Author spotlight: Rebekah Lee Jenkins

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month we’re talking to Canadian author Rebekah Lee Jenkins. Rebekah writes historical fiction set in early twentieth-century Canada. Her most recent book, Hope in Oakland, was released on 8 June. You can contact Rebekah through her website, or on Facebook or Instagram.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I have written as a hobby since I learned how. In 2011, I went through a very difficult year and  my doctor recommended that I start writing again as a form of therapy. The Night They Came For Til evolved from that therapy. I have put some strong themes in there for my niece about making good decisions in life and staying true to yourself.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing about being an author is my readers. I love them. I love engaging with them on social media and hearing how my book (soon to be books) about strong women inspire them. One mom had her daughter read the book because the message is to be true to yourself and hold your ground –  you determine your own worth. That was a highlight in my life, that someone felt a message I had for my niece could be so helpful for other girls.

I love writing about women from the past who were inspiring. Til Stone is based on Margaret Sanger ( she was behind the birth control movement ) and Cora Rood is based on Clara Brett Martin (Canada’s first female lawyer) As I mentioned, I write for my nieces so the messages in these books are strong. When readers pick up on them and love it, I love that!

Worst thing? I spent 22 years as a hairstylist, so my technical skills (computer and grammar/punctuation) are very poor. I struggle with marketing because my computer skills are limited. I am improving but slowly. I have to pay people to do things I can’t do myself. I find that frustrating because I am the world’s biggest control freak with almost no patience so I have to sit on my hands because I love the whole process of putting a book together and I have to outsource it. After my third book, I am going to take some courses and brush up on some skills. My readers are pretty impatient so I will have to put that on the back burner.

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

I love turn of the twentieth century. I think because we were just on the cusp of so many huge changes. I write about the women’s rights movement from that time so it is easy to outrage my readers with what I find in archives. My fear of being considered uneducated drives me to be sure that every line, every statement in my book is very accurate, so I spend a lot of time in archives, reading old newspapers and medical journals, trial transcripts. I would never write a time period that I didn’t have access to accurate information. Hope in Oakland took two research trips to Winnipeg. It took five days of solid research to put that book together.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Birth control – at what point was it available, and the Canadian, English and American laws surrounding it. Also, how to use chloroform in childbirth.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

My home town in 1904, to be sure how I write about it is accurate! I live in Souris, Manitoba and I write it as Oakland, Manitoba.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

In archives. I am a nerd. Old files and old newspapers thrill me to my fingertips. If I am ever stuck, I walk. I find nature in any season very inspirational. Also, music. I have certain soundtracks for certain books.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Manitoba archives and the reading room at the legislative assembly. To have access to all that information is crucial to my work.

The best place in the world to write is…

I just did the character sketches for my third book and wrote out the plot for another book in the airport last weekend. It was great. No distractions. I love my writing room though at the front of the house looking out a window.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I am a hairstylist so I work three days a week in that field. I love my 5 km walks. I don’t get to read as much as I used to, so on a day where my manuscript is caught up and my editor is working on it, I love to read novels.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on the third book in this series: Taking Til.