Interview & Giveaway: Iron & Fire by Kerrin Willis

Today on the blog I am super excited to be hosting Kerrin Willis! She is currently touring for Iron & Fire and stopped by today to talk about it with us! I hope you enjoy the chat & be sure to enter the giveaway!

Hello Kerrin and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Iron & Fire!

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

Absolutely! I’m a self-proclaimed book nerd, single mom, and English teacher from southeastern Massachusetts.

What inspired you to write Iron & Fire?

I’m not sure if I was inspired to write Iron & Fire, or if the main character just showed up in my head one night and demanded to tell her story. I think it was a little bit of both. When I was in graduate school, back in 2004, I read Mary Rowlandon’s captivity narrative, which was the first bestselling book in the American colonies. It’s a first person account of Rowlandson’s experience being taken captive by the Native Americans after a raid on her home in Lancaster, Massachusetts during King Philip’s War. I was appalled that I knew nothing about King Philip’s war, even though it took place in the area where I had lived my whole life. So I started doing a little bit of research here and there, and thinking, “this would be a great backdrop for a novel.” Then in 2019, Verity Parker popped into my head, nearly fully formed, and she just took over from there. 

What research did you undertake when writing Iron & Fire?

I love finding out obscure facts about history, facts about people’s everyday lives, and then incorporating those details into my writing. I did a ton of research for Iron & Fire – I used the library a fair amount, and I found some obscure books on and in used bookstores on Cape Cod and in Newport, Rhode Island. I’m currently working on my MFA, so that gives me access to the research databases in the SNHU library, which were extremely helpful. I think my favorite part of research though was learning about 17th century food and cooking. I attended an open hearth cooking class at the Lafayette-Durfee house in Fall River, MA, and I was able to come away with some great details about how to cook in a dutch oven by covering it in hot coals. I learned about baking bread in a colonial oven (if it’s hot enough that it’s painful to stick your arm in the oven, it’s ready. If the hair on your arm catches fire, it’s too hot), drying apples to make them last through the winter, and about cheesemaking. There was even a special kind of beer that was made specifically for women in labor, aptly named “groaning beer”, and it was thought to give the mother strength.

What would you like readers to take away from reading Iron & Fire?

I’d like people to see themselves in Iron & Fire. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that people in the past were somehow different from us because their world was different. However, people themselves have changed very little over the years. I try to write characters that readers can recognize and relate to. People in the past may have worn different pants, but they still put them on one leg at a time. The Puritans believed in a world that was very black and white / good and bad / right and wrong. That’s almost never the case, and in reality, things are much more nuanced.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I love writing arguments. Verity and Kit are both so bright, and they challenge one another intellectually. I love writing any scene where they argue, because they both dig their heels in and try to out-logic one another.

That’s just fun to write.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Any scene in the novel where Verity talks about her father was tough for me to write. Her father is very similar to my own dad, who died in 2017. It was both painful and cathartic to write about Verity’s relationship with her dad, how he had made her the person she is, and how alone she feels without him.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. My parents report that I was making up imaginary people and scenarios when I was a toddler, and I began hoarding notebooks and writing stories in elementary school. I don’t think that a writer is something that you strive to be; it’s something that you are. I’m always looking for stories, playing with words and phrases, and listening to conversations in my head.

Are you a plantser or a plotter?

I’m a planster. I usually start with an outline, but then my characters don’t want to do what they’re supposed to, so I tend to veer off the path and follow them to see where they’re leading me. Then I revise the outline.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

My writing process is a bit of a disaster because I never have any time. I’m a single parent of two very busy little girls, as well as a full time high school English teacher. Basically, I try to write whenever I have a few minutes of free time. I’m answering these questions while my eight year old is in occupational therapy and I’m in the waiting room! I have a cloud based writing software that I use so that I can open any device and jot down a few words and ideas whenever I can. Iron & Fire was written in the bleachers at gymnastics practice, in my car in the school pickup line, during my lunch breaks, in the middle of the night, and in line at the grocery store. I did get the chance to attend a writer’s residency program in Tennessee in the summer of 2021 to edit the novel, but for the most part it was written in whatever small increments of time I could find.

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

My biggest issue is time. I’m a teacher, which isn’t the easiest job in the world, and I’m a single mom. It’s difficult to get into the mindset of a 17th century iron worker who is about to go into battle when Bubble Guppies is blaring on the TV, someone is crying because her sister got more chicken nuggets than she did, and emails keep coming in from students asking when their Romeo and Juliet essays are going to be graded. I don’t really feel like I’ve overcome it — more like I’ve worked through it.

Who are your writing inspirations?

In terms of the cannon, I’m inspired by Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. Austen is just a genius who writes women who know their own minds and refuse to be told what to do. Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has impacted and inspired me more than any other book I’ve read. In wondering why there were so few women writers before the 18th century, and almost none of the working class until the 20th century, Wolfe assumes that women writers “must have existed among the working classes. …when one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs….we are on the track of a lost novelist.” (Woolf) Women like Verity Parker, who questions authority and is unable to simply keep her thoughts to herself, have existed throughout history. I needed to give her form for all the women before me who couldn’t.

If your book were made into a movie, who would your dream cast be?

Easy: Kit - Kit Harrington Verity - Emilia Clarke (I started writing as I was watching the last season of GoT)

What was the first historical novel you read?

I devoured all of the original American girl novels as a kid!

