*2020 Canada Book Awards Winner, The Prophecy
*Winner of Independent Press 2020 Distinguished Favourite, Historical Fiction Series
*2020 Finalist of Next Generation Indie Book Award, Series (Fiction)
*2020 Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review – The Crest
*2020 Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review – The Emerald
*2020 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal, Historical Fiction & 5-Star Review – The Destiny
Romelia: WHAT IS A SIGNIFICANT WAY YOUR BOOK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST DRAFT?
Jerena Tobiasen: I wrote the first draft in two months (January and February 2016), then I went to Europe to travel the path of my characters. When I returned home, I enhanced what I’d written and submitted it to a structural editor. That editor told me that the story was too long and that I needed to break it up. I did: it became a three-part saga instead.
Romelia: WHAT PERSPECTIVES OR BELIEFS HAVE YOU CHALLENGED WITH THIS WORK?
Jerena Tobiasen: Remaining objective: the saga covers two world wars and is the story of two families, their struggle for survival during times of adversity, doing whatever was necessary to stay safe.
The most difficult character to write was Miriam. I realized that, in order to write the antagonist in the third book, I had to write beyond my knowledge of her behaviour and allow readers to form their own opinions.
Romelia: WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA FOR YOUR BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: The third book is the root of the story I intended to tell and is based on true events. Of course, I had to alter certain details in order to protect the privacy and identity of some of the individuals.
Romelia: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK’S IDEAL READER?
Jerena Tobiasen: The ideal reader has a keen interest in historical fiction, particularly the two world wars. The reader will also be curious to hear the story from a different perspective. For example, the first story is from the perspective of a German family reluctant to be involved in either war. The second story is from the perspective of wanderers. Since my knowledge of that society is restricted to research, I had to create my own world of wanderers.
Romelia: HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: Short answer: A LOT. The three books span approximately 70 years of history and two world wars. I needed to have a good understanding of both wars and be able to interpret how those experiences might affect folks forced to live during those times.
Romelia: HOW IMPORTANT WAS PROFESSIONAL EDITING TO YOUR BOOK’S DEVELOPMENT?
Jerena Tobiasen: The recommendation to split my story into smaller components was a relief. By breaking it into three parts, I was able to develop the story and the characters, providing more depth to both.
Sometime later, as I began promoting my work, I realized that engaging professional editors to review my work provided an unexpected advantage. For example, some award programs, review writers and author societies won’t consider an application, request for service or membership unless the work has been reviewed by a professional editor.
Romelia: WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST SCENE TO WRITE, AND WHY?
Jerena Tobiasen: Writing through two wars that happened in Europe was easier than writing the third book. The third book falls within my lifetime and shifts to my continent. I thought that might be easier, but it wasn’t. I could no longer distance myself from events. I was involved to a minor degree.
Romelia: WHAT CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOK ARE MOST SIMILAR TO YOU OR TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
Jerena Tobiasen: I identify closest with Sofie Walker, a character who appears in the third book. Paul and Ilse-Renata, who appear in the second half of the first book, are based on people I know, as are several of the characters in the third book. If the second book reflects anyone I know, I’m not aware of it.
Romelia: HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: From start to finish, the writing took 6-8 months, but it was another year before all of the editing, beta reading, cover illustration, formatting etc. was complete. Fortunately, I found a superb author services’ group who could help with the publishing and promotion of the stories. I could not have done that by myself.
Romelia: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR YOUR BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: Throughout the first book, the family’s crest is the focal point; hence its name „The Crest.” In the second book, the focal point is a family heirloom; hence its name „The Emerald.” In each of the first and second books, a particular character predicts the future of another character. That prophecy is not fulfilled until the third book. The third book is entitled „The Destiny” and the saga overall is called „The Prophecy.”
Romelia: WOULD YOU AND YOUR MAIN CHARACTER GET ALONG?
Jerena Tobiasen: Yes. We did and still do.
Romelia: IF YOU COULD MEET YOUR CHARACTERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?
Jerena Tobiasen: “Hang onto your hat. This isn’t going to be easy, and it won’t end the way you hoped.”
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE? ARE YOU MORE OF A PLOTTER OR A PANTSER?
Jerena Tobiasen: Pantser.
Romelia: WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR WRITING SPACE TO HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED?
Jerena Tobiasen: I can write and have written anywhere – in the car on a ferry; on cruise ships; in hotel rooms; on tour buses; and, of course, at home.
Most of my writing is done at home, where it’s quiet and my space is somewhat organized. I focus best when it’s quiet, but, if I have something to write, nothing will stop me.
Romelia: IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A SPIN-OFF ABOUT A SIDE CHARACTER, WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?
