I knew the minute I wrote about Jacob and Mae in The Way Forward that I was going to have to tell their story. What I didn’t know was that they were going to throw me such a huge curve ball! I also wanted to continue to tell the story of Colton, and how a community comes together to help each other.
How do you relate to Mae, your heroine, and how do you hope readers will relate to her?
Mae is the person I wish I had been when I was younger. She has confidence and is so brave. She’s not afraid to embrace the changes that life throws at her. Mae may come across as a bold and independent woman, but she is loving and has so much strength. I think in that way Mae and I are the same, we are fiercely protective of the people we care about and love.
How do you relate to Jacob?
Beneath all of his gruffness, Jacob is a very compassionate person. He cares deeply about the people around him, which is the way I am. Once I declare you are family, that’s it, you’re someone I’m going to check in on, and you will get a care package from me every once in a while. Care packages are my love language – LOL! Jacob is a bit more complicated, he’s stubborn and shows his love by pushing people away.
How is Mae different from her family, Callie, and Taylor? How is she the same?
Mae is the most tenacious person in her family. She has very strong principles, and she is also passionate about the people and things she cares about. Those are excellent qualities for a job in politics, but those qualities can also get her into trouble.
What kind of research did you need to do for this story?
I am incredibly grateful to two friends who are FBI agents for answering my questions and providing helpful information. It was really interesting to dig into the world of undercover work and read about FBI agents who have worked on cases involving white supremacist groups. My husband and I have been members of The Southern Poverty Law Center for many years and I read their newsletter and Hatewatch updates regularly. I was fortunate enough to meet Morris Dees, the founder of the SPLC, and hear him speak about the work the SPLC has done tracking hate groups. Just like all the books in the Heart of Colton series, I drew on my family history. For The Way Beyond, I could go back and read old letters from my grandfather from when he was mayor of West, Mississippi. It was a great way to learn about the challenges of running a small town.
About the Author
Eliana West writes multi-cultural romance with diverse characters. When not writing, Eliana can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington with her husband in their vintage Volkswagen Westfalia named Bianca.
She is the founder of Writers for Diversity a community for writers interested in creating diverse characters and worlds.