Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guest Author Peni Jo Renner

Synopsis of “Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames” 

Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames is set in the midst of the 1692 Salem Witchcraft Hysteria. Rebecca Eames was one of the over 140 people accused and imprisoned for witchcraft, along with her eldest son, Daniel. She spends nine months in the Salem Witches Dungeon, and documentation exists to this day of some of her trials.

Author Information 

Originally from North Dakota, I have lived in Maryland since 1988. My entire childhood was spent writing stories as soon as I learned to write.  After college and 25 years of marriage, my desire to write seemed to dissipate and was replaced by other creative pursuits. I am the youngest of seven children, married since 1986. Aunt to 17 and great-aunt to 18. 

Questions and Answers 

What writers do you admire and why?

Margaret Mitchell is my all-time favorite author. I admire any writer who can flesh out characters so much that you feel like you know them. What I hate to see are “cookie cutter” books written as if they’re off an assembly line, with basically the same predictable plots.

What caused you to want to write this particular book?

I happened to meet a 3rd cousin online through www.ancestry.com , and she has done some remarkable research on our common line. She told me about Rebecca Eames, and I said, “It’s a shame I don’t write anymore. This would make a great historical novel.” “So write it,” she said. And just like that, my love of writing was rekindled!
What are some of the difficulties you encountered writing the book?

I tend to get discouraged easily and I can be very anal about what to leave fact and what to make fiction.  The research itself was fun. In 2012 I even got to visit Rebecca’s grave.  Sometimes I would hit a snag of some sort or other (did they use glass in their windows in 1692 Massachusetts? For example) and that would require more research. I think maybe if we’d had the Internet sooner I would never have stopped writing! 

What do you believe are your book's strengths? What are you especially proud of? 

I think my characters are well-developed and well-described.  I hope I’ve achieved the goal of having the reader feel for and care about my characters. 

What would you like the reader to take away from his reading?

Realize what a horrible miscarriage of justice the whole Salem Witch event was, and acknowledge that greed, suspicion and corruption are still rampant in our own world today. 


“An evil hand has invaded our blessed community! Be vigilant of the evil deceiver,” the assistant minister continued, stabbing the air with a finger. “The devil himself has made his presence known here in Andover.” 

Reverend Barnard’s words reverberated off the whitewashed walls of the Andover meetinghouse. Fear and suspicion had infested the small farming community six months earlier when news of girls’ strange behavior in nearby Salem Village was made known.

Rebecca Eames listened intently, a basket of eggs resting near her feet. The combined body odors of the parishioners mingled in the close air, relieved only when a gentle July breeze entered through the opened windows. Soot from multiple tallow candles had collected on the walls and ceiling. The dark smudges always reminded her of sin. No matter how often the ladies of the congregation wiped the offending marks away, they always reappeared. 

So like my own great sin, she thought morosely. Twill never truly be removed from me. 

Anxious eyes darted from face to face. Despite the stifling summer heat, Rebecca shivered at the minister’s words. She exchanged nervous looks with her daughters, Hannah and Dorothy. Hannah’s teenage daughter, Rose, sat next to her mother—large, dark eyes dominating her thin, pale face. The girl was timid and easily swayed to the whims of others, and she appeared to be taking Barnard’s admonition to heart. 

Sweet, sensitive Rose, she thought. All this talk about witches has her positively distressed. 

Sweeping an arm over the women’s side of the sanctuary, Barnard said, “We have in our midst two afflicted girls from Salem Village, Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam. They will be visiting homes, determining who is to blame for the ailments that have recently befallen us.” 

Quiet murmurs of excitement circulated through the congregation. The two young visitors sat with their hands folded demurely in their laps. The congregation craned their necks in unison to get a better look at the guests. In the back, young boys rose to their feet, straining to see the girls until the tithingman rapped their heads soundly with his long stick and gestured for them to reseat themselves. 

“Who has stricken my Timothy?” called a man in the middle section of the men’s side.  “He’s been afflicted since June. Can these maids tell me who’s bewitched them?” 

Several heads turned to Robert Swan, the ferryman from Haverhill. He stood with his sons, Samuel and Joshua, seated on either side of him. His cold, blue eyes glinted beneath think, white brows, and his face wore a permanent scowl. 

From the women’s side, Rebecca turned to the speaker and grimaced with distaste. 

Oh hush, you contemptuous old lout! She wrung her apron in her lap. Robert Swan was a litigious rabble-rouser who incited trouble like a whirlwind disturbs fallen leaves. It was know that out of sheer spite, Robert Swan had ordered his sons to chop down a neighbor’s orchard. The Eeames family had also fallen under Swan’s wrath, and a cavernous rift had grown between the two households. Blood simmered in her veins like a kettle over a low fire, and she bit her lips to keep from speaking her mind. She met her husband’s cautionary gaze across the aisle. 

Be silent, he seemed to be imploring her. Do not react. 

“It’s costing me money,” Swan bellowed. “I’m down two men, what with Josh here with a broken arm and nose—“ He gestured at the pimple-faced young man to his right. Joshua Swan gingerly stroked his swollen nose with his left hand while his right arm hung suspended in a sling. His brother Samuel’s handsome face reddened with obvious embarrassment, and he kept his eyes on the floor. 

“I assure you, Goodman Swan,” Barnard said, gripping the podium firmly, “that these young maids will be able to direct you to the culprit of your son’s ailment.” 

“They’d better,” Swan muttered, before reclaiming his seat between his sons.  

Rebecca faced forward, seething silently. The very sound of Swan’s booming voice infuriated her. 


The queue of parishioners formed a small circle from whose core angry male voices began to emanate. Rebecca recognized her husband Robert’s voice shouting, “Away with you, Swan! I’ll not sully the Sabbath by indulging you with a brawl on these church grounds!” 

“Brawling’s all your Daniel knows!” retorted the elder Swan.  “He’s the one that broke Josh’s arm and nose here not a week ago, and I seek compensation for lost revenue!” 

Curse Swan and his lot, all of them! Rebecca thought as she pushed her way through the crowd to stand next to her husband.