Award-winning historical author Jocelyn Green is yet again taking readers somewhere they’ve never been before: the French colony of Louisiana in the early 1700s. At this time in history Louisiana was being populated by prisoners from France, exiled to the territory to rid the motherland of them but also to hold down the frontier in the country’s name. Jocelyn shines a light on this interesting time in history and puts her main character, Julianne in the thick of it.
Where did the inspiration for this novel come from?
There are many excellent books set in the British colonies, but the French colony of Louisiana seems to be much lesser known. When I learned about the years of forced immigration, whereby Paris cleaned out its prisons to populate a floundering wilderness, it 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.
Are any parts of the plot or characters pulled from real life?
Absolutely. The plot is based on real historical events, including the forced colonization of Louisiana, widespread desertion among French military in the colony, the French-Chickasaw War of the 1720s, a famine, and the first recorded hurricane in New Orleans in 1722.
Can you describe your plot in one sentence?
An unjustly imprisoned midwife trades a life sentence for exile to Louisiana, but living with the mark of the king on her shoulder proves more dangerous than she’d ever imagined.
Can you tell us about any research you did for this novel?
It was challenging! The people who lived in Louisiana at that time did not speak English. It was primarily French or native American languages. So when it came to diving into primary sources, I had to rely on those that had already been translated into English. There are a number of those, thankfully. But I also went down to New Orleans to an archives center that contains a lot of French sources. I knew enough to know which chapters I wanted to take home with me, so I made copies and brought them back to my French sister-in-law, who translated for me. That was a huge help! I also befriended a professor at Loyola University who answered all my questions about what the terrain was like in and around New Orleans during my timeframe. My rich setting descriptions are due to his generosity in helping me get the details right.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
The heroine, Julianne. The world she 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.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Novelist by Angela Hunt; The Messenger by Siri Mitchell; The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen; and an advance copy of The Return by J.M. Hochstetler.
Where will your writing take you next?
My next release is The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection (Barbour, March 1), a collection of five novellas written by the very talented Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Joanne Bischof and myself! That book will take readers through centuries and across oceans as we follow one bottle and how it brings hope to five couples. Then I have a nonfiction book coming out for women from Discovery House in July called Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life. My next full-length novel is taking me to the wilderness of Pennsylvania—a small, mostly-forgotten French settlement called Asylum, which was created for refugees of the French Revolution.
About Jocelyn Green
Jocelyn Green is an award-winning author of multiple fiction and nonfiction works. Her first novel in the Heroines Behind the Lines series, Wedded to War, was a Christy Award finalist and the gold medal winner in historical fiction from the Military Writers Society of America. A native Northerner, she and her Southern-born-and-bred husband live in Iowa with their children. Visit her at jocelyngreen.com.