29 April 2012

Guest Blog: Jennie Marsland

This week, we're welcoming historical romance author, Jennie Marsland. Her latest title, SHATTEREDis set against the background of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, one of the greatest disasters of the 20th century. Jennie is here to talk about the novel and give away a copy. Please, leave your comment for a chance to win. Here's the blurb:
Liam Cochrane no longer belongs. He lost his youth and his brother on the battlefields of Europe. Now he’s home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, recovering from a crippling wound, trying to dull his pain with liquor and the occasional willing woman. He’s become a stranger in the North End neighbourhood where he grew up.

Alice O’Neill has never belonged. Able to read notes, but not words, she dreams of teaching music – and of Liam, who has held her heart for years and never known. But Liam has shadowy ties in England that he’s revealed to no one, and in that fall of 1917, Halifax is on a collision course with fate. On December 6, a horrific accident of war will devastate the city’s North End. What will be left for Liam and Alice when their world is shattered?

**Q&A with Jennie Marsland**
Welcome, Jennie. What is your book about?

Shattered is the story of a returned World War 1 soldier who finds love and healing with a young woman who’s struggling to make a place for herself in her family and in her world, in spite of dyslexia. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, against the background of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, which is still the largest non-nuclear, man-made explosion in history. It occurred on December 6, when two ships, one of which was loaded with explosives, collided in Halifax Harbour. Half the city was devastated. Here’s a picture of the city’s downtown, which was spared the worst of the damage, a few years after the time of my story:

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Well, the Halifax Explosion was a major event in the city’s history, and I worked for ten years in the part of town that was most affected. During that time, a friend of mind told me about an unsettling experience. She came home from work one day, glanced in her kitchen window and saw a man dressed in old-fashioned clothes, sitting at her table. While she was looking at him, he vanished. The Explosion killed over 2000 people, so it’s not surprising that supernatural stories from that time abound, but my friend’s experience got my imagination spinning.

Tell us a little about your main characters.

Liam Cochrane, the hero, is trying to overcome the trauma of his experience in the trenches of World War 1. He’s coping with a physical wound and with the loss of his younger brother. He survives from day to day by keeping to the surface of life, because going deeper is too painful. Liam’s a quick-tempered tough guy, but he’s really hiding a soft heart. Alice O’Neill has always seen the gentleness beneath Liam’s tough exterior and she’s loved him for it for years, but her family has labeled her as slow because she can’t read, and she doesn’t believe Liam could ever care for her. I like both of them because of their inner strength in the face of adversity, and Liam’s I’ll-fight-you-in-an-alley-and-drink-with-you-afterward attitude makes me smile.

How does your environment/upbringing colour your writing?

My family roots are here in Nova Scotia, and I’ve always enjoyed hearing my parents and grandparents talk about what life was like when they were young. I’ve lived in Halifax for the last thirty years, and stories of the Explosion are woven into the fabric of the city’s culture. There’s endless material here for a history buff like me.

Also, I find the First World War era fascinating. There was so much change happening so quickly – cars replacing horses, people having electricity and telephones installed in their homes, women reaching for political power and sexual freedom. People felt as if their world was turning upside down. I tried to capture this feeling of restlessness and change in the story.

Have you ever had difficulty killing off a character?

The hardest part of writing Shattered was deciding who among my cast of characters was going to die. There was no way I could keep the story realistic if I let them all survive. The hero and heroine live and have a happy ending, of course, but I had to sacrifice some other characters that I loved. It’s the first time I’ve done that.

What do you like to read?

I grew up reading my father’s Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour collection, and I still enjoy Westerns. I enjoy historical romance by authors like Julianne Maclean, Anna Campbell and Pamela Clare, as well as everything by Jane Austen and the Brontes. I’m an avid reader who doesn’t really stick to one genre. One author I’ve loved since childhood is a fellow Maritimer, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

What, in your opinion, are the essentials of a good story?

Character and conflict. My writing is character-driven. The plot grows out of the personalities and flaws of the characters. A good story has a balance of action and character development. 

Thank you, Jennie, and best of luck with SHATTERED!

SHATTERED  is available now from Amazon.

Jennie Marsland is on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.