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The DA3 Interview & Giveaway: Foster Care

Three diverse books sharing one common thread: that’s the idea behind the DA³ Interview. All of today’s books include characters who are, or have been, part of the foster care system. First, meet the books:

DA3 Foster Care

Picture This is Jacqueline Sheehan’s follow-up to her best-selling women’s fic Lost & Found.

The foster child in this story is seeking her biological father, whom she believes is the late husband of main character Rocky Pelligrino. Healing from her loss, and in the midst of making a new life without her husband, Rocky is now faced with a mystery that could keep her tied to the past.

Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits is a debut YA. Noah is willing to make any sacrifice to reunite what’s left of his family, but what he really needs is trust. Unfortunately, that’s in short supply because the system that was supposed to protect him let him down. Classmate Echo has been betrayed, too, by her family and her own memory, so when these two have to rely on each other, some thick walls have to come down first.

In A Home for Hannah, by Patricia Davids, an ailing mother brings Miriam Kauffman back to the Amish community she left behind years ago.

She thinks she’s doing rather well at suppressing the pain and resentment that caused her to leave in the first place, but then a baby is abandoned on her doorstep.

The protagonist’s six word memoir:

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: One man, one dog, and me.

KATIE MCGARRY: Echo: Scars on arms and lost memory. Noah: Scars on heart and lost parents.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: Amazing how a baby changes everything.


 The heroine is…

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: …a psychologist who takes a leave of absence from her job to become an Animal Control Warden.

KATIE MCGARRY: …a brilliant artist, a student, and before the accident she used to be on the dance team.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: …an ex-Amish woman [and] a critical care nurse who fosters Amish teenage runaways.


What readers will love about the hero:

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: I hope that readers will love Rocky’s willingness to make a complete idiot of herself in certain circumstances. She is quite impulsive and makes more than a few mistakes socially. It was completely fun to write about this aspect of an otherwise controlled psychologist.

KATIE MCGARRY: Noah is extremely loyal and unconditionally loves his younger brothers.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: Sheriff Nick Bradley is a hunky, cop with a darling sense of humor.


The first kiss happens… 

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: …in a driveway.

KATIE MCGARRY: …in front of the fountain dedicated to Noah’s deceased parents.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: …in the hospital waiting room.


A scene you vividly remember writing…

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: I can’t tell you about the scene that I remember most vividly, because it would be a plot spoiler. But I remember all of the scenes where Rocky is shooting her bow. I step into her body, see the target, feel her/my arm pull the bow back, and release. I feel her frustration when she misses the target, and her burning muscles when she has practiced for hours.

KATIE MCGARRY: The cemetery scene between Echo and Noah. There is a paragraph in that scene that discusses scar tissue on one’s soul. To me, that moment between those two characters is the heart of the novel.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: A Home for Hannah was written a few months after my husband passed away from a brain tumor. I was at the cemetery one day when I noticed some small mementos left on other graves nearby. I went home and wrote the scene where Miriam finally goes to her brother’s grave. (He was killed in a high-speed chase after he stole a car. Nick was the officer pursuing him and she blamed Nick for her brother’s death.) As Miriam kneels beside her brother’s tombstone, she notices small silver foil stars, some new, some weathered, in the grass around the stone. Nick has quit smoking, but he chews gum. Each time he opens a stick, he folds the foil into a star and puts it in his pocket. Miriam is confronted with proof that Nick mourns her brother, too, and has been to the grave numerous times–something she has never found the courage to do.


About the foster child characters…

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: One of the main characters in the book, Natalie, had lived in foster care for about 14 years. We gradually learn more and more about her background, the death of her mother, and the toll that early trauma took on her. But should we believe everything that Natalie tells us about her foster families?

