Janice L. Dick is a Canadian author of Christian historical fiction, and she’s celebrating the recent release of her newest novel, In a Foreign Land.
Janet: Welcome, Janice, and thanks for taking time to join us. Let’s start with a few details to place your this book in context on the world stage. Where is it set? What’s the time period, and what are a few world events that would have happened at the same time?
Janice: Hi Janet, and thanks for this opportunity. My latest book is set in northern China between 1945 and 1951. WWII has just ended, China is in turmoil, and the ensuing civil war disrupts every corner of the land.
Janet: You’re a Canadian author, of Russian Mennonite descent, and family stories were part of your childhood. Have some of those anecdotes found their way into your fiction?
Janice: Oh yes. The stories I heard as a child at family gatherings were one of the reasons I started to write these historical fiction books. Some of my characters resemble certain of my forebears, either in character, experience, or both. Turning life into fiction is what I love to do.
Janet: Your In Search of Freedom series was to some extent inspired by a true story. How did that come about?
Janice: I had read about the escape of an entire Mennonite village in far-eastern Russia across a frozen river into China in 1930, and I wanted to retell it in fictional form. I was blessed to discover a little chronicle of the events, Escape Across the Amur River, which was written by participants in the 1940s. I inserted my characters into this milieu.
Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the series?
Janice: The main characters change from book to book, so it’s hard to have a favourite through the entire series, but Luise is my fav for book one, and Danny for book two.
Janet: I can see that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see who’s your favourite in book three. What do you want readers to take away from these books when they’re done?
Janice: The most important takeaway is that God is faithful, no matter what circumstances the characters find themselves in. This is also true in our own lives. The stories are just vehicles to show this truth.
Janet: In a Foreign Land is book 2 in this series. Could a reader start here without getting lost?
Janice: I hope I have written the story clearly enough for a reader to be able to find satisfaction at the end of the book, even without reading the first, and that references to former characters are informed enough to create a full picture. It’s a trick I didn’t get quite right in my first series, so I was mindful of it this time through.
Janet: It’s a tricky balance, to include enough but not too much. What do you have planned for the rest of the series?
Janice: The final book, Far Side of the Sea, is in process. The construction of the book will be somewhat different than the other two, which are written linearly, but I plan to connect it to the others as the final book of the series, tying up any loose threads.
Janet: I’m looking forward to it! In your research, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?
Janice: Maybe not weird, but definitely strange, was trying to gather information on post WWII China. That history was rewritten by Mao, and apparently, everything that existed before was destroyed. Even GoogleEarth comes up flat across the Amur River. So I had to dig deeply in order to offer a realistic setting. Thanks to my source for the second book (the man it was written about), I was able to piece together what I wanted to convey.
Janet: GoogleEarth is flat… thanks for making me giggle! Random question time… Chocolate or vanilla? And are you a morning person or a night owl?
Janice: There is only chocolate!
As to the next question, I got this apt description from Facebook and I concur: “I am neither an early bird nor a night owl. I’m some form of permanently exhausted pigeon.” Thanks to whoever made that up; I know I’m not alone.
Janet: Yup, I’m one of those pigeons too. Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.
Janice: Lots of space here on the prairies, lots of privacy on the farm, and four of our grandkids only a mile away.
Janet: That sounds idyllic. Thanks for visiting today. I’m looking forward to Far Side of the Sea – but no pressure!
Janice: Thanks again, Janet. (I put enough pressure on myself!)
You can discover more about Janice Dick’s books at janicedick.com, as well as find some traditional Mennonite recipes. While you’re there, take a look at her blog posts for readers and writers.
In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick
Manchuria has been home to the Martens and Giesinger families ever since they escaped Soviet Russia in 1930. At fifteen years of age, Danny Martens and Rachel Giesinger are content with their lives, and with each other.
But the end of World War II changes everything. In 1945, the Soviets invade northern China, infiltrating the temporary vacuum of power, and repatriate all men who were older than twenty years when they fled the Soviet Union.
Robbed of home, livelihood and security, Danny’s family and friends move southward, trying unsuccessfully to acquire emigration papers.
Amid the difficulties, a ghost from the past stalks the Martens family in search of vengeance for previously hidden crimes. Danny struggles to honor his father’s wish to move his family out of the country, but all his plans are thwarted.
In desperation, Danny’s mother requests sponsorship from friends, Phillip Wieler and Jasch Fast, who emigrated to the States in 1932. In spite of their own struggles with personal and economic tragedy, the Wielers and the Fasts attempt to help their friends who are held captive In a Foreign Land.
This story is based loosely on memoirs of a survivor. It is the second book in the In Search of Freedom series. The first book is titled Other Side of the River.