Launch: Juliane Weber’s Beneath the Darkening Clouds
INTERVIEW BY LESLIE S. LOWE
Juliane is a scientist turned novelist, with an honors degree in zoology and a Ph.D. in physiology. During her studies, she realized her passion lay not in conducting scientific research but in writing about it. As a medical writer, she honed her writing skills, until she finally plucked up the courage to write her first historical novel, Under the Emerald Sky. The book is the first in The Irish Fortune Series, which is set in 19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine. Under the Emerald Sky was awarded a bronze medal in The Historical Fiction Company 2021 Book of the Year Contest. The second book in the series, Beneath the Darkening Clouds, is released today.
Juliane was born in Germany but spent most of her life in South Africa. She now lives with her husband and two sons in Hamelin, Germany, the town made famous by the story of the Pied Piper.
How would you describe this book and its themes in a couple of sentences?
In a myth-shrouded land on the brink of ruin, an Englishman and his Irish wife are pursued by powerful enemies.
What inspired and attracted you to writing historical fiction?
When I fell into a career as a medical writer, the idea of writing a novel first came to me. As an avid reader of historical fiction, I was naturally attracted to this genre for my own writing. Having also been a scientist in my previous life, I reasoned I’d at least be able to do the necessary research, even if I wasn’t sure then whether I could actually come up with a plot.
This is a sequel to Under the Emerald Sky. Will there be additional stories to follow?
Yes, there will be at least one more book in the series, which I am working on now. The third book picks up where Beneath the Darkening Clouds leaves off, continuing the story of Quin and Alannah in 19th century Ireland during the time of the Great Famine. As with the other books, the third book will be a mixture of history, adventure, and romance, with a few scientific tidbits and a dash of Irish folklore thrown in for fun.
Does any part of your own life experiences connect with any character or events in the story? What difficulty did you have in writing this one?
Nineteenth-century Ireland was a land of extreme contrasts, with the rich few wallowing in luxury while the majority of the population lived in abject poverty. Having spent most of my life in South Africa, and also traveled elsewhere in Africa, I feel that I have a better understanding of these kinds of contrasts. I hope this translates into my writing. Being a wife and mother naturally connects me with my female protagonist while simultaneously making it a little difficult to write some of the more emotional scenes.
Is there a key historical event you found in researching that inspired you to write this story to portray a key message prevalent now?
I chose the Great Famine as the setting for my books as it was a pivotal event in Irish history, one whose effects are still evident in Ireland today. The huge number of Irish people who sought a better life for themselves elsewhere during the course of the 19th century is reminiscent of the wave of immigration in recent years. The lack of empathy by many for those worst affected by the Famine is also something we might all learn from.
What kind of research did you do for this story that was different from the first book?
The research was much the same for both books – scouring academic papers, historical records, reference books, expert opinions, and such. I focused on the first two years of the Famine for Beneath the Darkening Clouds, whereas I researched the conditions in pre-Famine Ireland for Under the Emerald Sky, as book one takes place in the years preceding the first failed potato harvest, setting the scene as it were.
How do you think the reader will connect with your main characters? Is there one that you feel connected to and why?
I think my readers will enjoy Quin and Alannah’s story, as they navigate challenges while attempting to find their own happiness—something most of us can relate to.
One character from Beneath the Darkening Clouds that particularly grabbed my attention is an English boy called Emmett, perhaps because he reminds me of my own children. He took over the scenes he was in, so much so that he’ll now also be featured in the next book in the series.
Every author has his own publishing journey. Tell me about yours.
When I first started writing, I simply let one idea follow the next, until I had somehow managed to write an entire novel. Quite pleased with myself (and of the opinion that I had written a good book) I set out to find a literary agent. To my frustration, this proved to be rather difficult and so I eventually decided to self-publish. I now enjoy the freedom self-publishing gives me and am thrilled with each small measure of success, be it getting positive feedback from my readers or earning award badges for my books. That makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What advice would you give to other aspiring historical writers?
Do whatever works for you. Some writers outline their entire book before writing a single word, while others let the story unfold as they write it. Some authors write in chronological order while others jump back and forth in their manuscript. With these and other aspects of writing, pick whichever approach works for you and do that to the best of your ability. There is no single way of writing a good book!
What is the last great book you read?
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Being a scientist turned novelist herself, Diana Gabaldon is also a huge inspiration for me.