Elsie Whitmore: A Star from Oak Hills

This week I published another of my books. Elsie Whitmore: A Star from Oak Hills is the start of a contemporary series of books partially set in the fictional town of Oak Hills, Pennsylvania. The main character, Elsie, is a 6th grade teacher whose YouTube videos catches the attention of a famous actor and playwright, Graham Thurston. Elsie ends up taking a sabbatical from teaching in order to star in a movie that Graham is involved with at Proscenium Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

I so enjoyed developing this movie studio in my mind, along with creating a story within a story as I gave glimpses of scenes from Broken Nightingale, the musical in which Elsie and Graham co-star.

Elsie’s story was partially inspired by my love for the Warrender Saga written by Ida Cook, who used the penname Mary Burchell. This is a series of thirteen lovely books which center around the opera and concert hall world. I have read the series many times. Each time I read these books, I play whichever opera Ida Cook is incorporating into her story as I read. The romances in the series are sweet and uplifting. Ida Cook considered her own writing on the “light” side, but I am sure her novels have been a blessing to many women throughout the past several decades — women who may just have needed to have an escape now and then from difficult circumstances in their lives.

I think it is fascinating that a woman who never married and very much stayed under the RADAR with her unassuming ways, created such captivating stories. Her stories funded vacations for her and her sister throughout Europe and their many trips to the opera. She was in the right place, with the right personality, with the perfect circumstances to help twenty-nine Jews escape out of Germany during World War II. Here is a link to her story: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tyne-38732779

After reading the Warrender Saga through my Kindle Unlimited years ago, I remember thinking that I would like to create a modern day heroine who falls in love with a more contemporary version of Oscar Warrender, the musical conductor who becomes a secondary character in the twelve books that follow A Song Begins, in which he is the hero. That thought planted the seed for Graham Thurston to come into being.

Like Oscar, Graham is extremely talented and shows amazing leadership qualities. But, once I started writing his story, he developed into a much different personality. Graham wears his heart on his sleeve much more often and is trying pretty hard to suppress his “take charge and hyper-focused tendencies”, which he refers to as his “spoiled teen star ways which flare up now and again”. In contrast, Oscar has more of an “I am too old and have been single too long to change my ways” attitude. However, in the other books I have planned for Oak Hills, I hope that similar to Oscar, Graham will have some matchmaking traits — as he will be certain to want others in his life to find the same sort of happiness that he has found with his darling Elsie.

I just wanted to give a little tribute to Ida Cook in my first blog about the Elsie Whitmore novel. One of my favorite verses is “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. (Ecc. 9:10) It reminds me not to waste my time and gifts, but to use whatever I can whenever possible for God’s glory and to help others. Ida Cook certainly wrote with all her might, publishing 112 novels and a memoir entitled Safe Passage which tells about her efforts to save Jewish people from Hitler’s death camps.

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