Book Club Questions for the Author of Ravenscraig

Book Club questionsOne of the greatest pleasures of being a writer is the chance to meet with readers who want to talk about the story you invented.

I am fortunate to be  invited both in person and on Skype to talk with book clubs, service organizations, synagogues and history buffs about the story and to give presentations on the research I did to create Ravenscraig.

It is just a lot of fun to talk with readers who become deeply involved in the story.

The following questions came to me from a book club in Florida.  I couldn’t attend this event due to an ill-timed appendectomy and wrote out the answers to these questions while I was recovering.

Here then, is a little background on the writing of Ravenscraig.  Please do write to me if you have any other questions!

DSCN3574

Why did you decide to title your novel Ravenscraig? What other options did you consider? 

Finding the title was challenging. My first working title was the incredibly bland Willows on the Crescent.  After that there were a number of titles that related to the Titanic.  Finally I settled on Ravenscraig because it was the name of Rupert’s home (Rupert Willows is the lead character) and because it just seemed to work better than any of the other titles I had on my list.

Ravenscraig Hall (a fictional home) is located in the real neighbourhood of Armstrong’s Point which has a charming history and truly remains a sought-after residential neighbourhood to this day.  On the location that I placed Ravenscraig Hall there originally sat a mammoth home known as Bannatyne’s Castle.  How unfortunate that only the gates of that home are still in existence today.  I took the name Ravenscraig from Ravenscraig Castle in Scotland, which is big, ugly and was among the first built to withstand cannon fire.  Once I tripped across that, I knew it was perfect for the mansion.  Coming to the conclusion that it was the right name for the book took much longer.

Naming characters was a similar problem.  I learned all of the baby name sites on the net in my search for names that I felt would be most appropriate. I also did extensive searching through archival materials from Ellis Island, the Canadian Census reports of 1901 and 1911, the Jewish Genealogy website and City of Winnipeg archives.

What is your greatest pleasure – researching the historical underpinnings of the plot or creating the characters and dialog to communicate the historical elements?

I love the research.  The idea of writing a novel first came from stumbling across a great story about the scandals involved in building the Manitoba Legislative building a century ago.  Great story.  The more I learned the further back I needed to go.  What I learned about the conflicts between rich and poor, and English and everyone foreign during the height of the immigration boom (1896-1914) became so interesting that the focus of my story naturally shifted to the stories of that time.

There was such extreme poverty and so little political will to do anything about it that it just seemed unbelievable.  I read stories of 40 or more people living in boarding houses of 800 sq ft or less and thought it impossible that this had happened. Moreover it made me wonder that if it indeed had happened, how had I never heard of that before?  The 1911 census is an amazing document that lays out the truth.  Then, knowing the extent the overcrowding existed set a different colour to the many essays and memoires that I had read and new materials that I sought out.  What I had seen as perhaps exaggerated through a nostalgic memory suddenly came into focus as an undertold story of suffering. I wanted to bring that story to life.

This led to learning about the Typhoid epidemic in 1904-1905 when Winnipeg had the highest rate of typhoid per capita in the western world.  I first learned of it in a book by Dr. Alan Artibise, titled: A Social History of Winnipeg, 1874-1914.  There truly was a Dr. Jordan called in from Chicago to investigate the health crisis. I ordered a full copy of his report from the Manitoba Archives and was shocked to learn that he did not condemn the use of dirty river water being brought into the water mains for use in fire control.  He did say the water should be used “as little as possible”.  Equally interesting was that the Winnipeg newspapers produced no screaming headlines demanding to know the source of the typhoid.  It appears the city leaders just didn’t want the shame on a national scale.

Did Rupert Willows ever get on your nerves?  

Yes. But as awful as his behavior is at times, I admit to a deep affection for him. I enjoy his complexity.

Which is easier for you, description or dialog?  

Dialogue is much easier for me.  There comes a point where you spend enough time with your characters that you understand their morals, failings, strengths and misery.  I don’t mean to sound nutty, but I got to like a lot of them, especially the ones I spent a lot of time with.  So then, with the kind of research I did in Ravenscraig, you have a real story that you need them to react to.  You create a circumstance, place the people in it and then listen…and type.   There was one night I remember where I had had a particularly productive day.  I work outside on the patio most of the time when the weather allows.  I was working away and was quite overcome by what unfolded.  It was dark. The pool light was on, as was a lamp on the patio table. Katiana, my daughter, came out to ask a question and caught me as I wiped the tears from my eyes.  “ARE YOU OKAY, MUM?”

