Monday, June 25, 2012

Jocelyn Green Interview with Mary Nichelson

ACFA is proud to partner with The Wordsmith Journal Magazine to feature authors interviewed in that publication on our blog.
Readers and fans of historical fiction are in for a treat when Jocelyn Green’s book Wedded to War is released in July, which is the first in a four-part series focusing on “real women who actually lived and made a difference in the (civil) war”. Who better to tackle the enormous project than one who has already written about-and for-military families. The only challenge to writingWedded to War was crossing over from fiction to nonfiction, Green claims. You’ve heard ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, but in this novel, truth and fiction intercept and run parallel, giving credibility to the narrative, and likability to the history behind the story. Green cleverly balances Biblical truths with historical accuracy, and admits that is the basis behind the Heroines Behind the Lines series.

MN-You wrote four non-fiction books prior to writing your first novel, Wedded to War. Although all of your books are related to the military, it must have been challenging to go from writing non-fiction to fiction. Did you have any difficulties while tackling your first piece of non-fiction?

JG-I had a huge learning curve ahead of me when I decided to make the switch! I have so much more respect for novelists now than I ever did before. I literally went to Barnes & Noble and bought all the books on writing a novel I could find. Then I went to the Writer’s Digest Web site and bought more. I have books on character, plot & structure, the different types of scenes, voice, setting, etc. (You can see a list of my eleven favorites here.) I also joined American Christian Fiction Writers right away and downloaded their workshop handouts to help me map out the characters and plot. I probably spent months learning the craft of writing a novel before I actually started writing. And then of course, I would go back to my mini-library on novel writing all along the way to make sure I was on track, or to make course corrections.

But you can only learn so much about great novel writing from a how-to book. So I also spent lots of time reading really good novels for all the little things that are “caught, not taught.” Reading award-winning novels became the most enjoyable part of my research.

By the time I was done researching my time period for the novel, and how to write a novel, I only had about two months to actually write the book. The hardest part of the entire process was just that time crunch.

MN-Tell us about the Heroines Behind the Lines series.

JG-There are four books in this series, each one focusing on a different aspect of the Civil War. Each of the books are inspired by real women who actually lived and made a difference in the war—but have been mostly unsung heroes. Rather than following the same characters throughout the series, readers will find new people and stories to fall in love with in each book. The first book takes place in New York City, Washington and the Virginia Peninsula. The second book takes place in Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and a few sea islands in the South. The third is set in and around Atlanta, and the fourth is in Richmond, Virginia.

The series is historically accurate but rest assured, the books won’t read like a history text book. There is enough drama and conflicted characters for anyone who just wants an emotionally absorbing novel.

MN-The first in the series, Wedded to War, focuses on The United States Sanitary Commission and it’s affect on The Civil War. Comprised of nurses, The Sanitary Commission single handedly promoted sterile conditions necessary for medical treatment both in the field and make shift hospitals. It also provided kind hearted individuals to minister to dying soldiers. These nurses are true heroes. Explain some of the restrictions they had to meet to enter the nursing program and later, the obstacles they would face in caregiving.

JG-Many women eventually just showed up to volunteer at the hospitals. But if they wanted to be trained in a nursing program, like my main character and the person who inspired her, she had to complete a written application, provide references as to her character, be interviewed by two committees, and prove she was in general good health.

These nurses also could not wear jewelry, hoops under their skirts, or ruffles or ribbons on their dress. They had to be older than 30 (with few exceptions granted and then regretted), preferably married or widowed. Also, the Superintendent of Female Nurses, Miss Dorothea Dix, required that they be homely in appearance, so as not to arouse the “frustrated desires” of the male patients. So for a beautiful, single 28-year-old to break into this field was a challenge, to say the least.

The obstacles they faced in care giving, once they were accepted as nurses, were many. Usually the male doctors they worked with didn’t want them there in the first place because hospitals had been in the male domain up until then. So many doctors made life absolutely miserable for the nurses in order to get them to give up. Women nurses who were trained to be in supervisory roles were made to do the most menial, disgusting chores in the hospitals (think no running water, no water closets in the building). They were also given a terrible diet of food, not much better than a soldier’s rations, and made to sleep in extremely uncomfortable places. Sexual harassment was also present in some cases. There were more challenges than this—you’ll have to read Wedded to War to find out what they were! J

MN-Ruby’s character is fascinating. She represents a lot of women who walk around in undeserved shame. How can we, as women, shed that identity when it’s wrongly thrust upon us?

JG-I love Ruby’s character, too. I think we can all sympathize with her, or even relate to her. To answer your question, we can reject lies about ourselves, whether they form in our own minds, or are spoken by others, when “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). What does that mean, exactly? It means we make a habit of lining up our thoughts against the truth of Scripture.

