Name Jennie Marsland
Where are you from? Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
A little about yourself, ie your education Family life etc
I studied Animal Science in university, then did a Masters in microbiology, followed by a final year to get my education degree. I’ve had a few different jobs – I’ve been a lab technician, a teacher, and for one surreal year, an insurance agent. Right now I’m teaching at a small private school here in Halifax. They have me teaching global geography, social studies and English – pretty well outside my specialties, but my writing background and love of history come in handy.
My partner Everett and I share our house with two rambunctious Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, or perhaps I should say they share their house with us. It sometimes feels that way. If only they would pay taxes! The breed is unfamiliar to a lot of people, so I’ll include a snapshot.
Everett and I met through music. He’s a guitarist, and I signed up to take lessons from him. He stopped charging me for the lessons, and the rest is history.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
This has been an exciting spring and summer for me. My first two novels, published in 2009 and 2011, have been out of print for a while. Those books are about to be reissued by Tirgearr Publishing as a series I call Choices of the Heart. The first book, Where The Heart Is, will be published on September 7, and the second, To Capture the Sky, has a tentative release date of March 1, 2017. The stories feature a twin brother and sister, Trey and Rochelle McShannon, who leave their home in Morgan County, Georgia at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Rochelle goes to England with her father, and Trey eventually ends up in Colorado. It’s great to have the opportunity to edit these books with the benefit of several more years’ experience and send them out into the world again. The third book in the series, now in progress, features Nathan Munro, a secondary character with a complicated relationship to the McShannons.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I was eight or nine years old. I just needed to tell stories. By the time I was twelve I had a binder full of stuff I’d written – and then, in a fit of adolescent angst, I decided it was trash and threw it all away. It was trash, but I wish I still had those pieces. They’d be a window on my former self.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’d always thought of myself as a person who writes, and over the years I even submitted some short pieces to magazines, but I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I finished my first novel. I’d never thought I could write anything long before I actually did. Then began the journey of making my work publishable.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote Trey McShannon’s story first, though chronologically it comes after his sister’s. Trey’s character came to me fully formed, out of the blue. I saw him as clearly as if he was standing in front of me. I was on a school camping trip at the time and didn’t have any paper, so I grabbed some paper towel and a pencil and started scribbling. I still have that paper towel tucked away.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
People tell me my books straddle the line between historical fiction and historical romance. I guess that’s true. I’ve also written a trilogy, Winds of War, Winds of Change, set in my hometown of Halifax at the time of the devastating explosion that happened here in 1917. There’s lots of real history there, but the love story is central.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I find titles challenging. I choose them after the story is written. That makes it a little easier, but it still takes me a while to come up with a title.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’ve always been more drawn to stories of ordinary people than to the doings of dukes and earls. I just find them easier to relate to. My characters are common folks who overcome uncommon circumstances to find their happily ever after.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’ve used real events such as the Halifax Explosion and Civil War battles in my writing, but I’ve never based a character on a real person. I did include a couple of my own experiences in To Capture The Sky – namely an argument with a rooster, and being bitten on the backside by a very cheeky young foal.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels and journals have been a big influence and inspiration to me. Her struggle for acceptance and recognition as a writer taught me about perseverance, and her Emily series gave validation to a young girl already in love with words. Through Emily, I learned early the joy of receiving a thin envelope from a publisher, and the disappointment of getting a fat one containing a rejected manuscript. I wonder what Maud would think of our digital age? I’m sure she wouldn’t miss correcting carbon copies of her manuscripts.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I couldn’t pick a favourite author any more than I could pick a favourite student. I read a lot of old authors, from Jane Austen, the Brontes and Rudyard Kipling to Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. For current and new authors, I enjoy Pamela Clare, Julianne Maclean, Deborah Hale, Kate Robbins, Donna Alward…the list goes on. One new book that I read recently and loved was A Splendid Boy by Melanie Martin.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I belong to two local writing groups, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada (our local chapter of RWA) and Hubbards Writers. I can’t stress enough how much writers need a community. The encouragement, inspiration and practical knowledge I’ve gained from these groups are priceless.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. My dream is to make a living by writing.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I don’t think so. Having this second chance at publication has given me the opportunity to make changes, and I’m happy with the result.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Through reading. I could read before I started school, and the writing just seemed to follow naturally.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Of course. Here’s an excerpt from Where The Heart Is, where the hero and heroine meet for the first time. The story is set in the Yorkshire Dales, which I learned to love through James Herriot.