I think that when we think that these are not just stories, but that each of us has someone in our own ancestry who suffered, who fled, who persevered so that future generations would have a good life, it becomes something worth learning.  Each of us has a history worth knowing. Sacrifice is a big word and it counts for a lot.  It enriches your life when you contemplate the suffering that was done on your behalf.

Who do you imagine as your ideal readers?

Wow.  To be totally honest, this was a selfish endeavor. I wrote something I had searched out to read and couldn’t find. I thought if my mum read the book I wrote I would be happy. It pleases me to no end that the story has touched others and that it has sparked interest among some readers to learn more about their own histories. Historical fiction is not one of those BIG genres publishers are clamouring to publish.

As an author are you more interested in portraying the history of a period/place or in drawing “life lessons” from historical events and suggesting parallels to present issues?

I think there are life lessons in every circumstance and I wanted to tell a story that was historically correct.  I was very concerned about reflecting the attitudes of the day, particularly in the impact on women and the underclass. I like the idea that readers might learn something new that makes them think about the immigrant experience, whether it be a hundred years ago or in modern times.

Even in the most seemingly objective narrations of history, the historian has a point of view, a bias, a cautionary message.  As an author working in the genre of historical fiction, how would you characterize your moral slant or philosophical position.

I think it is very humbling to look at all of the difficulties that were borne by our ancestors.  I have little interest in anyone who might whine about not having the latest cell phone or tablet. Freedoms are too easily characterized as entitlements. I look back at that time a century ago, and imagine who or what I might have done or been. My heart goes out to the unfed children, the women who gave birth with their hair frozen to a wall in an unheated shack, and to all of the men that drove themselves to find any way possible to provide for their families. All of those who faced the tremendous challenge of putting down roots in a country where so many people were against them, simple because of a  name, a religion, or an ethnic background.  I think if I were to have lived in that time I would have thrown all my might behind Nellie McLung and the group of women who saw to it that Manitoba would be the first province in Canada to gain the right for women to vote in 1916.  Can you imagine we haven’t had the right to vote for a hundred years yet?

Why did you choose to conclude the book the way you did? Did you consider other options?

The ending came at the very end.  I had an earlier version that I was just not satisfying so I had to take some time away and just think about it. I have a deep affection for certain characters and it was very troublesome to learn what happened.  I was quite shocked, I must say, when I finally learned.

How does the ending reflect on or influence the themes of your novel. Family, Loyalty, Education, Integrity, Politics, Gender Issues (changing role of women, suffrage, etc.), Responsibility, Community, Work Ethic, Luck, Chance, Identity… personal versus social, ethnic, religious, economic, gender, family connections and expectations.-

Because the ending was the last of the book to be written, I cannot say it influenced the themes. It does influence thoughts of a sequel.  I am interested in the Great War and its impact on the city.  I am greatly interested in the work and strength of the women particularly through the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, and the suffrage movement.  Sam Bronfman became Canada’s best known Jewish leader after he became known for Seagram.  He and his family started out in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in a variety of jobs which ultimately led to the the hotel business. He became the owner of the Bell Hotel in Winnipeg when he was in his early twenties and ultimately became Canada’s most famous bootlegger. Lots to research in this area.  And then there is the matter of the 1915 scandal of the building of the Legislative Building.

Who are your favorite authors, particularly in the historical fiction genre?

Most of what I read is non-fiction, but I very much admire and enjoy: Chaim Potok, Ken Follett, James Michener, Allan Levine, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Carol Shields, Irwin Shaw, Alice Munro among others I have forgotten to mention.

Writing the Sequel to Ravenscraig

Summer reading
Summer reading

I am happy to share the news that at long last I am seriously at work writing the sequel to Ravenscraig.  This story is settling into the world of art forgery and starts in 1914. 

