*Author Guest Post* | M.K. Tod [Unravelled] speaks on “Becoming a Historical Fiction Writer”

Posted Saturday, 9 November, 2013 by jorielov , , 1 Comment

Guest Post by Parajunkee

“Becoming a Historical Fiction Writer”, from the author of the historical fiction novel, “Unravelled”. M.K. Tod imparts her journey towards publication today on Jorie Loves A Story!

M. K. TodI would like to welcome a special guest contributor today: Ms. Tod who has penned the richly engaging historical fiction novel “Unravelled”, by which I had the honour of reading courtesy of France Book Tours. As soon as I read the synopsis for this novel, I knew I would be readily drawn into the world by which it is set! I am oft drawn into dramas during the World War eras, and especially ones that are wrought with both a measure of eloquence for the setting as much as delving into the human spirit and heart of the story.

I now yield to Ms. Tod, as she starts to share her fascinating story!

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Becoming a Historical Fiction Writer ~ by M.K. Tod

Summer 2004 – the summer that changed my life. In July of that year, my husband’s company asked him to consider a three-year assignment to Hong Kong. We hesitated only long enough to consult with our children and mothers, then plunged into planning and moving, riding the waves of fantasy and euphoria for the next few months. Everything seemed full of possibilities.

Winter 2005 – the bite of reality set in as I struggled to find occupation and purpose and to satisfy intellectual, emotional and social needs. My husband was frantically busy, traveling every week to locations throughout Asia. I had found only a few friends and no job. For a woman accustomed to juggling career, family and social activities, endless free time felt like a burden rather than a luxury. Excitement was replaced by loneliness and intense dislocation. How would I survive?

I dithered. I continued searching for a job. I complained to those back home. I prowled the streets of Hong Kong extending simple outings to multi-hour, blister-inducing walks. I joined an association of expat wives who met for coffee every Thursday. I read books and bought stacks of DVDs. I shopped. I visited Cambodia, Taiwan, and Australia. Gradually, an idea emerged.

My grandmother died on the way to her second wedding. I had often thought this dramatic curtain on life would make a good story and one day, sitting in our apartment with a wonderful view of harbor and city, I decided to write about her life. I had some notes my mother had written about her family. I had my computer and oceans of time.

The first step was research. To create a story based on the lives of my grandparents, I would have to understand WWI, the Depression and WWII. Not being a student of history, I felt the need to begin at the beginning. What caused WWI? Who were the players? What did soldiers experience? What happened on the home front?

Happily, the Internet offered reams and reams of information on military and political events as well as maps and photos and stories of individual experiences of war. I found soldiers’ diaries lovingly transcribed by relatives to preserve and honor long ago sacrifice. I found regiments maintaining information about those who served in WWI, the weapons used and uniforms worn, the rations eaten and songs sung. A world of chaos and bungling and death emerged and I became utterly captivated.

But a novel requires drama: a plot with twists and turns, characters going through change, tension and conflict. Clearly, I would have to embellish. I was a mathematics and science grad with no writing experience except business articles and client reports. “Writing a novel can’t be that hard,” I muttered to myself.

I bought a book on writing, underlining advice that seemed most useful. “Always have a notebook and pen on hand.” “Borrow (and steal) from your favorite writers.” “Master metaphor.” “Accelerate the pace with invisible writing.” “Sentences are written like jokes. The punch line is at the end.” “Mix description, narration, exposition and dialogue.” “Resolve all conflicts by the end of the story.” Gradually these bits of advice made sense.

Back in Toronto that summer, my mother provided further ingredients for the story by telling me that my grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge in April of 1917 and went on to be part of the Army of Occupation in Germany after WWI ended. She spoke of my great-grandparents and what she knew of her parents’ wedding, a few memories of the Depression and more substantial memories of living through WWII. She gave me a box of old photos and newspaper clippings and my grandfather’s scrapbooks. She also relayed the story of my grandfather’s involvement with Camp X, a place not far from Toronto where espionage agents were trained in WWII. My grandfather and espionage – who would have imagined?

The plot started to take shape.

Writing gave me more than an occupation; it gave me the thrill of doing something new. Unwittingly, I had accepted the need to let go of my old world and reinvent myself, had taken charge rather than allowing myself to continue wallowing. I had emerged from the culture shock of moving to a foreign country with a sense of purpose. Contentment settled in. Time passed. The story and my writing skills evolved.

