Welcome, reader friends. If you love historical fiction or historical romance, then hopefully you’ve already heard about the release of Among the Poppies. If not, then you’re about to! Since its release earlier this month, I’ve heard nothing but great feedback, (including my own review, which you can read here). And today, J’nell has stopped by for a chat (plus a chance for you win an eBook copy for yourself!
~ About the Author ~
Believing she was born in the wrong era, J’nell Ciesielski spends her days creating heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J’nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home, along with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle.
~ About the Book ~
The ideal lady wears lace, speaks quietly, and never—under any circumstances—fixes an automobile. But Gwyn Ruthers has never cared two snaps about being the ideal lady. With the war to end all wars exploding across the English Channel, she leaves behind her restrictive life as a chauffer’s daughter to serve in an all-female ambulance unit in France. She’s not about to let her social status or gender prevent her from serving her country. Not even a handsome captain can distract her from her mission. Most of the time.
Captain William Crawford wouldn’t wish the ravages of war on any man, much less the captivating woman who insists on driving into battle instead of staying safely at home. He can’t deny that the troops need more medical help, but not when it puts innocent women in danger. How can he lead his men against the Jerries while worrying about Gwyn’s safety?
Bound together by circumstances, Gwyn and William can’t stop the love growing between them. Can their relationship survive, or will it become another casualty of war?
~ Author Chat ~
Thanks for joining me today, J’nell. Let’s start by taking a little flight of fancy. How would you finish these sentences?
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…
Bathrooms! I hate everything about cleaning sinks, tubs, and toilets. It’s supposed to be the place where you clean yourself, yet there’s always strands of hair collecting under the vanity, dust coating the baseboards, and weird orange stuff growing in the shower. Take it fairies, for I want no part of it!
I hear ya!
If I was a musical instrument, I would be a…
It’s a tie between a piano and violin. I played flute for many years, but I think I would’ve loved to play the other two even more. They’re so beautiful and can be played in so many different styles to suit your mood and emotion. I don’t find the flute can express the workings of the human soul as well as a piano or violin.
There is something truly soulful about the violin, isn’t there? Although, it reminds me of a great quote from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing:
Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?
Act II: Scene 3
My ideal place to read would be…
In an ancient Scottish castle in front of a roaring fireplace with a warm plaid draped over my knees. If bagpipes were playing in the background, I wouldn’t mind that either. 🙂
I’m not sure I’d get much reading done with bagpipes in the background, personally, but the rest sounds perfect!
Let’s talk about Among the Poppies now. What were the ideas that sparked this story for you?
Like many people the world over, I got swept up in the whirlwind that was Downton Abbey. The elegance, the estates, the manners, and, of course, the clothes. Oh, to wear fancy hats again! Season two plunged the audience into WWI and there I saw it, Lady Sybil the nurse and her world-changing chauffeur love of a man, Branson. I had to be a part of this world! Gwyn Ruthers became a chauffeur’s daughter longing for adventure beyond the garage doors, and William Crawford is an army captain who, above all, desires order. But Gwyn is anything but orderly. 🙂
There’s definitely something about that era, isn’t there? Although I’m yet to find a hat that actually suits me (I think, anyway), so perhaps it’s best I was born when I was!
What did you enjoy most about writing Gwyn’s character?
I love how different she is from me. She has all the spunk and zest for life that I’m too shy about seeking for myself. When others—myself included—are too often concerned with what others think, Gwyn throws caution to the wind and goes after her dreams. It was fantastic being able to live vicariously through her because even though she was scared, she still went for it.
I loved that about her too!
What did you enjoy most about writing William’s character?
Military men are among my most favorite to write, trustworthy, honorable, steadfast, and loyal. Everything is black and white to William. At least until Gwyn comes along and throws buckets of color into his life. 🙂 I love seeing how love changes him from this very stiff soldier who believes in duty before self into this man with vulnerabilities for the one woman who’s managed to capture his heart.
*sigh* When you put it like that, how could anyone resist him?
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
The history. I’m very familiar with a few eras (WWII, eighteenth century Scotland), but didn’t know much about WWI or the Edwardian era outside of Downton Abbey and Titanic. It took months of research, reading every book I could get my hands on, listening to period appropriate music, and watching any and all movies set around that time before I felt comfortable enough to start the story. Immersion is so important for me! I need to feel the time in order for the right words to come and the story to breathe life. Things like events, politics, economics, social structures, and technology all shape the world in which the characters are living and determine their thoughts and actions even if not shown directly. And I try to get all those little details right though it’s overwhelming at times.
That is exactly what I would be like!
Was there anything that surprised you during the writing of this story?
My daughter actually took a nap during naptime and I got a whole hour to write in peace. 🙂 Haha! But seriously, that would be awesome.
What really surprised me was how difficult it was to conduct a romance in the midst of war. I had to keep coming up with reasons for William and Gwyn to be together because realistically, they probably would never have interacted in the field. Women were forbidden to go near the front lines, so I had to turn a blind eye to that fact in order to have Gwyn be closer to William. Once I finally got her in the trenches, I needed to force them together for a long while so she got recruited to march out with his unit. Again, something that would never have happened in real life, but this is fiction so I get to blur the lines for the sake of romance. 🙂
Pesky little things, those facts!
What has writing this story meant to you as an author?
When I first sat down to write Poppies, it was a love story between a girl and a soldier. As I dug further into research I realized it wasn’t so simple. Gwyn and William came to symbolize what was happening to millions of people caught up in the Great War. Their generation became known as the Lost Generation and for too long their story has gone untold or forgotten with the passing of time. This year is the centennial of the end of WWI and light is being shed on this incredible time and the amazing people who lived through it. I hope in some small way Among the Poppies honors those who lived and died, who sacrificed all to defend their country and brothers in arms, gives voice to the women who worked behind the frontlines, and the freedom they preserved for us today. Lest we forget.
Lest we forget. ❤
Thank you so much for joining me today, J’nell!
~ Giveaway ~
J’nell is giving readers a chance to win an eBook copy of Among the Poppies. To enter, comment on this post and let us know whether you’re like Gwyn and longing for adventure, or more like William, who enjoys his orderly world and does his duty before all else. Then, click on the link to enter via Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bd61d44b34/?