Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A View from Jocelyn Green's Window with my good friend Linda Attaway!!

Last week in Orlando, I had the honor of sitting in on an interview conducted by my good friend, Linda Attaway. (she blogs book reviews over at Mocha With Linda)  She talked with Jocelyn Green about her new novel Wedded to War.  Last year, this precious lady had just contracted to write this book, so it was a huge thrill to get to talk with her about it this year.
The following interview can be found on Mocha With Linda and I will share it with you here as well.

When war erupted, she gave up a life of privilege for a life of significance.
Tending to the army's sick and wounded meant leading a life her mother does not understand and giving up a handsome and approved suitor. Yet Charlotte chooses a life of service over privilege, just as her childhood friend had done when he became a military doctor. She soon discovers that she's combatting more than just the rebellion by becoming a nurse. Will the two men who love her simply stand by and watch as she fights her own battles? Or will their desire for her wage war on her desire to serve God?

Wedded to War is a work of fiction, but the story is inspired by the true life of Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. Woolsey's letters and journals, written over 150 years ago, offer a thorough look of what pioneering nurses endured. This is the first in the series "Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War," a collection of novels that highlights the crucial contributions made by women during times of war.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Wedded to War, go HERE.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and interview Jocelyn Green last week at ICRS. She was such a delight. My friend and fellow reviewer Kim Ford of Window to my World joined me for the interview, and she asked a few questions as well.

Wedded to War is the first in a series about a variety of women, right?

Yes, they are snapshots of strong women during the Civil War, so characters don't cross over. The books could be standalones. The next one, which I'm working on right now, is called Widow of Gettysburg; the third book is [set in] Atlanta and the fourth is in Richmond.

Because I have always loved the genre surrounding the Civil War and because I'm an R.N., I loved this book. I've always known that medical conditions were pretty brutal in the Civil War because they didn't have much to work with. I didn't realize how awful the doctors were to the nurses in an effort to make them quit! You've written non-fiction before, aimed at military wives. What made you decide to start writing fiction and, particularly, this story?

I was doing research for a non-fiction book, which also just released, Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was in Gettysburg doing research in their archives, and I was reading diaries, journals, letters from women who were there after the battle. There were lots of civilians but there were also nurses who came now to help out. One of those nurses was Georginna Woolsey, and that's the historical figure that Charlotte Waverly is based on. Reading these primary sources is not like reading a history textbook. It just comes to life because these are real women-- especially when they're handwritten. It doesn't feel like it was 150 years ago! It was very dramatic. It was very emotionally moving. I cried when I was reading it because it was just so real. When I got home I did all the research I could on this one particular nurse, Georgeiana Woolsey, because she gave up so much wealth in New York City to become a nurse and endure conditions that were horrible, even though it seemed like the North was losing in the early years of the Civil War. She gave up a lot for a cause that might not have won. I also liked her because I knew she had a close family friend who was a surgeon in the Union Army who she married right after the war. So that's where the love story of Caleb Lansing came in. And where I put Caleb Lansing is where Georgeiana's later-husband was. So I kinda followed both of them. I made up Phineas and Ruby, though!

So Caleb (and Georgiana's husband-to-be in real life) didn't have the disdain for the nurses that the other physicians did.

No, he did not. Frank Bacon was his name. He was very supportive. In fact, after the Civil War, Georgeianna & Frank got married and together they established one of the very first training schools for female nurses in Connecticut. They never did have children. I don't know if Georgiana was infertile, if that was the reason they didn't have children.

That's interesting that you never hear about her. You always hear about Clara Barton.

Clara Barton was a clerk at the patent office at the beginning of the Civil War. Then she decided to do nursing on her own; she would not work with the Sanitary Commission. She would not work with Dorothea Dix and become a government nurse. She just did it all on her own.

So tell me how it was (because you're not a nurse) writing the novel; you were able to handle it without being really graphic, and yet at the same time, you were able to portray a lot of--well, some pretty gross stuff!

It's a balance when you try to portray the casualties of war, especially the things that happened in the Civil War; it's gross, right?! You want to portray that, but not to the point that you/re being sensational about it. I read another book where they went through how an amputation was performed, and it was pretty graphic. You want to give enough where the reader can imagine the realities of it but you don't want to purposely gross people out.

