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Sunday 11 October 2015

ℚ♫ Fireweed - Terry Montague

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Fireweed (, Covenant Communications, 320 pages), a Historical LDS fiction novel.

Author Q&A | Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

A big welcome to Terry Montague, author and animal lover.  Thank you for joining us on BooksChatter.

To begin, as we love music, do you have a playlist that you used in Fireweed, or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"When I was doing Fireweed, Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods (Gotterdammerung) was playing in the back of my head.   The novel I’m working on currently was actually begun using the dialogue from the movie, The Magnificent Ambersons, as background.  I know it’s odd but there is a unique rhythm in the way those lines were delivered and each character does it the same way.  Okay, so yes, I’m eccentric.  Wait til you read the rest of my answers!"

What was the inspiration for Fireweed?

"I was doing research on the evacuation of American LDS missionaries from Nazi Germany at the time Germany invaded Poland during the first week of September of 1939.  When I interviewed some of those evacuees, they had family members sitting in on the interviews and some of those family members were Germans who had lived in Germany during the course of WWII.   Frequently, I asked a question the interviewee couldn’t answer from his/her memory. They’d excuse themselves to go into the next room to retrieve a journal or an album but while I was waiting, the German family members or friends would say, “Now, let me tell you what happened to me.” A writer never lets anything go to waste so I began taking another set of notes from the stories I heard. That led me to believe there was a story to be told about the LDS Germans living in Nazi Germany during the war.

Oh, the book Mine Angels Round About, which is the compilation of stories from the missionaries evacuated out of Nazi Germany will be available in the next few months.   If you’re interested, watch for it at Amazon."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"They say every novel is, in some way, autobiographical.  People who know me say there are bits and pieces and chunks of me in all the characters and, of course, since I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have a connection with my characters in that way.

I was interested in the setting because I grew up in a Russian-German community and many of my neighbors and relatives spoke German at home.  When I was quite young, the re-runs on cartoons and old movies depicted Germans as evil or idiotic.  It was hard for me to understand how my tiny German-speaking grandmother was a “dirty Kraut”.   I also didn’t understand how my father could have been seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge while fighting Germans.  It just didn’t make sense to me.   By the time I was eleven, I began checking out library books that dealt with World War Two as well as German history.  As well, I began to have questions about my family’s history.  I learned two things.

What I learned about my family was that they hadn’t lived in Germany since the 1700s.  They’d migrated to Russia under Catharine the Great and colonized the area now known as Ukraine. They were forced out by the Bolsheviks but were able to find homesteading land in the U.S. They lived in three different countries over the course of about 200 years but still maintained their ethnicity as Germans.

The other thing I learned through my studies was that not all Germans were Nazis but that the worst thing they ever did, they did to themselves either through arrogance or ignorance."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Fireweed - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"I didn’t see the cover until, by accident, I found the book on Amazon.   I don’t know who the artist is or what inspired the cover but I like it a lot."
Why should we read Fireweed and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"Unique-wise, it’s a novel about World War Two told from a LDS German perspective. Particularly, it’s how a young woman of high values and standards comes of age against a backdrop of war where her own country is the aggressor."
Can you tell us something quirky about Fireweed, its story and characters?
"I have used some inside jokes in the story.  For instance, when my main character, Lisel, doesn’t believe something she often says, “And cows chase rabbits!” Several of my readers have complained about that phrase because it’s just so weird.  However, as a descendant of Russian-Germans, I know that “And cows chase rabbits!” was a common exclamation among that group. (Skeptics, all of them.)

Also there is one line in the story about a yellow cat, named Siegfried, who catches a bird.  In that I was inspired by Wagner’s opera Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) in which one of the main characters, Siegfried, follows a bird.

On a personal level, a dream sequence in the story is a retelling a dream I had after my grandfather’s death."
Who would you recommend Fireweed to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I wrote this story particularly for women.  I began it because of something I saw.   I was standing in a book store, just browsing through the novels when I noticed a young woman down the aisle from me.  She was pregnant and had a toddler in her arms.  She looked weary, she was shifting from foot to foot, and trying to keep the toddler quiet. I understood what she was doing because I’d done it myself.  I mean, she was there in the book store trying to find an escape hatch.  I had her in mind when I began the story.  Transporting the reader is always an important part of creating story but I also wanted to be able to give her a way to put down her own trials for a little while.  As well, I wanted to say that even with the worst things that can happen, hope can endure, love can endure, relationships can endure.  Self endures.  

So, I guess I’d say that women of any age would enjoy this book with the disclaimer that it is not a romance.  There is a tiny bit of romance in it, but that’s not the main story.  This is a story of endurance and overcoming.  

I would also like to say Fireweed depicts the consequences of war, most especially the consequences to children and women.  It begins with a girl of sixteen in 1939 and follows her through her life.  If you’re horrified by the Lebensborn program or squeamish about descriptions of Displaced Persons camps or escaping one by wading through an open pit latrine, then this story might be too dark for you.  I will say this, though.  The story is told from the point of view of a young woman who is not in the military or on any battlefield until Berlin itself is a battlefield.  The violence is mostly “off stage”."
If you could / wished to turn Fireweed into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"That’s an interesting question because this story would never get a Hollywood greenlight.  I knew that when I was writing it.  I suppose the closest I came to assigning parts was that I had a young Megan Follows in mind as I wrote the main character."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I’m interested in history, mostly.  When I write contemporary, I write it with a light touch. I’ve even won a few awards for humor!"
What is your writing process?
"I start with the emotion that moves me, look for the backdrop or setting that would create that emotion, and the character who could portray it then start the research. (The research for Fireweed filled 17 double-sized note boxes.)  