Jerena Tobiasen: DR. Eamon Hendrik from „The Emerald.”
Romelia: IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANOTHER POPULAR AUTHOR, WHOM WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Jerena Tobiasen: It would depend on the day. I can think of several. Today, I’d chose Ian Fleming.
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: I tend to be very focused when I’m writing: I can ignore distractions. Depending on the day and the need, I might write for as little as 5 hours, but I have written solid for 8-10 hours. I don’t recommend the long hours though. It’s hard on the body. On those days, I force myself to take small breaks, stay hydrated and stretch often.
Romelia: HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED AS RESEARCH FOR YOUR BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: Yes. For „The Prophecy”, I travelled through Germany, Poland and The Netherlands. For the series on which I’m working now, I have travelled to the arctic, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Arabian seas. I’ve visited, the UK, Scandinavia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, northern Africa and the Middle East.
I’ve spent hours in museums and libraries (including the British Library), as well as surfing the internet.
Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WRITING SNACK OR DRINK?
Jerena Tobiasen: I don’t have a specific snack. For me, it’s hard to write and eat at the same time. I always have water at hand, and may sip hot tea.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?
Jerena Tobiasen: Depends on how you define finish: in the moment, I might do a little happy dance, stretch and go for a walk. Then, I’ll allow myself 5 or 7 days away from the book to let everything settle before reading the story through and making tweaks. The end of that work comes when the manuscript is sent to my editor.
The next finish line is completing the manuscript, including artwork, formatting and publishing. (I’m an independent publisher.) No celebrating, just relief.
The final finish line is holding a print copy in my hand. To celebrate is to launch. For „The Crest”, I hosted a proper launch party with family and friends. I was conducting research in the British library, London, when „The Emerald” was launched. And I was in Israel when „The Destiny” was launched.
Romelia: WHAT RISKS HAVE YOU TAKEN WITH YOUR WRITING THAT HAVE PAID OFF?
Jerena Tobiasen: Writing historical fiction is a leap of faith. The writer is asking the reader to accept any slight diversions from the truth. For me, my story needs to be authentic, or as close as possible. I’m asking readers to trust me. That’s a big ask.
Romelia: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF AND WHAT DID YOU FIND?
Jerena Tobiasen: Just now. I found my website, my Amazon listings, as well as my Goodreads, Instagram, audible and Facebook accounts. I also found interviews about me, and a plethora of other sites promoting my books (many of which are unknown to me). A very pleasant surprise.
Romelia: WHAT IS YOUR KRYPTONITE AS A WRITER?
Jerena Tobiasen: Typical writer’s self doubt: who would want to read something I wrote?
I also worry that something I wrote might unwittingly offend someone personally. Lots of ugly things have happened throughout history. I don’t condone them, but they happened. As a result, I have to be selective when I chose to write a controversial scene. I’d prefer to write the truth than sugar coat an event, and that leaves me feeling vulnerable. I hope that, if a reader is taken aback by something I’ve written, they will take the time to investigate the historical truth before thinking ill of me.
Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.
Jerena Tobiasen: Depends on how you define funny.
I could tell any number of amusing anecdotes about life with my family. It would be hard to pick just one.
I could also tell the curious tale of how I discovered that my last legal position was to be phased out, and how I had to draft the severance documents. It happened a year before the date on which I’d planned to retire. Fortunately, the severance package supported me well through that last year, so it came to be a blessing rather than a loss: That was the year that I wrote „The Prophecy”.
As well, I could tell many tales of the unexpected. My husband and I like to travel, and often incorporate the need for research in our travel plans. We spend hours planning, organizing and preparing for each journey. No matter how prepared we think we are, however, nothing goes according to plan. Something bizzar or extraordinary always happens. I have written about some of our experiences and posted them on my webpage. We’ve found that, no matter what the unplanned event might be, the best remedy is to breathe deeply and sleep on it. A logical answer or resolution always follows, and – in time – we laugh about it.
Romelia: Describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.
Jerena Tobiasen: I am a very private person, a preference reinforced by a career in law. Creating a public image in order to introduce my stories to the world has been a challenge for me.
Hate is a strong word, and I try to live without it. I do find on a world scale, however, that the human behaviour reported in the news is disturbing. It is unfathomable to me that any one person might think they are better or worse than another, that the colour of one’s skin, political views or religious believes should be a cause for violent outrage, cruelty, dismissal, destruction, etc. We have more important issues with which to concern ourselves: needless transmission of viruses while we await vaccines; ways to cherish the earth and keep it safe for future generations. We could all do so much better … (Stepping off the soap box now…)