Monday, May 23, 2011

Highlights from Waterloo Region: Interview and Excerpt with Doris Etienne, author of The Jewels of Sophia Tate

Highlights from Waterloo Region was created in order to give more exposure to the local authors, bloggers, readers, publishers, book events and more in the community. Please go to the Introducing...Highlights from Waterloo Region page for an archive of past highlights or to find out more about how you can become involved.

Today I am honoured to have author Doris Etienne with us. Below I have interviewed Doris, provided you with more information about her book, The Jewels of Sophia Tate, and she has generously offered us an excerpt of her book.


Why did you decide to become an author?
It is something I've always known that I wanted to do. In Grade Four I realized I enjoyed creative writing. I also loved Nancy Drew books and thought I'd like to write a mystery novel some day.

What inspires you to write?
Ideas do. Sometimes I hear a story about something that actually happened and I expand upon that. I ask myself "what if?" Pictures and more ideas form in my mind and that's how I write my story.

Are you a full time writer or do you write in your spare time?
I write in my spare time. I wish I did write more but my family has always come first and everyday life has a way of keeping me busy. I also have a part-time job.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to go for walks, bike, spend time in the garden and read.


What age bracket do you write for?
I write for young adults.

What kind of stories or topics to you like to write about in your book(s)?
I like to write stories with a historical background, where secrets or hidden things come to the surface. I also like the idea of traditions and culture passed down through generations.

What are the characters like?
In the Jewels of Sofia Tate, my main character, Garnet, is fifteen years old, lonely and unsure of herself because she has just moved to Kitchener and is attending a new high school. She meets and offers to help Elizabeth, an elderly woman in poor health, who desperately wants to find some jewels that she believes are hidden in her house. Dan is good looking, smart, athletic and popular at school, and gets drawn into the search for the jewels. Garnet's mother is preoccupied with her new job and a search of her own, for a father she never knew.

If you had to describe the ideal reader for your book(s) in five words or less, what would they be?
Inquisitive mystery lover.


Since this segment is to highlight different aspects of reading and writing in Waterloo Region, I wonder if there was anything in the area that helped you/inspired you/made a difference for you/anything at all that you would like to share?

The setting for The Jewels of Sofia Tate is around Victoria Park in Kitchener. I love the old houses in the area and when I pictured the story in my mind, I knew it would be set there. For my characters Reginald and Sofia Tate, I researched who the immigrants to this region were at the turn of the last century and imagined what might have brought them here and what could have taken place long ago. Our local newspaper, The Record, has often published stories featuring people who fought during the Second World War. I loved to read those when I was writing this story because they helped me to understand what my older character, Elizabeth, and her husband, Albert, might have thought about the war. Having access to great books, information and programs at the Kitchener Public Library, no doubt also had an impact on my writing.

What advice would you give any budding authors out there?

Keep writing. That's easier said than done but it's the only way you will produce a book. Life does get in the way at times. So does procrastination.

Join a Writers' Collective and have others critique your work. Take a course, go to workshops or read books on writing to improve it. Read.


What's your favourite book of all time?
I don't really have one favourite book but a few that I have enjoyed over the past couple of years, in no particular order are: The Poisonwood Bible, The Book of Negroes, The Book Thief and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

Do you have any book suggestions for those who've enjoyed your writing and stories?
For young adults, Margaret Buffie writes excellent mystery novels that interweave the present with the past. For adults, novels by Elizabeth Adler and Marius Gabriel are exciting and filled with suspense.


Is there anything else you want to share with my readers?
It was my lifelong dream to become a published author and I have achieved that goal, yet sometimes it still takes me by surprise when someone tells me they have read my book and enjoyed it. I feel so honoured.


The Jewels of Sofia Tate
by Doris Etienne
ISBN: 978-1-55488-230-4
272 pages
Dundurn Press
Ages 12+

Online Purchase Availability:

Kitchener Public Library: Available
Please click here to be taken to the KPL Catalogue entry for this book
Call #: YA Paperback - YA-E (1 copy each at Country Hills, Forest Heights, Main, and Pioneer Park)

The Jewels of Sophia Tate Goodreads page

Fifteen-year-old Garnet Walcott is lonely and having a hard time making new friends
when she moves to Kitchener, Ontario. Her mother, already preoccupied with work, has begun a search for a father she never knew.

