamous) lawmen and outlaws; but since I’m very fond of the general popular culture/fashions/ambience of the Edwardian period and the 1930s-1940s, I love exploring what the West was like during those decades in my fiction.


JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

EGF- This is always a hard question for me because I’ve never really had one historical “hero” or one specific historical figure I was obsessed with! I’d be more likely to want to pick the brains of my favorite authors. Jane Austen, for instance—though I don’t know what one question you could ask her beyond “what is the secret of your genius?” I can imagine having some fascinating conversations about literature and philosophy and history with some of my favorite mystery authors: Josephine Tey, Ellis Peters, Elizabeth Daly—and Mary Roberts Rinehart, who also did a lot of traveling in the American West (but for some reason never took it into her head to write a murder mystery set there!).


JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

EGF- I started writing stories for my own amusement pretty much as soon as I learned how to write, and by my pre-teen years I was thinking about being an author when I grew up. All through my childhood I was always most drawn to books and stories with a historical setting—I grew up with the Little House series, Marguerite Henry’s horse books, the original American Girl books, and lots of other historical fiction and older children’s classics. Historical has always just felt like home to me. When I began getting serious about writing and becoming a published author, that was what I wanted to write.


JMR- Many of your books are set in the American West; what is it about that region that draws you to it?

EGF- I think it began with being a horse-crazy little girl! I always liked Western movies and TV shows growing up, and I’m sure it was partly because of all the horses. Aside from that, I was always drawn to stories with an American frontier/pioneer setting, and I think it was because the sense of adventure about them—the beauty combined with the challenge and dangers of the frontier landscape. In my teens I began reading more Western history and early Western fiction, and to focus in more on the era as a special interest. I’m still fascinated by that beauty and sense of adventure about the land, the cattle-ranching industry and culture, and by the spunk and resilience and the colorful human variety of the ordinary people who settled the frontier.


JMR- Did you visit anyone of the places in your book? Where did you feel closest to your characters?

EGF- I have never actually been west of the Mississippi! For my Western fiction I’ve basically just immersed myself in the setting through lots of reading and through photographs. So many of the actual landscapes are still the same, in a way that dazzles me a little bit when I see present-day photos; but for things like towns, roads, buildings and so forth, it’s always neat to find historical photos that fit with the scenes I’m imagining in my head (for my Mrs. Meade Mysteries series, for instance, I’ve been able to find a lot of neat pictures from turn-of-the-century Colorado).


JMR- Elisabeth, tell us about your novel Land of Hills and Valleys.

EGF- Lena Campbell never knew her grandfather, but she always dreamed of visiting Wyoming, where her mother was born and raised. When she receives word that her grandfather is dead and his Wyoming ranch belongs to her, she jumps at the chance. Only later does she learn that her grandfather was murdered, and the murder is still unsolved.

In spite of this shadow hanging over her, Lena thrives in her new life—and falls in love. But when new evidence about the McKay murder emerges and implicates the man she loves, she’s assailed by frightening doubts. Only figuring out the real truth of her grandfather’s murder can save her from losing everything she cares about.

Set in the mid-1930s, Land of Hills and Valleys is stylistically very much inspired by Mary Stewart’s vintage romantic-suspense novels: narrated by a spunky yet vulnerable young heroine thrown into new surroundings and the tangles of an unsolved crime. It’s a little less formally structured than a traditional whodunit, but the murder mystery is still very much at the heart of the story. While Stewart’s heroines usually had their adventures in glamorous European locales, this is a very classic Western ranch setting that also has a Depression-era small-town flavor and a bit of courtroom drama thrown in.


JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

EGF- I am tentatively planning to release a new collection of Western short stories this year. I’ve also been writing some companion short stories for the Mrs. Meade Mysteries (the first one just published in November, and available free for your e-reader!), and will probably publish another one or two as I write them. I have a few “big” projects in the works going more slowly—another Western mystery novel similar to Land of Hills and Valleys, this time set in Montana just after World War II, and a couple other historical novels in slightly different subgenres than anything I’ve done so far. No exact timeline yet for any of them, but they’ll be along.


JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

EGF- You can find me and all my books on my author website, where I also have a (sporadically updated!) blog. On social media, I’m most active on Instagram and Twitter; and if you like to keep up via email you can sign up for my quarterly newsletter (I offer a free novella as a thank-you to new subscribers!).


JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

EGF- Well, I honestly love to talk about how my books combine the tropes and characteristics of classic mystery and romantic-suspense novels with an American, and particularly a rural/western American, setting. It’s a niche that there doesn’t seem to be too many authors working in! The Golden Age murder-mystery novels of the mid-20th century are what I read most of myself, and I think British authors really carry off the trophy for the best books in the genre; but since I feel most at home writing an American historical setting, I’ve really had fun locating mystery plots there and developing a style inspired by classic mystery authors from across the pond. I draw inspiration from some more obscure corners of American literature, too—for instance, the Mrs. Meade Mysteries were partly inspired by the books of Anna Katharine Green, one of America’s earliest mystery authors and creator of not one but two fictional female detectives, Miss Amelia Butterworth and Violet Strange.


JMR- Thank you, Elisabeth, for stopping by. Your books look really great! Readers, I’ve included a link to Elisabeth’s books below. Please be sure to check them out.



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