Interview with Kathleen Shoop & Giveaway of The Strongman and the Mermaid

Happy Friday eve, dear readers! Today on the blog I am super excited to share my interview with Author Kathleen Shoop with you! Kathleen is currently on blog tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Strongman and the Mermaid. It's a fabulous book. If you haven't picked it up yet I highly recommend doing so! You can enter our giveaway for a copy of the book and a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Hello Kathleen! Thank you for stopping by Passages to the Past to talk about The Strongman and the Mermaid!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Thanks, Amy! I’m so honored to be part of the incredible tours you put together. I write historical, women’s fiction and romance and had my first book published in 2011. The book, The Last Letter, was inspired by family letters and was written as a standalone but so many people wanted to know more about the story that I’m now finishing up book four in that series. The Strongman and the Mermaid is part of the Donora Story Collection which is a set of books joined by the town of Donora. There are some characters that stretch across books, but it’s the historic, infamous town (site of the 1948 Killing Smog) that ties everything together.

What inspired you to write The Strongman and the Mermaid?

The Strongman and the Mermaid is book two in the Donora Story Collection and it was inspired by the lives of Stan Musial’s (one of the best baseball players in history) parents. I am working on a novel about Stan’s childhood (Book 3—The Magician) but didn’t feel as though I should write about him before writing about how his parents came to be married.

What research did you undertake when writing The Strongman and the Mermaid?

Lukasz and Mary Lancos Musial first met in 1910 in Donora, PA. Lukasz had arrived in Donora from Poland and started work in the wire mill. Mary worked there as a nail girl. She also had been working as a housekeeper since she was eight, rowing her father across the Mon River to and from work each day, and doing other odd jobs. She was a tall, athletic girl and Lukasz was short but very strong and also shy according to Stan’s autobiography. Mary’s big personality and his shyness apparently attracted them to each other. My research involved reading many of the Stan Musial biographies, autobiography, the archives in Donora about the town and its people at the time, and also Polish immigrant research. All of these threads are interwoven to create characters that are “real” even if I’m putting them in situations that are fictionalized. I worked backwards building Mary and Lukasz’s character’s from how Stan described them in all the available sources. Life in a steel-town in 1910-13 was difficult. Yet I knew there would be happy, optimistic times that these characters would experience. I did a lot of research on ethnic holiday traditions to bring structure and meaning to the plot and character development.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Strongman and the Mermaid?

First, I’d like them to be entertained and love the book and its characters! I’d like them to gain or deepen their sense of life for immigrants during the industrial heyday of America. These people did incredible physical labor and fulfilled their dreams at a time when expectations were simpler and the basics in life were both something to strive for and decadent for people who started with nothing. The history and the love story of Lukasz and Mary are powerful and instructive even though fictionalized and imagined using the research paths mentioned above. I hope I did a good, “true,” rendering of what life might have been like for these two people in this particular place at that time.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I had a lot of fun with the scenes involving the way that Lukasz won his passage to America. I smile every time I think of those scenes. I drew from a lot of Polish and American mythology and those things played a big part in those scenes, too. Lots of fun.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Some of the scenes where Lukasz and Mary were affectionate were hard to write. I wanted to be sure that Lukasz’s “bigness” and strength was conveyed while also conveying that he was shorter than Mary by quite a bit. There’s something so interesting and lovely about two opposites attracting the way they did and portraying that so it was believable was hard for me. Again, I hope I achieved that in a way that makes the reader love it, love them.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Probably in high school. But I was a voracious reader from the beginning and so the seeds were sewn early. My father wrote every day of his life (in addition to his job) so that influenced me seeing the power of words as well. Everyone in my house had their nose buried in books and that really made me love the idea of creating books for others.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Making the decision to publish all my books on my own was a huge challenge, but the freedom that came with the decision has far outweighed the negatives. It’s a challenge still, in that many historical fiction readers are the ones in the bookstores and online less than romance readers, so I feel like I’m missing a bit of the audience I’m aiming for. But It feels good to have control over the stories I tell and with the right people in place to edit, proof, cover design, promote and market, I feel I made the right decision and I see the results over and over again.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Sarah Gruen, Kate Morton, Elizabeth Strout, Geraldine Brooks, Julianna Baggott and so many more!

