I recently shared 7 Reasons for Using Videos in Your Social Marketing Campaigns. Many commented that it’s hard using YouTube effectively–a statement I agree with, as I’m pretty inexperienced in its use myself. Which is why I hope you find today’s guest post by Mahendra Bajiya useful! Mahendra is an entrepreneur and blogger who uses YouTube […]
Greetings, dear readers. It is my pleasure and honor to introduce to you Jane Marlow, author of the soon-to-be-released historical fiction novel How Did I Get Here? Book 2, the Petrovo Series. This book will be available on May 8.
A Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here? Book 2 in the Petrovo series
- What inspired you to write How Did I Get Here?
While I was conducting research for the first novel in the Petrovo series, Who Is to Blame, I kept bumping into this thing called the Crimean War. Eventually, I realized it simply had to be the backdrop of my next novel for two reasons. First, the Crimean War was the guinea pig for a myriad of innovations that forever changed the face of warfare. The second factor that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go was the War’s magnitude as a gruesomely ugly historical reality. Not only was the carnage on the battlefield hideous, but an even greater number of fatalities were attributable to disease, malnutrition, winter exposure, and lack of competent leadership. Not until World War I would more people die as victims of war.
- What led to your fascination with Russia in the 1800s?
I trace my interest back to 6th grade when mother dragged me kicking and screaming to a professional stage performance of Fiddler on the Roof. But as my feet began tapping with the music, I experienced the proverbial smack-to-the-forehead. I was just at the right age to gain an inkling of understanding about prejudice, suppression, rural culture, and the deep-seated role of religion.
- You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know when you started how extensive your research would become?
Research turned out to be a little more problematic than I expected. Although I located a modest number of books and articles, the Crimean War doesn’t play a prominent role in US history, and I was left with many uncertainties. I attempted to locate a graduate student in the US who would proofread my manuscript for historical accuracy but found no takers. I ended up consulting with the Crimean War Research Society in the U.K. I’m particularly grateful for their expertise for the chapter that took place at the Malakov bastion.
- What is one of your favorite stories or details about life in 19th century Russia?
While conducting research, I was taken aback by the fact that prostitution was a regulated business in Russia during the 1800s. For example, in order to control syphilis and other venereal diseases, prostitutes were required to be examined periodically. Their customers, however, had no such obligation. The policy seems akin to placing a dam half-way across the river, doesn’t it? My third book in the Petrovo series offers readers an insider’s view of a Russian brothel.
- Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you? Any advice for other authors writing historical fiction?
My research began way back in the late 1980s. Because the Internet wasn’t an option in those days, I scoured the library for books and articles. Thank goodness for the Interlibrary Loan program! I also took a sightseeing trip to Russia which included spending time in the rural farmland that serves as the setting for my fictional village of Petrovo. Nowadays, I’d urge any historical fiction writer to befriend their local librarians. They know the ins and outs of the various online databases.
- What was it like writing from the perspective of a male character? Any challenges?
Such a daunting undertaking for a senior-citizen woman to plunge herself into the mindset of a young, virile male! One tool I used was to read and reread Jonathan Tropper’s novels. His flawed, lustful protagonists crack me up!
- What distinguishes How Did I Get Here? from other narratives about the Crimean War?
American authors have produced very little in the way of fiction set in the Crimean War; therefore, it’s a wide-open canvas. Second, my novel doesn’t end with the war. It shows a veteran’s struggle with the then unnamed consequence of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Third, as a veterinarian, I felt compelled to demonstrate the agony war inflicts on animals. My eyes tear up every time I read my own passage in which the protagonist has to kill a horse that was injured in battle.
- As a writer, how do you weave fact and fiction into a novel?
Conceptually, it’s easy if your mind is prone to flights of fancy. However, meticulous research and double-checking is required if the characters are well-known persons or if the setting is a well-documented event.
This particular book presented an additional challenge. During the 1800s, Russia used what is known as the Old Style calendar (O.S.), which is 12 days behind the Western New Style (N.S.) calendar. Hence, historical Russian events are often dated along the lines of “Oct 24 O.S. (Nov 5 N.S.).”
Imagine being an author (i.e., me) doing research on a war in which one of the military forces used Old Style while the opponents used New Style. Additionally, some authors mark their books, articles, and online resources with either N.S. or O.S., but other authors don’t deem it necessary to specify which calendar style they use. Then try to coordinate actual events (some N.S., some O.S.) into a fictional narrative in which timing was crucial to the story. My sanity underwent a notable decline in during this period of writing.
- Were there any unexpected obstacles you encountered when you began writing How Did I Get Here?
The same aspect that I hope will attract readers—a story about a little known but ghastly war—was also a hurdle—finding detailed depictions from the Russians’ point of view.
- What do you hope your readers will get out of the novel?
My desire is that readers find several take-home messages:
First, the old adage, “Beauty is only skin deep.”
Second, malevolence and injustice can mold a child, but fortitude plus a helping hand can remake the man.
