In this multi-point-of-view "rags to riches" story, the reader meets a young boy, nicknamed Blue, who in 1929 is left in charge of his younger brother, Bo. Blue is devastated when they are separated and he promises that he'll find Bo. This obsession drives Blue (who later goes by his initials, JT) for fifty years.
Living on the streets of New York City, JT gets a lucky break and is taken in by a storekeeper, Mr. O. The kindly man realizes that JT is smart and responsible and gradually gives him more and more responsibility. At the height of the depression a rich man, Mr. Trasinski, comes to the store wanting to sell apples. JT makes a deal with him that saves Mr. Trasinski and his family--something Mr. Trasinski never forgets.
Fast forward two decades, and JT is like Mr. Trasinski's son, working hard for his land development company. Although JT marries Mr. Trasinski's beautiful daughter, Adrianna, his marriage and the subsequent birth of their son, Jake, is marred by JT's incessant search for Bo. Even his business trips become excuses to find his brother. When he realizes that Bo was taken west on the Orphan Train, JT hopes his search is almost over. It's not until JT risks losing Jake that he realizes the mistakes he made always putting Bo, his "phantom brother" before the people he truly loved.
Two unexpected twists at the end bring the story to a satisfactory close. This well-researched family saga is full of love, the price of success, grief, and regret.
CAROL: What drew you to the story of the Orphan Train?
SANDRA: The idea that children, most homeless but not all, could be taken from the streets, put on trains and shipped across country, lined up on a stage and given away, auction style, to couples who asked for them, surprised and horrified me. Even though the concept was developed with good intentions, all I could think of were the pitfalls. When I learned siblings were often separated, the story of Blue and Bo began to unfold.
CAROL: How did you research and for how long?
SANDRA: My introduction to the Orphan Train was back in the late 1990’s. The Internet was in its infant stage of development when I began writing the screenplay so I had to rely on the resources listed in a book I found. My research revolved around the basic facts and a few personal accounts as well as information about the era between 1929 and 1979. Twenty-two years later, when the novel finally came together, the Internet was immensely helpful in fine tuning time and place aspects of the story.
CAROL: Why did you choose different POV?
SANDRA: The story was first written and optioned as a screenplay. Having developed it as such, each character had motivations, flaws, and purpose. It seemed a natural progression to write the novel from different points of view. For me, it was the easiest way to weave the basic facts into the story, allowing each character’s side of the issue to come forward.
CAROL: What were your challenges writing in this manner?
SANDRA: Each character had to appear and behave in a manner different from the others, yet consistent with their role in the story. Having it first written as a screenplay helped tremendously.
CAROL: Who is your readership?
SANDRA: The screenplay was written with adults in mind. However, I’ve had two agents tell me it fit the young adult (YA) genre and what is now called a crossover book.
CAROL: As a self-published author, how are you marketing the book?
SANDRA: The trick is to be creative in getting the word out.
- Social Media; Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, my website, podcasts, radio interviews, etc.
- Collaboration with other authors.
- Personal appearances: exhibits, holiday markets, artists galleries, bookstores, festivals. I use personal appearances to get the word out about my presentations.
- Presentations: schools and local organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Historical Societies, Veterans groups, Newcomers, festivals, church groups, etc.
- Offering workshops and classes.
- Revising the screenplay and pursue options again. Obviously, selling the screenplay will lead to many book sales.
ONE LAST WORD FROM SANDRA: Writing Obsessed By A Promise made my respect for novelists grow immensely. Previously, the longest books I’d written were non-fiction and military memoirs where I gathered the facts and make them readable. It was super challenging to have to create the scene, give it a sense of time and place without appearing to do so, as well as develop characters that can tell the story I wanted told.