KATIE MCGARRY:  Noah and his younger brothers entered the foster care system when their parents died in a house fire. Through these characters, the reader sees the extremes of the system, highlighting both the good and the bad. Noah’s experiences in the system positively and negatively reshape his personality several times throughout his life.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: Miriam hears a disturbance outside mother’s farmhouse late one night. She thinks another Amish teenager is seeking her help to leave the community, but she finds a baby on the doorstep, instead, and sees a buggy driving away. Miriam’s mother has remained Amish. She believes the unknown Amish mother will return for her child and insists that they keep the child until she does. Miriam, as a nurse, has a duty to report the baby as abandoned.

Ohio is a state that has a “Safe Haven” law. If a child under one month of age is left at a hospital, a fire station or with the police, no crime is committed and the parents have relinquished all rights. The child is placed in foster care and can be adopted immediately. If a mother leaves her baby anywhere else, its child abandonment and a crime, hence Miriam and Nick’s dilemma. Does leaving a baby with a nurse constitute a Safe Haven act or not? The nearest hospital is almost 30 miles away, a very long trip in a buggy. To make matters worse, an unsigned note says the mother will be back for her child, but it isn’t safe for her to keep the baby with her now. It it’s a Safe Haven act, legally the sheriff can’t try to find the mother. If it’s not a Safe Haven act, he can search for her but when he finds her he will have to charge her with a crime.


Whether it’s from the news or personal experience, I think everyone knows stories of adoption and foster care that range from inspiring to horrifying. What would you say most influenced how you depicted foster care in your story?

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: The main influence for me was working with college students. I was a psychologist at college counseling centers for nearly twenty years and worked with students who had miraculously emerged from foster care into college. The first time that I met a freshman student who told me that she didn’t know where to go over Thanksgiving break, I was baffled. The residence halls closed during Thanksgiving. She told me that because she was 18, she no longer qualified for foster care and she simply had no place to go. It was a defining moment for me. I helped her contact the advisor for international students and they swept her up into their group, but I was humbled by her sheer grit and determination. Since then, I learned that some foster homes were wonderful, some were adequate, and some were awful.

KATIE MCGARRYPushing the Limits was influenced by both the inspiring and the horrifying aspects of the system. Unfortunately, there are cracks in the system whether the cracks are caused by neglect or not enough funding or staffing. Regardless of the reason, children can suffer.

While that can be true, there are those who work with or in the system that are one thousand percent devoted to their job and to the children they serve. They become a beacon of light to children wrapped up in darkness.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: I tried to give foster care a positive spin in my story. The baby is placed in foster care, but the social worker is sympathetic and hopes to reunite the baby with her biological mother. The heroine has fostered runaway teens and understands the struggles they face.


How would one of your characters define “home” or “family”?

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: Rocky is in the midst of defining family and home. Her young husband dies suddenly in Lost & Found, so she must re-define everything that she knows about home. In Picture This, she would probably say that family is a combination of those people who you are biologically related to, and those who you find along the way. She would include Cooper the dog in her family.

KATIE MCGARRY: Originally, Echo and Noah would have defined home/family as being with those they are blood-related to. As the story progresses, they both come to define home/family as being with those who love and understand them, regardless of blood.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: For the Amish, only God is more important than family. Because Miriam rejected the faith she grew up with, she was shunned. She misses that sense of having an extended and close-knit family support system. Nick and Hannah bring that sense of family back to her in a surprising way.


What’s up next?

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: I am already working on my next book. It is about adoption, but a very complicated form of adoption. The main character saves a Mayan child after a massacre and illegally adopts her. After that book, I just might return to my cast of characters with Rocky and Cooper.

KATIE MCGARRY: I’m currently working on revisions for Dare You To, a companion novel to Pushing the Limits. Dare You To follows the story of Beth, a secondary character from PTL. Dare You To is scheduled to be released in 2013.

PATRICIA DAVIDS: I have a Christmas book coming out called A Hope Springs Christmas. It’s the story of an Amish widow who agrees to become a matchmaker for her next door neighbor only to find the man she has known for years just might be a perfect match for her.


Your favorite book at age 10:

JACQUELINE SHEEHAN: This is a weird one for a ten year old. Hawaii by James Michener. I had learned that I could read anything, and there was something so powerful about reading his massive book that covers centuries.

