For Corinne Jeffery writing a book was something which she aspires to from her youngest days as a reader.
“My older brother taught me how to read when I was five years old, and by the age of seven I was determined that I would write a book,” said the author who was born in a farmhouse on a homestead near Duff, Saskatchewan, delivered by a midwife for whom I am named. “However, it was not until my sixth year of nursing education when I completed an English course at the University of Manitoba, and received a letter from the English Faculty inviting me to join the Honours Program that I considered a career as a writer.”
Jeffery said her aspirations of writing ended up on hold for several more years though.
“However, a husband and family intervened, and I pursued a career as a nurse educator,” she said. “Over the course of 25-years, I wrote, developed, administered, and instructed five very different nursing programs writing philosophy, objectives, mission statements, annual reports and extensive modules of curriculum.
“Subsequently, until I began writing my Understanding Ursula trilogy, all of my previous experience was in professional writing.”
Jeffery said Arriving: 1909 –1919 is her first novel, adding the other two books of her trilogy --Thriving: 1920 –1939, and Choosing: 1940 –1989 -- are written, and are both in various stages of editing and proofing. Thriving will be released in September, 2012.
The new novel is one of historical fiction.
“Arriving: 1909-1919 is the first book in the Understanding Ursula trilogy, which chronicles eighty years of Canadian history through the eyes of the Werners, a family of German Lutheran pacifists who fled Russia to pioneer the windswept Saskatchewan prairie,” she explained. “It vividly recreates the pioneer world of the Canadian prairies with a multitude of memorable characters. You’ll lose yourself between the pages as you watch them struggle to survive and flourish, always at the mercy of Mother Nature and the ever-changing seasons on the unfettered plains.
“On July 1, 1909, the day after his eighteenth birthday, Gustav Werner takes the inaugural ride on the Grand Trunk Railway between Melville and Regina, to apply for a homestead grant at the Dominion Lands Office. He is eager to become the most thriving homesteader in the townships of Neudorf and Lemberg, Saskatchewan, set aside for Gustav’s people, the German Lutherans, by Sir Clifford Sifton in Canada’s ‘Last Best West”’ land deal.
“What he doesn’t realize is that beyond becoming a man and a landowner, life as he knows it is about to crumble from his grasp. Family drama and conflict plague Gustav as he learns English – the language that sparks hatred in his staunchly traditional father, Christian – and discovers that his parents have arranged his marriage to sixteen-year-old Amelia Schweitzer.”
Jeffery said choosing a historical basis for the novel was a natural for her.
“I have always known that I wanted to write a Canadian Historical novel; indeed my editor and publisher are convinced that ‘my trilogy has been in my heart, and mind, and soul for years’,” she said.
“I began my research in 2002 and actually journeyed to Lemberg, Neudorf, Duff, and Melville to return to my roots and to gather images for my story.
“Once I began my literary research, I formed two basic premises: firstly that Canadians are as interesting and intriguing as every other nation of people, but I did not find many novels about the ordinary Canadian, and secondly that everything that happens now occurred then, but instead of talking about it, they kept secrets.
“Subsequently, I decided to make my work fictitious rather than biographical, and by the end of 800 computer pages of my trilogy, my characters had proven both of my hypotheses.
“I believe that every honest author writes about what she knows; I drew on my experiences of growing up on a German farm on the Saskatchewan prairie. I neither reread nor rewrite; each day when I sit down at my computer, I simply continue from where I had finished the day before, and thus I never had more than one draft.
“From the beginning I focused on my character development. Once I got to know my characters and started to capture how each of them talked, felt, thought and survived, I became one with them, listened to them, respected them, and with my creative and daring muse, they wrote my story. It was an incredibly fascinating journey.”
In terms of her own interest in writing, Jeffery said she gravitates to the classics.
“I have always been a classicist both in literature and music. By the time I had finished high school, I had read most of the Great Russian and English Classics with Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen having the greatest influence upon me,” she offered. “Nonetheless, I have read many genre of novels, and loved The Anne of Green Gables series. Certainly, I still prefer books which are well written focusing on the beauty of language, character development, and fine storytelling.”
The background has given her a strong foundation upon which to create her own stories.
“I never experienced writer’s block,” she said. “If I needed to think through a scene or to hear what my characters were trying to tell me, I would go for a walk outdoors, often having to rush back home to carry on writing.
“My only real difficulty was finding time to write. My complete trilogy was nine years in the making, interspersed with my extremely busy life as a wife, mother, career woman, and grandmother that included seven years of providing childcare to my grandson, in addition to battling breast cancer.”
And the resulting first book is something she holds with great pride.
“I am exceedingly pleased with every component of the product: the succinct editing, the design of the cover, the layout of my book, the substantive feel, the size of print, the colour of the pages, and the short chapters,” she said. “A plethora of my readers have affirmed every aspect of the exceptional quality of my published novel, as I have listed them, inclusive of many of them telling me how ‘soft and comforting it feels’.”
Jeffery will be signing her book at the Yorkton Public Library Monday, June 18 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.