What was the first historical novel you read?

Gone with the Wind as a kid!

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I love that with historical fiction, everything comes across as unique and new even though I’m reaching back in history to write the story!

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m working on The Thief’s Heart (Book 4 The Letter Series), The Magician (Book 3 Donora Story Collection), Hint of Organza (Book 2 Bridal Shop Series), Cul-de-Sacked Series (Women’s fiction serial release coming soon!) and Tiny Historical Stories –little wisps of stories to give away to readers and also sell for a very discounted price so I get content to readers faster than with full length historical fiction!

Woah, you are a busy writer! I'm excited for ALL of them! Thank you for stopping by today!

The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop

Publication Date: February 28, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 573 Pages

Series: The Donora Story Collection (Book 2)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Saga

Myscowa, Poland—1910
Once upon a time in tiny, rural Myscowa, Lukasz Musial competes in feats of strength against his lifelong nemesis to win passage to America. He leaves behind grinding poverty and despair, to seek the clear blue skies, and better life he sees on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill, and is matched to marry Donora’s very own Polish princess. Life is set on course. The American Dream is nearly his.

Donora, Pennsylvania—1910
Mary Lancos is no princess. A tall, athletic girl who loves the water, she spends her days keeping house for families in town, digging coal out of a backyard seam and rowing her father across the Monongahela River for work. Mary is dependable, tenacious, and always ready to help when someone needs her. She dreams of a gas-heated home, a bedroom for each of her future children, and good meals on the table each night. To help make that happen Mary attends local dances, waiting for the few men who are taller than her to ask her to dance, hoping one of them is right for her.

An unexpected Christmas Eve visitor brings bad luck, and Lukasz’s world crumbles. Meanwhile, tension grows at the Lancos home when money is short and Mary’s dreams clash with her parents’ old world expectations. Just when Mary and Lukasz are at their lowest, they find themselves under an odd pink moonlit sky and Lukasz rescues Mary from a fall into frigid river water. The attraction between them is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, and increased pressure on Lukasz, they must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.

Available on Amazon


Kathleen Shoop has bejeweled this book with her magnificent imagination and impeccable writing. The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a romance that goes beyond looks and settles deep into the souls of readers. Every so often, a love story comes that your heart can't let go. One of those love stories, for me, has been Mr. Darcy and Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. Now Mary and Lukasz in The Strongman and the Mermaid will stay with me for a long time to come. –Ankita Shukla for Readers’ Favorite

The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a gorgeous story, a gripping romance with a strong setting. The plot structure is unusual and it has beautiful twists. I love stories with great characters and a well-developed conflict and I always want to see characters evolve through the conflict. It is something that this author does impeccably well. The narrative is emotionally rich…The writing is cinematic, punctuated by exciting dialogue. The Strongman and the Mermaid will keep you awake through the night. –Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite

I was hooked from the very start...The Strong Man and the Mermaid is skillfully plotted and written in beautiful prose. The reader is pulled into a fairytale-like world with strong and memorable characters. The love adventure between Mary and Lukasz is one of the key elements that add to the entertaining potential of this narrative. Kathleen Shoop keeps it real and human, succeeding in creating an emotional connection between the reader and the characters.—Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite

About the Author

Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 1
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 2
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Feature at Comet Readings

Friday, May 3
Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Saturday, May 4
Feature at Book Addict Rambles

Tuesday, May 7
Excerpt at To Read, or Not to Read
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 8
Feature at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, May 10
Review at View from the Birdhouse
Feature at What Is That Book About
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Monday, May 13
Review at Orange County Readers

Tuesday, May 14
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, May 15
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, May 16
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 20
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, May 21
Review at Macsbooks

Wednesday, May 22
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Peaceful Pastime
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at My Reading Chronicles


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of The Strongman and the Mermaid and a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Strongman and Mermaid

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for developing such a wonderful tour for The Strongman and the Mermaid and for having me here to talk about the book and more!!


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