Third, every person is obligated to give back to society. And not just according to what he received from it, but at a higher level.
Fourth, a better understanding of the demons of war as manifested in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Who’s a character from the book you wish you could meet?
I relish 10-year-old Platon’s inquisitiveness, boundless energy, and joie de vivre. In fact, I’d adopt him if I could. But since I can’t, I’m entertaining the possibility of writing a book with him as the protagonist, so I can watch him mature into a man.
- What was your favorite novel growing up?
By the time I reached junior high, I was ready to put the Nancy Drew series behind me. Being a typical girlie-girl, I was forever enamored by the first adult, mainstream novel I read, Gone with the Wind.
- What authors/books do you draw inspiration from?
If only I could be as talented a writer as Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo!. During a seminar on writing fiction, the instructor told us that taking pen in hand and writing and re-writing good passages from favorite books would promote brain neuron connections that would improve our own writing. I must have copied the same passage from Nobody’s Fool at least 200 times!
- Can we expect more books in the Petrovo series?
You bet! The third novel in the series will offer an insider’s view of the seamier side of 1870s Moscow.
- Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?
Both novels are available in paper, Kindle, and Audible formats on Amazon. If your local bookstore doesn’t stock the book, request that it be ordered.
For more about me as an author, plus a few chuckles from Slavic Slapstick, as well as jaw-dropping tidbits about historic Russia, visit my blog at www.janemarlowbooks.com, and subscribe to my free, no sales gimmicks, no obligation e-newsletter with quarterly in-box delivery.
Elena Meredith | PR by the Book
512-481-7096 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay, so Jazz Baby has a brand new cover. Why the change? Well, to be honest, I hated the original cover—hated it with a passion. Everything I had hoped it would be fell well short of the original vision I saw for my first novel. I had intended for the image to convey a feel for the era in which the story unfolds. It failed miserably.
There are elements of the original cover that were in line with what I envisioned. Unfortunately, the main image came off as cartoonish and amateurish. This detracted from the story itself. I recall a few readers mentioning that cover as a hurdle they had to overcome when deciding to purchase the book. How many others chose to pass on it?
So here it is, with its brand new cover, spine, and back cover. We also cleaned up the few typos that slipped past the editorial process. It’s a fresh new day for Jazz Baby.
A very special thank you to Stephen Geez and Fresh Ink Group for putting this cover together.
Why do we write? It’s a simple enough question. The answer, well, that’s not quite as cut and dried. Every writer has his or her own reason for putting pen to paper in an effort to entertain, educate, or just let off a little steam.
I’ve been writing since about the age of eight. It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. My motivations have changed over the years. Early on I wrote with the notion that I’d be the only one reading my work. I’d put down on paper some grand idea I’d find wandering through my head, an event from the day, or maybe a song or a poem. There has always been a need for me to create with word combinations belonging only to me.
In my teen years, for the first time, I wrote knowing that others would read my words. These writings took the form of record and concert reviews published in my high school’s newspaper. I went to a large school, with a student body of nearly 2500 members. People began to give me feedback, advice, compliments. I absorbed it all like a sponge. I felt a calling on my life; a calling to write.
To this day I am not able to make a living with this craft. And that’s fine; I didn’t take up my pen for financial gain. If and when it comes, that will be the clichéd icing on the proverbial cake!
I still enjoy writing. Whether it’s a novel, short stories, book reviews, or blog articles—like this one here—writing is my passion. I also find pleasure in writing communications to friends; letters that I’ll compose using pen and paper, stamp and envelope. I just don’t write every day the way I once did. Mood is my major motivating factor these days. Do I feel like writing something today? If I do, what form will it take? That’s just me, though.
Some writers must create each every day. Many even establish a daily word count. The day is a complete loss if they’ve not sprinkled a thousand words across their keyboard. It’s all selective depending on the individual.
Ann Frank needed to write. This girl’s existence consisted inside four walls of a silent room that became her family’s prison for many years. She wrote every day, detailing a life most human beings could never imagine. Writing is all Ann Frank had to keep her connected to the world—as dark as her world became.
Harper Lee didn’t need to write. Oh, sure, early on she wrote short stories, essays, and articles. But then she wrote a novel called To Kill A Mockingbird and basically walked away from the craft. Her sister claims the author knew she’d never again approach the level of success Mockingbird achieved—no matter the caliber of book number two. So why bother? Rumor has it there’s an incomplete book with the Harper Lee name attached to it. We’ll probably never have a chance to read it, though.
J. D. Salinger, though he ceased publishing his work after the mid-1960s, continued to write, taking a few hours each and every morning, creating stories only he had opportunity to enjoy. Upon his death, it was revealed that several of Salinger’s unreleased manuscripts would be published. The man loved writing but hated the attention his work drew from across the world.
Some people have never written anything outside of personal letters to friends and family. That doesn’t make them any less a writer than those with books or short stories on their resumes.
Everybody has their own reasons for writing—regardless if they publish or not.
Why do I write? I write because I have a passion to write—just not every day.
Why do you write?