26 April 2009

Guest Author: Jack Woodville London

This week we're welcoming author Jack Woodville London whose romantic historical fiction debut VIRGINIA'S WAR is set in 1944 Texas, the first of his "French Letters" trilogy.


Jack Woodville London, tell us about this, your first release.

VIRGINIA'S WAR is the first of three novels that make up the "French Letters" trilogy. It is the story of Virginia Sullivan who, in small town Texas in 1944, is told by the family doctor that she is pregnant four months after her boyfriend shipped off to war. No one notices the rather long interval between his leaving and her news but she can't wait to defiantly tell her father, Poppy, the town's newspaperman. Instead of fury or shame, he is delighted. The intended shock becomes hers when Poppy publishes a completely phony announcement in the local paper that she and Will eloped just before he shipped off. Like the consequences of Poppy's hand in local draft dodging and black marketing, the impending baby and utterly false marriage are time bombs waiting to go off.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

At a very early age, perhaps when I read Gone With the Wind in fourth grade. By high school I was in deep. It wasn't until university that I discovered it was important to make enough money to actually support the habit; the Age of Patronage seems to have been several centuries ago.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your stories?

I am a lawyer by career and a historian by training; conflict is sort of endemic to my life. I am fascinated by the people side of war, not the dates and generals side but the "what happened to the ordinary people" side. For example, I knew in a general way that unlucky soldiers received Dear John letters from girls back home who decided not to wait for them, and I knew that the letters were packed in boats headed for the war, and that some of the boats were sunk. It doesn't take much logic to figure out that some soldiers didn't get their Dear John letters until they got home and found babies who weren't there when they left. The shipping loss figures, the number of babies born in the US in the absence of soldiers, and the number of prosecutions for black market sales of everything from tires to chickens during the war bear that out.

So, this particular book arose from the confluence of those bits of data. For information I use original sources, such as records about the ration program from the wartime Office of Price Administration and naval shipping loss records. I researched a lot of the source data for the sequel to VIRGINIA'S WAR by going through the document collection at the Imperial War Museum in London.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I create maps of the scenes, then print them and use them for reference. Virginia's hometown is sitting in my manuscript, completely drawn out, as is the village and chateau in France where Will does his service.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book?

Each character became a real person, to me and to the early readers.

What authors or friends influenced you to become a writer?

Evelyn Waugh, Donna Tartt, Anthony Powell, Harper Lee, and Larry McMurtry are the authors who inspire me. I would give anything to write just one sentence as effectively as Evelyn Waugh wrote "Good, that's prayer. What's next?" As for family and friends, I was well-tolerated by my high school English teacher. My mother enrolled in university as a widow at age 54 and then wrote and produced a play at 60. My Aunt Helen was a well regarded poet in the Texas Panhandle. And the elephant in my room is, of course, the other Jack London, the one who wrote dog and Alaska stories, a distant relative.

What does your family think about your career as a published author?

Extremely supportive (see note above re: Age of Patronage). I hope Mom, Aunt Helen, and Great Great Great Uncle Jack are beaming down.

What is coming up next for you writing-wise?

Finishing the sequel to VIRGINIA'S WAR. It is tentatively titled WILL'S PEACE. Can you tell I like plays on words? I have completed the second draft of the manuscript and, once I get it to a point where it is a well-written companion to VIRGINIA'S WAR, I will begin my third novel, CHILDREN OF A GOOD WAR. And, because I think I should, I am attempting a short story about a young man who mistakenly believes that his carelessness caused the death of a migrant farm worker.



"Everything comes to a head in an exciting, and somewhat surprising, conclusion. I'm looking forward to the continuation of the French Letters Trilogy. This is Mr. London's debut novel, and it’s an excellent beginning!" -- Jane Bowers, Romance Reviews Today

"Author Jack London has given his readers a great opening salvo in VIRGINIA'S WAR, something to sink their teeth into--a town worth exploring, interesting and complicated relationships, power struggles, and overshadowing it all, a world war." -- Book Pleasures


Thanks for stopping by today, Jack!

Readers, if you would like to try for a free copy of VIRGINIA'S WAR, let me know what you think of WWII-set romances and romantic historical fiction. Are you eager to read them? Do you have recommendations to share? We here at Unusual Historicals would love to know your thoughts. I'll draw a random name next Sunday, so good luck!