By chance, Garnet meets and befriends Elizabeth Tate, an elderly widow, who tells her that a priceless set of heirloom jewels dating back to the Russian nobility may be hidden in her Victorian home.

Garnet is introduced to Dan Peters, one of the most popular boys at school, and when Elizabeth suffers a heart attack, Garnet persuades him to help her find the jewels for Elizabeth. Do the jewels really exist? Garnet believes they do and drawing on that faith, follows the clues left by Elizabeth’s late eccentric and religious father-in-law and discovers much more than she bargained for.

You can read an excerpt from The Jewels of Sophia Tate by clicking on the .PDF link here or read more below:

Excerpt from “The Jewels of Sofia Tate” © 2009 Doris Etienne (ISBN: 978-1-55488-230-4)

     At the end of the hall to the left, beyond the living room, Elizabeth opened another door.
“Reginald’s library,” she said.
     Despite the light fixture at the top of the high ceiling, the room was dim and rather dreary with its reddish brown walls and green velvet drapes over the windows. A dark wooden desk with a highbacked brown leather chair stood in the centre of the floor, facing the door, and volumes of books lined the entire wall behind it, on either side of the fireplace. As Garnet became accustomed to the dark surroundings, she noticed an interesting carving in the centre of the mahogany mantel of a young man playing the harp, and above, on the mantelpiece, a hand-painted clock with silver hands.
     “Except for a few changes, it’s nearly the way Reginald left it,” Elizabeth said. “I actually don’t
come in here very often. Something about this room has always made me feel uncomfortable.
Maybe it’s because Reginald used to spend so much time in here.” Elizabeth looked up at the
mirror above the mantelpiece. “There used to be a different mirror here. It was so tarnished you
could hardly see yourself in it. I changed it years ago when I was trying to keep the house nice for
Albert’s return.”
     As Garnet looked at the mirror, the reflection of another face unexpectedly caught her attention. She turned her head and was drawn to a life-sized portrait that hung on the wall behind her. She went to stand before it.
     In front of a midnight-blue background sat a beautiful young woman painted in tones so
luminous she appeared almost lifelike. Light somehow seemed to emanate from the woman
herself so that her skin glowed, and Garnet had to resist the urge to reach up and touch the
canvas. Her hair was pulled back from her face, allowing coppery curls to spill onto her white
shoulders. Her expression was serene, with lips parted like a rosebud about to open. In the crook of her right arm she held a spray of waxen white lilies. Her elegant gown, the same colour as her round, violet eyes, was adorned with just a fringe of beadwork and lace under the scooped neckline. And resting under her creamy white neck was a blue sapphire, the size of a small egg, with alternating diamonds and sapphires travelling up the length of the chain. Dangling from her earlobes were smaller sapphires surrounded by diamonds, and on her left hand, a ring — the same one Garnet had noticed Elizabeth wearing the day before.
     Elizabeth came to stand next to Garnet. “Sofia Tate. Albert’s mother. A shame I never met the
woman. She died when Albert was just a baby. He looked a lot like her with the red curls. A lovely portrait, I think. Perhaps even a little intriguing. Somehow, she seems to be watching.”
     Garnet felt a chill run down her spine. She could almost feel her watching. Her eyes rested on
the sapphire pendant. “Are those the jewels you mentioned?”
     Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, but not the ring. It’s not part of the original set. Albert gave it to me for
our engagement but I never saw the necklace or earrings. Do you see this tiny sparkle?” she
asked, pointing to the pendant in the picture.
     Garnet nodded.
     “I have always thought this detail to be interesting. The artist captured the reflection of light on
the sapphire as a miniature shining star. I once read that a sapphire refuses to shine if worn by the wicked or impure. It is a symbol of truth, sincerity, and faithfulness, and its rays represent faith, hope, and destiny. They used to believe that the sapphire not only had healing powers, but that it would attract divine favour and protect the wearer from harm.”
     Garnet was silent for a moment as she thought about Elizabeth’s words, then asked, “Why did you call the jewels ‘royal’?”
     “Well, that is a long story,” Elizabeth replied. “Perhaps we should sit in the living room where it’s more comfortable.”


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