For me, fiction writing starts with serious research and for this novel, I have been learning about the exclusive world of art collectors, dealers and auctioneers.  I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get to such a  a fascinating field of study. Rife with scandal, and steeped in tradition, the art world makes for delicious reading.  Please feel free to share your reccomendations.

There is nothing quick about my approach to writing a novel, so I am not ready to say when this book might be available.  I can tell you that I am at my happiest on days like this when I can wander through history, and in this case luxury to see where the story goes.

800px-Real_Monte_Carlo_Casino

So as not to spoil the fun for the readers who have not yet finished Ravenscraig, I will tell you only that the new novel opens in Monte Carlo just before the Great War.  Gambling, luxurious living, and the particular challenges of the world of the fine art market set the path for the new adventures of some familiar characters and some new friends who join the fun.

cn_image_2.size.h-tel-de-paris-monte-carlo-monte-carlo-monaco-106835-3
Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Like Ravenscraig, the new book will be based on historical truths and will be driven by the appalling yet frequently charming behavior of my favorite imaginary friends.

From time to time I will share some of the images I find inspiring, like these of the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, from a fantastic website on all things fashionable called Zsazsabellagio.

I have a small favor to ask:  If you have finished Ravenscraig, please don’t spoil the fun and tell anyone about the ending!  I recently gave a talk for a large group and one dear lady couldn’t help but stand up and blurt out some information that should not have been revealed.  Ugh.  No spoilers please!

Monte-Carlo-(Monaco)
Monaco
cn_image_3.size.h-tel-de-paris-monte-carlo-monte-carlo-monaco-106835-4
Hotel de Paris, Monaco
cn_image_0.size.h-tel-de-paris-monte-carlo-monte-carlo-monaco-106835-1
Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Ravenscraig 100th Amazon Review

Sandi AltnerFew things are more gratifying for an author than to have people tell you they like your story.  Whatever you may think of Amazon and its dominance of the ebook market, I can tell you that there is a huge benefit to being able to hear from Amazon reviewers who take the time to share their thoughts on the books they’ve read.  Like many authors, I appreciate and read every review.

It takes a long time for a book to gain traction and to become known.  The reviews help people find books that are in the area that they like.  Ravenscraig is a family saga, historical fiction, with romance, a Canadian immigration story and of interest to people who like social history and particularly the Titanic.

So it is with delight that I saw the 100th review of Amazon appear this weekend.

Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 12.12.55 PM

The 100th review was written by Mary K. from Minnesota who gave Ravenscraig 5 stars. Thank you, Mary!

Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 12.11.39 PM

Here are some of the other comments from Amazon reviewers.

Click here to see more Ravenscraig reviews.:)

reviews

Author Event: Fiddler in the Golden Land

Sandi AltnerDoes your family have roots on the Lower East Side in New York?  The immigration stories of the turn of the century have long been a passion of mine and I am very pleased to be doing a special talk on this subject next week in Boca Raton, Florida.

Today, I am busy editing the finishing touches on one of the videos I will be including in the presentation which will be on April 3rd at the Sandler Center of the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center.

JCC University Series

This is part of the Levis JCC Sandler Center Adult University Lecture series and I am very honored to have been invited to speak about Jewish immigration, with a particular emphasis on New York City.

My interest in Jewish migration grew out of the research I began many years ago for my historical fiction novel Ravenscraig. Since then I have become fascinated with the Lower East Side of New York and I look forward to sharing the stories that I have learned and the marvelous old photographs I have found in the archives of the Library of Congress on line.

Photos and Music

Fiddler Sandi Altner 8x10M

I am particularly drawn to the photos of families at work and will be including a discussion about the sweatshops and what that meant for the littliest workers. The presentation features a video montage of archival photos.

I find these kinds of talks are particularly appealing to people who have a passion for learning their family histories.  For me, learning about the past, and the hardships that had to be overcome is very inspiring.

A Celebration of Family Roots

Whether your family landed in New York, or Chicago or on a farm in Manitoba, as mine did, there is a common experience and a great value in learning the stories of our families.

I am grateful that my ancestors had the determination and grit to make a go of it in the “New World” and indeed, that they were courageous enough to take the plunge.  It was this interest in my family history that inspired me to write Ravenscraig.

