Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Interview with Marie Campbell Author of Olga - A Daughter's Tale. Plus a Giveaway!

Back in June of 2011, I reviewed this book for my other blog Good Book Alert, and I gave it 5 stars. It's not in a genre that I normally read, but I do enjoy learning about history and different cultures, so this book captured my attention. Recently, I had the chance to talk to Marie Campbell and find out more about how this book came about.


Based on a true story, 'Olga - A Daughter's Tale' is a family saga about heritage, culture, identity and belonging with an epic feel - from Jamaica to England amidst World War II at a time when Jamaica was a jewel in the crown of the British Empire.

Written in the form of diary entries and letters, it is about the cruelty, revenge and jealousy inflicted on an innocent young woman and about her moral courage, dignity, resilience and, in particular, love.

It is the story of a remarkable woman who, because of circumstances, made a choice which resulted in her losing contact with her beloved family in Jamaica until nearly half a century later when her daughter discovered her mother's past.
Here is my review copied from my post at: Good Book Alert

This story is a great read that brings with it wisdom to be gained based on real life events. It’s not your typical novel because it’s told through a series of letters and diary entries. At first I didn’t think that this format would interest me, but the more I read the more I found it compelling.

Most of the diary entries and letters are from three women: Lucy, Becky and Olga. Through their eyes, I learned interesting and well described details about Jamaican beliefs and customs. I also learned what it was like in England during World War Two. The three women are likable and down to earth types. Lucy and Becky were originally from England and it was interesting to see how they adapted to Jamaica. They even became somewhat caught up in the dark magic practiced by Jamaicans.

The women all experience hard times, and Olga is the one who had the roughest life. There were times she frustrated me, but overall her courage and determination amazed me. Even after I was done reading, I couldn’t help thinking about her and what she accomplished considering her situation.

If you’re looking for the intensity of the typical genre novel, this isn’t it. The format (diaries and letters) basically means the story is told, and telling always tones down any intensity. Yet, I continued to want to get back to it. The strongest points about this story are that it’s about real people, and therefore the characterization is excellent. The story is so well written it puts you right into the time period and locations. Readers who enjoy history and genealogy are going to be especially interested.

What inspired you to write this book?

In 1994 my mother was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, UK, seriously ill. As she slowly recovered I realised had she died so too would the chance for me to find out about our past, her family in Jamaica and, of great importance to me, who my father was information she had resolutely refused to share with me. So I decided to find out for myself. What I found out filled me with such admiration for her that I decided to write a book so that future generations of my family would know about my Mum. And now I want the world to know about her.

Have you always been interested in writing or was it this story that got you started?

It was this story that got me writing a book.  But having said that, I've always turned to writing when something bad has happened to me. I find it cathartic to off load my emotions on paper.

How did you obtain all the letters and diary entries to write this book? Was it difficult?

Olga – A Daughter’s Tale lay dormant for long time while I tried to find the voice to write the book.  I’d tried writing it as a narrative and I’d tried writing it from my mother’s point of view and mine, as her daughter, but none of it worked.  Well not for me anyway.  And then one day I was reading Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, which is written in the form of diary entries and letters, and I knew I’d found my voice! So I wrote the book using that format and augmenting them with the few actual documents I had..

What person in the book do you admire the most other than your mother Olga and why?

That has to be my grandmother, Becky because she had so much courage and followed her heart marrying my grandfather, a black Jamaican, knowing that she would be ostracised by the white, coloured and the black Jamaican community in Kingston! They would have made her life miserable.

I admired your mother a great deal while reading this novel. I'm wondering what scene in the book makes you admire your mother the most?

I used to visualise her in the Refuge for Friendless Women and writing that scene was hard for me particularly knowing the life she had come from. But what I admired most about her was that in spite of the things that happened to her and the circumstances she found herself in, she never changed - she never became bitter. She remained a kind, gentle woman.

As I recall, your mother would not tell you who your father was for years. How did she feel when you finally found out?

Very sad.
Did you ever feel any resentment toward your mother for keeping so much from you?

No, not until about 20 odd years ago when I was working for my local council as the Administrator to the Adoption Panel. Wherever possible when a child was up for adoption, the social workers would put together a ‘life story’ book that would contain details, possibly photos, and even letters from the child’s biological parent/s to give some background and, in some cases an explanation why the child had been taken into care and put up for adoption.  The Panel recognised that as an adult the child may want information about their biological parents so this ‘life-story’ book would be given to the Adopters to pass on at an appropriate time.   

