Today I’m welcoming Tina Boscha to my series of author interviews. Tina is the author of River in the Sea.
Q: Can you give us a brief description of your novel?
A: This story takes during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. The main character, Leen, is based on my mother.
When a German soldier’s dog bolts in front of Leen’s truck, in a fraction of a second, she must make a choice: brake hard, or hit the gas.
She floors it.
What happens next sets off a chain of events that pitches Leen, just 15, and her family against the German forces when they are most desperate – and fierce. Leen tries to hold her family together, but despite her efforts, bit by bit everything falls apart. And just when Leen experiences a horrific loss, she must make a decision that could forever brand her a traitor, yet finally allow her to live as her heart desires.
River in the Sea is my account of one girl reaching adulthood when everything she believes about family, friendship, and loyalty is questioned by war.
Q: Was it difficult to write a novel based on your own mother?
A: Initially the challenge of writing a novel based on my own mother felt insurmountable. There were a number of issues I wrestled with; first, it’s based on her as a teenager, but obviously I never knew her then (and really, I have always known her as middle-aged or older, as she had me when she was 41). Second, I was convinced I had to stay as true as possible to the way events unfolded. This ended up being quite paralyzing. I wanted to do right by her and my family, but I wanted this to be my book, which felt selfish. Only when I gave my permission to take more control over the story and the character of Leen as I imagined her to be did the writing really flow, and in the end my mom has told me that she feels I got both her and the feeling of what it was like to be a teen at that time exactly right. Of course, she might be biased!
I think sometimes the real person who should be interviewed is my mother – what is it like to have a book written about YOU?!
Q: How much historical fact is woven into your novel?
A: It feels like quite a bit, yet I honestly don’t know. I’ve never felt that this book is historical first, fiction second, nor do I feel like it’s a “war” book. I feel like it’s a coming of age story set against the backdrop of war. Clearly there is a historical element here, as well as the unique setting of Friesland. But when I cut over 100 pages over the course of many revisions, it feels like I cut much of the exposition that gave a lot of precise historical information.
What is on the page, though, was largely gleaned from conversations with my father. He remembered so many amazing details that never would be found in a text. He was able to tell me that electricity was cut nearly right away after the occupation began, even though in my research I thought it was 1943. He waved that off and said, “Oh shit, they cut that right away.” From that point on I trusted him more than anyone else.
He also told me about a girl he remembered who came back from an outing with a Canadian soldier with her entire back covered in yellow daffodil pollen. I found that so evocative and telling that I included that in the novel.
In the end, the historical fact was really about making it feel authentic and less about “here’s the history because it’s important”, if that makes sense.
Q: Your novel has garnered several awards. Tell us about them.
A: I mostly received awards during the writing – I have yet to win an award after it’s been published! (I’m trying, though!) I feel very fortunate to have received a Literary Fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts. That, combined with a research/living expenses grant from the University of Oregon’s Center for the Study of Women in Society, gave me a summer where all I did was write and revise. It was magical. Until that point I really struggled with time and self-esteem and motivation and those awards gave me the resources and more importantly, the confidence, to work on the book. Without them I’m not sure where the book would be.
Q: Enough of your book—tell us about yourself.
A: I have always felt the best description of me is “not quite”. I’m not quite Dutch, but Frisian, really; I’m a mom but a step mom, not a biological one; I’m a college instructor, not a professor; I’m a published author, but not through a traditional publisher. I’m also not quite 6 feet but darn close! I am crazy busy with work, writing my next novel, marketing, and my favorite things to do in the whole wide world are to read, take baths, and walk my dogs in the sunshine. I live for summer!
Q: So when you say you didn’t go the traditional publishing route, does that mean you self-published? How did you come to that decision?
A: I decided to self-publish after I had my last rejection in the Winter of 2010. I almost sold the book to a small press in Canada, and I was so, so hopeful. They turned me down not on the basis of the manuscript, but because I am American and they didn’t want to be the lead publisher. Strangely, that gave me the confidence to go out on my own. It was like a light switch flipped – it wasn’t the book or me, it was the publishers. And of course, we all know that self-publishing is far more viable and respectable now (at least for me). I also just couldn’t stomach shelving the book – something told me, no, it shouldn’t be shelved. And my mom is now 80, and I wanted her to have the book in her hands. So last fall I released it on my own after revising, polishing, editing, proofing, all the things you have to do as an independent author, and I haven’t looked back.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? Tea, every morning and every afternoon. Tetley and decaf English breakfast!
Ocean or mountain? Mountain. (But I live in Oregon, so in an hour’s drive I can be at either!)
Hiking or shopping? Hiking.
Violin or piano? Piano.
Mystery or fantasy? Fantasy.
Darcy or Heathcliff? Neither! They’re both stuffy jerks.
Love scene or death scene? Love scene!
To learn more about Tina, visit her blog www.tinaboscha.com
You can order River in the Sea as an e-book or order River in the Sea in paperback