Sunday, June 13, 2010

ROBIN SHOPE and SHARLENE MACLAREN Write Novels About the Historic Orphan Train!

Maggie Rose by Sharlene MacLaren
Ruby Red by Robin Jansen Shope

Sharlene and Robin made a lovely discovery. Not only are they both teachers (Shar’s retired), they have also written about a special time in history from separate viewpoints. As a result, they decided to ‘cross pollinate’ their books in this shared interview. Come join the discussion, and for leaving a comment, you will automatically be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a copy of both their books, Maggie Rose and Ruby Red, from either one of their Websites. That’s twice the chance to win; in other words, go ahead and leave a comment at both sites to double your odds. If you aren’t a blogger, then leave a comment for them on Facebook or Shoutlife, and they’ll throw your name into the “proverbial hat”.

Shar and Robin thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into their lives, past and present. This should give you an idea of what influenced their writing careers.

Here's a snapshot of Shar's early life, which influences her to this day:

I grew up in the small town of Twin Lake, Michigan. When I say small I mean we had one gas station, a post office, a tavern/restaurant, a lumberyard, and two grocery stores whose owners were ALWAYS at odds (enemies perhaps?) because of the competition. Townsfolk were either loyal Oslunds’ grocery shoppers or Powells. (You couldn’t be both. Ha!) My family went to Powells’ because my mom swore they had a better meat selection!

I grew up in a tiny cottage-style house on the lake, as in we had beach frontage. It was a great swimming, fishing, waterskiing lake, so as a kid nearly every day in the summer the first thing I did when I awoke was peek through my bedroom curtains to determine what to put on, regular clothes or my swimsuit. Some days, Daddy would awaken me at 5:30 a.m. when the lake was still as glass and the fog lying lazily on the surface and ask if I wanted to go fishing. I didn’t LOVE fishing, but I soaked up those opportunities to sit in my Dad’s quiet, reassuring presence. We had a rowboat dubbed “Maybe Baby”. She had a slow leak, so we kept a bucket handy at all times. Here's a pic of "Daddy" holding me when I was just a year old:

My parents were devout Christians. When those Wesleyan Methodist Church doors opened, and later Free Methodist, our family of five (I have two older brothers) walked through them, Sunday mornings, evenings, midweek prayer meetings, and annual revivals. Sundays were kept holy, as in, um, no swimming—unless I took a bar of soap with me in which case I was going down to the lake to “take a bath”. (grins) That was acceptable. However, no jumping off the end of the dock or acting rowdy! My folks had some rigid rules when it came to their belief system, I suppose, but they ruled with tremendous grace and mercy. In fact, they loved us kids with amazing tenderness and care. There was always a good deal of joking, teasing, and laughter in our home, lots of it. (I acquired my sense of humor from my dad.)

We had very little in the way of material possessions. After all, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and the country was still suffering through a long, grueling recovery from the Great Depression. But I don’t recall feeling especially deprived, forget that we had an outhouse till I was at least 10—just loved and free and secure. When I was a little kid, Dad worked in a factory then switched to head custodian at a Muskegon elementary school when I was a young teen. While I was in second grade, my mom took a job in the Twin Lake Post Office. I remember feeling so PROUD that MY mom had a “real job” while my friends’ moms didn’t. No insecurity on my part! She was such a loving, generous, fun person; a very strong influence in my life.

Here is a snapshot of Robin's early life, which influences her to this day.

As you will ‘see’, my upbringing was very different from Shar’s. I grew up in Chicago, the daughter of a former bootlegger who, by the time of my birth, owned a respectable nightclub, The Ivanhoe Restaurant. My Christian mother was twenty years his junior. Dad had disguised himself as a Christian man, covering up his swearing, drinking, and womanizing ways for two months while he wooed my mother by taking her to church. As soon as he placed that ring on her finger, though, and vows were spoken, Dad picked up his former ways. I am the middle child of that union.

Born in the late 1800s, my dad was the age of a grandfather. Still, I felt lucky he belonged to me and I to him. He spoiled me terribly with presents, never disciplined me (probably too tired to do so) and gave into me—indulging my every whim while the role of disciplinarian went to my mother. I loved to hear his stories about running away from home at the age of eleven. He worked his way to Texas where he learned to break horses and pick cotton. Traveling further south, he ran into Poncho Villa (honest) and rode with him for a while. He didn’t like what the bandit did, so Dad returned to Texas and joined the Texas Rangers until WWII broke out and he joined the army.

When the war ended, Dad lived with his brother in Chicago and started a tavern at the same time prohibition hit. Not to be deterred from their new adventure, they turned the tavern into a speakeasy and ran bootleg whiskey. After prohibition was repealed, they expanded their business by buying out the stores around them. Soon the small tavern grew into a castle structure fashioned after the one In Robin Hood. My dad and uncle became good friends with Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth (I have home movies) and more sport stars. Meanwhile, I loved playing in the catacombs, messed up the musician’s music sheets on stage, and ate whatever I wanted from the kitchen. I went to sleep each night with stories spinning around inside my head.

Here is a photo of my parents enjoying a meal at Dad's restaurant:

The ORPHAN TRAIN ERA:Few people realize that 30,000 homeless children roamed the streets of New York City from the mid-1800s through the 1930s. Death and disease were heaped upon poverty and overcrowding, causing thousands of children to be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Adding to the malaise, boatloads of European immigrants flooded our shores and soon succumbed to the same adversities, leaving thousands of their children parentless. Accounts have been written of the Orphan Train that carried white-skinned children into the heartland of America to find new families. For some it was a gift; for others it ended with tragedy. Many children were loved and cherished while others suffered at the hands of cruel caretakers and were little more than slaves or servants.

