I’ve Got Questions for Joanna Higgins

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

In the Fall They Leave by Joanna Higgins
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

The Title is In the Fall They Leave; it’s fiction, and the publisher is Regal House Publishing. The novel is due out on Feb. 21, 2023.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

Inspired by the resistance efforts of the British nurse Edith Cavell in German-occupied Brussels during WWI, In the Fall They Leave tells the story from the perspective of a fictional student nurse, conscientious and fearful of failure, who finds herself in a dangerous predicament when Germany invades and occupies Belgium:  Either obey the occupiers’ newly imposed laws, which demand disloyalty to her matron but will secure her own future, or break those laws and risk death by firing squad for treason. In the Fall They Leave has to do with love, friendship, betrayal, art—but perhaps above all, moral courage as an agent of change.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

Literary fiction/Historical fiction

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

The nicest thing anyone has said, so far, about In the Fall They Leave is hard to repeat without sounding like some raging egomaniac. But, well, it is the nicest thing and, given that I probably won’t be hearing anything like that again, here goes: That among her “prized works,“ someone has said, “this may well be her masterpiece.”  Yikes. Yet you have to admit, those words are pretty nice.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

There’s a biographic novel titled Fateful Decision: Edith Cavell, WWI Nurse. My novel, however, tells the story from the perspective of a fictional student nurse and leans more heavily on the imagination. Possibly another comparison might be to Daniel Mason’s The Winter Soldier because that novel also has to do with a novice in fraught circumstances. In The Winter Soldier the main character is a third-year medical student.     

  • Why this book? Why now?

 In the Fall They Leave is my sixth work of fiction, and I now know that I don’t pick what to write about; the idea more or less chooses me. Something read or seen or overheard creates a compulsion to explore, imaginatively, the intuited drama. Then, the idea owns me, and I’m just the servant of the thing, trying to find the right form for it. Which means lots of rewriting over, often, a period of years.

As for the second question, Why now? I have to say that timing isn’t a factor for me. Something wants to get written, and in a kind of duck-duck-goose game of the muses, I sense a metaphoric tap and just start “musing,” then writing.  Or, if necessary, first, begin the researching and note-taking. It’s an instinctive rather than calculated thing.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

      The best job I ever had was teaching literature courses to a small class of adults at the University of Hawai’i—West Oahu College. They were fantastic–so excited about the readings, so eager to throw their thoughts and questions out there. Each class a joy. 

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

I’d love for readers to be moved by the book. Experience the deep emotions that connect us as humans regardless of place or time setting. I hope that a reader will feel that reading the novel was time well spent and will close the book with a sense of having gone through something soul-touching and timeless. 

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Chopin’s Nocturne op. 9, no 2. It has a significant part in the book. I won’t spoil it by explaining!

Food: Streusel, cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I’m actually reading your first novel, Cliff, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, and enjoying it very much.

Next, it’ll be works by my fellow Regal House Frontlist authors, Mimi Herman, Kerri Schlottman, Lisa Cupolo, Marjorie Hudson, Susan Reinhardt, Ona Gritz, Sunu Chandry, Kimberly Behre Kenna, M.M. Downing, and S.J. Waugh. I know I’m in for a treat—and can’t wait. 

Joanna Higgins

Learn more about Joanna on her website.

Follow her on Facebook.

Buy the book from the publisher (Regal House Publishing), Amazon, or Bookshop.org.

About the author

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