Levis JCC Sandler Center:  April 3 at 1:00 p.m.

Please do join me at the Sandler Center on April 3, 2013, if you happen to be in South Florida next week.   For reservations and information, call 561-558-2520.

Book signing to follow the presentation.  See you there. 🙂

Ravenscraig Makes Winnipeg Free Press Best Book List 2012

Winnipeg Free Press Best of the Best Book List, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press Best of the Best Book List, 2012

Happy New Year!

I am thrilled that the Winnipeg Free Press has selected Ravenscraig as one of top fiction titles in their annual “Best of the Year” book list.

The Canadian version of the book will soon be going to reprint through Manitoba publisher, Heartland Associates.

Ravenscraig listed as a Winnipeg Free Press Best Book of 2012
Ravenscraig listed as a Winnipeg Free Press Best Book of 2012

This has been a very exciting year for me in watching the book gain an audience outside of Canada.   Few things are more exciting for an author than to have people you’ve never met tell you how they enjoyed reading your story.

The Kindle version of Ravenscraig, published in the US by Franklin and Gallagher,  has had more than 12,000 downloads in 2012.

I am most thankful to those who take the time to post their reviews on Amazon.  Ravenscraig is rated as 4.7 stars out of 5 with 21 reviews.

I was surprised to learn this morning that there are also reviews being posted in the UK! Very exciting, indeed.

5.0 out of 5 stars Ravenscraig
I read this book whilst in hospital and really enjoyed it. It combined a good yarn with a bit of social history in regard to the persecution of the Jews, their immigration from Europe, and their hardships and successes in Canada and the U.S.A. in an easy to read form. I am looking forward to reading book two!

Published 1 month ago by Nana Dee

Thank you Nana Dee!

The Manitoba Archives – Destination Vacation

I went to Weston Elementary School when I was little and living on Gallagher Avenue in Winnipeg.  One of my strongest memories from grade three was the start of creative writing.  Our teacher would cut out pictures from magazines and paste them on construction paper.  The picture would be passed around from one desk to the next through the classroom and our assignment was to write a story about it.  The pupil with the best story was awarded the picture as a prize.  How great is that?

Over the years I have developed a rather keen interest in old photographs.  So it is that I find that I have spent countless hours poking through old picture collections.  One of my favourite places to search is the Manitoba Archives.  The staff are excellent and very helpful.

Here are a few of the pictures I found.    This one is part of the Sisler Collection and was taken in around 1915. The note on the file says “Clearing Land South of Elma.”  I am using pictures in my video montage that will be presented at Tarbut tomorrow night at the Rady Jewish Community Centre.  The others are early pictures of Downtown Winnipeg.

Clearing Land near Elma. c. 1915. Sisler Collection N11619 Manitoba Archives
Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue looking west from Main St. 1902 Manitoba Archives ON426
Main Street in Winnipeg, looking north from Portage Ave. c. 1912. Manitoba Archives N17779

Ravenscraig Freebie Days November 14 and 15, 2012

Click here for FREE download on Nov. 14-15, 2012

Freebie Days are back!  Amazon.com is offering Ravenscraig for a free download today and tomorrow. Available in the US and in the UK.

Why free?  This is part of the Kindle Select Program and the idea is to help authors become known to a wider audience.  I am very pleased that we had over 10,000 free downloads in the last free days over a month ago.

I am even more delighted with the readers who took the time to write a review for Amazon.  11 of the 15 reviews currently posted are Five Star.

Thank you!

Amazon Reviews:

Excellent, well-researched and very moving. ”Liz Stein  |  5 reviewers made a similar statement

The city was a hotbed of immigration and this book accurately depicts the history and immigration of a Jewish family from the “old country” to Winnipeg. ” Shell Beckwith  |  5 reviewers made a similar statement

Kept my interest from beginning to end. ” Ginny Harper  |  3 reviewers made a similar statement

See the Book Trailer here:

Celebrating the Early History of Winnipeg’s North End

Click for more information about Tarbut and to order tickets

I am delighted that Jewish Book Month will bring me back to Winnipeg for a special evening of stories, music and nostalgia.  Join me and the fabulously talented singer, Jane Enkin, on Nov. 22nd at the Rady Centre for the 3rd annual  Tarbut Festival of Jewish Culture.

