Francesca and Elaine are pleased to welcome Jean Moran to the blog to talk about her novel Summer of the Three Pagodas
Hello Jean, and welcome to Write Minds. Normally you write sagas set in the UK. What made you decide on a change of setting?
I wrote this in a bid to have a change from Home Front sagas and set the story of both the first book, Tears of the Dragon, and this one, Summer of the Three Pagodas, in the Far East, a less used theatre of war. They’re both far grittier and violent than my books written as Lizzie Lane and so in a bid not to confuse readers, I became Jean Moran.
The main character in both books is Doctor Rowena Rossiter. In the first book she has the ill luck to be in Hong Kong when the Japanese invade and to have an opium baron obsessed with controlling her life. Luckily she’d also met the love of her life, Connor O’Connor, owner of a bar in Kowloon.
In this second book, fearing that Kim, the opium lord, has found her and is threatening to harm her daughter, Dawn, she takes the offer of a job in an hospital run by nuns in Korea. The offer is made to her by an American officer who, she gradually finds out, has his own reasons for sending her there.
Within months she finds herself caught up in the Korean War. This time the invaders are soldiers of the DPRK, Democratic Republic of Korea, Chinese communists.
Rowena is a woman of principle and strong character – I suppose a bit of me is in her. I’m told I’m strong and tend to hit the ground running. Rowena is like that too. She is also selfless in helping others and even though her daughter is with her, she refuses to leave her patients when Connor comes to her rescue. Her responsibilities take priority.
Like many others trapped in Korea she endures a death march that meanders through the interior through tree covered mountains where the air is crisp and snow still clusters in deep ravines. There’s little to eat and people die of hunger and exhaustion. Others are killed by their captors, including one of the nuns.
The title Summer of the Three Pagodas reflects something that happened back in WW2. Three Pagodas Pass was where the slave labour on the Burma ‘Death’ Railway were finally freed following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Summer is the name of a victim of this war, given by her dying mother.
Research for stories set in WW2 are comparatively easy compared to the Korean War, especially when it came to the plight of civilians. To this end a record I found written by the Carmelite nuns was invaluable.
I dithered about sending it off to the publisher, asking myself the same questions I always do: is it flawed? Have I dropped a huge faux pas that both the commissioning editor and copy editor will see and I haven’t? The doubt is always there; does it read as well as you think it does? Being close to a project can fool you into thinking it could be better. All would be writers should bear this in mind.
Luckily I received nothing but praise.
Where to next?
I would have liked to write another book in the series making it a trilogy, perhaps even a quartet. I’d already chosen the titles; Night Train to Bangkok, (a prelude to the Vietnam War and set in Thailand), and Sayonara Saigon – set in the Vietnam War.
Covid19 threw in a curved ball so I had to rethink. My thoughts turned to an idea that had been brewing for some time – a series set around the Bristol tobacco factories. This would be real home front stuff and therefore it suited for me to return to the pseudonym Lizzie Lane – so that’s what I did. The Tobacco Girls by Lizzie Lane comes out in January.
I’m a waste not, want not person, so perhaps I would have been quite at home in WW2 – making coats from blankets, knitting hats and handbags and cutting up old tyres to glue to the bottom of my worn out shoes. I would have survived, and that’s what the women that feature in my books are doing be it home front or abroad in more violent scenarios – they’re surviving.
Thank you for taking the time out to tell us about your writing, Jean.
Summer of the Three Pagodas
HONG KONG, 1950.
Now the war is over, Dr Rowena Rossiter is ready to plan a new life with her great love, Connor O’Connor. But before they can, bad news arrives.
A female doctor is urgently needed in Seoul and the powers that be want Rowena to go. She refuses – until rumours begin to swirl about the sinister, beautiful man who held her captive during the war.
They say he may still be alive and looking for her. By comparison, Korea on the brink of war seems safer, but will Rowena ever truly be able to escape the shadows of her violent past?
A brilliantly exotic saga set in post-war Hong Kong and Korea, where Dr Rowena Rossiter longs to follow her heart, and her love, but the shadows of a violent past threaten to engulf her.
Summer of the Three Pagodas is published by Head of Zeus and available on Amazon
Jean Moran was born and raised in Bristol where she took many office jobs, none of which excited her. She was, she decided, always a square peg in a round hole.
After having over fifty books published, she thinks she may at last have come to where she should be. All she worries about now is that somebody might find out that she doesn’t really consider writing ‘real’ work. She loves what she does.
Of those fifty books, a number written as Lizzie Lane have entered the top thirty bestselling paperbacks and the Heatseekers Chart. She’s been translated into a number of languages and hopes to write in a few other genres before finally shutting the lid of her laptop.
Besides writing, she’s also lived on a sailing yacht in the Med for four years, bred and showed Irish Red Setters and developed many properties moving every four years – the boat seemed a sensible option. It moved by itself without all the hassle of removal vans.