Joy B. Wonnacott was shortlisted in the 2014 Word Alive Press Free Publishing Contest for her historical novel, Tossed Into Dawn. Today Joy shares a bit about her creative methods, and the angles one takes in crafting a strong historical narrative.
Without doubt, the question of why bad things happen to good people is one of the most painful and unanswerable questions humanity has ever asked, and continues to ask. Our concept of logic has been developed with the expectation that certain behavior causes certain results and when our life experiences don’t follow this logical pattern we are badly shaken. We wonder why we are being "punished’, for we can only think we must have done some great wrong to be made to suffer in such a way.
Eve, the main character in my book, Tossed into Dawn is “tossed” by what has happened to her and the good life she had come to depend on as normal. Grief, anger and despair became her life: her new life that she had no expectation would ever change. At the same time she inadvertently became entangled with the era’s political intrigue and experienced rather frightening incidents.
But I believe in good endings; though the reasons for suffering are seldom revealed to us, the resulting personal growth in acceptance and sympathy for others, humility and faith have tremendous potential to make us become better people.
I intended Eve as a nice and normal woman, happy and secure, whose world is suddenly devastated, and who must struggle through layers of questions, grief and anger to a deeper happiness than she could have imagined. She fights her battles alone, just as each of us, even if we have a support group about us, must still, in a sense, fight our battles alone. Alone until we have found our living God.
And I believe in good endings. I want to enjoy myself when relaxing with a book and a pot of tea. By filling my mind with positive thoughts I hope to counteract some of the toxic fallout of today’s cynicism and discontent. I hope Tossed Into Dawn can relax and encourage, and be as good a read as it was interesting to write.
Eve is Scottish by birth. Having Scots in my ancestry, the troubles of that nation have always been important to me. Scottish resistance to English domination caused a great change within that nation and still resonates today.
At that time in history, the colonies of various nations were seen as places where life could begin again for their citizens. Unrest within nations, changing fortunes and simply a taste for adventure caused the migration of people to these colonies. The islands of the West Indies had been the choice of Eve’s parents. In placing Eve within this historical framework, I have attempted to paint a picture of society at that time, giving Eve the opportunity to experience life, both in the colonial setting, but also within the home nation of her heritage.
The book was written some years ago and I did extensive research in order to create historical accuracy. Doubtless, mistakes have been made. With today’s efficient access—via internet—to any information needed, mistakes in historical accuracy should become much rarer. I like to think of authenticity as a frame for a picture. A painting might be most glorious, but if it’s placed in a cheap, plastic frame it loses much of its appeal. Not only the correct place in political history is important, but things like modes of travel, social interactions, dress, foods, religious views and family dynamics of the time chosen, all contribute to a good frame for the story one is writing.
I hope Tossed into Dawn, though fiction, will draw its readers into what will seem to be a true woman, of a true time, in a true place.
Joy is a grandmother who finds it impossible to resist when a child pleads, “Granny, tell me a story.” She and her husband, John, live on a farm in Alberta’s far north, where she has been active toward the preservation of natural areas and of the local hospital. She has retired (mainly) from her job of therapeutic massage; loves her garden and flowers, the little singing birds at dawn and coyotes calling through the night.