For me it will be a chance to celebrate the early history of the immigrants in Winnipeg who first settled in what was to become Winnipeg’s famous North End with music, stories, pictures of the early days, and of course, a reading from Ravenscraig.

Click here for more information on programming and tickets.  See you on November 22nd!

Fiddler in the Golden Land

with Sandi Krawchenko Altner, author of Ravenscraig

Join as at Tarbut on Nov. 22nd for a lively evening of musical entertainment and nostalgic memories of the early days in Winnipeg’s North End.

Sandi Krawchenko Altner will present a reading from Ravenscraig, her award-winning historical novel about Winnipeg, and lead a discussion about the dreamers and strivers who first settled the North End.

Sandi will share stories she learned from her many years of research on Winnipeg’s boomtown years a century ago, when it was among the fastest growing cities on the continent.   The research inspired the fictional Zigman family of Ravenscraig, Russian Jewish immigrants who struggled to put down roots in Canada.  Sandi will also describe the living conditions suffered by the North End’s mix of Jews, Ukrainians and other “foreign born” residents, and the passion that developed in “the foreign quarter”  that ultimately led to Winnipeg’s North End becoming known as one of Canada’s greatest neighbourhoods for “rags to riches” success stories.

It is Tarbut’s pleasure to invite all who have a connection to, or affection for Winnipeg’s North End to join us for this special evening of nostalgia and celebration.

Ravenscraig, by Sandi Krawchenko Altner, Winner of the 2012 Carol Shields Book Award

Romance, scandal, and tragedy grip the lives of two families and threaten to destroy them both in Ravenscraig, by Sandi Krawchenko Altner.  Winner of the 2012 Carol Shields Book Award, Ravenscraig, pitches rich against poor in the height of the immigration boom a century ago.

Rupert Willows buries his cruel past and schemes his way to wealth and power when he buys his opulent home, Ravenscraig Hall. Zev Zigman, a devout Jew, mounts a desperate struggle to bring his family out of czarist Russia. At the center is the feisty Maisie, who hides her Jewish roots to enter the world of “The English” as a well paid maid at Ravenscraig. Love, anger and determination fuel the treacherous journey ahead.

Ravenscraig: The Freebie on Kindle

Click to download Ravenscraig

I am excited to let you know that Ravenscraig will be offered as a special promotion this week.  From Oct. 10-12 it will be available for free download on Amazon.  Click here to download the book….but wait until Wednesday, Oct 1oth, and please be kind enough to  send this message on to everyone you know.

So why does a writer support giving a book away for free?  The idea is the more people who download the book, the better chance this story, and this author, have of finding a readership.  In this new world of enormous strain on traditional publishing combined with the desire for instant access  downloads, I think this might be a most welcome manner to get a Canadian story out to a wide audience. I am particularly hopeful that someone in Scotland who lives within driving distance of Ravenscraig Castle  might download the book.

You will find a short book trailer at the bottom of this post.

About the book

Romance, scandal, and tragedy grip the lives of two families and threaten to destroy them both in Ravenscraig, by Sandi Krawchenko Altner.

Winner of the 2012 Carol Shields Book Award, Ravenscraig, pitches rich against poor in the height of the immigration boom a century ago. Rupert Willows buries his cruel past and schemes his way to wealth and power when he buys his opulent home, Ravenscraig Hall. Zev Zigman, a devout Jew, mounts a desperate struggle to bring his family out of czarist Russia.

At the center is the feisty Maisie, who hides her Jewish roots to enter the world of “The English” and a better paying future at Ravenscraig. Love, anger and determination fuel the treacherous journey ahead.

About the author:

Sandi Krawchenko Altner is a former television news reporter, anchor, and radio host who enjoyed an award-winning career in broadcasting over two decades in Montreal and Winnipeg.   She is a fifth generation descendent of the first colony of Ukrainian immigrants to settle in Manitoba in 1896. Sandi grew up with a keen interest in her roots and a deep love of history. A Jew by choice, she celebrated conversion in 2005.

Sandi moved to Florida in 2001 where her passion for family histories gave rise to her business as a personal historian, and documentary producer.   She specializes in interviewing people about their lives and creating tribute video projects. Ravenscraig is her first novel.

