The Mark of the King. You do not want to miss this beautiful story! Today I am happy to share with you a Q&A with this gifted author where she shares a bit about writing this novel as well as a peek into her writing life.
What drew you to tell the story of The Mark of the King?
First of all, the history was both fascinating and new to me. There are many excellent books set in the British colonies, but the French colony of Louisiana seems to be much lesser known. The years of forced immigration, whereby Paris cleaned out its prisons to populate a floundering wilderness, was just too rife with story potential to ignore. It’s a story of incredible hardship and courage, fear and hope, judgment and redemption. It also offered an opportunity to unlock a slice of American history most of us know little about, which appeals to me a great deal.
The mark of the king, as referenced in the title, has two meanings. The first is very literal. It’s the fleur-de-lys symbol of the French monarchy that was branded on certain criminals during the time the novel takes place, to permanently mark them with judgment. In the novel, this mark plays a big role. But there is a spiritual layer to the phrase, as well. As believers, we serve a higher King than any authority here on earth. Our lives are marked by His grace, no matter how scarred we may have been by judgment from others—whether that judgment was deserved or not. God’s grace covers all of it. Grace covers all of us.
What was your favorite part of the process when it came to writing this novel?
Research breakthroughs literally make me shout for joy. For instance, my French sister-in-law translated a document I found in New Orleans for me, giving me a critical piece of the puzzle. Another challenge I ran into was just understanding the topography of the region. Visiting New Orleans still left me with questions as to what my characters would have encountered, geographically, in the year 1720. When I found an article online that hinted at the information I was looking for, I emailed the author, a professor at Loyola University. I jumped up and down when he wrote me back, with a goldmine of details! We ended up exchanging about six emails, question and answer style. With his help, I finally got a handle on the lay of the land between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain in the 1720s, with all its sand ridges, bayous, swamps, marches, including types of trees and vegetation that grew in each region. Being able to paint the scenes with accurate details is really important to me, so this was definitely a research highlight!
Which character do you most closely identify with in The Mark of the King, and why?
The world Julianne Chevalier inhabits—Paris, then New Orleans in the 1720s—is vastly different from the world I live in. But of all the characters in the novel, I relate to her the most. I share her strong desire to find purpose and use one’s skills and gifts wherever life leads. I also identify with her devotion to her brother and the pain of separation from him, since I greatly missed my own brother when he was a missionary—in France, in fact, where he met his beautiful wife, who grew up outside of Paris! On an even more personal level, my former tendency to withdraw from community when experiencing pain is represented in Julianne’s character, as well. I once learned the hard way that isolation breeds depression. So even though Julianne and I share very few circumstances in common, these deeper parallels are quite timeless.
Why do you write historical fiction?
History still matters today. We can learn so much from the people who lived before us, and how they shaped and were shaped by the events of their generations. Not only can we find inspiration from them, but also a much better perspective as we look at the world today. Unfortunately, so often, history is distilled into a list of dates and names—not interesting at all. The vehicle of historical fiction allows us to explore segments of the past through the lens of the people who lived it. We get to explore the full spectrum of the human condition through the novel.
Personally, I love learning while being entertained with drama, and studies show that when we’re curious about something—such as what will happen to our heroine in the next chapter—we’re far more likely to remember surrounding details, such as the historical context. To me, that’s the icing on the cake. When readers care about characters and learn about history at the same time, I’m thrilled.
Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
I look for ideas everywhere. Books, online articles, Netflix documentaries, roadside markers, historical societies, museums, other people and their vacation photos! The impetus for The Mark of the King was planted when my sister-in-law and brother, who were living in France at the time, told me about the King’s Daughters, a group of girls sent from France to be wives to Canadian fur traders in the 1600s. I was intrigued, and started my own research. One click led to another, and I eventually learned about the French forced to immigrate to Louisiana.
Where do you like to write?
I usually write best in my office, surrounded by my research books, because I'm constantly fact-checking as I write. It's a laborious process. But sometimes if I get stuck, I find a change of scenery to be helpful. A local coffee shop or the university library where my husband works are great places to get the creative juices flowing again
When you fully complete a book and all is done but the printing, is it sad to move on or are you already developing your next story?
It’s bittersweet, for sure. By the time a book is ready to print, I’ve poured heart and soul into creating it. But I’m not really leaving the story behind when I move on, because when readers pick up the book, it comes to life all over again. I get excited about drawing new characters, too.
Thanks for providing this, Jocelyn! Readers, be sure to enter this cool giveaway by clicking on the graphic below.
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