I saw some of the ‘life story’ books and, without realising it, they’d had a gradual emotional impact on me.  I’d get into my car after the Panel met and just burst into tears. It took me a while to work out that I was crying, not for the children, but for myself because they would know their history one day, but I didn’t know mine.  It made me feel angry towards Mum.    

I also remember that your mother was ill when you began the search into her past. I'm curious how is she is doing now?

Mum died late in 2006.
Is your family supportive of your book?

By the time I published the book only two of Mum’s sisters were alive and suffered with dementia so they never got to see the book, although they did know about it and I had their blessing. My two sons are very proud of their heritage and did go to Jamaica to meet their great Aunts a few years ago. 
Mum always lived with me until the last three years of her life when she went into a nursing home.  My sons, like me, knew nothing about her past or her family in Jamaica and what I discovered was quite a revelation for them.  They spent a lot of time with her when they were growing up and adored her.

What do you hope your readers come away after reading your book?

I’d like them to come away with the thought that ‘Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’ was a great human interest story and have a certain admiration for Olga.  Particularly since it emanated as the result of researching my family’s history and culture, something that we all have.  I hope it will encourage others to delve into their family history - let’s face it – every family has a story!
Do you plan to write and/or publish any more books?

Yes.  The plan is that the second book will take up the story from where ‘Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’ finished.  But time constraints mean I’m not able to start it until early next year.

Thanks for being on my blog today, Marie. I'm sorry to hear about your mother passing away. But on a happy note her memory and story lives on through your book.

Giveaway Time!

Marie would like to giveaway one paperback copy of her book and two e-book copies. To enter simply leave a comment on this post with your email address. You can format it like this...

myname AT somewhere DOT com

Mention what version you are interested in winning. Paperback, ebook or either one. I will use to pick the winners. Results will be posted next Thrusday.

Purchase Links:

Author Links:


Elizabeth said...

Hi Cindy, I read your review of Olga-A Daughter's Tale and thought it sounded very good. I would love to win either a paperback or e-book copy. Thanks for the opportunity!
egstanley AT gmail DOT com

Jackie said...

This book is right up my alley. I would love to win either a paperback book or an e-book. Thank you. Good luck to everyone.

Janis said...

Sounds like an interesting read... I'd love to win an e-book copy. Thanks!

Cathy Ward said...

I entered to win this on GoodReads but didn't make the cut.
I'm very into family history. I've spent over 10 years researching mine. It can be quite an experience.
The title of this book caught my eye. I'm very much my parents' daughter. It prompted me to start collecting books with DAUGHTER in the title. Just started and I have 6 already with a list of many, many more.

aunttackyx18 AT verizon DOT net

Renee said...

I'd LOVE to win an ebook copy!!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like my kind of book, no matter what format!

Tricia at

Mary Ellen Zeitz said...

As an adult adoptee, I would be very interested in reading Olga- a daughter's tale. Either paperback or e-book would make me happy.

Blogger Name: Krystal Larson said...

Thank you for the chance to win! edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom I have no ereader, so print copy please!

Anonymous said...

I must say that you were so very fortunate to have realized at the time what valuable information (in my humble opinion) you were able to obtain and then publish! I could kick myself now for all the opportunities I once had to ask my mother, my father and my maternal grandparents about themselves, their lives and so much more. They would have given me the answers but I was too young and foolish to think of asking for them! I am now very much interested in genealogy and could kick myself harder. I WOULD HAVE HAD so many little stories to add to their names in our genealogy database. Oh well.

I loved reading The Diary of Anne Frank and your book may be/is written in the same style and something I would love! I would love to have an e-book copy!

Cathy Ward said...

Darn, forgot to say I'd love a paperback copy but would definitely settle for an ebook copy.

aunttackyx18 AT verizon DOT net

Marie (Olga's Daughter) said...

@anonymous - I'm really sorry that you didn't get the chance to ask your family about their history. Maybe there are extended members of your family you could ask. I wish I hadn't left it so late to trace my mother's family. But I'm pleased I eventually got a lot of information about Mum, her family and who my father was before she died.

I believe our heritage defines who we are, and knowing who we are and where we came from can help us achieve our ambitions and dreams.


HannahH said...

I would love to be included to win a ebook. I prefer a smashwords coupon, but kindle is fine. My email is

Cindy said...

The contest is closed now. Good luck to everyone who entered. I will post the results tomorrow.