What is the last historical novel you read?

The Goodwife of Bath by Karen Brooks

What are three things people may not know about you?

I can’t stand it when my food touches on my plate, I love the beach but I can’t go into the water if I can’t see my feet, and I named both of my children and my dog after Pride and Prejudice.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

As a woman, there weren’t many people I could look up to in history – no presidents, very few Queens, few scientists, inventors, etc. Most history books are filled with the accomplishments of men. Historical fiction, on the other hand, is filled with stories of women who are, in a word, badass. I’ve learned from that, and now I’m thrilled to contribute to it in some small way.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I wouldn’t say I’m drawn to one particular period, although oddly I’m drawn to stories that take place in other countries.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I’m a mom. I like hiding in the bathroom closet eating cookies, taking naps, and listening to audiobooks while I make dinner or drive to work.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

Right now I’m working on a dual timeline novel that takes place in Massachusetts both in the present and during WWII. It has to do with the Italian soldiers who were captured as POWs, and then held at Camp Myles Standish until the end of the war. I hope to finish that by the end of the summer.

That sounds fascinating! I look forward to reading that! Thank you for stopping by today!

Iron & Fire by Kerrin Willis

Publication Date: April 5, 2022
eBook & Paperback; 316 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

1675 -- Plymouth Colony -- Verity Parker promised to look after her family.

Raised among the bookshops and turmoil of Reformation London, Verity now finds herself in Puritan New England, where she must learn to keep her head down and her mouth shut, or risk dire consequences. The only person who values her tenacity is Kit, the heretical ironworker she has been forbidden to see. When King Philip’s War breaks out, Verity must stay silent as the Puritan elders spread hateful rhetoric about the “savages” in the forest. When she witnesses a young girl die in childbirth, Verity must stand by as neighbors blame God’s vengeance. But when tragedy strikes her own home, Verity must choose between her duty to her family and her love for Kit. Will she choose to keep the peace, or will she defy the leaders of the colony for a chance at happiness?

Set against the backdrop of King Philip’s War, the bloodiest war per capita in American history, Iron & Fire explores the experience of a clever, educated woman at a time when being so often resulted in death. Perfect for fans of Amy Belding Brown’s Flight of the Sparrow, or Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Iron & Fire was written for those who read the original American Girl series as children and are now all grown up.

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"Whether you're a fan of passionate romance, a detective in search of a mystery, or a history buff looking to learn more about what happened after Plymouth Rock, Iron & Fire has something for everyone. While Verity and Kit are the main attractions, the family relationships were my favorite parts- especially the bonds between the cheeky eldest Parker sisters. I learned quite a bit about things from my own backyard I knew nothing about- and most appreciated that for a novel that took place nearly 350 years ago, the characters and their issues felt modern and relatable. A fast read that will stick with you after you turn the final page!" Meredith Bickford, MA MEd

"Iron and Fire masterfully depicts Puritan New England in a story that seamlessly blends themes of love, war, and family. Verity Parker, the headstrong protagonist, challenges nearly every "norm" of Puritan society. Throughout the course of the novel, Verity seeks to define her purpose; oftentimes she is trapped deciding between meeting the expectations of her family or embracing her divergent worldview. In particular, Verity's conception of humanity will make her an endearing and relatable character for Willis' audience; unlike her peers, Verity's notion of justice and community extends far beyond societal limitations, making her worldview far more relevant for modern readers.

Beyond Verity, Willis incorporates a series of complex characters whose subtle growth help shape the novel into a well-rounded story. Each character faces a conflict that calls their identities and beliefs into question. It is unlikely that readers will not be able to find one character with whom they can relate to. Willis' ability to interweave these intricate story lines is captivating!" ~ Megan Johnson, MEd

"In her debut novel, Kerrin Willis captures the heart of American colonial historical fiction with her words and characters. Iron & Fire, set during the King Phillip War in southeastern Massachusetts, explores the themes of family dynamics, love, and the voice of independent women living in a time when silence was the standard....The writing style is fluent and peppered with wit and descriptive prose balanced throughout the dialogue. The novel reads quickly, while the characters stay with you. Iron & Fire is an engaging, character-driven novel that is strongly recommended" ~Kimberly Rocha, MA MEd

About The Author


Kerrin Willis lives in Southeastern Massachusetts with her two daughters and her dog, Austen. She is a high school English teacher who prides herself on being a feminist and a strong protagonist in her own story, and she would probably have been burned as a witch in colonial New England. Kerrin can usually be found pausing The Little Mermaid and subjecting her daughters to a lecture on the dangers of giving up their voices.

Kerrin has a BA in English from Stonehill College, and MA in English from Simmons College, and is currently working on her MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 5
Review at Michelle the PA Loves to Read

Wednesday, April 6
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 7
Review at Amanda in PA

Friday, April 8
Review at The Page Ladies

Sunday, April 10
Review at Coffee and Ink

Monday, April 11
Review at Booking With Janelle

Tuesday, April 12
Excerpt at Novels Alive
Excerpt at Books & Benches

Wednesday, April 13
Review at Dive Into a Good Book

Friday, April 15
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, April 18
Review at Bookworlder

Wednesday, April 20
Review on Novels Alive

Thursday, April 21
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks

Friday, April 22
Interview at Jathan & Heather
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary


Enter to win a copy of Iron & Fire by Kerrin Willis!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on April 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Iron & Fire

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