AMERICAN HISTORICAL NOVELS discussion

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Interview with M.K.Tod

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message 1: by Rebecca, Champagne Widows, 2021 (new)

Rebecca Rosenberg (rebeccarosenberg) | 270 comments Mod
Rebecca Rosenberg: Hello M.K. and thank you for hosting this week!
How were you inspired to write Time and Regret?

M.K: Ah! I love that question. Several years ago, my husband and I travelled to France to visit WWI battle sites and memorials. I’d written one novel set during WWI (Unravelled) and was in the midst of a second (Lies Told in Silence), so World War One was on my mind. We were in a café in the small town of Honfleur enjoying dinner and an idea popped into my head. I pulled out a little notebook I had in my purse and wrote it down. Ian – curious fellow that he is – wanted to know what I’d written. “An idea for a story about a woman who follows the path her grandfather took during the war.” Ian took on a pensive look. “You could include a mystery,” he said. We spent the rest of dinner and a delicious bottle of red wine sketching out the story.

Rebecca: Can you give us insight into your writing process?

M.K: I’m a planner. I usually develop an idea into four or five pages of and-then-what-happened. After that I do a rough chapter outline, which includes point of view, setting, purpose, actions that occur, and the hook that keeps readers wanting to turn the page. Historical fiction requires oodles of research. I do some research before starting to write – general timeline of historical events, important people, politics of the time, how people lived and so on. After I begin writing, I often have to stop and research a particular event or place or whatever is important to that point in the story. And then, of course, there’s the editing. In my case, I can easily do nine or ten edits before I’m happy with the manuscript.

Rebecca: What type of research did you do for writing Time and Regret?

M.K: Since I’d written two novels set in World War One, I already had a lot of books, online materials, and documents I’d printed off. However, I had to research a particular battalion to know precisely where it was on a given day in order for the historical timeline to be accurate. Time and Regret is a dual timeline novel, the more contemporary timeline takes place in the early 1990s, so I had to research that as well, even though I was alive at the time.

Rebecca: What was your favorite scene to write?

M.K: Instead of a favorite scene, let me tell you about my favorite part of the story, which are the war diary entries I created for my character Martin Devlin. I’d read a number of WWI diaries, but creating one is a unique challenge. It’s a more intimate view of a character and I found that process really challenging.

Rebecca: What was the most difficult scene to write?

M.K: Endings are always the most difficult for me. I agonize over how to tie the story together and often write four or five different endings. And in this case, I had two endings to create: one for Martin Devlin, the soldier and a second one for Grace Hansen, his granddaughter.

Rebecca: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

M.K: Well, as a woman who studied Math and Computer Science and quite disliked English and History, I never even thought of writing until my husband and I were living in Hong Kong on assignment for three years. I had nothing to do, my husband travelled all the time, and one day I thought I would research the lives of my maternal grandparents. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rebecca: What has been your greatest challenge as a writer?

M.K: The biggest challenge is getting published. I spent several years finding an agent, but the first one wasn’t able to sell either of my novels. In 2015, an author friend put me in touch with Lake Union. They were interested in Time and Regret and in January 2016, I received one of those emails that make you jump up and down with happiness. I now have a new agent and have just finished another novel. I’m hopeful she will be able to sell it to a publisher.

Rebecca: Who are your writing inspirations?

M.K: There are so many superb authors out there. I try to learn from all of them. Recently, I’ve been inspired by Kate Quinn, Paula McLain, Robert Harris, C.W. Gortner, Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie (a writing duo), Geraldine Brooks and Kristin Hannah. Through their novels, each of these authors have taught me something. Let’s say, I’m a work-in-process as a writer, always striving to improve.

Rebecca: What was the first historical novel you read?

M.K: When I was either twelve or thirteen, I read one of my mother’s historical romances. It was set in Scotland at a time when the lord of the manor could demand a new bride’s first night. I was shocked by the idea, but thoroughly enjoyed the story and was hooked on historical fiction.

Rebecca: What is the last historical novel you read?

M.K: I’ve just finished American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton. A wonderful story based on the life of Alice Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s eldest daughter.

Rebecca: What are three things people may not know about you?

M.K: I’ve already given away a few secrets! Let me see … I’m a Canadian, born in Toronto and although I’ve lived in other parts of Canada and in Hong Kong, my husband and I have lived in Toronto more than thirty years. I began my career as a computer programmer and quickly discovered that programming is not my strength. Far too detailed for me. My husband and I love hiking and biking holidays. One of our best biking holidays was in Vietnam.

Rebecca: What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

M.K: I love learning about history in order to tell a good story. If only I’d appreciated it as a high school student!

Rebecca: What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

M.K: I’m an eclectic reader, happy reading almost any time period. However, I think stories set in the first half of the twentieth century appeal to me the most. The time is distant and yet still tangible.

Rebecca: What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

M.K: I treasure time with family and friends. My husband and I love to cook. I can often be found out on the golf course or spinning or hiking somewhere.

Rebecca: Lastly, will you have more projects in the future?

M.K: I’ve just completed a dual timeline story set in Hong Kong. The working title is The Admiral’s Wife. And I’m about twelve chapters into a contemporary novel that features two women who are identical twins.

Rebecca: Thank you M. K. Great to be with you this week.


message 2: by M.K. (new)

M.K. | 42 comments Many thanks, Rebecca. Delighted to be here on American Historical Novels! I look forward to chatting with the group!


message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry Collins | 27 comments I became interested in World War I years ago; the lead-up to it and the aftermath. It certainly changed the world maps; breaking up empires into nation states. Thanks for sharing your writing experience.


message 4: by M.K. (new)

M.K. | 42 comments Terry wrote: "I became interested in World War I years ago; the lead-up to it and the aftermath. It certainly changed the world maps; breaking up empires into nation states. Thanks for sharing your writing exper..."

You're very welcome, Terry. Do you have any favourite WWI novels?


message 5: by Terry (new)

Terry Collins | 27 comments I read mostly non-fiction when I was studying about WWI, but I'm starting to get back into reading novels. I read a couple of interesting novels about the Balkans last year; "The Bridge on the Drina" and "The Cellist of Sarrievo".


message 6: by M.K. (new)

M.K. | 42 comments Terry wrote: "I read mostly non-fiction when I was studying about WWI, but I'm starting to get back into reading novels. I read a couple of interesting novels about the Balkans last year; "The Bridge on the Drin..."

The Cellist of Sarajevo was so well done. It certainly made me think. It's a part of the world I have no experience with. I'll check out the other one you mentioned, Terry. I'm currently reading a mindless mystery as I needed a change after Citizens of London which is non-fiction set during WWII. An excellent book!


message 7: by Terry (last edited Apr 08, 2019 12:45PM) (new)

Terry Collins | 27 comments The Bridge on the Drina is an interesting concept for a novel. The Drina River forms part of the boundary between Bosnia and Serbia and the bridge, which forms the setting for multiple stories over the course of centuries, was built by a Grand Vizir of the Ottoman Empire who had been taken from his family by the Turks as a youth in that region, brought up through the ranks of the Janissaries (the Ottomans' elite military corps), and became the Grand Vizir.


message 8: by M.K. (new)

M.K. | 42 comments M.K. wrote: "Terry wrote: "I read mostly non-fiction when I was studying about WWI, but I'm starting to get back into reading novels. I read a couple of interesting novels about the Balkans last year; "The Brid..."

Sounds great! I'll look for it.


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