 

Ravenscraig: Questions for the Author

I had a most unusual experience the last time I was in Winnipeg.

It started with a wonderful event arranged by the Armstrong’s Point Residents Association, where I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon in September talking about the early history of the neighbourhood with residents, history enthusiasts, and readers.

A couple of days later I wound up in the hospital with an emergency appendectomy.  A little scary, and very disappointing as it interrupted my planned meetings and visits in Winnipeg, but it wasn’t all bad. I was in and out in less than 48 hours and all went well.  I also had the pleasure of extending my visit and recuperating in my mother’s house, while she baked pies with apples harvested from her backyard.  How wonderful is that?

While I thoroughly enjoyed the time with my mother, and the rest of the family, it was disappointing that I had to miss a book club event at home in Florida that had been in the works for some months. Jane, who had invited me to speak to the club, sent on some questions and promised to read the answers in her “best Canadian accent” to her book club members.  Following are the questions and my answers.  By the way, if  there is anything you would like to know about the story in Ravenscraig, please email me at Sandi.Altner@gmail.com.

Thank you, Jane.

Why did you decide to title your novel Ravenscraig? What other options did you consider? 

Finding the title was challenging. My first working title was Willows on the Crescent.  After that there were a number of titles that related to the Titanic.  Finally I settled on Ravenscraig because it was the name of Rupert’s home (Rupert Willows is the lead character) and because it just seemed to work better than any of the other titles I had on my list.

Courtesy Provincial Archives of Manitoba c. 1915

Ravenscraig Hall (a fictional home) is located in the real neighbourhood of Armstrong’s Point which has a charming history and truly was a sought after residential neighbourhood.  On the location that I placed Ravenscraig Hall there originally sat a mammoth home known as Bannatyne’s Castle.  How unfortunate that only the gates of that home are still in existence today.  I took the name Ravenscraig from Ravenscraig Castle in Scotland, which is big, ugly and was among the first built to withstand cannon fire.  Once I tripped across that, I knew it was perfect for the mansion.  Coming to the conclusion that it was the right name for the book took much longer.

Naming characters was a similar problem.  I know all of the baby name sites on the net. I also did extensive searching through archival materials from Ellis Island, the Canadian Census reports of 1901 and 1911, the Jewish Genealogy website and City of Winnipeg archives.

What is your greatest pleasure – researching the historical underpinnings of the plot or creating the characters and dialog to communicate the historical elements?

I love the research.  The idea of writing a novel first came from stumbling across a great story about the scandals involved in building the Manitoba Legislative building a century ago.  Great story.  The more I learned the further back I needed to go.  What I learned about the conflicts between rich and poor, and English and everyone foreign during the height of the immigration boom (1896-1914) became so interesting that the focus of my story naturally shifted to the stories of that time.

There was such extreme poverty and so little political will to do anything about it that it just seemed unbelievable.  I read stories of 40 or more people living in boarding houses of 800 sq ft or less and thought it impossible that this had happened. Moreover it made me wonder that if it indeed had happened, how had I never heard of that before?  The 1911 census is an amazing document that lays out the truth.  Then, knowing the extent the overcrowding existed set a different colour to the many essays and memoires that I had read and new materials that I sought out.  What I had seen as perhaps exaggerated through a nostalgic memory suddenly came into focus as an undertold story of suffering. I wanted to bring that story to life.

This led to learning about the Typhoid epidemic in 1904-1905 when Winnipeg had the highest rate of typhoid per capita in the western world.  I first learned of it in a book by Dr. Alan Artibise, titled: A Social History of Winnipeg, 1874-1914.  There truly was a Dr. Jordan called in from Chicago to investigate the health crisis. I ordered a full copy of his report from the Manitoba Archives and was shocked to learn that he did not condemn the use of dirty river water being brought into the water mains for use in fire control.  He did say the water should be used “as little as possible”.  Equally interesting was that the Winnipeg newspapers produced no screaming headlines demanding to know the source of the typhoid.  It appears the city leaders just didn’t want the shame on a national scale.

Which is easier for you, description or dialog?  

