I am so pleased to share with you my interview with attorney turned author, Jacqueline Friedland! Today, she is telling us about her novel, Troubled The Water, which was released May 8, 2018, by Spark Press. She also gives us insight into a little bit about her process.
What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!
My latest book release is a historical fiction novel, TROUBLE THE WATER. The story takes place twenty years before the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina. I was inspired to write this story after learning that the international trafficking of slaves was outlawed in 1808, but the practice continued nearly unfettered for decades afterwards. The governments of countries like the United States and England did not do nearly enough to enforce the anti-trafficking laws nor otherwise stop the atrocities. I began to wonder what if there had been a person, a vigilante, who stepped in to make a difference? Maybe there could have been someone with sufficient resources and sufficient manpower to get a group together and make the kidnapping of Africans more difficult for the criminals of the high seas. I asked myself what kind of person would be brave enough, bold enough, to do such a thing? What would his life be like, and what would his actions cost him? I created my main character, Douglas Elling, based on these thoughts, and the rest of my story grew around him. Interestingly, when I introduced a female protagonist to challenge Douglas, I found that her story fascinated me as much as his, and I created a young woman who I envisioned as an early feminist and an independent thinker. As this character, Abigail Milton, and Douglas Elling get to know each other, they each learn a great deal about themselves, as well.
What are you working on now?
I am working on another novel. Unlike the first one, the next story is contemporary fiction. I so greatly enjoyed writing a historical novel and will most likely write others, but just as I love reading across different genres, I also appreciate that interesting stories can materialize out of so many diverse situations and time periods. The next book is about a young woman in Manhattan who finds herself in a surprisingly complex love triangle.
What advice would you give to your younger writing self?
I would advise my younger writing self to commit sooner. I wasn’t sure if I had the talent or the dedication to work as a writer. I was afraid to fail, and so I moved very slowly at first. I dabbled in the research, I wrote scenes in my head but stalled before putting them down on paper. I wish I could have been braver, that I could have brought myself to sit down at the computer a little sooner. The first rule to being a successful writer is that you actually have to WRITE. I would have pushed myself a little harder at the beginning.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?
I have wanted to be a writer my entire life. I have always loved words and crafting sentences, but I worried as a young adult that I wouldn’t find success. So instead I went to law school and became a lawyer. I was actually pretty good at my job as a lawyer, but I never felt passionate about my work. I also never got accustomed to office culture. After my first child was born, I decided to use a portion of maternity leave to begin working on my first book. It was an attempt to see if this whole “writing thing” could really pan out for me. Unfortunately, in my naïvete as a new mother, I didn’t realize that I would have precious little time to do work with an infant in the apartment. Even so, something about the transition to motherhood helped me realize that I was truly an adult, and I’d better get busy doing something I loved because life is short. I tried to transition to teaching Legal Writing as a compromise between the two disciplines, but I still wasn’t satisfied because I wasn’t creating fiction. I finally left the law and went back to school for an MFA in Creative Writing. I am glad to have my background in law, and I still find several aspects of the legal system genuinely interesting, but I am thrilled to finally be living my dream as a writer.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I do almost all of my writing at home. I know many people are easily distracted at home and feel they have to set up shop at a café or a library in order to be productive. I am the opposite. I find people enormously fascinating, so if I am in public, it’s very difficult for me to draw my eyes away from all the other people around me and focus on my screen instead.
Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?
I am a hardcore Type A kind of a person, which puts me squarely into the category of Plotter. That said, it never works out like I’ve planned. Before I start writing, I make a detailed outline. Then I fix it and re-do it several times. Then I highlight and color code. Then I make various changes and fix everything all over again. I don’t begin writing the story until I really feel that I have a step-by-step guide about where the piece is going. Then when I actually begin writing, everything changes. Nothing turns out as I expected, the characters keep doing things that surprise me, and the story ends up going in a completely different direction. At this point, I am comfortable with the spontaneity, and I even expect it, but I am still committed to completing those outlines in advance. Imagining all the different scenarios and laying out a framework for myself helps me to get to know my characters and my setting. It puts me inside their heads deeply enough that when they start going off-script, I can understand why, and I can work with it.
Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?
Before I write, I have to get my kids out of the house to school or camp. Then I drink a big cup of coffee and respond to any outstanding emails. Once my inbox is organized, and my desk is clean, I can get to work.
What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?
When I’m not writing, I love watching movies with my family, reading fast-paced novels, exercising, sitting outside on warm days, and laughing with friends.
Here is more about the book!
Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.
Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.
Read more about Jacqueline!
Jacqueline Friedland holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from NYU Law School. She practiced as an attorney in New York before returning to school to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband, four children, and two energetic dogs.