When Misha Herwin asked me to take part in her blog tour for Shadows on the Grass I was more than delighted.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It covers an awful lot of ground, not merely in time and space but also in the political and social issues. And if that were not enough to keep me on the edge of your seat Misha also slides a time-slip element into the mix, which raises the tensions beyond the usual family saga.
With all that in mind I posed a few questions for Misha to enlarge upon.
JE: Tell us a little about yourself.
MH: I’m Misha Herwin and I write books for adults and for children. I’ve also written plays, which have been performed professionally, as well as in schools, and had a number of short stories published in various anthologies in the UK and US; including The Way to My Heart, Voices of Angels, The Darkest Midnight in December, The Yellow Room and Bitch Lit, among others.
JE: Full synopsis writer? Or seat of the pants?
MH: Definitely full synopsis. I have to have everything planned out, chapter by chapter before I start writing. Once I begin, however, things change. Sometimes this comes through feedback, sometimes because a certain chapter, or theme just isn’t working and I have to re-think where I’m going.
JE: You embarked on a great deal of research for Shadows on the Grass – chore or delight?
MH: Shadows on the Grass was inspired by my family history, so some of the research was listening to, or remembering stories that I had been told when I was young. I was always conscious that as a child of Polish immigrants I didn’t quite belong so I wanted to learn more about my family and their background. In the days before the internet- this book has a very long incubation period- this meant countless visits to the library. One of the best moments was sourcing a book in the archives that hadn’t been taken out since 1947. I accumulated boxes of handwritten notes and I must admit to enjoying the whole process.
JE: Shadows on the Grass raises political and feminist questions. Are these the questions that you intentionally set out to debate?
MH: Very much so. I’ve always seen myself as a feminist and I was fascinated to discover how the issue of female emancipation became linked in with the fight for Polish Independence. Moving on to the mid- twentieth century, the balance of power in relationships between men and women is something that I also wanted to explore.
JE: What was the oddest fact you ever unearthed whilst writing this book?
MH: That female revolutionaries would smuggle dynamite and ammunition strapped around their thighs or hidden in their corsets. Travelling across the border back to Poland by train their greatest fear, apart from being picked up by the secret police, was that someone would light a cigarette.
JE: Shadows on the Grass covers almost a century in the lives of these women against a backdrop of social and political turmoil. Would you see it as an historical novel or something else?
MH: The book began as a full length historical, family saga, so the answer must be that it is a historical novel of sorts. The structure, however, is very different and the use of flashbacks has allowed me to look at the interplay between past and present and its effects on family dynamics; how and what we remember and how we mould those memories to suit ourselves. As Marianna says in the novel, We all weave fantasies about ourselves. The truth is too cruel, so it is the only way we can survive.
JE: You have written successfully in several genres. Do you also read widely? And is there a particular style that you feel most at home with?
MH: I do read widely. I think reading outside your genre and your comfort zone is vital to your development as a writer. In my own writing, I love the freedom to write in different genres that being an Indie writer gives me and although I wouldn’t say I had a particular style that I feel most at home with, I do find that certain themes, like memory, time and loss come up in all my books.
JE: If you could have written any other book what would it be and why?
The Children of Green Knowe. Without a doubt this is the most perfect time slip novel and although it was written for children it resonates with readers of all ages.
JE: Tell us about Shadows on the Grass.
MH: Shadows on the Grass is the story of a Polish immigrant family.
In nineteen sixties Bristol seventeen year old Kate is torn between the new sexual freedom and her rigid Catholic upbringing. Her parents have high expectations of her; she however is determined to lead her own life. Mimi her grandmother is dying. In her final hours, her cousin the princess keeps watch at her bedside. Born in the same month in the same year, the two women are bound by their past and a terrible betrayal.
Meanwhile caught between the generations, Hannah Mimi’s daughter struggles to come to come to terms with her relationship with her mother and to keep the peace between her daughter and her husband. She too must find her own way in this foreign land in a new post war world, where the old certainties have gone and everything she knows has been swept away.
JE: When is the publication date and where can we buy it?
MH: The novel is another book in my Bristol Series. It is published on 11th January 2018 as an e-book and is available on kindle HERE. A paperback version will follow very shortly.
JE: What are you working on next?
MH: My current WIP, provisionally titled Belvedere is another time slip novel and once more it’s set in Bristol.
JE: Where can we find out more about your back catalogue and current news?