Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Book Review, Author Interview and International giveaway -- Chasing Shadows by J Carmen Smith

A journey into the past and the secrets it holds

Part family saga, part memoir, this compelling book tells the true story of Micaela, a Spanish immigrant to Liverpool at the turn of the last century. It is also the story of her Granddaughter's search, one hundred years later, for her own lost heritage and the truth about Micaela's early life.

J Carmen Smith writes:
Chasing Shadows   
is Micaela's story, from her birth in Santiago de Compostela in the late 1870s, to her death in Liverpool in 1950. The story unfolds as tragic events alter the course of Micaela's life, taking her from a comfortable life in nineteenth century Spain to a poor, working class environment in early twentieth century Liverpool. In Liverpool, she meets the Spanish seaman whom she marries in 1907.
Chasing Shadows tells of their life together, the difficulties they face in a foreign land, their hopes and disappointments.
It tells of Micaela's failure to fully adapt to her new environment and how this affects her eldest daughter's life as Pilar is torn between two cultures, two languages and two religions after making a hasty marriage.
Micaela was my grandmother and Chasing Shadows is also my story. It tells of my travels through northern Spain in search of my lost heritage as I explore the culture and the landscape that Micaela left behind. Seemingly chance meetings influence my search, helping me, after many false leads and dead ends, to unearth the secrets of past generations."

About the Author
 J Carmen Smith was brought up in the Liverpool suburbs, the youngest child in a working class family. She went to grammar school but left at the age of fifteen to start work as a typist in a Law Stationer's Office in the city centre. At the time, she promised her English teacher that one day she would take her English Language and Literature 'O' levels. She eventually kept her promise, gaining '0' and 'A' levels while her children were young, then a BA (Hons) in English and History when they had all flown the nest. At the age of 59 she graduated from The University of Liverpool with an MA in Victorian Literature.

Chasing Shadows is her first full length work.

Authors website -
Authors Twitter - @jcarmensmith
Chasing Shadows is published by Corazon Books. Available from many good retailers - Click here
For Amazon UK - Click here
For Amazon US - Click here
I have a few passions in my life, reading obviously being one of them; the other two being genealogy and travel. It was as if this book was written just for me.

J Carmen Smith tells her wonderful story of her quest into her Grandmother Micaela's background; trying to find how she came to live in Liverpool from Galicia in Spain, and what secrets her family’s background held.

The author shares with us her travels through the beautiful area of Galicia in Spain. Her descriptions of the area really bring it to life, and I assure anyone who reads this book, that you will want to travel there. I just didn't like the part about travelling up mountain and hillsides which have edges. My one fear is edges and it makes me feel ill just reading about them! At least that shows how well written her descriptions are. She visits places where her Grandmother Micaela spent her childhood years, and along the way meets some people with amazing characters who freely give of their time to help her on her quest, and whom end up becoming good friends. The language barrier is somewhat of a hindrance but she manages to get by.

I loved how the author would write one chapter based on her Grandmothers time in Liverpool and the trials and tribulations she encountered in a Country who's language she never seemed to completely master. Then the author would switch to another chapter based on her travels in Galicia in search of Micaela's roots.

As an amateur genealogist I desperately wanted her to find out about her Grandmothers birthplace, family home and childhood years, as I know how I have tried to do the same with my own Grandfather and it can be really frustrating at times and I have been doing it in a country with a language I am fluent in. It must have been even more frustrating coping with the bureaucracy and language barriers in a foreign country. I really felt for her on her lows and was joyous on her highs.

I really liked all the elements of this book. I would have liked to have found out more about Micaela and parts of her life, but them I'm sure the author would too. I hope she continues her research into this part of her family tree as I am sure it will reap many more rewards.

 My Interview with the Author J. Carmen Smith

     1.   I am an amateur genealogist and, like you, love researching my family   history. Do you think you will continue to do research into your grandmothers family and go back further in time?

I desperately want to continue researching my grandmother’s family. Discoveries such as finding myself in a restaurant in Santiago, knowing that my great-great-grandmother had died in an upstairs room in that same building, drive me on. I have gone back to the early 1800s on her father’s side – but as research is, as yet, not possible via the internet, I’m restricted by the amount of time I can spend in Santiago.  I’ve also hit a snag following Micaela’s mother’s side; her marriage certificate gives the date and place of her baptism but to date I’ve been unable to locate the actual certificate, which would take me back another two generations. Frustratingly, I have also been unable to unearth any information about my Spanish grandfather. I was recently interviewed by the Galician newspaper La Voz de Galicia and I’m hoping that might lead to something.

 2. What do you think Micaela would make of your book?

I have conflicting thoughts about what would be my grandmother’s reaction to Chasing Shadows. When I’m feeling positive, I think she would be delighted and proud that she made such an impact on my life that I felt the need to travel to Santiago to ‘search’ for her. At other times, I can visualise her diminutive figure shaking her fist and crying, ‘How dare you!’ – in Spanish, of course. In my defence, there are some family secrets that were left out of the e-book!

 3. Where did you do your writing when writing this book?
I wrote the book in the days before I acquired a laptop, so my writing was done on the family computer in the smallest bedroom – laughingly christened ‘the office’ once the children had left home.

    4. Did you write in silence, or did you need music or background noise?
I don’t need absolute silence when I’m writing, although I must be alone and I hate being interrupted. I don’t think I could concentrate if I had music in the background, although I can sometimes hear my next-door neighbour’s TV! 

    5. Has this journey back in time inspired you to create a family tree, or have you already done one?

I do have a very basic form of family tree, consisting of A3 pages sellotaped together which my local printer photocopied for me – because my grandmother was one of ten siblings I had to glue extra bits on every time I found a birth certificate. One day I hope to organise it in the correct format but I’m waiting to see if I can discover my grandfather’s details first.
   6. Has this spurred you on to write another book and if so what do you think the subject matter will be? Fact or Fiction?
     Another book? Two storylines have been buzzing around in my head for the last couple of years; both are fictional, although they are connected to actual events. I keep promising myself that I’ll organise my time more effectively and get down to some serious writing – but ‘life’, as in husband, grown-up children, grandchildren, my local U3A group, reading and creative writing groups, blogging, etc, etc, keep pushing my ‘heroines’ into the background. One day, I hope, they’ll burst into life, kicking and screaming!
Thank you for your interview. They were really interesting replies.