Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Blog Tour- Q & A with Caroline Pignat

As part of my blog tour I was lucky enough to interview Caroline Pignat about her book Unspeakable. My review was posted this morning and I quite enjoyed the novel.

Caroline is an Ottawa-based author and has written some award winning stories.

Here is my Q & A with her.

A Little Bookish (ALB): What kind of research did you do for this novel?
Caroline Pignat (CP):
I spent several months researching the Empress of Ireland. Before writing this story, I knew nothing about the ship or the people involved. I read survivor accounts from newspapers articles (why Wyatt Steele’s character is in the story) and crew interviews, I also read non-fiction sources such as The Forgotten Empress by David Zeni and Fourteen Minutes by James Croall, and had the amazing opportunity of researching at the Archives at the Museum of History where I reviewed some fascinating artifacts -- such as a journal recovered in the wreckage. That was where I got the idea for Jim’s story to be through journal entries.
Another fascinating source was the diary of Titanic survivor Violet Jessop, a woman who served as a stewardess. That was a huge part of Ellie's experiences.
ALB: What did you find the most interesting thing while writing this book?
CP: The fact that such a huge event in Canadian history was seemingly lost really intrigued me and as I learned more about the ship, the sinking, and the stories of the people aboard, the more excited I became about sharing it.
ALB: What are some of your favorite novels? 
CP: I love any novel that draws me in and makes me forget to analyze it as I read. That’s the sign of a great writer, in my opinion. I loved The Book Thief, The Fault in our Stars, The Book of Negroes. Overall, I really enjoy character driven historical fiction, particularly Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon.
ALB: What is your greatest piece if advice for future writers? 
CP: Trust your voice. You have something to say that no one else can say. No one has written the story only YOU can write.... and if you don’t write it, no one will. So keep at it. Keep learning the craft. And keep writing.
ALB: What are a few of your bookish pet peeves? 
CP: Ha! Great question. Where do I begin?! :) 
I only use Moleskine notebooks for journaling. And those plain black spiral ones for brainstorming. (Reading makes me write.)
I jot in novel margins -- but can’t read a book where someone else has scribbled or highlighted. Even in university, I paid full price to have a clean copy. 
I never write in red pen -- it feels angry... and screams: wrong!
I highlight in bright yellow as I read/research because I can’t remember anything. And bright yellow makes me happy. :) 
And I am very particular about my shelves. I have one of those IKEA cube type shelves FULL of books. Each square cubby has a particular reason -- usually related to the book I’m writing, the books I’ve read and can’t part with, the books I’ve bought and need to read, and the books I use for research. When my husband *thoughtfully* reorganized my books by height -- I freaked...... Don't. Touch. The books.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today! Happy Reading!

Blog Tour & Book Review: Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat

Today I am part of the blog tour for Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat. I was fortunate enough to dine with Caroline in March for our Ottawa Blogger Meetup. While there, she spoke with us about her upcoming book Unspeakable. It is an historical fiction novel about a shipwreck of the Empress of Ireland. This shipwreck actually happened after the Titanic and had many more casualties. It is one of the worst Canadian Maritime disasters in history but it often gets overlooked. 

It was amazing to hear about all the research and details that went into this book. Without further ado, my book review.

Publisher: Razorbill Canada
Publishing Date:  May 6th, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 288 pgs
ISBN: 9780143187554
Source: Copy given to me by publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:
On her first voyage as a stewardess aboard the Empress of Ireland, Ellie is drawn to the solitary fire stoker who stands by the ship’s rail late at night, often writing in a journal.

Jim. Ellie finds it hard to think of his name now. After their wonderful time in Quebec City, that awful night happened. The screams, the bodies, the frigid waters … she tries hard to tell herself that he survived, but it’s hard to believe when so many didn’t. So when Wyatt Steele, journalist at The New York Times asks her for her story, Ellie refuses. But when he shows her Jim’s journal, she jumps at the chance to be able to read it herself, to find some trace of the man she had fallen in love with, or perhaps a clue to what happened to him. There’s only one catch: she will have to tell her story to Steele and he’ll “pay” her by giving her the journal, one page at a time.

My Review: 

The story is told in the narrative of Ellie, who is a stewardess on the boat. It goes back and forth between present day and the past (pre-boat disaster). In present day, Ellie is recounting her experience to Steele, a journalist. She is trying to find more information about the man she fell in love with. 

I have to say that I quite enjoyed this story. I was a history minor and I really like reading historical fiction. I had never heard of this shipwreck so it's always nice learning something new. I also quite enjoy reading about Canada. It's fun to read about places you have been to. Some of the story takes place in Quebec City which is where I honeymooned. It's great being able to perfectly picture where the characters are walking around and exploring. 

I also really liked Ellie. She was down on her luck and while she didn't exactly welcome her new role on the Empress, she did what she could with it. She is tenacious and she goes for what she wants. All this in a time when women were not exactly equal. She is not afraid of a little hard work if she really wants something. I also like that the story is not solely focused on tragedy. It is about rebuilding after horrible tragedy. She has an inner strength that many would not possess. 

The secondary characters are also interesting. While we don't get to see much of Aunt Geraldine, what we do know about her is great. She is a woman living on her own in a man's world. I can see how some wouldn't like her but I did. She did what she thought she had to make it. I think that Ellie gets a lot of her qualities from her aunt. 

Overall, this book was well written and fun to read. I would definitely recommend picking it up.