Gabrielle Meyer has worked for state and local historical societies and loves writing fiction inspired by real people, places, and events. She currently resides along the banks of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota with her husband and four children. By day, she’s a busy homeschool mom, and by night she pens fiction and nonfiction filled with hope.
In this interview, she discusses When the Day Comes, the first book in her new Timeless Series.
FF: Can you give us a brief summary of your novel, When the Day Comes?
Elizabeth Conant Wells is born with a unique gift: to live two lives simultaneously. When she goes to sleep in one, she wakes up in the other, without any time passing. In 1774, she’s Libby Conant, one of the first female public printers in Virginia. She’s helping the Patriots and providing for her family. The man she loves, Henry Montgomery, has secrets of his own.
In 1914, she is Anna Elizabeth Wells, the daughter of a successful shipping magnate. Her family is “new money,” and her mother wants to marry her off to an English marquess to gain a title and prestige on the eve of WWI—but Libby would rather continue her work for women’s suffrage in America. On her twenty-first birthday, she must choose which life to keep and which to give up. But how does one choose to forfeit a life?
FF: Your main character, Libby, lives in two separate eras, Colonial Williamsburg and 1914 New York. Which would you rather live in?
I love both time periods, so it would be difficult to choose. Several of my ancestors arrived in America between 1607 and 1640, so I feel firmly planted in that era. I also love Colonial Williamsburg. Each time I visit, I feel at home walking the streets, visiting the shops, and interacting with the interpreters. With that said, the modern conveniences and advancements in 1914 might win me over in the end. Telephones, automobiles, movies, and indoor plumbing sound a lot more pleasant than colonial life.
FF: How did you choose the two time periods Libby travels between?
From the moment the idea came to me, I knew Libby would live in Colonial Williamsburg in 1774. I had recently visited there, and it captivated my imagination. As I considered other time periods for her second life, I wanted one that contrasted in a unique way. I had watched a documentary on the American Dollar Princesses, hosted by Elizabeth McGovern, who played Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, English lords needed to save their crumbling estates, and “new money” Americans were looking to break into the upper echelons of society. They did this by marrying their daughters off to aristocrats to gain titles.
It’s estimated that over two hundred American heiresses married into the British aristocracy, bringing with them over twenty-five billion dollars in dowry. As Libby is fighting to gain independence from England in 1774, her mother is trying to force her back into the English aristocracy in 1914. I love how these periods contrast.
FF: Do you have a favorite historical time period?
It would probably be post-Civil War, between 1870 and 1917, when we entered WWI. This time period in American history is full of innovation, advancement, and technological breakthroughs. There were no major wars, and social reform changed the way we lived, worked, and played. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live then! It was during this era that the middle class developed and traveling for pleasure became a common practice. Ma-and-pa resorts popped up all over the place, and most Americans could afford to have some fun.
FF: What inspired Libby’s unusual form of time travel?
I’ve always been a fan of time-travel books and movies, but one of the things that most of them have in common is that the protagonist falls into another time period and struggles to get back to their “normal” life. As I was thinking about this one day, a thought came to me: what if the person’s “normal” life was both time periods? What if they fell asleep and woke up in their other life, going back and forth each day? Instead of struggling to get back to “normal,” what if they had to choose between two equally fulfilling lives?
The moment I began to think about it, my imagination went wild with possibilities. There were so many ideas, I knew I couldn’t write just one book. The next two books in the series are about Libby’s descendants, who face their own unique set of challenges.
FF: What type of research was required to fully depict each time period?
As a student of history and an employee of several historical societies, I already had a good grasp of the history of both time periods. However, it required a lot more in-depth research. I watched several documentaries, purchased and borrowed stacks of books, and scoured the internet for articles about each era. I wrote When the Day Comes during the height of the pandemic lockdown, and one of the blessings that came from that was the live-streaming events Colonial Williamsburg hosted on Facebook! They were priceless gems, and if I caught them live, I could ask questions of the interpreters. For me, researching is just as much fun as writing.
FF: How does each time period impact Libby?
The irony of Libby’s existence is that in 1774, she works hard as a public printer. She is trying to keep her mother out of debtor’s prison and her sister from becoming an indentured servant. Every day is a struggle. In 1914, her family is wealthy, and she leads a tedious existence, with little purpose beyond her work as a suffragette. There are aspects of both time periods that she identifies with, and aspects of both that frustrate her. Her biggest frustration is that in both eras, women are forced to fight for the freedom to choose their own paths.
FF: What do you hope audiences take away from When the Day Comes?
As I wrote When the Day Comes, the theme that continued to play through my mind was the sovereignty of God. When events happen that are out of Libby’s control and she does not understand how anything good can come from them, she is reminded that God is sovereign. His plan is far better than anything she can imagine. We don’t always get to know why things happen, but sometimes God allows us to see His purpose behind our pain. I finished the last couple of chapters of When the Day Comes while I was waiting for the pathology report of a tumor I had removed. While I wrote, God’s sovereignty permeated the pages of the story as well as my own life. He whispered His promises to me through Libby. He is in control, and no matter the report, His plan is perfect. That is what I hope my readers take away from this story. Thankfully, the tumor was benign.
When the Day Comes
Timeless Series #1
Genres: Historical Romance, Time-slip
Release Date: May 3, 2022
How will she choose, knowing all she must sacrifice?
Libby has been given a powerful gift: to live one life in 1774 Colonial Williamsburg and the other in 1914 Gilded Age New York City. When she falls asleep in one life, she wakes up in the other. While she’s the same person at her core in both times, she’s leading two vastly different lives.
In Colonial Williamsburg, Libby is a public printer for the House of Burgesses and the Royal Governor, trying to provide for her family and support the Patriot cause. The man she loves, Henry Montgomery, has his own secrets. As the revolution draws near, both their lives–and any hope of love—are put in jeopardy.
Libby’s life in 1914 New York is filled with wealth, drawing room conversations, and bachelors. But the only work she cares about—women’s suffrage—is discouraged, and her mother is intent on marrying her off to an English marquess. The growing talk of war in Europe only complicates matters.
But Libby knows she’s not destined to live two lives forever. On her twenty-first birthday, she must choose one path and forfeit the other—but how can she choose when she has so much to lose in each life?
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