So, Nicola, tell us a bit about yourself.First, thank you for your kind interest. One of my favourite quotes is, “Show me your garden & I shall tell you what you are,” by Alfred Austin. Perfectly suits me, my writing and my gardens. My personal palette brims with vivid hues and striking contrasts, demonstrated by my wild cottage plantings, my love of wearing dazzling colours, and my creation of complex characters. I pen mystery and heart-warming novels, create interactive books for the iPad, podcast about genre writing (The Novel Experience), and teach electronic publishing, when I’m not playing Old-Timer’s hockey, growing blossoms and bamboo or eating chocolate fudge. My first contemporary women's series, the Sisterhood of Shepherds, debuts with HEARTSONG (MantleRockPublishing). I’ve also had my swinging whodunit, TEED OFF! recently republished by OakTreePress. It features professional golfer, coroner and chocoholic Riley Quinn. I’m the co-creator of Quillr®, a multimedia storytelling platform, and garden in a small seaside town on southern Vancouver Island, BC.
Congratulations on your newest release! What is your story about?Thank you. This is my first foray into women’s fiction and I’m humming with exhilaration. My novel is HEARTSONG, the just-published debut in my light-hearted, inspirational series called the Sisterhood of Shepherds.
Some families have hope. Others have faith. The Shepherds of rural Oregon have Faith, Hope and Charly, three quirky sisters whose lives change forever when they reluctantly answer a personal calling to help others make amends.
In HEARTSONG, thirty-something single parent Charly Shepherd is satisfied with her life raising two children and thousands of plants in her family-owned Sweet Shepherd Nursery. Then, tragedy strikes. As she and her siblings struggle to keep the nursery going, Charly begins to believe her family’s destiny is greater than raising flowers. When the three sisters reluctantly delve into family secrets to help their ailing father fulfil a promise, their lives change forever as they pursue a new inspirational path of discovery, heartache, humor and redemption.
Experience friendship, family and forgiveness – Join the Sisterhood of Shepherds.
Where did you get the inspiration for your story?I’d always loved whodunits and have had several published, however, when I was pondering a new storyline I realized it wasn’t to be a mystery. Was there really a need for yet another sick serial killer? Seemed to me to that the world’s crime novel bookshelf was overcrowded and replete with stories showcasing violence, gore and hatred towards women. So, murder, malice and misogyny was out. I wanted to create something light-hearted and uplifting that could be a series. This required a story concept that carries beyond one volume. After many fits and starts and dead ends, I fell upon the universal idea of needing redemption, of wanting to make up for a past misdeed. Then I asked the writer’s key question: what if? What if you realized you had a calling, a special path to assist others in making amends? I immediately knew this premise had series potential, because everyone of us wishes we could apologize and seek forgiveness for something in our past and I could imagine many diverse storylines. So, I had the plot skeleton, now I needed the character flesh.
The Sisterhood of Shepherds took flight when I then decided to combine a couple of essential elements in my life. I’m the sixth of eight children, and greatly value the challenges, blessings and wackiness of being part of a large family. My siblings are my heroes, my rivals and my best friends. I fancied trying to create a fictional family with some of the subtleties, dynamics and foolishness from my own experiences. I’m also goofy about gardening, and am forever jazzed by the ever-changing palette of my plantings. So, why not have a heart-warming story about sisters (I’ve got five so own the T-shirt on sharing, shouting and surviving), whose livelihood depends on plants? Once these two themes sprouted, I disappeared into the garden of my mind, germinating my gal Charly, her family, and the overall Sisterhood of Shepherds concept.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?Well, have to admit a fondness for every scene, but Chapter 29 stands out as symbolizing the soul of my sisterhood, that families are about compromise, generosity and love. Here the Shepherd sisters are in crisis, toiling together in the nursery while struggling to agree on a strategy to tackle an awkward family issue. During the sometimes-heated exchanges, we experience the complexities of the family’s interrelationships. In particular, the reader empathizes with Charly’s perpetual position as both go-between and middleman, and appreciate how this fashions her relationship with her beloved siblings. I probably dig it because I know exactly how conflicted and comforted she feels.
What do you plan to work on next?I’m currently writing HOMEFIRES, the second book in the Sisterhood of Shepherds. Once finished, I’m going to jump back in and rewrite a darker, more complicated and controversial supernatural novel called UNNATURAL STATES. After that, another season in the Sweet Shepherd Nursery. I’ll be long overdue for a hit from several of Charly’s awesome cookies.
Where can readers connect with you? Where can readers buy your book?Please visit me and my gardens online at www.nicolafurlong.com and www.pinterest.com/novelnicola.
Teed Off! is in trade paperback and ebook available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.