In June 2007, we returned to Toronto. Before leaving, I took several last walks to favorite haunts—The Peak, the walk along Bowen Road, Dragon’s Back, a lively Vietnamese restaurant in Soho, the streets of Central, Stanley Market, the Man Mo temple, Teresa Coleman’s gallery—these familiar places were friends, touchstones in that bustling Asian city.

My novel was in its fourth version by then, the outcome of almost two years of work contained in a small moving box of printed materials, books on writing, novels and non-fiction books about WWI and WWII along with a collection of computer files.  I set those aside to resume my business career, occasionally working on the story on evenings and weekends. But the pull of writing would not let me go. I longed to craft sentences, build images of long ago times, and explore the emotions of a man and woman coping with war and the consequences of death and destruction. Hong Kong had turned me into a writer.

After completing a lengthy consulting project, I took the plunge and walked away from thirty years of accomplishments. I remember feeling inordinately pleased the first time I used the word ‘writer’ to describe my occupation. Finally, in late 2010, I threw away my consulting files. Had Toronto regulations permitted, I might have had a ceremonial bonfire to mark the end of that life. A wonderful life, really. One in which I had been fortunate enough to work with talented people in frequently demanding circumstances.

And where am I now? I’ve completed two novels and have an agent for one of them. A third novel is ready for editing and plot tuning. I have a blog called A Writer of History. I’ve conducted a reader survey. I’ve taken two writing courses and collected additional books on writing. I’m active in the community of writers, particularly those who write historical fiction and have even been asked to speak on the topic.

“What about my grandmother’s story?” you ask. It has been self-published this past September under the title Unravelled. A fitting title for what happens in the novel and a fitting description of what happened when a woman from Toronto became an expat spouse in Hong Kong.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon (USCanada and elsewhere), NookKoboGoogle Play and on iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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Thank you, Ms. Tod for giving us such a hearty overview of your writing history and journey towards publication! I must say, your story starts off on an adventurous note, whilst you and your family rather quickly relocated to Hong Kong! I would imagine the experience of being there would not only give you numerous memories for your lifetime, but provide you with curious possibilities for research and writing! I realise you didn’t have an easy road towards beginning your book, as you first had to sort through what it was that your heart was calling you to do, but once on that path! Oh, my goodness did you excel! As I read how your research started to give you a heartier glimpse of life during the World Wars, I fondly thought back on my own research jaunts and where they have led me! There are always hidden passageways we tread whilst researching a story, and for me, that is part of the reason I enjoy to write. It would appear the same is true for you as well.

You were also blessed with a family who kept excellent genealogical records and cared about preservation of your lineage! I am also a history buff whose passion for uncovering her ancestral past stems from the pursuits her Mum made long before I was even a whisper of a breath! The map of passageways leading into our ancestry is oft a tedious and rewarding journey, but I was most impressed that your Mum had such a collection of information to impart on you! Wow. And, your quite right, who expects to find such a juicy antidote as espionage!?

What I appreciated the most about your journey, is that it took an exodus of being elsewhere to have your true heart’s passion for writing not only emerge into the forefront but to grab a hold of your inner murmurings to where you decided that it was your calling afterall! The accumulation of everything you were prior to writing has given you the edging on being a writer because writing takes gumpshun, passion, determination, and bold self-confidence! Clearly these are attributes you brought with you from your previous career and they will be what carry you forward as your writing endeavours continue to expand!

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Be sure to catch the second half of this showcase on JLAS:
Jorie reviews “Unravelled“,
which includes a virtual road map of this tour!

Similar to blog tours, when I feature a showcase for an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog.

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

France Book Tours

on my Bookish Events Featured on JLAS!

{NOTE: The links for bookstores carrying the novel “Unravelled” shared by the author, M.K. Tod are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. As stated in my Review Policy I do not have affiliations, nor do I receive compensation for links shared on my blog.}

{SOURCES:  Photograph of the author M.K. Tod was provided by France Book Tours and used with permission. Guest Post badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie requested to feature a Guest Post on JLAS by Ms. Tod whilst signing up for the blog book tour for “Unravelled”. She was honoured her offer was accepted and received the guest post by Ms. Tod through Ms. Cazabonne. This marks her first Author Submitted Guest Post on her blog! France Book Tours badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers provided by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 9 November, 2013 by jorielov in Adulterous Affair, Blog Tour Host, Canada, Debut Novel, England, Espionage, France, France Book Tours, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, The World Wars, Time Slip, War-time Romance

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