Thursday, September 26, 2013

Becoming a Writer by M.K. Tod ~ Blog Tour Guest Post: Unravelled

Please join me in welcoming debut author M.K. Tod to Let Them Read Books! M.K. is touring the blogosphere with her very first novel, Unravelled, and I'm pleased to have her here today talking about her decision to start writing. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter already know that I was privileged to work with Mary in bringing this gorgeous novel to publication. It's an elegant and poignant story of marriage and war, and I am proud to say that I contributed to it editorially, and I designed the cover. I'm a bit biased, but I'm in love with it! Read on to discover what inspired M.K. to write this novel and enter to win a copy of Unravelled!

In October 1935, Edward Jamieson's memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, Edward succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene Noisette, the woman he once pledged to marry.

Travelling through the French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. After a chance encounter with Helene at the dedication ceremony, Edward's past puts his present life in jeopardy.

When WWII erupts a few years later, Edward is quickly caught up in the world of training espionage agents, while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage.

With events unfolding in Canada, France and England, UNRAVELLED is a compelling novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.

Becoming a Writer
by M.K. Tod

Summer 2004 changed my life. In July of that year, my husband’s firm asked him to consider a
three-year assignment to Hong Kong. We hesitated only long enough to consult with our children and mothers, then plunged into planning a move, riding the waves of euphoria for the next few months. Everything seemed full of possibilities.

By March 2005 the bite of reality had set in. Excitement had been replaced by loneliness and intense feelings of dislocation. Although I had found a few women to hang out with, my laptop had become my best friend as I wrote newsy notes about living in Asia to those back home and waited anxiously for replies. Friends told me they enjoyed my emails; one of them said I should write a book. A book. Hmmm.

At the age of seventy-five, my grandmother died on the way to her second wedding. I had often thought such a dramatic curtain on life would make a good story and one day, I decided to write about her life. After all I had oceans of time.

I’m impulsive so I plunged right in drafting a prologue set on the day of her death with the thought that the story would then go back to the 1920s when she met my grandfather. I soon realized that to create a story based on the lives of my grandparents, I would have to understand WWI, the Depression and WWII.

Happily, the Internet offered reams and reams of information on military and political events as well as maps and photos and stories of individual experiences of war. I found soldiers’ diaries lovingly transcribed by relatives to honor long ago sacrifice. I found regiments maintaining information about those who served in WWI, the weapons used and uniforms worn, the rations eaten and songs sung. A world of chaos and bungling and death emerged and I became utterly captivated.

But a novel requires drama: a plot with twists and turns, characters going through change, tension and conflict. Clearly, I would have to embellish. I was a mathematics and computer science grad with no writing experience except business articles and client reports. “Writing a novel can’t be that hard,” I muttered to myself.

I bought a book on writing, underlining advice that seemed most useful. “Always have a notebook and pen on hand.” “Borrow (and steal) from your favorite writers.” “Master metaphor.” “Accelerate the pace with invisible writing.” “Sentences are written like jokes. The punch line is at the end.” “Mix description, narration, exposition and dialogue.” “Resolve all conflicts by the end of the story.” Gradually these bits of advice made sense.

Back in Toronto that summer, my mother provided further ingredients for the story by telling me that my grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge in April of 1917 and went on to be part of the Army of Occupation in Germany after WWI ended. She spoke of my great-grandparents, her cousins, aunts and uncles and what she knew of her parents’ wedding. She shared a few memories of the Depression and more substantial memories of living through WWII. She gave me a box of old photos and newspaper clippings and my grandfather’s scrapbooks. She also relayed the story of my grandfather’s involvement with Camp X where espionage agents were trained in WWII. My grandfather and espionage – who would have imagined?

The plot started to take shape.

Writing gave me more than an occupation; it gave me the thrill of doing something new. Unwittingly, I had accepted the need to let go of my old world and reinvent myself, had taken charge rather than allowing myself to continue wallowing. I had emerged from the culture shock of living in Asia with a sense of purpose. Contentment settled in. Time passed. The story and my writing skills evolved.

In June 2007, we returned to Toronto. My novel was in its fourth version by then, the outcome of almost two years of work contained in a small box of printed materials, books on writing, novels and non-fiction books about WWI and WWII along with a collection of computer files.  I set those aside to resume my business career, but the pull of writing would not let me go. I longed to craft sentences, build images of long ago times, and explore the emotions of a man and woman coping with war. Hong Kong had turned me into a writer.

Finally, in late 2010, I threw away my business files. Had city regulations permitted, I would have had a ceremonial bonfire to mark the end of that life. A wonderful life, really. One in which I had been lucky enough to work in demanding roles with talented people.

And where am I now? I’ve completed two novels and have an agent for one of them. A third novel is underway. I have a blog called A Writer of History. I’ve conducted a reader survey, taken two writing courses and collected additional books on writing. I’m active in the community of writers, particularly those who write historical fiction.

“What about my grandmother’s story?” you ask. It is being self-published this September under the title Unravelled. A fitting title for what happens in the novel and a fitting description of what happened when a woman from Toronto became an expat spouse in Hong Kong.

Thanks, M.K! Great post! And now for the giveaway!

Win your own copy of Unravelled!
M.K. has brought along an ebook to give away to one of my lucky readers! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with your email address.

This giveaway is open internationally and ends at 11:59pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013. Winner to be selected at random. Thanks & good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected. Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon (USCanada and elsewhere), NookKoboGoogle Play and soon on iTunes. Mary can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Unravelled is on a blog tour!
Click here to visit M.K.'s website and view the tour schedule!


  1. Had to pop over to say how much I love the cover of Mary's book. Great job!


  2. It's been such fun following Mary's blog tour. I'm sitting here, fingers on keyboard, with my copy of UNRAVELLED on the desk beside me. It is, indeed, a beautiful book. Her cover reveal post led me to you, Jenny. Looking forward to working together.

  3. I love it when the idea of writing a novel takes you by surprise! What a great glimpse into a writer's life.

  4. Bonjour!

    Ms Tod's book sounds really good. It is interesting that it covers the two periods: WWI & WWII. Being French and loving history, I am always on the look out for good Historical Fiction taking place in France.
    Thank you very much for the giveaway!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Catherine. I have a companion book I plan to release (two of the main characters are the same) and it is set in France during WWI. I hope you'll try Unravelled and that one too when it's released!

  5. I love hearing about the "entry" tales of those of us who decided to writer historical fiction. Everyone has a different story but there are many common themes--discovery through research, building community and finding how lovely friendships with other writers are, the long road to publication. Thanks!

    1. Could not have said it better, Judith.

  6. I love that this is based on your grandparents. That makes it all the more interesting. tchevrestt(at) (Love the cover too)

  7. I enjoy reading about WWI and WWII and I am especially intrigured that the story is based on your Grandparents. I am looking forward to reading it.

    tmrtini at gmail dot (com)

  8. Thanks for your encouragement, Judith, Tara and Terry.

  9. I can't wait to read this book.I love curling up with a good book and reading away a day (or night).It's great that it's based on your grandparent's to !

    1. Thanks, Katie. Writing about their times had made me feel closer to them and remember so many stories about when I was little. Their times were so very difficult.

  10. This looks great! Thanks for the giveaway!
    mestith at gmail dot com

  11. Hi.. as you know, I read and loved "Unravelled" on my Kindle. I would love to have acopy of the print version for collection of loved writers


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