A few years ago (over one, under three) I went to a writer’s conference in Niagara Falls called the Algonkian Writer’s Conference. http://algonkian-niagara.com/index.html. There I met with a number of authors, some familiar and some new, and got the opportunity to speak to a handful of Literary Agents and Publishers/Acquiring Editors. It was an eye-opening weekends filled with new voices, story pitches and a sense of hope.
One of the new faces I met is Elaine Cougler. She and her husband were a joy to talk to and, her story piqued my interest.
Hi Elaine, thank-you for stopping by The Author’s Voice. I’ll get the standard questions out of the way first and then we’ll get to the good stuff, ok?
-That sounds great, Dale! Thanks for having me as a guest on your most interesting blog. I enjoy its friendly and informative tone. And I well remember meeting you in Niagara Falls at the Algonkian. Your best supporters, your lovely wife and daughters, were with you, as I recall. So important to have a cheering section.
I’ll tell you, I was glad they were there.
First off, how long has The Loyalist’s Wife been in the works?
-I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you that it took me six years to bring this project out into the world. Of course, writers will tell you that a first novel takes ten years so I suppose I should count myself lucky. As you know the learning curve is very bendy and the road is steep but reaching the pinnacle of publishing has made these last couple of months a roller coaster thrill of a lifetime.
A book takes as long as it takes to come to life. There is no time limit so no need to be embarrassed.
How did the idea of the book come to you?
-I read a book about how to write a novel which suggested that old saw of writing what you know. I knew I loved to read historical fiction and I knew I had Loyalist ancestors. I didn’t know much about those Loyalists and thought the whole American Revolution would be interesting to know more about, especially since my beginnings here in Canada stem from the British viewpoint.
Why did you decide to Self-Publish?
-I came to this decision after five years of absolutely knowing I wanted to publish traditionally. Somehow, along those years of writing, taking courses, rewriting, joining critique groups, rewriting, getting involved in social media, specifically author groups, starting my own writing blog (On Becoming a Wordsmith), rewriting, and sending out the requisite dozens of query letters, I called a halt. I took back control, a comfortable thing for a control freak.
I already had a publishing company from the days when my husband and I created and sold across Canada about a dozen different Classroom Puzzlers for secondary teachers. Because of its name, Peache House Press had attracted writers looking to publish at that time. What better way to manage my own publishing life than to use my own company? Of course being an English teacher and a perfectionist, I wanted the book perfect. I found an amazing printer, a dream of a cover designer, and a detail-oriented person who set up the insides. The book is a dream come true for me.
I can only imagine the vast amount of research that went into this book. Was it a process you enjoyed?
-The simple answer is that the research was heavy but, oh, it was such a joy. First I started with a lovely book about Butler’s Rangers, a group who fought for the King, and from one of whom I am descended. Then I went on the Internet where a writer can find out virtually anything she needs to know. Of course I had to verify what I learned but sitting at my computer and discovering snippets was exhilarating. My local library was, naturally, a haven for me. And, finally, my husband accompanied me on many a trip to museums and forts in New York and the Niagara area. Walking where my characters might have walked helped me bring realism to The Loyalist’s Wife.
How did you decide when enough was enough?
-Once I had a picture of how the research would work as a backdrop for John and Lucy’s story, I just started writing. Along the way, if I needed to look up something I typed in red so that when I wasn’t writing I could verify the facts or learn how muskets worked.
As someone that loves researching, I sometimes find it hard to step back and decide how much I can use. I didn’t say ‘want to use’ because when the research fascinates me, I want to use it all, to share my findings with the world, but there is a point, when writing fiction, when the writer has to use only what is necessary. Did you find it hard to do that?
-Yes, I did. I learned how to skin a raccoon, how to build a log cabin, and the difference between muskets and rifles. These are good things to know for the writing but slow the action of the story if the writer uses all that detail.
What drew you to writing “historical” fiction?
-I am a voracious reader and historical fiction is what I most like to read for its added bits of reality. Wonderful authors have taken me to times and places, unusual and unknown. I wanted to do that, too.
Do you have plans for a sequel? Or is there another book in the works?
-As I traveled the journey with The Loyalist’s Wife, I came to see that this was a much bigger story than I could write in one book. The Loyalist Trilogy was born and I am currently working on book two in the series, The Loyalist’s Luck.
Have you dabbled in any other genres or is there a genre you’d like to write in?
-I have a memoir running around in my head just now but so far it’s running alone. And along with research for my historical novels, I have been learning about my own background. Just now I am putting together a picture book of my family ancestors, their pictures (where I have them), their grave sites, and little tidbits about each of them. This will help my grandchildren know from whence they come.
At the end of the day, do you ever feel over-loaded with history and binge on bad sci-fi? How do you step out of your world when the computer gets turned off and your writing is done for the day?
-Oh, I am so bad! I play Scrabble on my iPad and I do Sudoku!
Scrabble is a great tool to stretch one’s vocabulary. In fact both are brain sharpening tools, good for you. I like Text Twist and Boggle.
Thank-you, Elaine! Oh and welcome to the WCDR!
Here is a little tease from The Loyalist’s Wife.
Hours later, a piece of wood in the fire fell and Lucy jerked upright, her wild eyes darting about the dark cabin. The candle had died. By the dim light from the stove she could see she was alone, but outside Molly [the cow] bawled and the chickens were clucking in a dreadful cacophony of frightening sounds. What was out there? She bumped against the table on the way to the window.
Solid black was all she saw through the running raindrops on the glass, except for a faint patch of limpid light, not even light, just a silver lightening in the grass, the window’s weak reflection. The animals settled and she breathed more slowly. They could wait till daylight.
The fire fixed, she went to the bedroom where she lay under the patchwork quilt, fully clothed, eyes wide open, the loaded rifle scant inches from her hand.
Interested in reading more about Elaine and The Loyalist’s Wife? Buy the book. Seriously, visit Elaine and buy the book.
Elaine blogs at On Becoming a Wordsmith which may be found at www.elainecougler.com. She also is frequently found here: @ElaineCougler, Facebook/ElaineCouglerAuthor, and LinkedIn author groups. The Loyalist’s Wife is available on Amazon and Kobo.
Like always, I encourage you to ask questions, leave comments, mill about. Elaine will stick around to answer a few.
For a list of previous guests, click here. I’ve posted my favourite quotes along with published status.