A Whidbey writer who specializes in Pacific Northwest historical fiction will hold her first author event at Kingfisher Bookstore next month.
Victoria Shea, a Coupeville resident and retired teacher, will be at Kingfisher at 5 p.m. Feb. 3 to discuss her new self-published second novel, “Brick, Lime and Moonshine,” as well as her previous work.
Part romantic historical novel, part family history and part memoir, “Brick, Lime and Moonshine” takes place in the overlap of the prohibition era and the Great Depression at Shea’s own family cabin on Loon Lake near Spokane.
In researching the cabin’s and her family’s history, Shea discovered that the cabin where she spent her childhood summers was built by a group of friends as a private drinking house. Ferries on Lake Loon would shepherd revelers between dance halls and drinking houses during prohibition.
She also discovered that while her grandfather was a bootlegging moonshiner, her grandmother was active in the temperance movement.
The story includes threads of Shea’s own family history while telling a fictionalized story of the group of friends who built the lake cabin. Memoir chapters of Shea’s own memories from the cabin are interspersed throughout the book.
“Brick, Lime and Moonshine” was released in November of last year to great reviews. Like Shea’s first book, “Shagoon,” it received a five-star rating from Readers’ Favorite, a book review organization. The book also received positive feedback from readers, many of whom said the heart-warming story reminded them of their own families, Shea said.
The author said that what differentiates this book from other novels set during the Depression is its tone. While many Depression stories center on the devastation of poverty, the slog for survival or the battle for workers’ rights, Shea’s book tells another side of the story — the excitement of rum-running, the fun of the flapper era and the perseverance of a community that banded together during the financial crisis.
“It was hard times, but not negative times,” Shea said.
Though Shea has long been interested in writing, she began pursuing the dream in earnest relatively recently. She retired from a 40-year teaching career shortly before moving to Coupeville with her husband seven years ago.
She taught in Sequim for 15 years and Maui for one year before spending 20 years teaching in her native Spokane. Shea taught a broad range of subjects and grade levels, everything from business, to math, to English, to elementary school. What she most enjoyed, she said, was helping diagnose kids who struggled to read and helping them develop literacy skills.
During the last 10 years of her teaching career, she wrote online courses for teachers based on the latest educational publications. She said the research and writing process translated well to her new path as an author.
“Going into historical fiction wasn’t a big leap at all,” she said.
Though she would “write like crazy” during the summers, she said, teaching kept her too busy to delve into it properly until she retired to Coupeville with her husband.
Her first novel, “Shagoon,” came out in 2020. The story follows Ana, an Alaskan Tlingit girl who is secretly sold and raised in a Spanish California mission and eventually embarks on a journey aboard the Discovery with the likes of Captain George Vancouver and Joseph Whidbey.
Shea said she wanted to write a story that showcased the richness of indigenous American cultures before European settlement. Many stories about Native Americans focus on post-colonization horrors such as separation from families and forcible attendance at schools meant to assimilate them to the settlers’ culture, she said, while stories about thriving and complex indigenous societies and cultures as they existed prior to the arrival of Europeans are less common.
Both of Shea’s novels are self-published. She is currently researching for her third book, which will take place on Central Whidbey during the Ebey era. Shea said she is aiming for a late 2024 publication date.
For now, researching and writing take up much of her time. She said she spends five to six hours a day working on her books, but as someone who likes to keep busy, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Writing is like going on vacation to me — I’m completely somewhere else in a different time,” she said. “I love it. I’m totally addicted to it.”
Shea’s event at Kingfisher Bookstore is free, but space is limited, so those attending are required to RSVP by calling the bookstore at 360-678-8463. Wine and small bites will be provided by Front Street Grill.