I'm not a nurse, but I did do research at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland. That was a huge thing that I could do. I was able to make photocopies of the outlines of chief camp diseases and read the handbooks and manuals of the doctors to see what they saw as the symptoms and how they wanted to treat them. So a lot of primary source material told me how to describe stuff. And we did tone it down from my first draft! (She laughs.)

You said the next one is Widow of Gettysburg. Can you give us a little snippet of that?

It's actually on the website, heroinesbehindthelines.com. There's a little blurb about it. The heroine is Liberty Holloway. She's a 19-year-old teenager with two brothers in the war; one's fighting for the North and one's fighting for the South. After the battle of Gettysburg, she's really forced to grow up in a hurry. Impulsively, she fulfills a soldier's dying wish to get married. She marries him, thinking he's about to die. Well, not only does he not die, but he's not who everyone thought he was at all. A Philadelphia reporter is there and he digs up the soldier's history and he digs up Libby's history, and what he finds out could change her life forever.

What I don't have on the website but might be interesting is that Bella is another character; she's a former slave who works for Liberty's farm household but she is related to Liberty, and Liberty doesn't know it. A little bit of backstory touches on the slavery, and Bella represents the free Black community of Gettysburg. I don't think that most people know that there were a few hundred free Blacks who were terrified when the South invaded Pennsylvania because they could be captured. It didn't matter if they were former slaves or if they had been born free. It did not matter; they would be taken back home because at that time the South was really upset about the Emancipation Proclamation and this was only seven months later, so they would just take them.

So is this based on a real person?

Obviously, it's based on a lot of research, but instead of basing it on one person's life like I did [in Wedded to War], Liberty is a composite of a few different real women in Gettysburg, and I'll explain it in the back of the book! So it is a little bit different in that sense, but it is very historically based.

Kim: You were in the midst of writing non-fiction books for military wives. What made you make the switch to writing fiction and this series?

When I was going through the archives in Gettysburg, I thought, "Someone should write this as a novel." I didn't think it would be me. I thought I would have to wait until both my children were in school before I could ever write fiction. But a week after I got home, my publisher called me to talk about a different non-fiction book proposal that I had, and at that point she said, "Have you ever thought about writing fiction?" I recalled all the stories that I had unearthed at Gettysburg and I pitched an idea to her on the phone and she told me to make it into a formal book proposal and we went from there. It's kinda unusual for it to happen that way.

Kim: It's God's timing.

Yeah, it must be. Because the time my second child is in school all day, the series will be done. Isn't that ironic?! It's really hard to write right now with two small children. But we're doing it!

It's really hard to do anything with two small children!

It's hard to keep up with the laundry!

Well, I'm already looking forward to the second one! That's the thing about reviewing books so early; I'm immediately ready for the next one to come out! Wedded to War was so good I would have inhaled it even if I didn't have to read it quickly for this interview. It really was fascinating.

Kim: What's the most interesting thing you learned medically while writing this book?

It surprised me that they did have chloroform and ether back then. It also surprised me that after the first 24 hours, if they hadn't done the amputation, they didn't want to use those on the patient because there was a much higher likelihood of the patient not surviving. It was horrible. And the minie balls would become deformed inside and not just break through the bone but shatter it. We kind of think of the surgeons back then as being butchers and think, "Oh, they really didn't have to do all those amputations." But actually, they did have to do a lot of them because the limbs were just unusable. There were some doctors who didn't want to do as many amputations because the public was saying, "You're cutting off too many arms and legs!" The doctor didn't want to be seen as a butcher so he wouldn't [amputate], but then the patient would die of infection.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Were you one of those children who always wrote stories?

Oh yes. I said I wanted to be an "arthur" when I grew up! The first book I ever wrote was narration for a Bugs Bunny coloring book. I've gotten a little better since then.

Kim: Are you still co-writing the Faith Deployed series?

Well, we've done Faith Deployed and Faith Deployed Again. I don't have any plans for another one. We had put together a proposal for Faith Deployed for Military Moms and that hasn't gone anywhere, so there's a bonus section in Faith Deployed Again for military moms, about ten devotionals. A lot of military wives eventually have their children grow up and join the military so they're in a new role, and it's very different to have a child go to war or be in the military, because the books are good for both war and peacetime.

Do you see yourself doing more fiction down the line?