Maggie Rose

The year is 1904, and Maggie Rose, the spunky, friendly, twenty-year-old middle daughter of Michigan resident Jacob Kane, feels compelled to leave her beloved hometown of Sandy Shores to pursue what she feels in her heart are God's plans for her life-in New York City. Maggie Rose adjusts to her new life at Sheltering Arms Refuge, an orphanage that also transports homeless children to towns across the United States to match them with compatible families. Most of the children have painful pasts that make Maggie aghast, but she marvels at their resiliency. As she gets to know each child, her heart blossoms with new depths of love and compassion. When a newspaper reporter comes to stay at the orphanage in order to gather research for an article, Maggie is struck by his handsome face…and concerned by his lack of faith. She can't deny their mutual affections, though. Will she win the struggle to maintain her focus on God and remain attuned to His guidance?

Ruby Red

Ruby Redis a fictionalized tale of a true event. Homeless children roamed the streets of New York City from the late 1800s through the 1930s. Death and disease were heaped upon poverty and overcrowding, causing thousands of children to be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Dark-skinned 11-year-old Ruby is taken in as a maid. Believing life holds more for her than washing clothes, she makes a risky move by faking insanity. After being expelled from the household, Ruby sneaks onto the Orphan Train. With her best friend, a cockroach named Red, housed in a canning jar, Ruby searches for a place to call home and runs into adventure and heartbreak. Both an enigma and a young teen, she is the perfect reflection of how life once was in America. Ruby embodies goodness and simplicity of truth; a rare gem which bespeaks her name. Softened a bit through suffering, she refuses to be hardened and keeps believing that the world holds a special place for her.

Thanks so much for the pleasure of your company. PLEASE be SURE to leave a comment on either/both of our blogs for a chance to win our books!

Check out Robin's blogspot HERE!



Wendy said...

I enjoy the orphan train books. These look good.

Linda said...

I would love to win these books. I'm interested in the Orphan Train. Heard about it, but don't know much about it. I'm sure it took a lot of research. Thanks. Please enter me.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I would really love these! It would be something different for me to read about!

lotus82 said...

Hi Sharlene. I absolutely love that you and Robin met up and realized you had written books about the same era. I am almost done with my copy of "Ruby Red." I am so in love with Ruby. I don't want the story to end. I love reading about those historical times, and just to think of that many homeless children is tear-jerking ( I have five kids, myself.)

I cannot wait to read you book, "Orphan Train." While I was reading about you, I laughed. I grew up in Hart. And my children and I just moved to Massachusets about three months ago, from Muskegon. Wow. what a childhood you had.


Robin Shope said...

Feeling so blessed to read your comments. Lotus I am thrilled you connected with Ruby. I have carried her in my heart for many years and am thankful sparklesoup saw the jewel.

SHARLENE said...

Hi, everybody! It's great fun to share this interview with Robin. So nice to read your comments and "hear" the enthusiasm in your words.

Many blessings to you, and may you enjoy a fabulous, warm, and sunny week!

Love and Hugs...

Debbie Howell said...

I just read the joint interview of Sharlene and Robin. I've read Robin's Book, "Ruby Red" and now I just have to read Sharlene's book! I faintly remember hearing about the "orphan" trains but never really thought about it. Ruby Red really sparked an interest in them. I hope to win the book! lol. God Bless you!

authorkathyeberly said...

Sounds very interesting! As always, would love to win a book!

authorkathyeberly said...

I enjoyed the interview! I know I would enjoy reading these books!

Lynn said...

I am looking forward to reading these books! Please enter me:

Christine said...

It was so enjoyable to read this compilation by you and Robin. I would love to win both copies and read from two different viewpoints. Thank You!

Pauline said...

Two interesting ladies with what sounds like two interesting books that I want to read. Here's hoping my name get's picked out of the hat this time.

kat said...

Oooooh, great drawing :) and great authors!!

Amanda Stephan said...

Both these sound very interesting, and I'd love to win them. Thanks for the opportunity!

Anonymous said...

pick me! pick me! pick me!!!! :-)

shelly buck

Mrs Tina said...

Both of these books sound like they will be great... please enter me into the contest...blessings, Tina

Jody Smith said...

I did not know that you grew up in Twin did I!!

Hope I win!

SHARLENE said...

Jodi, where do you live now? You said you grew up in Twin Lake. Let's hear it for Twin Lake, MICHIGAN!!!!

Hey, all you BEAUTIFUL people, thanks so much for checking out Robin's and my interview and then leaving your comments.

I will announce the winners from my website Monday, and Robin will announce the winners from her website, too, so if you signed up at both places be sure to check out her site on Monday too.

God bless, and have a wonderful weekend!

Jody Smith said...


I now live in Ravenna and you had my daughter (Samantha) as a student. What a small world!

Marilyn Thomas said...

Spring Arbor College. Shar, John and I are visiting his brother, Phil and while reminiscing, thought of you and Cecil. I did a little research and voila, here you are..a famous author! We are both well and I am excited to read your books. Phil was a good friend of Cecil, so please tell him, Phil Thomas says HI! Marilyn (Long) Thomas and John Thomas. SAC'72

SHARLENE said...

Marilyn, if you happen to read this please send me an email so we can connect. I know Cec will be excited to hear about his friend Phil Thomas.

My email address is as follows:


Hope to hear from you soon!