When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…
Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.
Hi M.K.! Thank you so much for visiting Let Them Read Books!
All three of your novels have focused on World War I. What about that conflict inspires you to write about it?
Throughout my school days, I was never a student of history, and so I was startled to find researching WWI such a fascinating exercise. That fascination was soon followed by anger, sorrow, and bewilderment—anger at the incredible ineptitude of military and political leaders and sorrow for what soldiers and everyday citizens had to endure. My bewilderment centered on questions of humanity. Why did soldiers put up with unspeakable conditions for so long? How could leaders use such appalling measures as poison gas? How could parents bear the loss of more than one son? How could officers send their men "over the top" time after time when they knew death would greet so many? I shake my head even now. These novels are my tribute to those who fought, those who died, and those who endured.
In Time and Regret, Grace uses her grandfather's diaries to trace his journey and uncover family secrets. Did you have a real-life inspiration for her grandfather, Martin?
Although my own grandfather inspired the character Edward Jamieson in Unravelled and Lies Told in Silence, I had no particular individual in mind when crafting Martin Devlin. Instead, he was inspired by the letters and diaries I’ve read during my research—a sort of everyman soldier who leads men to the best of his efforts—and endures to the best of his ability. I think of him as consciously deciding to rebuild his life after the war has left him personally decimated. It takes much bravery to do so.
In all of your books, I have been struck by the vivid depictions of battle. What types of sources and research do you use to bring those traumatic experiences to life?
Thank you for that compliment, Jenny. I embarked on the writing of battle scenes with great trepidation. After all, what did I, a woman with no experience of war and living a comfortable North American life, know about battle? Nothing! However, I’ve now read many fictional and historical accounts of the war, and I’ve looked at oodles of photos, maps, diagrams, and so on to understand war techniques, weapons, trench conditions, specific battlefield objectives, and so on. After immersing myself in these materials, I understood what had happened in a visceral fashion. For example, I have a book called Letters of Agar Adamson, which contains letters written from Adamson, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian army, to his wife from 1914 to 1918. Almost every letter tells its own tale of what went on during WWI from the weeks of training prior to heading overseas, to the tedium of being behind the lines, from the anxieties of waiting for battle to commence, to the food concerns of everyday soldiers. Adamson also recounts battle preparations, strategies, and casualties—I have no idea how some of his letters escaped the censors. I have another book called Vimy by Pierre Berton that details the preparations for and progress of the Battle for Vimy Ridge by following several of the soldiers involved. Compelling and intensely researched material.
Are there any books or authors that have had an impact on you and/or have inspired your writing?
At various times I’ve attempted to imitate authors whose novels I admire. For example, Bernard Cornwell for his intense scenes of war or Elizabeth Chadwick for her terrific way with dialogue; Sharon Kay Penman for historical detail; C.W. Gortner and Margaret George for compelling characters; Sebastian Faulks for mood and atmosphere. Almost every novel I read offers examples of what to do or what not to do, and my books are full of underlined passages. I also look at poetry for inspiration.
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of writing historical fiction?
I think my favorite aspect is the research. I can happily lose myself for hours investigating a particular time period, always on the lookout for that unique detail that will bring history to life. My least favorite aspect is editing because that task always fills me with doubts—"my writing is terrible," "no one will find her/him a believable character," "the plot stinks," and so on. It’s a demoralizing task.
What are you working on now?
So glad you asked!! For my next novel, I decided to leave WWI behind. The story is based on two women who are nothing alike but develop a strong, enduring friendship. The setting is 1870s Paris, a time of conflict and great turmoil for France, and the two women are Mariele and Camille from Lies Told in Silence. In that novel, which is set during WWI, Camille has already died and Mariele is a grandmother. My new novel—as yet untitled—has them as young women on the verge of marriage, and, of course, many twists and turns as well as happy and unhappy relationships will be involved.
About the Author:
Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel. She began writing in 2005 while living as an expat in Hong Kong. What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction. Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. In addition to writing historical novels, she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction on www.awriterofhistory.com, reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and the Washington Independent Review of Books, and has conducted three highly respected reader surveys. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and is the mother of two adult children.
For more information visit M.K. Tod’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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Time and Regret Blog Tour
Time and Regret is on a blog tour!