Saturday, July 16, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Olga: A Daughter's Tale by Marie-Therese Browne

Olga: A Daughter's Tale is by far one of my favourite reads of 2011 (review to be up later this week) so I am thrilled to have the author here with us today answering all the pressing questions I held dear to my heart while reading the book! After the interview, Marie has generously offered up not one, by three copies of her book to some lucky winners who enter the draw!



Thank you for agreeing to an interview! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself  and your book?

Well. I'm originally from a town called Brighton on the south east of England and I emigrated to Australia just over 4 years ago which was shortly after my mother, Olga, died.  I'm single now but have been married twice.  I’ve twin boys, one of whom lives in Boston and the other in Sydney.  I work for Red Cross.  I’m passionate about movies and, of course, writing.


In 1994, after the death of your mother Olga, you set out to find as much as you could about her life history. When you started this journey, what was it you expected to find? Did the journey live up to your expectations?

To be honest I had no expectations about what I’d find, because my mother had said for years she thought her family were probably all dead.  With hindsight I don’t think she believed that, I think she was worried I might try and find them, which of course eventually I did and I’d discover things she didn’t want me to know about – and eventually I did that too.  

It’s strange when you’re researching your family, you find out, or are given one little piece of information, and that leads to something else and so on and so on.  Sometimes you can go for ages and find nothing and then, suddenly, you’ve got new piece of information and that gets your adrenalin going and you’re off on a mission again!   So you need to persevere.

The journey far exceeded my expectations – I just wanted to trace my mother’s sisters and I wanted to find out who my father was.  Well I found the answer to both but I found out so much more about my Aunts and Uncles and my family, the Browneys – a wonderful boisterous dysfunctional family!   I knew a bit about the history of Jamaica, mainly to do with the abolition of slavery, but I had no idea about her culture, her folklore, her superstitions, her class structure, her prejudices.

Olga: A Daughter's Tale is very much a family history. How has your family reacted to it? How hard has it been to put yourself and your family "out there" with this story?

I self published the book in December 2007 just for my family.  It was only in 2009 that I decided to try and get it out in the public arena.   By that time only two of Mum’s sister remained alive and they were fairly senile so never got to see the final book.  However, they did know I was writing it and had their blessing and in the late 90s give me very useful  information and told me stories about their lives growing up in Kingston. 

My immediate family i.e. my two sons are very proud of their heritage.  I’ve received very little feedback from my cousins in Jamaica.  The two who have read it said the enjoyed it, but I was surprised they didn’t say more.  Olga’s disappearance was a topic of conversation for decades in the Browney family and I think once they knew the truth about what happened to her, the family felt uncomfortable. 

Much of the story are written through diary and letter format. While reading the book, I was struck by how incredibly well written they were and how well ordered they were to tell a story. Are these original entries and letters or were they created out of other information that you were able to collect about those family members?

Olga – A Daughter’s Tale was my first book – I hadn’t planned to write a book, but once I knew the full story, I just had to write it.  It took me awhile to find the voice.  I tried to write it from Olga’s point of view, my own point of view and in the third person, but it didn’t work.  And one day I was reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is written using diary, journal and letters and I knew immediately that was the format  to use to write my book.  I knew it would work -  it was a natural format to use to tell the story.

Out of everything you learned and experience while researching and writing, what do you think has stuck with you the most?

There are many things that have stayed with me as a result of my research but I don’t want to spoil the story for the readers by detailing them here.  But head and shoulders above everything else I learnt, and what filled me with awe most , was the courage my mother showed given the circumstances she found herself in.  I don’t think I would have made the same choices she did.

A lot of the family and social history written about in your book speaks to both race and gender relations. Was anything you found in the research process shocking to you? What do you feel readers can learn from this aspect of the story?

Yes, I was shocked that some of my grandmother’s children railed against her for marrying a black man.  I just found it shocking that children could show colour prejudice towards their own mother.  It must hurtful to Becky.


How difficult was it to turn what you found in research into a book with a clear beginning, middle, and end? Do you feel you have succeeded in telling your mother Olga's story?

Once I’d found the voice, it wasn’t difficult.  And I was helped along because of the chronological historical events that took place.  I think I have succeeded in telling Mum’s story, although some people wanted to know what happened next!  But that’s for the next book!

What advice would you give someone just starting out their own family history research?

Talk to all members of your family because each one might have a little bit of information that you don’t have.  Researching family history is bit like doing a jig saw puzzle – you get little bits of information and eventually they link together and form a picture.  My advice would be don’t limit your research to just a family tree.  Investigate events around the period your writing about using archived newspapers  because that gives you a better feel for the period.   

What advice would you give someone who wants to write a biography?

I can’t stress how important research is – I actually think it took me longer to do the research than write the book.

There are lots of resources available now but what I found most useful was housed in my local library - archived newspapers.  The Times of London and the Jamaican Gleaner – they were an invaluable resources for getting a feel for the time and place I was writing about.


Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

Just to remind your readers that everyone/every family has a story and people love a good human interest story.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my book Olga – A Daughter’s Tale.




Book Summary:

 Based on a true story, Olga Browney born in Jamaica into a large close-knit, coloured Catholic family was a kind, naive, gentle girl who came to London in 1939 intending to stay only six months with her malevolent, alcoholic aunt. But world events, personal tragedy and malicious intent prevented her from returning home to Jamaica until over half a century later when her past caught up with her.

What is being given away:
1 paperback copy to one winner
1 ebook Smashwords coupon each to two winners
(A total of 3 copies of the book to 3 separate winners)

Rules for entry:
Open internationally.
Must be 13 years or older to participate.
Ends July 30, 2011 @ 11:59 EST.

Please fill out the form to enter!

Extra entries: (+1 entry each)
Follow Marie on Twitter (@OlgasDaughter)
Follow me on GFC or Twitter (@erikareading)
Spread the word about this giveaway on Twitter.


  1. thanks for the encouragement of each family having a story ~
    and for the heads up for your nxt installment!
    thank you for the giveaway ") look fwd to this read as i have a friend with a similar family background which we find fascinating...

  2. This book sounds really great, I've always enjoyed reading tales about families. Thank you for posting this interview!

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

  3. Just wonderful!!


  4. This book looks terrific, thank you! edysicecreamlover18ATgmailDOTcom

  5. How I would love to reasearch my Mother's background like Marie did. But Mom's ancesters are American Indians and no records were kept. : (

    I am looking forward to reading this book.

  6. I read this book a few weeks ago and it is one of my favorites this year! To who ever the lucky winner will be You're going to love it!

  7. Your story is fascinating. I can't imagine being so brave.


    On the form, I'm Chelsea Carson

  8. I've seen OLga promoted on Goodreads earlier this year and, after reading the summary, my interest was sparked. Human interest and family stories have always appealed to me and, just last year, I read a book titled Footpaths in the Painted City or newly titled The Girl from Foreign from Sadia Shepard and it detailed the author's experiences in India on a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research into the lost history of her Muslim grandmother's Jewish ancestors in India. Ever since then, I've grown to realise just how enjoyable such works can be. I would love to read Olga at some point. Thanks for the chance:)


  9. I'm listed as Sarah Bibi Setar on the form



  10. How wonderful it was to read your interview. I look forward to reading your novel. I find it interesting that you used the format diaries to write your book and think that this is going to be what makes this a great read for me. Thank you for sharing this interview with us.

  11. I love the cover! Sounds like a great book :)

  12. Hi everyone - thank you for the comments about my book and I do hope you get the chance to read it. If you do, please let me know if you enjoyed reading it :)

    Best wishes
    Marie (Olga's Daughter)


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