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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Author Interview: Marie Therese Browne, Author of Olga: A Daughter's Tale

Author Marie Therese Browne

The real Olga at age 88!

Olga at age 15

I recently got the chance to chat up with the wonderful author Marie Therese Browne, who is the author of this lovely book Olga: A Daughter's Tale. She sent me her book all the way from the UK, and I must admit, it was really unputdownable. After reading the book myself, I would definitely like to recommend it to all of you book lovers, especially since this book will touch a familiar chord with readers from all across the globe.

Here is some of the chat we had about the book and about the author:

Debolina: How did the thought of writing a book come to your mind?
Author: I discovered so many different things as I was researching the book. I learnt about Jamaica, it's history, the period, the folklore and my family - in particular my mother and I thought it was such an epic story from Jamaica to London, it just screamed at me - write it down, and now it's screaming at me - make a movie:)

Debolina: Why did you want to write a book on a family saga that is YOUR family saga?
Author: Because it's true and truth is stranger than fiction.

Debolina: What kind of response did you receive? Was it expected?
Author: I self published my book on Lulu.com because I only wanted my family and friends to have copies, and because they loved the book so much they encouraged me to try and find a wider audience which is what I'm doing now. So far all the reviews I've got for Olga have been very good. That tells me that people like a good inspirational human interest story.

Debolina: A lot of diary entries have been used in your book to give it a real feel - are these entries for real or are these part of your writing style? Author: You're the first person that's asked me if the diary entries are part of my writing style and yes, they are. I first got the idea to write the book about 1996 but until around 2006 I couldn't find my voice! I looked at writing it from my mother's point of view, my own and a third person narrative, but none of it worked for me so I left it alone for 10 years!. In 2006 by chance I started to read Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' which is written with diary entries and letters. Bingo!! I’d found my voice.

Debolina: How did you research for this book?
Author: Once I had made contact with my mother’s family I went to Jamaica to visit them. Six of her sisters were still alive although very elderly. I got quite a lot of information from them. My local library in Brighton, UK, was good for the history and culture of Jamaica and the National Archive in Kew just outside London was a brilliant resource. There they have over 1,000 years of historical records. I went there to search ships' passengers' lists. I was particularly interested in the ships that sailed back and forth between the West Indies and London at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century. And the other great research resource for me was the Jamaican Gleaner, Jamaica’s national newspaper which has a great archive section.

Debolina: What was the reaction of the real Olga when you told her about the book?
Author: Mum died before I had completed the book - in fact I hadn’t really started to write it. I did all the research for it while she was alive. She knew I was going to write the book and at first wasn’t too happy about it but when I told her I wanted future generations of our family to know about her and her siblings, I had her blessing.

Debolina: Many old photographs and sketches are part of this book, How did you come about all this material? Was it difficult to persuade your family to share these memories?
Author: On the cover of the book are three pictures. One is an old photograph of London Bridge; one is of my mother, Olga, when she was about 15, and the main coloured one on the front is from a very old Jamaican tourist book. Some pictures were given to me others but not all.

Debolina: You mentioned you have mainly written this book to pass on your family story to your coming generations. Has anyone in the next gen in your family read this book yet? What has been the reaction?
Author: Most of my family have read the book and loved it, including my two sons. There are some distant cousins in Canada whom I don’t believe have read it.

Debolina: We all want to know how is the real Olga now, where does she live and what does she do?
Author: My mother, the real Olga, never left the UK once she arrived in 1939 and died there in October 2006.

Debolina: Have you written/planning to write anything else?
Author: I think there is a sequel to ’Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’ and I’m considering that. If you’ve finished reading the book, let me know what you think? (Debolina: I definitely think there should be a sequel) :D

Debolina: How do you think this book will connect with the international audience?
Author: I think it will connect very well. It’s a great human interest story about families and their dysfunctionality, it's mothers and their love for their children – it’s a story all families can relate to wherever they are.

Debolina: Who are your favourite authors and what are the different genres of work you prefer to read?
Author: I have three favourite authors. Charles Dickens, Isabel Allende and Oscar Wilde. I like inspirational stories but generally I read most genres, except paranormal. I don’t get that! My favourite book is Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Debolina's recommendation: A must-read.

- Debolina Raja Gupta