When I’ve got enough research to start sketching in an outline, that’s what I do.  I use a twenty-foot long piece of craft paper, divide it into chapters, and begin filling in the outline with the view of creating a synopsis.  Then, I expand the synopsis by structuring the scenes.  To create a scene, I decide what needs to happen in that scene and to which character, what emotion I want to create, and what setting is best for that emotion.

I write the dialogue and emotion bits first, then the sensory information that comes with setting.   I write all that down in a lined notebook, hooking one scene into the next.   Whenever I have a scene completed, I take it to the keyboard.  After typing it in, I look at how the words look on the page, do a check for adverbs, the verb “to be” and the qualifying adjectives.  I read the scene out loud, making corrections as I go.

When I think I’ve got enough done on my own, I ask a trusted writer or friend to give it a look. Based on that feedback, I revise.

That method works well for me and my editor said there wasn’t much to do with my manuscript."
That does sound incredibly structured and thorough.

What is in store next?

"I’m nearly finished with a piece of light, contemporary women’s fiction and my writing coach is suggesting I do something about my Russian-German heritage with my grandmother as inspiration for the main character.  She was a healer/midwife, which was a matriarchal calling in her culture."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"My husband and daughter are rolling their eyes!  Very much like my healer/midwife grandmother, I’ve always had lots of animals around me.  Our daughter says there is nothing lost, sick, or injured within a mile that isn’t working its way to our house.   From hummingbirds to horses.  (Not kidding about that at all!)

Anyway, in 2008, the bubble didn’t burst for just humans, it burst for their animals too.  Lots and lots of abandoned creatures around.  I have friends who have the same sympathies as I and we were all feeling overwhelmed and were fretting about what could be done.  What we did was create an organization that would place abandoned cats.  Our group is called Magicats and covers the counties in Magic Valley which is in southern Idaho, along the Snake River.  

We are an incorporated non-profit organization and, because we don’t have a facility, the cats are fostered underfoot in our volunteer’s homes.  We are strictly no-kill unless death is imminent. We’ve had very elderly cats, three-legged cats, one-eyed cats, cats with no ears, cats with PTSD, cats who are grieving, cats with allergies and heart murmurs, and cats with FIV and leukemia.   We even had a cat who, as a kitten, lost his feet, tail, and ears in a brush fire.  (He was placed with a hospice social worker.)   Once we had an orphaned litter, all with wire hair. (A very rare mutation for one kitten in a litter but unheard of anywhere to have four kittens like that.)  We also have healthy, loving, and happy cats.  Our cats are blood-tested, immunized, wormed, spayed/neutered, and vet-checked before they are offered for adoption.  

However, we have very strict standards for those applying for a Magicat cat yet successfully place 250+ per year . We’ve flown cats to new homes in the Northwest, placed them in all the surrounding states as well as California and even had a couple come from the East Coast for one of our cats.

How’s that for pets? Ha!  Now, you’re rolling your eyes."
Oh, I am not rolling my eyes at all... we have 8 indoor cats at the moment... which is very low for us... (at times the place has resembled an animal hospital as we had so many geriatrics!) ... and we have been considering doing something similar to what you described... especially since we brought a cat back to the UK following our last holiday in Greece... I think that by now possibly everyone else reading this section is rolling their eyes ;-)

Where can we find Magicats? or on Facebook.  [Click on the images below to get full information about the beautiful kitties.]

Just on the front page Archie, Flossie, Mason, Oakley, Juno, Sweet Pea, and Tula have come from my household.  Today I have Matilda and Sherman.  Matilda has been here for a month but we’re pretty sure she won’t come out of her feral mindset so she’ll probably live in my fenced back yard with the other members of my feral community.  Sherman is waiting for his upper respiratory infection to clear up. Yesterday, I sent off Blair, Sweet Pete, and Cute Toot, formerly feral kittens.  They aren’t up on the website yet because they’re not ready to be offered for adoption until they’ve had all their meds done and can be successfully handled by children.   When they graduate from that foster home, they’ll be entered into the adoption process (either through our website or PetSmart).  Lots of work to do in the Magicat foster homes.  We still have 65 kittens in progress.  We love every single gorgeous one of them.

Yes, Flora, eight is just the beginning.  You probably ought to start removing your carpets. ;-)
Carpets? What carpets???  Those went a LONG time ago... ;-)

I am happy to report that most of the beautiful kitties above have found their forever home; in particular, Magicats' Facebook page reports that "Handsome Mason is what we refer to as a "foster failure".  He was recently adopted by his foster mom and living a great kitty life!!"
Flossie (pic #1), Oakley (pic #4) and Sherman are still looking for their special human.

Thank you very much for joining us today, Terry!

"You are certainly welcome and thank you!"

Available NOW!

UK: purchase from US: purchase from find on Goodreads

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