KATIE MCGARRY: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

PATRICIA DAVIDS: It was a book called Beautiful Joe. It’s a story told from a dog’s point of view about the family that saved him from cruelty. I loved that story and cried every time I read it.

Many thanks to Jacqueline, Katie, and Patricia. We have some books to give to a commenter, so go forth and comment!


Alison Atlee (also known as "Alyson" here at Dear Author) is fascinated by creative people and how they work, which is why she enjoys contributing author interviews to Dear Author. She likes her romance novels light on the internal monologues, twisty with the conventions, and brimming with voice. Her favorite book at age ten? "An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott.


  1. erinf1
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 10:34:49

    Thanks for such a great post/interviews! It’s a lot of fun to learn more about the authors behind the books that generate so much buzz.

  2. Ruth
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 10:37:47

    I like the new format alot.

  3. library addict
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 10:41:11

    I like this new format with the mini-author interviews. I have Pushing the Limits in my TBR pile. I think I need to move it up to the top.

  4. Darlynne
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:02:04

    This is a great idea and I enjoyed reading about each of the authors and their books.

    My sister has been a foster parent for almost thirty years so I come at the subject with much trepidation. She is one of the people who moves heaven and earth for her kids, but I can’t deny the very real and horrific abuses the system allows or creates.

    @Jacqueline Sheehan: See, this is where my sister’s home is different. Kids age out of the system, but they come home for holidays or for any reason, if they want to, because they are and always will be family. They bring their own kids, too, and it never occurred to me that some foster parents wouldn’t do that. Thank you for waking me up.

  5. JenM
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:03:53

    I’d heard of Pushing the Limits, but not the other two. They both sound intriguing and I love the theme of exploring the foster care system. I think it’s something that those of us who’ve never experienced it, just have no knowledge of. Thanks for a great interview piece.

  6. Mikaela
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:21:06

    I have heard of Pushing the Limits, but the book that intrigues me after reading this post is A Home for Hannah. Which is odd, since I rarely reads inspirational romance.

    Although Picture This also s0unds interesting.

    Edit: The previous book, Lost and Found is discounted to 1.99 at Kobo right now,

  7. Sarah
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:26:51

    What a unique way to promote books! I love this and thanks for the colors to delineate the various authors. All three books sound excellent and I like reading about a common topic where the approach to it are all very different.

  8. Justine
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:41:45

    I like the color coding! The first novel I read that helped me understand the foster care system was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

  9. Kelly.R
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:46:06

    It’s official. I need more money for more books. ALL THE BOOKS. I also may need a kindle since I store books in 2 houses…

  10. Ellen
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 11:54:21

    Ilike this new format a lot, and I appreciate the weel-thought out responses of the authors.

  11. Ridley
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 12:46:05


    They bring their own kids, too, and it never occurred to me that some foster parents wouldn’t do that.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that foster care is often short term. The woman in the story above may have been shuffled from family to family, being reunited with her biological family in between, and not formed attachments to any of them. I have a social worker for a SiL and a foster parent for a (unofficial) stepmother, and it really seems to me that unless a parent is really, really awful (and even then) the state is determined to reunite kids with their families, leading to lots of months-long stints in the system over 18 years where they’re with a different family every time.

    So, a foster family can be super loving and supportive and have an open door for holidays but still be intimidating for someone who’s aged out of the system.

  12. Rebe
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 15:57:34

    I really enjoyed reading this post and the common thread between the three books – foster care. I often wondered how students in college without a good home situation would deal with holidays when the dorms are closed. Thanks for sharing the interviews – I’ll have to check out these books!

  13. Darlynne
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 16:19:34

    @Ridley: You’re absolutely right and the only experience I have is with my sister’s family. Hers is supposed to be a short-term program and yet many of these kids have been with her for more than ten years at a stretch. To all of us, they’re family, whereas the reality for some kids, who get bounced between birth family and the system on the way to reunification, is not that at all.

