This reality thing… How is it that so many of the people I am closest to are those I have never met in ‘real’ life? What is real life? Adrian laughs at me when I talk about my online friends, my ‘tribe’, my ‘family’, my whatever. ‘Have you actually met this one?’ he says. And I frown. Because, really, unreally, I don’t see it matters. And I have this suspicion that the internet has a deeper purpose – of putting back in touch people who are geographically disparate but connected in far more important, yet subtle, ways.
You’ve already met quite a few of my people but today I’m going to introduce to another. Genevieve Graham. I met Genevieve on Authonomy – she had posted her book Under the Same Sky and the moment I started reading it, I just knew it was a winner. It’s the story of a girl, Maggie, gifted with ‘the Sight’. She dreams of a boy she calls Wolf and – oh my – he also dreams of her. As they grow up, she in South Carolina, he in the Scottish Highlands, their dreams become clearer, turning into visions that bring them comfort, love and inspiration. Even life-saving protection. They yearn for one another but, slight problem, they’re on different continents. And, even more problematic, this isn’t the era of bucketshop airlines. It’s 1746 and – if you know your history – you’ll know it isn’t the best time to be a young guy in the Highlands. After war ravages his home and his family, Andrew (Wolf) sets out on a journey to the New World to find the woman he has always loved. But she isn’t living an easy life either. Under the Same Sky may look like a bodice-ripper (my one gripe is the cover that Penguin have chosen for the book). Appearances are deceptive…but I’ll let Genevieve tell you about that.
Anyhow. Under the Same Sky is poised on the verge of publication so I figured it was time to talk to Genevieve about her book.
EJ: Where did you find the idea for this book? Did it spring into your head fully-formed or did you start with an image, an idea?
GG: I had a rough idea in my head that I wanted to write an adventure. How’s that? Oh. A little more info, huh? Okay. I’d read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series four times, and I’d just watched Colin Farrell in “The New World” for the umpteenth time, so I was definitely in that frame of mind. I love sagas, stories about journeys. I wanted the plot to stretch out for the duration, not knowing within the first couple of pages who will be doing whom.
EJ: How do you write? Are you a plotter or do you let the story unfold as you go along?
GG: I’m a … what’s that term? Pantzer. I write by the seat of my pants. At some point I put my foot down and figure out the general direction, try to figure out what the plot actually is, but my favourite thing is writing whatever’s playing out in my head, then going back and not remembering actually writing that part.
EJ: Why Scotland?
GG: It started with the “Outlander” books. Those growling Scottish burrs and grungy kilts got it all going for me. Scotland’s a place I’ve always wanted to experience. Lots of people say Scotland “calls to them”, and I’m one of those people. So, since I haven’t been able to go physically, why not travel in my head and on my keyboard?
EJ: Grungy kilts eh? J And why 1746? Why was it important to set your novel at this particular time?
GG: Again, Gabaldon’s books influenced that. Until I read that series I’d had no clue about Scottish history. I didn’t really care about history at all until then, and now I’m amazed by all of it. 1746 was not only an exciting time period, but it was a monumental year for Scots. That one day on Culloden Moor wiped out their entire way of life, meaning they had to create a whole new existence.
EJ: Maggie and Andrew have visions of one another, can see and hear one another on another dimension. Have you experienced anything like that? Are you psychic in any way?
GG: I love the world of psychics and have some gifted friends. I’ve experienced “things”, and I definitely believe in it all. I’ve been told I am psychic and just need to learn how to listen, but so far all I can do is read what my characters are saying. My husband and I know what each other is thinking most of the time, for which we’ve coined the silly phrase “psychicivity”.
I saw a psychic about four years ago, and she had no idea I’d written anything. She was reading tarot for me and said every card she turned over screamed, “published”. Good thing she didn’t see something a little less … happy.
GG: I suppose you could say it’s destiny, a destiny they can fulfill because of the strength of their individual psychic gifts. They say we only use 10% of our brains. What’s the rest of it doing? If we were all that gifted, if we all could feel like they could, maybe discovering our destiny and finding our soulmate would be just as clear. Just imagine.
EJ: Under the Same Sky is marketed as ‘historical romance’ but it feels more than that to me – how would you describe it?
GG: Though the cover definitely suggests romance, I shy away from that term. I was very fortunate that Berkley/Penguin saw it that way, though. I call it ‘historical adventure’ with strands of fantasy woven throughout.
A little note about the cover: When an author is fortunate enough to be published by a major publishing house, they rarely have input into their covers. The cover of Under the Same Sky is absolutely beautiful, its imagery and colours eye-catching. Unfortunately, it’s not representative of the story. This book is not a “bodice ripper”, as many people say the cover suggests. It’s not a stereotypical romance.
EJ: Inevitably I loved the shamanic aspects of this book – tell us a little about how you researched the Cherokee. Why did you pick this particular people?
GG: I loved working with the Cherokee. Truth is, I had absolutely no idea there were going to be Cherokee in that book until they burst out of the trees that day. Most of the research I did about both them and the Highlanders was through historical re-enactors, who are passionate about all things in “their” time period. I met them online. The man with the insight to the Cherokee (who I chose because they were the prevalent tribe in that area at that time) was Iron Head Vann. I found him through his terrific website, www.cherokeebyblood.com Iron Head (also known as David) is the great-great-great grandson of ‘Chief’ Rich Joe Vann of the Old Cherokee Nation. He is hugely knowledgeable about all things Cherokee and has been very generous with that knowledge.
EJ: Tell us about your publishing journey? You went the traditional route of finding an agent first, yes? Any tips for would-be novelists on getting published?
GG: Yes, I queried for an agent for a while (felt like forever), and, like most authors, I almost gave up. Everywhere I posted the book it was met with compliments, but most agents replied with something like “No one’s buying historical fantasy genre crossovers” or “Nobody’s signing debut authors right now.” Then I joined Authonomy.com where I met so many terrific authors, including both you and Gemini Sasson, author of Isabeau and many others. Gemi generously referred me to her agent, and he decided he wanted to represent me and my book. I am tremendously lucky to be represented by Jacques de Spoelberch, a well-respected agent with an incredible reputation.
My #1 tip for writing has to be that writers need to write from the heart, not the head. Let the story take you on a journey. That way readers will want to take the voyage with you.
EJ: Are you going to be doing a lot of publicity for the book? Will people be able to meet you anywhere for signings etc? Point us in the direction of your schedule maybe?
GG: Authors these days—especially debut authors—have to do a lot of publicity on their own. I’m doing what I can, through a full blog tour this month, through facebook, through my newsletter … I’m always open to ideas! I’m also doing readings and signings at two libraries in Nova Scotia as well as in a couple of other places. Here’s my schedule.
EJ: Tell us about your next book, Sound of the Heart – which is being published in May. And what are working on now?
GG: Sound of the Heart was a surprise to me. When Berkley/Penguin US contracted me to write Under the Same Sky, it was with the request that I write a companion novel as well. I don’t want to give away anything in the book, but I can say the story occurs in the same time period and begins in Scotland. The hero in Sound of the Heart is a Scottish warrior. He is forced to join the very army he despises in order to search for the woman he loves.
So, there you have it. And what are you waiting for? Go buy Under the Same Sky (yes, you can pre-order) rightaway! Huge good luck, Genevieve…my as yet unmet friend… J