19 October 2018

Novel Conversations with J.L. Oakley and Jeannie Naughton

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...

Jeannie Naughton

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in J.L Oakley’s novel Mist-chi-mas: A Novel of Captivity. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role? 
A: I am Jeannie Naughton late of Fort Victoria in the Colony of British Columbia and I would like tea very much.  You have chocolate, you say? Such a rarity in these parts and very dear to buy. When I lived in England as a girl, I loved going to Fry and Son’s French Chocolate in London. And yes, I am the lead character.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: Mist-chi-mas: A Novel of Captivity is historical fiction set in the Pacific NW 1860s. It’s a love story too. Forgive me, if I blush.  Comportment, you understand, is very important in my time. Here’s what the story is about:

In Mist-chi-mas, everyone is bound to something.Jeannie Naughton never intended to run away from her troubles, but in 1860, a woman’s reputation is everything. A scandal not of her own making forces her to flee England for an island in the Pacific Northwest, a territory jointly occupied by British and American military forces. At English Camp, Jeannie meets American Jonas Breed. Breed was once a captive and slave — a mistchimas — of the Haida, and still retains close ties to the Coast Salish Indians.
But the inhabitants of the island mistrust Breed for his friendship with the tribes. When one of Breed’s friends is murdered, he is quickly accused of a gruesome retaliation. Jeannie knows he’s innocent, and plans to go away with him, legitimizing their passionate affair with a marriage. But when she receives word that Breed has been killed in a fight, Jeannie’s world falls apart. Although she carries Jonas Breed’s child, she feels she has no choice but to accept a proposal from another man.
Twenty years later, Jeannie finds reason to believe that Breed may still be alive. She must embark on a journey to uncover the truth, unaware that she is stirring up an old and dangerous struggle for power and revenge…

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: I am one and twenty and what you call, a goody. I have tried my very best to  be a good and honest young woman, but life has not always treated me that way. That is why I found myself here in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.  I came alone from England with my young son and enjoyed the protection of my Uncle Archie who was a trader at the Hudson’s Bay trading fort in Victoria. But it was when I made a trip to the Royal Marine encampment on San Juan Island to attend a tea given by the wife of the assistant surgeon that I found the place where felt at home for the first time.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: would be remiss not to talk about Mr. Breed—my dear Jonas—who opened my eyes beyond the stiff rules of my English society to societies of the Salish Sea: the Songhee, Lummi and other Coast Salish peoples and Kanakas—know them as Hawaiians—who worked at the Hudson Bay farm. Mr. Breed was born in Hawaii and after he went to sea with his father, he was captured by the Haida to the north of Vancouver Island. He was a mistchimas then, but gained his freedom when he saved the life of his master. Back in white society, he worked many trades, spoke native tongues and Chinook Jargon, which he taught me. Mr. Breed scared me at first meet, but I began to regard him highly. He is very handsome, a kind, capable man, but not afraid to stand up for what was right, sometimes with violence.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: For now, it is the only novel I am in, but sometimes I hear stirrings that I may appear in something in the far future, if my author is inclined.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: Oh, dear, that would be when my little boy took ill. The variola major is such a terrible thing. When the scourge arrived in Victoria in the early 1860s, after felling many in our little town, it was carried home to Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian communities to the north. Later I learned that it wiped out 80 per cent of those people. I feared for the life of my sweet Jeremy.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: So many, so many, all with Mr. Breed.  I suppose the one that sticks out the most is the time we danced on the ramparts above the American encampment. At the time, I was not allowed to dance or show delight in things. At a joint party with both Royal Marine and American officers attending along with local guests from Victoria and Washington Territory, I had to sit and fill up my dance card with only conversation. Secretly we left and went up to the ramparts and danced to the music coming up from the parade ground. At first, he just wanted to find out what was upsetting me, but after showing the beautiful view under moonlight, he guessed my heart, that I wanted to dance. He told me he knew how and would not step on my feet. I knew then that I was falling in love in him. When he put his hand on my waist...

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?