For example, we’re all sinners, aren’t we? We make mistakes. We do wrong. Satan wants us to believe we are irreparably damaged by those sins, and that those sins absolutely define us. But here’s where we take that thought captive and obedient to Christ—what does God say about our sin? 1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” So there you have it. We need to choose to believe God’s opinion of us rather than anyone else’s. And we can learn God’s perspective only from being rooted in the Bible and by prayer.

MN-Charlotte is a strong woman who understands her identity and is not afraid to be authentic to that identity. What would you say to the reader who is struggling with knowing who they are, but are afraid to counter social or familial expectations to become that person?

JG-I would remind them of Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” To me, this verse calls us to do what we believe God wants us to with our lives, even if others don’t understand it. Very often, doing the right thing is not the popular thing. But as long as you seek after God’s will for your life with all your heart and mind, you’ll be doing the right thing. That means you have to really search, with more than just your emotions. Study the Bible. Pray. Talk to your pastor and other trusted Christians. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). One more caution here—sometimes we think we have our plan or our identity all figured out before consulting God about it. Be open to the idea that God may surprise you with a different path for your life than the one you’ve chosen.

Now, having said that, if you do have peace that you’re following God’s will for your life and purpose, go for it with full confidence, and if others don’t agree with you, let God work on their hearts. You just do what God wants from you.

MN-There are many one-liners that cause the reader to pause and think. For instance, at one point, Alice says to her sister Charlotte,“Sometimes the people who most need our help are the ones God has already placed in our lives.” What did you want conveyed most through that statement?

JG-I hope that readers will simply think about who they already have influence over in their lives, and ask God to show them how to minister to them. There are many people with needs, and God has given each of us certain gifts and abilities to meet those needs. It’s wonderful to reach out and try to reach the world for Christ—but we are not indispensable to everyone out there. We are indispensable to a few people, though, and those people we should not neglect.

For example, I have a ministry to military wives through my books and a Web site and Facebook page. I believe God has called me to that—but I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my biggest ministry is my family. That means I turn down some opportunities to travel and speak to military wives because with my kids being so young, they need me home right now. And I know there are dozens of other qualified Christian military wife speakers who could fill a speaking slot and bless their listeners. But no one else can take my place as “mommy” so I really try to limit the number of trips I take per year.

I also want to emphasize the word “sometimes” in the line you quoted. Please use discretion when you are reading this, because there will be times that God does call us to leave everything and everyone we are familiar with to go serve him somewhere else. My brother and sister-in-law, for example, are missionaries to France. He’s the only brother I have, and no one can replace him in that role, but God has clearly called him out to go serve Christ half way around the world.

So my intention is not to tell people what to do or what not to do, but simply to prompt a little thinking.

MN-The idea of being free or set free is a strong element throughout Wedded to War. What does the word freedom mean to you?

JG-Yes, it is. Freedom often conjures up the idea of democracy, liberty, and rights. But the other side of freedom is internal. Even if I live in the “land of the free,” if my heart, spirit, or mind is bound up by sin or deception, I’m not truly free. Ruby’s character illustrates this—she wasn’t really free for a long time. She was enslaved to guilt, shame, and lies. But Jesus sets the captives free.

MN-You have stated on your website that you aren’t a blogger because you don’t want to “become an overcommitted crazy person.”  Being present and available for your family is important to you, isn’t it?

JG-It is. I do blog a little bit, but if you visit my blog for military wives ( you’ll notice that most of the posts are written from other military wives. I’m happy to delegate both to give me more time to be with my family, and also because there is so much wisdom that other women have to share. I’m happy to give them an outlet for it through my blog.

And I never take a book contract lightly, because I know when I sign the dotted line, it affects my whole family because I’ll be spending time on the book, away from them. Thankfully, my parents live close by and they are wonderful to watch the kids when I need some more time. My husband is really supportive in that way, too. So I do pray for a long time before going into any negotiations for a new book.

As I mentioned earlier, my family is my number one ministry. I’m blessed that they are flexible so I can write books, too. I tend to write in spurts, so it’s not like I’m always holed away up in my office. For example, I spent nine months researching Wedded to War, and then three months writing it. While I research, I can still be with the kids, in the same room with them while I read and take notes, and take breaks to take them to the park or play Candyland. Then for the three months of writing, it’s sort of like cramming, and I try to find 4-6 hours a day of uninterrupted writing time. It looks like this will be the pattern for my second novel, The Widow of Gettysburg, too!

Author Bio: Jocelyn Green, the wife of a former Coast Guard officer, is an award-winning author, freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2008), along with contributing writers, and its sequel, Faith Deployed...Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody 2011). She is also co-author of Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq/Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009). Jocelyn's debut novel, Wedded to War, releases in July 2012 from River North Fiction.You can learn more about Jocelyn Green at her website ( and through facebook (  

About Mary Nichelson:

Other interviews featured in the June edition of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine: Donita K. Paul, Donna Fitts and Judith Hugg

This interview is courtesy of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine

1 comment:

  1. Good interview. I love books that make history come alive. And the civil war and western era are two of my favorite time periods. Can't wait to let my eyes feast on Wedded to War.