Welcome to the Blog, Nola! Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Thanks for inviting me on the blog today, Laurie. I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, but I’ve lived in a large inland town in southeast Queensland for more than 30 years. My husband Tim and I were both lecturers at the local university for more than 20 years. In 2013 we left those jobs and started a home-based freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. Since then, I’ve focused more on my writing and I’m enjoying the freedom of being more creative. I write fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry, and have had more than 150 short pieces published. Scattered is my first novel.
Describe your story in 5 sentences or less:
Nineteen-year-old Maggie sets sail for Nova Scotia in 1882 to search for her young brother and sister who were mistakenly sent to Canada as part of the Home Children Migrant Scheme. She’s shipwrecked en route, and the trail to find her siblings has gone cold by the time she reaches Halifax. An industrialist offers her assistance, but he has his own reasons for keeping Maggie’s siblings from her. With the help of a dashing newspaperman, she starts sorting through the secrets and lies, but lives will be on the line as they continue their quest. There’s adventure, mystery, and romance along the way, and Maggie has to learn to trust God no matter the outcome.
What is the inspiration behind your story?
The story was inspired by two separate incidents on a trip to Canada in 2012. First, I learned that Sable Island was known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because more than 350 ships had been wrecked there. They weren’t running tours to Sable Island at the time, but I became fascinated with the shipwrecks, the lifesaving station and its colony of wild horses. Then when we went to Prince Edward Island, I heard about a man called John Willoughby who had helped reunite many of the descendants of the British Home Children with their families. It took me a while to work out how I could weave all of those elements into a plot, but the seeds of the story were planted.
What book do you wish you would have written?
I may as well start at the top and say To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it as 16-year-old because it was required reading for school, but I loved it. Coming from Australia, I knew very little about the Civil Rights Movement at that stage, and it was an eye-opener for me. I could feel the injustice as an innocent man was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The subplot with Boo Radley also touched me because it showed how easy it is to misjudge someone because they’re different. To write a book that challenges injustice and still resonates with readers decades later would be my dream.
Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote your story?
As the story is set in 1882, I was always discovering something new. Some of them were pleasant surprises, but others had me pulling my hair out. For example, for the first few years that I was writing Scattered, my villain was going to operate a trade route between Halifax and Boston. Then I discovered almost by chance that there were high tariffs at the time, making it unlikely that he would embark on such a venture. So I had to do a lot of research to work out where he could have gone instead. In the end, I think it worked out better for the plot, but I had to completely rewrite large chunks of the story.
Who was your favorite character to create?
I’d have to say my heroine, Maggie. She has depths of resilience she never dreamed she could have. As I got to know her better and saw her working through the many obstacles placed in her path, it also made me wonder what I would do in her situation. She has to grapple with God and come to accept that when things are at rock bottom, He is the one who will never let her down. I think it’s a lesson we all need to learn at some point.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
I’m a tweener. I like to have the main plot points in place so that I know where I’m heading, but I also like some of it to emerge organically as I write. I’m trying to do more plotting for my next novel before I begin, but I’ll never be the kind of person who has it all mapped out in minute detail beforehand.
Are you part of a writing group?
Yes, and I couldn’t get by without them. My main writing group, The Quirky Quills, have been with me through thick and thin and we’ve all encouraged each other on our writing journeys. We all live in the same town, so manage to catch up regularly. However, I’m also involved in some wonderfully supportive Christian online communities—Christian Writers Downunder, Omega Writers, and Australasian Christian Writers.
What’s next for you as an author?
I’m currently plotting a sequel that will take place 13 years after the first novel. I don’t want to say too much at this stage, but the heroine will be one of the secondary characters from Book 1. I also have some smaller projects on the go, including a series of devotions on lessons learned from COVID-19 that we can take with us into the future.
Here is Nola’s stunning cover for SCATTERED and a brief excerpt:
This section is from Chapter 1:
The lifeboat slammed into the water, bow first, sending a wash of white foam over their feet. The stern slapped down a second later, jolting Maggie sideways. Essie and Ruby howled, but Maggie could do little except hold them. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t breathe.
The rope attached to the stern snapped and recoiled like an angry snake. Maggie’s head whipped around to the bow where one remaining line tethered the lifeboat. Each wave twisted their stricken vessel, threatening to smash it against the crippled Excelsior.
‘I can’t free the line.’ Higgins leaned over the side to get a better reach. ‘It must be snagged.’
A surge of water rammed the lifeboat, crushing Higgins against the side of the ship. A cry ripped from Maggie’s lips as she reached for him. The line released. Higgins slid into the murky sea.
Mrs Plowhurst beat her chest with her hands. ‘We’re doomed. We’re all doomed.’ Maggie’s heartbeat ratcheted up. The lifeboat’s oars were still on the deck of the Excelsior, and she and Mrs Plowhurst were adrift with the children. There were no words to offer. No hope to give.
Bubbling foam cascaded over their feet. The lifeboat twisted and jerked, each wave propelling them away from the ship. Mrs Plowhurst scrunched her face up like a sponge. ‘I’m not ready to meet my Maker.’ She tucked her arms around her heaving bosom and rocked back and forth.
Edward crawled towards Maggie, putting distance between himself and his hysterical mother.
‘We’ll be all right, ma’am,’ Maggie said. ‘They’ll launch the other boat and come after us.’ As soon as the words left her mouth, Maggie knew they were untrue. There was a gaping hole in the ship’s hull a little above the waterline. Their lifeboat was drifting further and further away. No one could rescue them.
A roar rumbled across the sea. Maggie squinted through the pre-dawn haze as the ghostly silhouette of the Excelsior broke in two. The stern reared up before plunging beneath the waves.
The orange splash of daybreak set the ocean ablaze, the captain and remaining crew lost to its fiery cauldron.
Here’s the back cover copy of the book:
To lose her family was unthinkable …
To find them will take a miracle.
While working in Europe, nineteen-year-old Maggie never dreamed that her family would be ripped apart and scattered across the sea, with her young brother and sister sent to Canada as part of the Home Children Migrant Scheme.
Desperation sends Maggie on a search from England to Canada, with a harrowing shipwreck leaving her stranded on Sable Island. Eventually arriving in Halifax, Maggie is devastated to discover the trail to find her sister and brother has gone cold.
An offer of help from industrialist Thaddeus Tharaday seems like an answer to prayer, but is the wealthy Tharaday her benefactor or nemesis?
With the help of a dashing newspaper reporter, Maggie begins to unravel the web of deceit surrounding her siblings’ disappearance. However, the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her quest becomes.
With lives on the line and the threat of everything she loves being torn away, can Maggie entrust the scattered pieces of her heart to the one who will never leave?
Set in Victorian-era Nova Scotia, Scattered weaves together elements of mystery, adventure, faith and romance to take readers on a journey of hope and courage that will resonate with their hearts today.
You can find Nola online here:
You can buy SCATTERED here:
Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Scattered-Nola-Lorraine/9781922135506
OR you can WIN a free PRINT copy by leaving a comment below…have you ever heard of the Home Children Migrant Scheme? This was still going on in the mid-1900’s. My own husband’s paternal grandparents came over as older children and met when they were teenagers working on Canadian farms. Join in on the conversation!