TAEM interview with author Jane Bow

author Jane BowTAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine originated to uphold the work of authors and explore the foundation behind their creations. Every good story is based on the author’s own experiences or historical facts, which breathe life into a writer’s work. This adds to the realism of the story.
We are therefore proud to introduce author Jane Bow to all of our readers. Jane, tell us about your childhood and how your parents’ careers helped shape your future.

JB- My parents were Canadian diplomats so I spent more than half my childhood abroad, in New York City, in Spain during the 1950’s, and behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia at the height of the Cold War. The school I went to in Spain was an old French Lycee, dark, grimy windows, a dirt courtyard to play in with a high wall separating girls from boys. Girls who didn’t pay attention in class were tied to their chairs or made to stand in the waste basket. I played in Spanish, learned in French, spoke English at home. When I returned to Canada, I was amazed to see colored leaf projects on the classroom walls, and kids leaping up to do the twist as soon as the teacher left the room.

I spent some of my teens incarcerated in a British boarding school because there was nowhere for me to go to school in Communist Prague. Think Harry Potter, only all girls and minus the magic. Inside this old stone building above the cliffs on England’s south coast, rules dictated what you wore and ate and did and said, when you had a bath, how much hot water you used, how often you washed your hair. It didn’t take me long to become a renegade, breaking rules for the sheer joy of not getting caught. Except when I did. During holidays I explored Prague, a city cloaked in coal dust, where a colorful medieval history had collided with Stalinist Communism.

Friends, language, home, school, community, these keep changing when you grow up moving from country to country. Overcoming personal challenges requires self-reliance and creativity, and teaches you a lot about yourself. What you gain is the chance to see and hear and taste and touch other people’s ways of life. And you have the freedom to think and feel whatever you want — all priceless gifts for a writer.

TAEM- We understand that you travelled quite a bit as a youngster and experienced much of the world first hand. Please tell us about this aspect of your life.

JB- General Franco’s Fascist Spain was very poor. As a little girl I saw people living in mountainside caves, riding donkeys, fishermen’s widows standing all day on their village beach waiting for husbands who would never return. I also came to know a country steeped in history, art, music, culture, language and food so well that it became part of who I am.

Later, in my teens in Prague, a young woman came up to me and asked if we could meet for coffee. She was Australian — her family had left Czechoslovakia in 1948, just before the Communists closed the border. When they returned for a visit ten years later with Australian passports, the government would not honor the passports. They were forced to remain in Czechoslovakia. This girl wanted to practice her English with me and I had no friends, but I was not allowed to meet her. If someone saw her consorting with a Westerner and reported it to the authorities, her whole family would suffer.

At the same time, in Prague beautiful music, priceless art and medieval castles were available to every worker. Creativity was alive and thriving in spite of the censors and this was exciting. Until 1968, when the Soviet tanks rolled in. Events like these brought home to me, at an early age, how fragile is freedom and how easily lost.

Cally's Way book coverTAEM- In what way did your experiences help to build life in your stories ?

JB- Memories made in times of stress and adventure mark you indelibly. When I create characters they are unique and whole as themselves, but who I am is part of the blood running in their veins. They need what I have needed.

After college I worked as a newspaper reporter covering the courts in northern Ontario, Canada. I saw murder, assault, medical malpractice trials, and traveling courts set up in movie theaters in remote towns. The narrator in Dead And Living, my first novel, is a young journalist. She shares rather a lot with the young idealist I was then.

The Oak Island Affair’s main character grew up in Spain and so is able to translate the 400-year old diary of a Dominican monk. Her memories of seaside Spain, drawn from mine, invest the novel with the color and texture of place and history.

Cally’s Way, my new novel, is set in Crete, a Mediterranean island not far from Spain. The light and sounds, the rock and sea, the vibrancy of language are very similar. And readers are telling me the novel’s characters, history, the landscape, the love stories and the horrors are very much alive in this book. This is because they are extrapolated from everything I have known in all the places I have lived.

TAEM- Your first work, Dead and Living, was a true crime story and revealed your talents to the world. Tell us about this book and the theme behind it, and how it was received by your readers.

JB- Dead And Living is a novel based on the true story of a man who did not know, for twenty-five years, whether he was a murderer. Finally he went to court to find out. I covered the case as a reporter in northern Ontario and fictionalized it in order to explore the differences between truth and justice, and how a man could not know whether he had committed murder. The result is a love story and psychological whodunit that takes place during a wild northern gold boom after World War II, and also a courtroom drama.

