I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Viola Russell. Today, Viola shares her writing journey and novels.
My journey as a writer began when I first read Little Women. I was a kid, and my mother gave the trilogy to me as a gift. No one fascinated me like Jo March. She was wonderfully tough and brash for a woman of her time, and she dreamed of being a writer. Then, I learned that Alcott had based Jo and her family on her own disparate siblings and parents. Louisa May Alcott did become a writer. Dreams came true–well, at least for her. I did not pursue my dream as diligently for many years, too easily discouraged and rejected.
A bizarre incident started me writing again. A young woman in a bookstore approached me and asked if I’d ever given up a child for adoption. She said I looked just like her friend who was searching for her birth mother. I hadn’t and wished her friend luck in her pursuit of her birth parents; however, the incident made me think, What if it had been true? Hence, my first novel (no longer in print) was born. When my mother died, writing became my therapy. As I made my way through her prized possessions, I found the letters and memorabilia my uncles (her brothers) had retained from WWII. Some were letters to parents; others were objects purchased during their various deployments. The letters left a permanent mark on my psyche, particularly the letters from my Uncle Russell to his parents and sisters (my grandparents as well as my mother and aunt). I then had the privilege of reading the letters he’d sent to his wife and those she’d sent to him. They sparkled with passion. Instinctively, I knew I had to tell the story of my mother’s generation. The family members in Love at War are my family but not quite my family. As a writer, I have embellished and changed things, but the events are historically accurate. My cousins loved the dinner scene–all arguing through email if I’d faithfully rendered Grandma’s recipe for meatballs and spaghetti!
I certainly didn’t set out to write historical fiction, but I soon found it suited me. I next channeled my Irish heritage, writing Buccaneer Beauty, the story of Grace O’Malley. I had to tell the story of a powerful, strong woman who prevailed in a man’s profession in a sexist time. Grace outwitted the British and dominated two Irish chieftain husbands.
Still, family called to me. My father was much older than my mother. His era was WWI, Storyville, and Prohibition, more so than WWII. I set about creating Jude Mooney, the character based loosely on my father, Samuel Weaver. Jude appears in From Ice Wagon to Club House. Like Jude, my father was a bootlegger. Like Jude, my father trained thoroughbred horses and professional boxers. He also had–let’s say–several wives. I wrote of my hometown, New Orleans (which also became a character, much as it had in Love at War) and then placed Jude in WWI as well as the Irish War for independence.
When I wrapped Ice Wagon, I thought the Mooney family was a finished chapter in my life, but the characters called my name and wouldn’t let me sleep. I picked up the story where I’d left the characters–with Jude’s sons back home in Ireland still fighting for the land their parents had loved. The Progeny follows Jude and his family as they face yet another war and more family turmoil. Again, WWII plays an important role in the novel, as does Ireland. As Jude seeks respectability, his children and extended family must find their places in a changing world.
It hasn’t ended there. I’ve begun research for the third, and hopefully, last installment of the Mooney saga. What has always surprised me about my historical fiction is how much I find myself loving the research. When I research WWI and WWII, I’m in familiar yet unfamiliar territory. I’ve heard the family lore, and my research takes me into the heat of the battle and the details of a bygone era.
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