Yes, I do. I really like that this chapter has opened up. There are so many military wives out there who are writing really good things for military wives. My experience as a military wife is getting further and further behind me so I am more than willing to have other military wives be in the spotlight and share their wisdom and have that be their ministry! I'm very happy with the books that I have done, and I think that military families are always going to be on my heart, but I think fiction is coming at a really good time for me.

Do you think you'll always have an interest in some kind of military fiction or is there some other genre you are interested in writing?

I would like to try a contemporary fiction that doesn't have to do with war! It's really draining to do the research or, for my non-fiction books, to do the interviews. It's really rewarding but when you are thinking about war and death and wounds and PTSD, it's hard! Someday I'd like to write something sweet!

I don't know that I'll ever be the traditional romance writer but it will be something that has to interest me a lot. If it's not historical it will have to be something very scientifically interesting or the NCIS type of thing where you learn about forensics at the same time. It has to hold my interest. It can't just be a love story. I'm sure there will be a love interest in there but that won't be the whole point of the story, kinda like Wedded to War was.

Tell me about your family and your life outside of writing.

I live in Iowa. My son is three and my daughter is six; she'll be in first grade in the fall. Writing and being a mom -- there's not much left after that! I used to scrapbook! It's been years; now it's all I can do just to remember to take the pictures. I do enjoy gardening or just being outside reading or researching. We like to do bike rides as a family and I think we would like to camp, although we don't do it very much. My husband used to be in the Coast Guard and now he's a Web Developer.

Kim: What would you say to your readers as they approach your fiction?

I hope they like it! (She laughs.) I would say that they can feel very confident as they're reading the story that, because it was woven from the fabric of our national history, they are going to learn a great deal about women that they can be proud of. They're going to see that strong women are not just something that happened with the feminist movement. We've always had strong women in this country. They can be proud about that. I hope they will be so interested in the story that they will be at least tempted to look at some of the books in the bibliography and learn a little bit more. They can also be assured that even though it's very historically accurate, it doesn't read like a history textbook. There's a lot of human drama and emotion and I think the human elements and the emotional elements will keep them turning the pages.

What about faith? How do you weave that into your fiction? That's such a debate now with Christian fiction.

For me, it's very easy because I show the spiritual development of my different characters, who are starting out at different places. For instance, Charlotte was already a Christian. We show her trying to live out the legacy that her father had, of being merciful. But we also see her struggle with a few things, such as "Did I pursue this because it was my will or God's will?" With Ruby, she does not know the Lord at the beginning of the novel and she makes hard decisions that lead to a great deal of shame and guilt; she's in bondage. With Edward Goodrich, the chaplain, he thought he knew it all because he'd been to seminary, but it was booklearning. When you are in the trenches, so to speak, you find out that life is hard and war is ugly and you ask "How does my faith hold up in this?" I've heard from some people that what they appreciate about the faith element in the book is that I didn't go through the Four Spiritual Laws; I didn't take a chapter and explain the plan of salvation. It's more organic to the story and not forced.

Kim: What is God doing in your life?

God is so good to me. He's given me permission to be who He has made me to be without trying to achieve the standards of all the big name authors who are here. I am who I am. I have two young children, and I don't want to scar them by locking myself in my office to churn out books that might be good books--but I am the only mommy to my children. There are a lot of books out there that you can read if you're bored. I hope you like my book and it's really fulfilling to like it, but if the Lord ever tells me "Your writing is hurting your family," I will stop. Immediately.

The other thing God has really been teaching me since my novel released is, "Which voices are you going to listen to?" Because when you write a novel, everyone will tell you what they think! Even if they hate it, they will tell you! I've told myself to just stop reading reviews! And honestly, the vast majority are very positive. Why is it that the few negative ones are the ones that play over and over in your mind? It's really a spiritual growth opportunity for me. I want to listen to God's voice in my life. And I want to listen to my immediate family. Writing my books will not please everyone and that's okay. I'm not trying to please everyone. I'm trying to be true to who God has called me to be.

Thank you so much, Jocelyn! What a treat to visit with you. I'm excited to see where God will lead you next in your writing journey!

If you want a chance to win a copy of this fabulous book, visit Mocha With Linda today!!!

1 comment:

Mocha with Linda said...

Thanks for the shout-outs! So fun sharing the interview and the week with you!