 J.L. Oakley

A:  My author lives in the Pacific NW. She writes award-winning historical novels and mystery novellas in Hawaii with a touch of history in them. Outside of the stories in Hawaii, most of the novels are set in the Pacific NW. A single one takes place in Norway during WWII. When she is not writing, she enjoys weaving, gardening and doing local historical projects.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: My author is working hard on the sequel to her award-winning novel, The Jøssing Affair, set in Norway during WWII. Last fall, she made a trip to Norway to do research. Presently, she has around 60,000 words. In addition, my author is preparing for presentations at several conferences this fall, one at Pacific Northwest Writers and another, a gathering of Civilian Conservation Corps historians and alumni in Portland, Oregon. The CCC built our beautiful parks across the US and in Hawaii and Alaska during the Great Depression.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for him/her personally?
A: Write a review, most importantly on Amazon. My author would appreciate that. Then share the book with your book club, reminding your members that authors would love to chat via Skpe or Google chat during the discussion.  Ask your local library to carry the novel. Put the book in a tiny library if your town or neighbourhood supports the program.

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he/she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?
A: The beautiful IndieBRAG Medallion stands out on the cover of Mist-chi-mas. Readers see it immediately on the shelf at my author’s indie bookstore, but they also see it means something, that the novel is worth buying and reading. My author is very grateful and honoured to have it. It’s important to always to grow as a writer and aim for this seal of approval. This conversation is a fun addition to writers with the medallion. (Thank you very much for interviewing me). The medallion is also helpful in getting a spot on Bargain Booksy and Free Booksy. Novel. I’m looking forward to IndieBRAG’s forays into conferences.

Helen: Thank you Jeannie, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? Meanwhile, chatting is thirsty work, so would you like more to drink?
Jeannie: More tea, please and did I see some little ginger cookies? My favorite.
Helen: Indeed you did - I'd forgotten about them! Cheers! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

Excerpt from Mist-chi-mas
There! Something grunted, the voice edged in pain. Her horse began to tremble and put its ears back. Jeannie looked behind her, but saw nothing. She tapped the horse with her riding crop and went forward. The trees thinned out. She could see the stony beach below where someone had pulled a small dugout canoe up on the shore. Water lapped at the canoe’s stern.
   Jeannie was so focused on the canoe that she missed the crashing black shape of a boar charging through the woods, its red mouth open with curled yellow tusks aimed at her horse’s legs. By the time she heard its shrill squeal, it had hammered into her horse, knocking her off her perch. The horse neighed and reared, tearing her last hold on the reins away. A final buck and she was falling down the ledge, rolling over and over again. She screamed as she frantically tried to grab onto anything to stop her tumble, but it was over fast as she started when she landed hard on the ground. Dazed for the moment, she finally staggered to her feet. Her sleeves were torn, her skirt ripped so that she could see her mud-stained petticoats. Her hair fell out of its pins.
   Gasping, Jeannie limped away toward the safety of the canoe. Above her the horse and the boar continued to thrash around. Suddenly, the low ridge exploded with broken branches and pebbles and the roan fell down just feet from where she had been standing. Close behind came the biggest black boar Jeannie had ever seen. As the horse and boar untangled, she saw for the first time that the horse was hurt badly. The skin on its cheek was torn, leaving patches of bloody flesh beneath; its legs were bleeding from gashes. Both horse and boar squealed with hurt and anger as they righted themselves.
   A peculiar feeling of lightness came over her. The pit of her stomach became cold. She could barely think, but she knew she was in extreme danger. Shaking, she backed up against the canoe and pushed it out into the water, ignoring the chilly water of the channel soaking her boots and skirt. When it was afloat, she turned in time to see the horse separate from the boar and buck its way down the beach.
   “Go, go,” Jeannie shouted as she pushed the canoe back further, then realized that only the horse was making its escape. The boar was now trotting back, its little eyes trained on her.
   There is blood all over its face and tusks, she thought. She hopped and scrambled into the canoe, her skirt catching at the gunwales. The boar charged.

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  1. I had the pleasure of reading this amazing story and, of course, loved it! This made your visit with Jeannie especially fun. This story has so much depth - love, courage, tragedy. It is a hard one to let go of- I guess that his the mark of a good book.
    Thanks Helen for letting us visit with Jeannie-

  2. Wonderful fluid writing.
    How did women ever survive those hard times? But I sense Jeannie is one of the strong and determined ones. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  3. Thank you Geri, Florence and Inge - I've got this on my TBR mountain, I think I need to put it as Next Book!

  4. This sounds like a fascinating story in a - to me - unusual setting. And what a cliff hanger in this extract!


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