As she bent to set the lamb on its feet, a dog’s bark startled her. Still crouching, Chelle spun around and faced a grizzled black and white Border Collie, standing a few feet away with its teeth bared and hackles raised. Luckily, the dog’s owner stood close by. Heart in her throat, Chelle released the lamb and slowly raised her gaze from a pair of heavy boots to eyes the color of a stormy sea.
The dog returned to his master’s side at the curt command. Chelle stood, blushing under the man’s cool stare.
He’d be at least six feet tall, perhaps taller, bulky and solid. He reminded her of Charlie Bascomb at home, broad in the shoulders, thick in the legs and torso, but the resemblance stopped there. Charlie was quiet and easy-going, always wearing a smile, but there was nothing approachable about this man with his lowering brows, grim mouth and rust-colored hair. His resemblance to Leah told Chelle who he must be.
“Hello. I’m Rochelle McShannon. Are you Martin Rainnie?”
The Collie stood braced beside his master, the fur still standing up on the back of his neck. Mr. Rainnie looked no more welcoming. He spoke to Chelle as curtly as he had to his dog. “Aye. What are you doing out here?”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Middles. They’re always the trickiest part of a book for me. I’m a pantser, and finding my way through the middle, when the plot starts to get complicated, can be challenging.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No. I do my travelling through the Internet.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That’s hard to say. For me, each of my five books has had different challenges.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Writing historicals, I always learn something. For Where The Heart Is, I had to research how Victorian textile mills operated, as the story is set in a mill town. It was a hard life that bred tough people.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead? For To Capture The Sky, I can see Christian Bale as Trey McShannon, Natalie Portman as he wife Beth, Jude Law as Nathan Munroe and American Pharaoh as Trey’s stallion Flying Cloud.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing, keep learning and don’t give up. Also, don’t rush into publication before you’re ready. Be sure you’re putting your best product out there. With self-publishing it’s very tempting to just go for it, but get lots of feedback first. Get an editor. It’s essential.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for being readers, of my books and others. It’s wonderful that with all our high-tech distractions, people still like to get lost in a good story.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m re-reading the first Harry Potter book. I like it the best of the series. Love the world-building.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My mother used to read to my brother and me every night when we were small. Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat was an early favourite. I sometimes call my dogs Thing One and Thing Two.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Old Monty Python sketches still crack me up, and I love puns, the cornier the better. I can stand having people die in a movie, but if an animal dies I lose it. I cried buckets during War Horse.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
I would like to meet Charles Darwin. It would be fascinating to talk to him about his adventures in South America and the Galapagos Islands.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I want my favourite quote by Mark Twain: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.” Because it’s true.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I play guitar, mostly folk music, and I like to cook and garden. I also dabble in watercolours, though I haven’t painted for a while now.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Murdoch Mysteries, Big Bang Theory, Corner Gas, cooking shows, baseball and hockey. I’m not a huge TV fan. My taste in movies is pretty eclectic – I like period dramas, comedies, the occasional action film. I’m looking forward to the new movie on Queen Victoria that’s coming out.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Sushi. Colour: Blue. Music: Acoustic guitar, singer-songwriter stuff. Bruce Coburn, Stan Rogers, James Keelaghan, Joni Mitchell.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Perhaps more music, but I can’t imagine not being a writer.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is on my website, http://www.jenniemarsland.com , along with some original artwork, recipes, book reviews, some of my favourite music and poetry, and other stuff. Come along and browse!
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jenniemarsland