  14. cleo
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 16:40:19

    Pushing the Limits is already in my tbr pile. I’ve just added A Home for Hannah to my wishlist – I’ve been mildly interested in reading an Amish romance ever since I realized that it’s an actual sub-genre (who knew? certainly not me) and this is the first one I’ve encountered that sounds like my taste.

  15. A.M.K.
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 16:57:44

    Love the “first kiss happens” part ;)

    As for the books, they all sound quite interesting, and Pushing the Limits has been tempting me for a while now…

  16. Na S.
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 18:20:37

    I like seeing characters try to find their “family” and home. There are different kinds but to have them is something I want every character to have!

  17. sarac
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 19:16:48

    I also read Hawaii at an oddly young age.

  18. Solange Ayre
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 20:29:34

    I absolutely loved “Lost and Found.” Aside from being a wonderful, touching novel, it’s the best story I’ve ever read that occasionally goes into the dog’s point of view.

  19. Shannon H
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 20:37:57

    Pushing the Limits looks intriguing, and I have been eyeing Picture This is my local bookstore for a while now

  20. Alyson
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 21:35:32

    @Solange Ayre: Thanks for mentioning that. I couldn’t fit it in with the angle of the interview, but Cooper the black lab is such a wonderful presence in the stories. That face on the cover! So sweet!

  21. Alyson
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 21:43:00

    @sarac: :-) I think this is why I keep this question in the line-up. I love connecting to people through childhood books so much I want others to have the same feeling. The more unlikely the shared book, the better!

  22. Susan
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 21:59:46

    I like that Rocky is both the hero and the heroine of Picture This (based on the Q&A)!

  23. Alyson
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 21:59:58

    @Ridley: @Darlynne: Thanks for your perspectives. You reminded me that while I was prepping the interviews, an episode of “Major Crimes” was playing, and I caught a scene with the lead character (not sure of her name) and this teen boy she’s taken in. He’s trying to get her to admit that arrangement is temporary, and she tells him (a paraphrase here), okay, true enough. Eventually, for whatever reason, you’ll be leaving here and you’ll be a stranger in a new place again. But no matter what, you’ll never, ever be a stranger to me.

  24. azteclady
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 22:20:26

    I’ve been reluctant to read YA (with notable exceptions) but Pushing the Limits sounds intriguing, particularly from the protagonists’ six word memoirs.

  25. Alyson
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 22:21:32

    @Mikaela: Thanks for the lead!

    It will be another day or so before I draw for a winner, so it isn’t too late to get a request in. And thanks to all with a positive comment for the new interview format.

  26. Kaetrin
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 22:41:05

    I read and loved Pushing the Limits. The other books sound good also. The romance is strong yes?

  27. Barbara Elness
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 22:49:55

    I really enjoyed the interviews and I think all three books sound like fantastic reads.

  28. Bella F
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 01:17:40

    Really enjoyed reading 3 different takes on characters with a foster background. I think seeing it in YA books is especially great since there are a lot of people growing up in all different kinds of situations and it’s always nice to read something you can relate to when you’re that age and still figuring stuff out.

  29. Susan S.
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 09:05:27

    They all sound like great reads. I have heard of Pushing the Limits but not the other two. Great interview.

  30. Sylvie
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 14:19:19

    I think I’ll add Pushing the Limits to my TBR stack. I wrote a book (that is yet unpublished) about a character who ‘mistakenly’ falls into foster care very loosely based upon my experience as a Guardian ad Litem in Cleveland, Ohio for five years. I found the world depressing from a number of angles – especially in light of the Adoption and Safe Families Act which I didn’t feel gave parents enough time for reunification.

    I have been reluctant to read books about the topic because I fear them being too kind to the system or too Pollyanna regarding trauma upon separation from one’s original family. I don’t think the government makes for good parents. Now that I’m over 10 years away from it, I think I’ll give it a try.

  31. Victoria Zumbrum
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 10:55:09

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