by Len Lear
If there is anything harder in life than getting a book published these days by a first-time author, Pat Jeanne Davis cannot imagine what that would be. The author of “When Valleys Bloom Again,” which was published last month by Elk Lake, a Christian book publisher in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Davis spent six years writing “Valleys,” then another two years and doing rewrites of the story before it was contracted by an agent and then another two years before it was accepted last year by an established book publisher.
Davis, who has lived in Roxborough for the past 48 years, worked for many years as an administrative assistant for the director of social services and later for the medical director at a hospital. When asked her age, David replied that she “grew up during the post-World War II era outside of West Chester, the area in which a portion of my novel is set.”
In Davis’ World War II-era novel, after fleeing the impending war in England, Abby Stapleton, 19, works to correct her stammer and become a teacher in the U.S., “only to discover this conflict has no boundaries, and a rejected suitor schemes to destroy her name, fiancé and fragile faith.”
Davis became a stay-at-home mother after having children late in life. That is when she began writing an occasional article, short story or essay, some of which were published in anthologies such as “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” before starting on her first novel.
“I had an interest in the World War II era for some time,” she said last week. “I wanted to write a faith-based story in that period with a strong Anglo-American connection. My husband is British, and his father served in the British 8th Army from 1939 to 1945 at Dunkirk, Normandy and throughout Europe.
“I found an opening for the first chapter of ‘When Valleys Bloom Again’ after reading a book on the life of Kathleen Kennedy, daughter of Joseph P . Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He and his family were living in London when Britain declared war. Kathleen Kennedy’s story intrigued me.
“She was forced by her father to return to the US. Kathleen had made many friends while living in London and was determined to return some day. She eventually did go back, served in the British Red Cross and married William Cavendish, who was in line to become the next Duke of Devonshire. Sadly, he died in battle a few months after their marriage.
“I based my protagonist, Abby Stapleton, loosely on Kathleen Kennedy’s situation at the outbreak of war in 1939. Abby is the American-born daughter of a British diplomat. Her father sends her back to the U.S. to escape impending war. She too vows to return to London.”
While in England doing research for the novel, Davis visited Chatsworth House, home of the present Duke of Devonshire, where she found the grave of Kathleen Kennedy in St. Peter’s Churchyard, not far from Chatsworth House. She too died tragically shortly after peace was declared. Davis also visited an actual air raid shelter, airfields, war museums and the Churchill War Room in London, and she interviewed veterans of World War II.
“Although a Philadelphian at heart, I enjoy going to England with my husband and visiting family and friends there. England has become like a second home. I appreciate having the Wissahickon across the street from my home. If I could live anywhere else, though, it would be wonderful to have a home in the Cotswolds.” (The Cotswolds is a rural area of south central England covering parts of six counties. Its rolling hills, thatched medieval villages, churches and stately homes built of yellow limestone have charmed visitors for centuries.)
After spending 10 years to write her book and get it published, what is Davis’ advice for other novice writers? “Accept that you will receive rejections on your work. Don’t take them personally. Rewrite and submit again elsewhere. Persistence will eventually pay off.”
When it comes to several upcoming book signings in the area, however, Davis is an introvert by nature who admits, “I find it difficult to speak before an audience. I’d love to have the ability or talent to speak with ease publicly. This would make speaking at author signings less stressful.”
Davis’ upcoming book signings are on Saturday, April 6, 1 p.m., at Barnes & Noble, 2300 Chemical Rd., Plymouth Meeting; Saturday, April 13, 4 p.m., at the Andorra Free Library Branch in the Andorra Shopping Center, upper Roxborough; and Saturday, May 11, 9 a.m., at Women’s Breakfast, Pilgrim Church, 3815 Terrace St. in Wissahickon, near Manayunk.
For more information, visit patjeannedavis.com. Len Lear can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org