One of my favorite authors is Janice Thompson. I’m used to her comedic writing voice, and I’ve learned a lot from her. However, her newest release, Queen of the Waves, is serious and set on the Titanic. In her interview she talks about the unique way she and others, including myself, journeyed through that ill-fated cruise. I hope you enjoy Janice and her work as much as I do.
• Writing historically accurate novels take a lot of research. How much time and effort went into researching for this book?
Oh my goodness! Talk about a lot of work. Not only did I spend months researching Titanic’s story (reading every available book and watching every conceivable documentary), I also drove from Houston to Branson Missouri to the Titanic museum. Talk about an eye-opener! The exhibit covers everything you could imagine, and includes all sorts of artifacts from the ship. When you write about an event such as this, particularly one that has been so well documented in movies and books, you need to get your facts right. Even the “little” things (like, how long did it take to load everyone onto the ship) can bog the writer down. Dozens and dozens of times I would stop writing just to look something up. And don’t even get me started on the clothing and hats! I created a board on Pinterest to study 1910 fashion!
• What are a couple of facts that you found while researching for this book that you never knew before and think that audiences will find particularly fascinating?
I’m not sure I realized that the Titanic made multiple stops before setting out to sea. She sailed out of Southampton, England, of course, but stopped in Cherbourg France and Queenstown Ireland to pick up additional passengers. Some of the best-known passengers actually boarded at the later stops. And one very famous passenger (Francis Browne) disembarked in Queenstown. He took photographs during his few hours onboard, and his photos helped document the first leg of the journey. Another thing that took me by surprise was how the second and third-class passengers were treated. After watching the infamous movie, Titanic, I felt sure the third class passengers were treated more like animals (or steerage). In reality, their living and eating conditions onboard the ship were better than most were accustomed to in their daily lives. Being on the ship was truly an adventure for all involved, (even prior to the iceberg incident, I mean).
• The book is dedicated to your Queen of the Waves online group and (specifically) to Cathy Stenhouse Peeling. Could you tell readers a bit more about those people?
I had just started writing QUEEN OF THE WAVES when I got a note from a friend, asking if I would be interested in taking a Titanic anniversary cruise. My response? “No thanks! The only Titanic cruise I would consider taking would have to be a virtual one.” As I typed the words, the idea hit: Set up a Facebook group, title it Queen of the Waves, and invite people on a “virtual” Titanic cruise. Use the name of my POV character (Tessa Bowen) as cruise director. Within ten minutes I’d established the group and posted to my primary Facebook page extending the invitation. By the end of the day more than seventy people had asked to join the cruise. We eventually reached over 200! Most of my guests chose the names of real people who traveled on the Titanic. They posted photos, comments, and much more. We utilizing networking sites like Pinterest to collect photos. What fun! And speaking of photos, you should have seen the dresses, shoes and hats my passengers wore aboard the ship. We had a delightful time shopping for our time aboard the great luxury liner. I gave my passengers the background of the ship (all in first person, of course, from Tessa’s point of view). I also shared information about the staterooms, and tantalized folks with menus from the various dining rooms. I also provided activities for the children. (Side note: I opened this group to homeschool families, and many children boarded. With that in mind, I put together a full document of activities that families could use to teach their kiddos about the Titanic. I encouraged other participants to add to the activities list, so the document has grown a lot!)
To answer your question about Cathy. . .She’s the great-niece of Captain Edward Smith and is an awesome, godly Facebook friend! I met her while sharing on Facebook about my story. She agreed to play the role of “captain” of our cruise, but (unfortunately) was hospitalized with a very serious illness while we were on our journey and was unable to participate. Praise God, she recovered and we remain wonderful friends!
• Talk about your reenactment of the night the ship went down.
Our QUEEN OF THE WAVES journey coincided with the actual dates that the ship set sail. I knew that we would eventually have to “sink” our proverbial ship. So, on the night of the 100th anniversary, we all met in the group at a designated time and (literally) reenacted the entire event. It took a couple of hours to accomplish (with lots of weeping and wailing, as you might imagine) but we got the deed done. The various “characters” (many of whom were named for real-life passengers) re-lived the event in real time. I will tell you that I was completely worn out (emotionally and otherwise) when the night ended. I don’t recall every feeling so drained! (It takes a lot out of a person to drown that many people!)
• How have you been promoting the book online?
I created a special “Queen of the Waves” blog. On that blog, I plan to run interviews with the various travelers (real and imaginary) who boarded the Virtual Cruise with me back in April. Look for some great stories (and photos) to come out of that site!
I’ve also created a video trailer of the book, which you will find here.
• This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. Why do you think we’re still so fascinated with the so-called unsinkable ship after all this time?
I would imagine that people 500 years from now will still be interested. It’s such a tragic story, and one that affected thousands of people. Meeting Cathy Peeling really put this in perspective for me. Her uncle passed away that night. This completely changed the make-up of her family. And she’s just one person out of thousands. Generations of people were affected by this tragedy. And so many feel a connection. Ship builders. Dress designers. Modern-day cruisers. The rich. The poor. The dreamers. Those who long to travel. We can all envision ourselves aboard Titanic on that fateful journey. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from Titanic is this: We cannot put our trust/confidence in man-made things; only in the Lord.
• What’s next for you? Will you be writing another release in the American Tapestries line? Where will you be taking readers next time?
I’m currently writing historicals for the “Belles and Whistles” line (for Summerside). The first book (Wedding Belles) just released. The second (Sleigh Belles) will release in a couple of months. These stories are more light-hearted in nature and deal with comedic women from the West.
• Can you tell me more about your kindle fire contest?
Sure! Readers can join me for a facebook party on October 18th and possibly win a kindle fire in the process! All of the information can be found here.