Between Two Shores
It's a big week for me, with a long-anticipated novel release--but what a delight to share a book birthday with the fabulous Jocelyn Green. I loved, loved, loved Between Two Shores because reading it--like all of her books, brings you to a place of complete immersion in history. She and I are chatting with each other on our blogs...so here's a chance to get to know her! Read through, and leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Between Two Shores.
Q: You’ve said Between Two Shores is different from any other novel you’ve written. In what ways?
JG: This is my first novel that takes place entirely outside the United States: Montreal, the Mohawk village of Kahnawake, Quebec City, and the St. Lawrence River in between. The book is written entirely from one woman’s point of view, and is driven by family dynamics in a much deeper way than I’ve done before. What Between Two Shores shares in common with my other novels is a deeply immersive read and the exploration of a fascinating but lesser known slice of history. In this case, it’s the interaction between Canadian Mohawks, British captives, and French-Canadian colonists and how that affected the outcome of the Seven Years’ War, and more specifically, the pivotal battle for Quebec.
AP: First—yes! The family dynamics. The relationship between Catherine and her father is so complex. It might seem unfathomable to conjure up sympathy for an abuser, but you manage to do that so powerfully. He’s such a broken man—and maybe he always was, and maybe I should hate him (and maybe I kinda do…) but it’s like Catherine is aware of the fact that his violence is rooted in weakness, and she is so strong against him.
And, yes—this book made me realize just how spotty my attention was in my American History class. I knew none of this, none. As someone who obsesses with history and devours historical fiction, it was so great to encounter a period about which I knew (and I’m not proud of this) nothing. It gave a whole new level of appreciation for the story. Made me cling closer.
Q: Why do you think this part of history hasn’t been represented as much as others in historical fiction? (At least not in the CBA…)
JG: Well, first of all, some excellent authors in the CBA have written in the French and Indian War (which was part of the Seven Year’s War) time period: Lori Benton, J.M. Hochstetler, Michelle Griep, Laura Frantz. But you’re right, the Christian fiction market isn’t glutted with stories set in Canada during the Seven Years’ War. Part of it might be because it was a brutal conflict which scare off some publishers, writers, and/or readers. Also, there has been in the past a mindset in the publishing world that U.S. readers only want to read stories set in the U.S. (or British colonies that became the U.S.). I believe that’s changing, though, and your stellar new release The Seamstress is proof of that! I hope readers continue to prove that they’re interested in stories set in other locations, because it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for us.
AP: You’re right, of course. And my apologies to short-changing the other authors who have delved into this place in history. It is a brutal time, and without some of the romantic collateral stories that we get with other wars.
Q: So…tell us a little about your heroine.
Catherine Stands-Apart is half French and half Mohawk, and runs a trading post between New England and New France. She has always navigated between cultures by remaining neutral, and believes that all problems can be solved by fair trade of goods, service, or ideas. This transactional worldview falls apart when she is challenged to love and serve without expectation of gaining in equal measure in return.
AP: Please, let me some day write a book where I can use the phrase “transactional worldview.” I would never have put those words to the idea, but yes! It captures everything about her. But, you know? I don’t think I totally read her as neutral. She always seemed like her instinct and heart was Mohawk—maybe because that was the culture for her formative years, and the culture of her mother (given the harshness of her father…)
Q: What inspired you as you developed her?
JG: In addition to my research about Mohawk women who served as fur traders between Montreal and Albany, Catherine’s character is loosely inspired by the character of Rick from the classic movie Casablanca. Both Catherine and Rick tried remaining neutral during war, both have former loves reappear in their lives, and both are forced to choose a side.
AP: So…excuse me for just a moment while I pick myself up off the floor because I’ve been struck down by your genius. Of course! Of course. Now, I have to read it again with this mindset.
JG: Confession: As we were brainstorming the synopsis, my editors were the ones who made the connection to Casablanca, and from there we had to figure out how much to parallel and how much to go our own direction.
Q: Did anything surprise you in your research?
JG: Absolutely. In my very early research, I read about the hundreds of British colonists who were captured by Canadian natives in the 1700s. Some of those captives were returned home, some were adopted by the native nations who captured them, and some were “ransomed”—paid for by French-Canadian colonists to either work like indentured servants for years, or to be a member of their family. It was this common practice of ransoming that surprised me. In my novel, Catherine and her father both ransom British captives, but for very different reasons. Ransoming applied to military prisoners of war, as well. To help make up for the labor shortage in Canada while so many men were fighting, captured British soldiers who had a trade (i.e. carpenter, blacksmith, baker) were allowed to practice it in Canadian cities while under surveillance.
AP: I cannot be the only one (and I know I won’t by the time everyone reads this) who wants you to camp your career here for a few more titles. Such rich, new territory to explore! The practice of ransoming, though…yeah. That got to me, because it’s such a beautiful parallel to our ransoming through Christ. It’s woven so beautifully and naturally in the narrative, though. I love the idea that you were surprised by this in your research! Nothing is more fun than turning a corner in research and being taken by surprise. Sometimes that opens up the whole story!
Q: What is the spiritual theme of the novel?
JG: The spiritual parallel I hope readers take away is that of God’s ransoming us from what holds us captive (sin), and adopting us into His family, not because we’ve earned it but because of His great love for us. Secondary spiritual themes include forgiveness and self-sacrifice.
AP: And this is so beautifully interwoven—literally and figuratively. I love how you let the story play this out.
Q: What scene was the either hardest / most rewarding to write?
JG: There were a few tough ones, but I think the hardest was the scene in which Catherine returns to Odanak and discovers . . . something which would totally spoil your readers’ experience if I were to describe it here! I cried when I wrote it. I cried when I edited it, and when I proofed it. But that scene absolutely had to happen for what it represented.
AP: Ah, ugh. Because you have such layered, complicated relationships in this story—this shredded me.