Dead And Living was shortlisted for a Canadian Arthur Ellis First Novel Award, and selected for a university course in 2002.

TAEM- You also wrote The Oak Island Affair, an action/ adventure mystery. Tell us about this book and the recognitions that you received for it.

JB- The Oak Island Affair is set during the ongoing, 219-year old, international, multi-million dollar treasure hunt off Canada’s east coast. Vanessa, a freelance writer who grew up in Spain, is fleeing the pain of an unraveling relationship when she goes to her grandmother’s house near Oak Island. Here her discovery of a 400-year old diary written by a failed Spanish Dominican monk rekindles her obsession with a treasure hunt that has drawn investors, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, from all over the United States. Battling time and the ruthless ambitions of a millionaire real estate developer who wants to turn Oak Island into a theme park, Vanessa is plunged into an underworld from which there is no turning back. Finally, seeing beyond the barriers of reason allows her to arrive at a new solution to the mystery.

The Oak Island Affair was a 2008 U.S. Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in both the Adventure and General Fiction categories. It was re-published in print and ebook formats by Iguana Books earlier this year and is enjoying some success thanks to my third novel and to a recent History Channel series on Oak Island.

TAEM- Your latest novel is titled Cally’s Way. Please tell our readers the theme behind the story.

JB- Cally’s Way, set in Crete, explores the relationships between sex and love, and how historical horrors create our identities whether we know about them or not.

TAEM- Who are the protagonists in this novel and how are they represented in historical events.

JB- Cally’s Way interweaves the 2002 story of Cally, a 25-year old North American business graduate, with the World War II story of Callisto, her grandmother, who was a runner in the Cretan Resistance.

Cally’s mother was born on Crete but has always refused to talk about it. Now she has died, leaving one instruction: that before she starts her first job, Cally should visit her mother’s homeland.

On Crete’s south coast Cally meets Oliver, a reticent, very attractive U.S. Army deserter, and a night of love awakens feelings Cally has never known. Then, waiting for her plane in Athens airport, she learns from a television that the company she is about to work for is killing people with water pollution. These two events demolish Cally’s fragile equilibrium, setting her on a new, uncharted path, back in Crete, that strips her of even her clothes. It takes her deep into the mountains and into the story of her grandmother during Crete’s brutal Nazi occupation, before leading to deep love, a horrific family discovery, and a future she never would have imagined.

TAEM- In what ways did the storyline reflect some of your own personal experiences in life?

JB- Cally is a young woman who, becoming disillusioned by corporate excesses and environmental degradation, and by her own choices, needs to find a life path she can trust. For her, as for me, self-knowledge free of judgment, and true, deep love finally show the way.

Mother and daughter relationships are deep, confusing and full of power. Exploring this territory, and how war affects women, is central to this story, to me and to my readers apparently.

Finally, my mother, who was British, built Lancaster bombers during WWII while my father fought in Burma. Twenty years later, during my early life, I saw how ideologies, no matter what kind they are, limit, damage and destroy people’s lives. Crete’s history and landscape offer raw and dramatic reflections of both the violent and the beautiful ways human nature unfolds. I relate to this, and spend part of each year there now.

TAEM- What comparisons do the characters in this story represent to real world happenings today?

JB- The real world now is just as unstable as Cally’s and Callisto’s were in 2002 and 1941-1947. Power-hungry government, military and corporate forces are running rampant all over the planet. Environmental degradation threatens us all. But we each get one life to shape, and having a clear picture of our family stories, whatever they are, and understanding the past that has created who we are, offers us a way to make choices for our futures that reflect what matters to us. There is hope in this, I think.

TAEM- All of your novels, including your newest book Cally’s Way can be found on Amazon at amazon.com/author/janebow , how excited are you about their prospects ?

JB- It took me twelve years to write Cally’s Way, so I am thrilled that it is receiving some excellent reviews, has been honored by Kirkus Review Magazine, and is now selling in Europe. People are also rediscovering The Oak Island Affair, which is exciting. (The new edition has an orange cover.) And Iguana Books plans to re-publish Dead And Living. So I’m pretty happy right now.

Thank you very much for giving me this chance to share my work.

TAEM- Jane, you are an outstanding author and we want to thank you for your time with our interview. We wish you much luck in all that you do and hope that you keep us up to date with all your future endeavors.

TAEM