Friday, April 30, 2010

Author Spotlight: Jennie Marsland

RBS: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jennie: Thanks so much for having me here today, Roni! A little about myself…well, I’m a teacher, an amateur painter and musician, and for over thirty years, a writer. I fell in love with words at a very early age and the affair has been lifelong. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, with my real-life hero and the most outrageously spoiled cat and dog on earth.

RBS: How old were you when you first decided to sit down and write your first book?
Jennie: Forty-five. I’d always written songs, poetry and short stories, but never attempted anything longer until the inspiration for McShannon’s Chance struck me while I was on a camping trip. I couldn’t find anything to write on but paper towel, so I grabbed a couple of sheets and started scribbling. I still have that paper towel tucked away. Six months later, I had the first draft of a novel on my hands.
What was your first novel ever published, be it e-book or print?

McShannon’s Chance is now available as an e-book and will soon be out in print. I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands.
It can be difficult to get a book published. Who or what was the greatest encouragement you had during the non-published times?
I have a good friend, an artist, who was the first person to read Chance. She kept encouraging me through two publishing efforts with companies that closed. Her name is on the dedication page along with my real-life hero’s. My family has been incredibly supportive as well. I’m very lucky.

RBS: What is your favorite genre to write? Why?
Jennie: I like writing and reading historicals, especially Westerns. I developed a soft spot for them early on, reading my father’s Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour collections. I like rugged heroes who’ve worked hard for what they have, who’ll defend their loved ones to the death, and who have a deep romantic streak underneath their toughness. I’m experimenting with other genres as well, but glimpses of the past have always sparked my imagination.
Tell us about your current release?

McShannon’s Chance is set in the Colorado Territory in 1871. Trey McShannon is a Georgia boy who followed his conscience and fought for the Union in the Civil War, and so had to make tracks for the West afterwards. After five years of homesteading, hard work and loneliness are wearing him down, but his wartime experiences have left him cut off from his feelings. He sends for a mail-order bride, thinking he’ll get a wife who’ll be content with what he can offer and won’t demand his whole heart.

What he gets is Beth Underhill, a young woman from a privileged background who has no business answering Trey’s letter. Beth is disillusioned with the marriage market and distrustful of love in general, having been hurt by a man she thought cared for her. She isn’t prepared for the roughness of the frontier or Trey’s life, but she isn’t afraid of a challenge, including the challenge of helping Trey finally heal. They both have to learn to trust before they can have the life they both want together.

RBS: Who or what were your influences when you begin to write your newest release?
Jennie: I think writers are affected by everything they hear or read. As a child, I loved to hear my parents and grandparents tell stories about life in rural Nova Scotia early in the last century and during the Great Depression. The moose that moved into the barn with the horses one winter in my great-grandfather’s lumber camp. The day my father and his brothers accidentally rolled over their sister in an old wagon. My grandmother, still a teenager, teaching in a one-room country school. Those stories started me thinking as a writer, and they gave me a lot of respect for the resourcefulness, resilience and plain old backbone of our forebears. I think that’s why I enjoy writing historicals so much. 

RBS: What is a typical writing day look like for you?
Jennie: Right now, I’m afraid there’s no such thing as a typical writing day for me. I’m substitute teaching and working as a private tutor, so every day’s schedule is different, but I try to get in at least two hours of writing a day. I usually write on my living room sofa – I love my laptop! – with the critters nearby, trying to distract me.

RBS: Do you have a favorite hero from one of your books? What is it about him that makes him stand out?
Jennie: McShannon’s Chance is my first novel, but regardless of how many others I write, I think Trey McShannon will always be special to me. I like his combination of strength and vulnerability, and his solid values. What Trey wants from life is “a faith, a farm and a family,” as John Denver said so well, and he’s willing to work for it. There’s a streak of poetry in Trey as well, though he wouldn’t admit it under torture. I have a weakness for the strong, silent type.

RBS: Do you have a favorite heroine from one of your books? What is it about her that makes her stand out?
Jennie: I really enjoyed writing the character of Trey’s wife, Beth. She’s an unusual woman for her time, an artist who values her work and isn’t willing to sacrifice it for a husband, even one she loves deeply. She’s unconventional and passionate, and she isn’t afraid to take risks.

RBS: Who is your favorite author? Did they give you any kind of inspiration in your own writing?

Jennie: It’s so hard to choose. The Western authors I love, Jane Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, a list of modern romance authors whose work I enjoy…they have all influenced me, but if I had to pick one author it would be Lucy Maud Montgomery. I learned from her very young that everyone has a story and that everyday life is full of small-scale drama. Her journey to publication, as written in her journals, helped teach me perseverance. It also doesn’t hurt that she was a fellow Maritimer - and one of the first female authors to sue her publisher and win!

RBS: What's coming up on your book schedule in the next year?
Jennie: I’m currently working on McShannon’s Heart, a prequel to Chance, which features Trey’s twin sister Rochelle. When her mother dies just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Chelle emigrates with her father to his old home in Yorkshire, leaving a lover behind her. She soon finds herself attracted to Martin Rainnie, a young widower with a baby daughter. I’m hoping to have the book finished by Christmas, so if all goes well it should be out fairly early in 2010. After that, I’ll be working on a ghost story set at the time of the Halifax Explosion in 1917. Then, Trey’s nemesis Nathan Munroe has a story to be told. Those projects should keep me out of trouble for a while.

Roni, thanks again for the opportunity to be here today. All the best to you and your readers!

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