Dialogue is much easier for me.  There comes a point where you spend enough time with your characters that you understand their morals, failings, strengths and misery.  I don’t mean to sound nutty, but I got to like a lot of them, especially the ones I spent a lot of time with.  So then, with the kind of research I did in Ravenscraig, you have a real story that you need them to react to.  You create a circumstance, place the people in it and then listen…and type.   There was one night I remember where I had had a particularly productive day.  I work outside on the patio most of the time when the weather allows.  I was working away and was quite overcome by what unfolded.  It was dark. The pool light was on, as was a lamp on the patio table. Katiana, my daughter, came out to ask a question and caught me as I wiped the tears from my eyes.  “ARE YOU OKAY, MUM?”

I think that when we think that these are not just stories, but that each of us has someone in our own ancestry who suffered, who fled, who persevered so that future generations would have a good life, it becomes something worth learning.  Each of us has a history worth knowing. Sacrifice is a big word and it counts for a lot.  It enriches your life when you contemplate the suffering that was done on your behalf.

Who do you imagine as your ideal readers?

Wow.  To be totally honest, this was a selfish pursuit. I wrote something I had searched out to read and couldn’t find. I thought if my mom read the book I wrote I would be happy. It pleases me to no end that the story has touched others and that it has sparked interest among some readers to learn more about their own histories. Historical fiction is not one of those BIG genres publishers are clamouring to publish.

As an author are you more interested in portraying the history of a period/place or in drawing “life lessons” from historical events and suggesting parallels to present issues?

I think there are life lessons in every circumstance and I wanted to tell a story that was historically correct.  I was very concerned about reflecting the attitudes of the day, particularly in the impact on women and the underclass. I like the idea that readers might learn something new that makes them think about the immigrant experience, whether it be a hundred years ago or in 2012.

Even in the most seemingly objective narrations of history, the historian has a point of view, a bias, a cautionary message.  As an author working in the genre of historical fiction, how would you characterize your moral slant or philosophical position.

I think it is very humbling to look at all of the difficulties that were borne by our ancestors.  I have little interest in anyone who might whine about not having the latest Smart Phone. Freedoms are too easily characterize as entitlements. I look back at that time a century ago, and imagine who or what I might have done or been. My heart goes out to the unfed children, the women who gave birth with their hair frozen to a wall in an unheated shack, and to all of the men that drove themselves to find any way possible to provide for their families. All of those who faced the tremendous challenge of putting down roots in a country where so many people were against them, simple because of your name, your religion, or your ethnic background.  I think if I were to have lived in that time I would have thrown all my might behind Nellie McLung and the group of women who saw to it that Manitoba would be the first province in Canada to gain the right of women to vote in 1916.  Can you imagine we haven’t had the right to vote for a hundred years yet?

Why did you choose to conclude the book the way you did? Did you consider other options?

The ending came at the very end.  I had an earlier version that I was not happy with. I have a deep affection for certain characters and it was very troublesome to learn what happened.  I was quite shocked, I must say, when I finally learned.

How does the ending reflect on or influence the themes of your novel.Family, Loyalty, Education, Integrity, Politics, Gender Issues (changing role of women, suffrage, etc.), Responsibility, Community, Work Ethic, Luck, Chance, Identity… personal versus social, ethnic, religious, economic, gender, family connections and expectations.-

Because the ending was the last of the book to be written, I cannot say it influenced the themes. It does influence thoughts of a sequel.  I am interested in the Great War and its impact on the city.  I am greatly interested in the work and strength of the women particularly through the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, and the suffrage movement.  Sam Bronfman became Canada’s best known Jewish leader after he became known for Seagram.  He and his family started out in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in a variety of jobs which ultimately led to the the hotel business. He became the owner of the Bell Hotel in Winnipeg when he was in his early twenties and ultimately became Canada’s most famous bootlegger. Lots to research in this area.  And then there is the matter of the 1915 scandal of the building of the Legislative Building.

Who are your favorite authors, particularly in the historical fiction genre?

Most of what I read is non-fiction, but I very much admire and enjoy: Chaim Potok, Ken Follett, James Michener, Allan Levine, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Carol Shields, Irwin Shaw, Alice Munro among others I have forgotten to mention.