RESEARCHER INTERVIEW: J.G. MacLeod
Writing has always been a hobby and cathartic experience for Canadian author, Ms. MacLeod, who has three daughters who inspire and motivate her every day. Ms. MacLeod has an English Major First, and has also studied 19th Century England. She is veteran educator and former counsellor who is passionate about equity and mental health. She holds university degrees in English & history, as well as education. Ms. MacLeod has worked with students of all ages, backgrounds and needs for almost two decades. Ever since childhood, she has been fascinated by the intricacies of the English language and the ways in which a specific combination of words can create an emotional response in a reader. Turning her passion into a fulfilling career as a professional author has been one of her greatest life achievements. Since 2015 Ms. MacLeod has written prodigiously in order to publish several books, constantly educating herself with new ideas and challenging herself with different writing techniques. Aside from writing, she loves to travel, and cannot get enough salted-caramel hot chocolate! J.G. MacLeod enjoys researching historical time periods, and this is essentially the focus of this interview.
Hi, Madam. Could you tell me a little about the research you do?
I graduated from university with a degree in English literature and history, with a focus on the 19th century. I am not a historian, but I enjoy researching the time periods and settings of the eras in which my novels are set. For example, my novel Lady Ellen is set in 1840s Ireland. I travelled to the locations that my novel was based around, photographed the different historical landmarks as well as the landscape. I then researched the background of various notable people/families and events in order to integrate some of them into my fictional world.
Your preferred era is 19th century. Why this era ahead of all the other eras in history?
My reason for enjoying the 19th century so much is because of the literature I studied in university. To this day I still enjoy historical fiction based during the 1800s to approximately the 1850s a great deal. Some of my favourite poets from the 19th century are Yeats, William Blake & Percy Shelley. I love studying the social culture in books my Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. It's often what is not said or what is held back that tells the most about a time period. These subtleties are intriguing to me.
In your opinion, what was the most influential, major achievement of the century?
The most influential achievement of the 20th century was the internet. I haven't known anything recently that has so altered every aspect of human culture and life. For the 19th century, however, it would depend on which part of the world we are talking about. Also, how can one choose between electricity, the telephone or steam power? If we are talking technology influencing social history, how about the invention of a machine that could harvest cotton faster than human beings? This finally allowed abolitionists to convince others that slavery was not just morally wrong, but unnecessary economically as well. What’s your favourite period of history within 19th Century England?
My grandmother was born in Manchester, England, so I tend to enjoy social movements of the 1800s the most. The early part of the 19th century saw more efforts to try to limit factory work by children (reduce the number of hours they worked per week, increase the minimum age for working in factories etc.). This era also saw more attempts to improve working conditions in factories. Because of these social changes, my favourite period is probably the first half of the 19th century. My grandfather was Scottish, so I also enjoy studying the relationship between England and Scotland/Ireland/Wales at this time too. What were your studies focussed on when obtaining your English degree?
When I obtained my English degree, I focused on British literature from the 19th century, however I also took courses in 20th century literature, literary criticism, poetry, classical/Renaissance literature, women's literature, science fiction and fantasy. Some of my favourite authors from these courses are Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, Homer, Margaret Atwood and Tolkien. My English degree involved not just reading and critiquing literature, but writing about the things I was studying critically. My mind expanded as a result. It was a life changing experience.
How has getting an English degree helped change your life?
My English degree has become the basis for my livelihood. I went on to gain more education so that I could teach English to secondary school students. I have been a teacher for over 16 years. Being able to appreciate art and think critically about a variety of topics has helped me become more open minded, which in turn helps me connect with diverse students. Literature is about relationships and resolving conflict, as well as myriad points of view. In essence, this is what a classroom is as well. More recently, my love of reading and writing has led to me finally publishing two novels, Abalone and Lady Ellen. My life is coming full circle so that all of the lessens from school are now being integrated into my own craft.
What work do you hope to do in the future?
I am enjoying writing so much now that I can see myself slowly devoting more and more time to this. I had planned to teach for at least 10-15 more years, but perhaps there is a new future opening up for me now. Teaching part time or shifting the focus to working with other writers or aspiring authors seems interesting and rewarding to me now. I have another novel written, the sequel to Lady Ellen, which will be released around December this year. I have other writing projects on the go as well, such as a collaborative memoir with a woman who immigrated to Canada from Poland. I also enjoy public speaking, so I can see myself looking for opportunities in this field as well. I am just grateful for the support I have received from the writing community and my own family, friends and willing readers. It is much appreciated.
Many thanks, Ms. Macleod! I have really enjoyed getting an insight into your work and education. History is also a vibrant passion of mine. J.G. MacLeod's sequel to Lady Ellen, Two Paths, will be released in December 2018. Click here to find out more information.
You can follow J.G. MacLeod online: