Today is the first Wednesday of the month and I’m delighted to bring you another wonderful guest author. Jane Ann McLachlan has written several books in various genres although she says this latest one, The Sorrow Stone, is her first historical. A seasoned writer and wordsmith, Jane Ann’s biography is below for readers to peruse. A riveting segment from her book is also waiting for you. I have to go buy The Sorrow Stone after reading that and I’m sure you will, too.
1. Jane Ann, when were you first able to call yourself a writer or author?
I’ve been writing all my life, and have had my poetry and short stories published since university, but the significant point for me was getting my first novel published in 2012.
2. Describe your current project.
I’m delighted to be launching my first historical fiction novel, The Sorrow Stone. Apparently, in the middle ages peasants believed a mother mourning her child’s death could “sell her sorrow” by selling a nail from her child’s coffin to a traveling peddler. I first heard this bit of folk lore at a talk given by a midwife about medieval childbirth practices. I began wondering, What if you could pay someone to bear your sorrow? In my story, Lady Celeste is a young mother overwhelmed with grief when her son dies. Desperate to find relief, she begs a passing peddler to buy her sorrow. Jean, the cynical peddler she meets, insists she include her ruby ring along with the nail in return for his coin. They both find themselves changed greatly by their secret transaction. When Celeste learns that without her wedding ring her husband may set her aside, she determines to retrieve it without reclaiming her sorrow. But how will she find the peddler and convince him to give up the precious ruby ring?
3. What other books have you written? Are they in the same genre as this latest one?
I’ve also written a science fiction novel, Walls of Wind, in which males and females are two separate species, and two young adult fiction novels, The Occasional Diamond Thief and The Salarian Desert Game, both of which have won awards and been recommended by the Canadian and the US library Associations.
4. Are you planning to continue writing more historical fiction?
Yes, I’m currently writing another historical fiction, an amazing story also set in the 12th Century. This time the characters and events are real. It’s the story of two people, one a former slave the other a fisherman’s daughter, who rose to hold the highest positions at court. Honestly, it’s such an amazing story no one would find it credible if it wasn’t actually true.
5. Has The Sorrow Stonebeen the title of this book from the very beginning?
6. What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?
To get the time period and setting for The Sorrow Stone right I did a lot of online and library research, then I went to the south of France, where my story takes place, and traveled the route Jean the peddler takes from Cluny, to Lyon, down to the Mediterranean and across to Marseilles. I talked to guides and historical interpreters all along the route to learn what vegetation was native to the area, what the weather was like, which towns and cities, cathedrals, castles and monasteries had existed there in the 12th Century, which trades were practiced in the region then. I wanted to be able to describe these places, to take my readers with me on Jean’s and Lady Celeste’s journeys in an authentic way.
7. That must have been a unique and amazing journey! Back to the questions, what is the most compelling thing in your current book to attract readers?
The idea of selling your sorrow, I think, and the realism of the setting, as well as the gradual revealing of the dark secrets buried in Celeste’s and Jean’s pasts, juxtaposed against the dramatic things that happen to them on their respective journeys. Readers have said it is haunting, gripping and they couldn’t put it down.
J. A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, Connections, published by Pandora Press and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. Walls of Wind was her first published Science Fiction novel. Her YA SF novels, The Occasional Diamond Thief (2015) and The Salarian Desert Game (2016), are both published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Her first historical fiction novel, The Sorrow Stone, is available now. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency, who currently has on offer Jane Ann’s next historical fiction novel.
Excerpt from The Sorrow Stone: This passage occurs when Jean the Peddler is an unwilling witness to the stoning of an adultress.
The thud of stones meeting flesh filled his ears. He felt, in his own body, the hot, burning pain as each one hit, tearing the thin fabric of her shift, digging into her bruised and bleeding flesh. It should be him there, not her. He could not move, speak, breathe…
Something shoved up against his leg. His breath emerged in a gasp.
A girl of five or six squeezed past him. She pushed her way through the crowd till she reached the front, crying all the while, Mama! Mama!
The woman’s face was hidden, covered by her hair. The air was thick with stones. Again and again they struck her, but still she did not cry out.
Mama! the child screamed again.
The woman looked up.
Mama! She sprinted across the open ground. A stone whizzed past her ear. A second hit her back, flinging her to the ground.
The woman cried out then, a wild, animal shriek. It echoed, hideous and compelling, across the square.
She would be killed! The horror of it swept over Jean as he stared at the fallen child. No! He could not bear that! He shoved his way through the crowd, unable to look away from the woman, unable to escape the terror in her eyes as she strained against her bonds, struggling to reach the child sprawled on the ground. She shrieked again, a high, keening noise. Jean gritted his teeth to keep from screaming with her.
At the edge of the crowd he stopped. What was he doing? What in the name of Heaven had come over him?
Then the child moaned and the woman screamed again and Jean ran forward, unable to stop himself. The little girl tried to roll over as Jean reached her. He was no longer looking at the woman, but he felt her strain toward him as he bent down and scooped up the child. A stone struck the side of his head as he straightened. He staggered, almost dropping the child. He regained his footing and turned to race back to the safety of the crowd.
The adulterer! a man cried.
Other voices took up the cry. He stepped forward, but the gap in the crowd where he had pushed through to get to the child had closed against him. A second stone hit his arm. There could be no mistaking that this one was meant for him. He saw the metal smith among the crowd, his arm drawn back, aiming. As Jean watched, he flung his stone. It hit Jeans shoulder with a stinging blow that took his breath away. He crouched over the child, holding her tightly to him, more aware of the woman’s anguished cries behind him and the child’s terror than his own pain. Two more stones came flying at him; one missed its mark but the other hit the child’s leg. She screamed and twisted, trying to burrow into him. A third stone hit her cheek, drawing blood. He wrapped both arms around her, leaving his own head exposed as he searched for an opening in the crowd.
“It was a pleasure to be at the LWS meeting last night. Great information shared. Love your books and writing style. I will give them as gifts. They bring this time in history to life in a way that one will never forget. Thank you!” Rosemary
“Elaine Cougler has written a page-turning novel of the American Revolution through the eyes of a conflicted loyalist soldier and his indomitable wife. You’ll feel the hardship of homesteading, the fear of the enemy, the blows of battle, and the pain of separation. You’ll be transported through history. This is not just a novel written about another time, it seems written in another time.” Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans, Stephen Leacock medal winner
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