Please join me in welcoming Madeleine White to the blog this week. We chat about her debut novel, Mother of Floods.
Author Name: Madeleine F. White
Book Title: Mother of Floods
Book Genre: Speculative, Literary Women’s Fiction
Release Date: Out Now
Publisher: Crowsnest Books
Hello, Madeleine! Please tell us about your novel.
Mother of Floods is a speculative, spiritual adventure that draws us from the current-day theme of digital overload and capitalist greed into a semi-fantasy world where everything becomes connected. The interaction of six women morphs into a natural-world story of the survival of mankind, with ancient myths and legends used as markers to help them navigate these unprecedented times.
What sparked the idea for Mother of Floods?
I spent many years working in technology and international development with a focus on women’s economic empowerment and education. Having come across many wonderful stories, I started collating some of these as I wanted to give them more of a voice.
Linked to this was my growing despair at the cult of consumerism and individualism which impacts on how we lived with each other and the world around us, including our environment. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic (I started writing MOF in 2017) it was evident that climate change, nationalistic tribalism and systemic cruelty and inequity has been causing us to spiral down a vicious circle. I felt a call to action was needed and, inspired by examples set by writers such as Coehlo and Atwood, wanted to use fiction to do it.
The idea of truths shared by real women of differing cultures and backgrounds connected by a spiritual and digital world unseen was the way I found to connect it, all building a central narrative around an idea that even in the darkest of times, change is possible.
At the heart of Mother of Floods, therefore, is the idea of the Age of the Downfall we find ourselves in now and the idea of a flood scouring everything clean. Some of our oldest tales, drawn from across the world, tell of great floods. In Christianity, we have Noah, in the North American Ashinaabe First Nation histories there is the story of Turtle Island, Zoroastrionsim sees a ‘drowning’ snowstorm that lasts 40 months, then there is Manu’s Floods in Hinduism … I felt that this idea of being overwhelmed by something out of our control, and then the rebuilding and making new that follows, was important.
Another impetus was, wanting to make a direct connection to the other flood many feel is overwhelming us now: the digital one. From this other ‘world unseen’ a tide of pixels and technologies is inundating the world we once knew.
The narrative connects these two – or even – three words: the world of the spirit, the ‘real world’ and the world of pixels – with the binary language drumming as the central force crossing them all. In Mother of Floods I weave together some of the ideas from our earliest myths and legends to make sense of the inundation of a world spinning beyond our control and the cutting edge technology many believe is partly responsible. A central aspect the plotline is that the impersonal, intangible information superhighway gets a soul, which has a direct impact on how the story develops.
How long did it take for you to write the book?
I started writing MOF three-and-a-half years ago and finished two-and-a-half years ago – so one year to write the first draft.
What sort of research did you do?
In many ways research defined it. My own roots are in journalism and telling a story in this metier depends on a strong, factual, research-heavy approach. However, building a coherent journalist piece is wildly different to the disciplines needed when writing fiction. In fact, my journalist approach, coupled with a lack of creative writing experience, proved to be a real barrier.
Almost everything in my book is ‘true’ in the sense of the physics, the stories themselves, the myths and legends. It was really difficult moving from this factual, researched truth into the truth of the story I wanted to tell. The editing process was therefore very painful – albeit ultimately rewarding. I really did learn huge amounts though and am eternally grateful to publishers Crowsnest Books for looking beyond the mistakes in my initial submission to the story and the quality of the writing.
Just so you know, I started with 164,000 words and the published book is around 127,000…
What drew you to the speculative fiction genre?
For me speculative fiction allows us to push the boundaries of perceived truth into an imagined one. By imagining and reimagining how things are and could be, we create alternative ways of seeing things.
I believe we Storytellers play an important role as both guardians and gatekeepers of culture and history. Stories are a method by which we record our shifting culture, husbanding and curating both new and old to help us navigate our way through these unprecedented times.
Writing Mother of Floods as a speculative piece of fiction was the best way I knew to create a story that mattered, i.e. fulfilling what I see as the role of Storyteller. The genre allowed me to reimagine how change might happen.
Based on forging new kinds of connections, the idea was to shift the focus from a dystopian and hopeless now to a blueprint for a better world. Interestingly enough, at the heart of lockdown we all caught glimpses of the kindness, compassion and togetherness in the digital and ‘real space’ I use to bind my characters.
For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?
Writing! I am hugely disciplined in my day-job, magazine editing and corporate storytelling — which is obviously underpinned by my writing, as I have worked for myself for many years. However, where my creative writing is concerned those rules don’t seem to apply in the same way. I know I need to pull myself right back again and read through what I’ve done on my work in progress to find that energy again. For the moment, though, my second novel has not moved beyond 55,000 words since November last year. A friend of mine has suggested I write in the morning and then do PR and other work in the afternoon; I shall take that as something to aspire to.
In contrast, poetry seems to be as easy and as necessary as breathing at the moment and I’m finding myself increasingly using the mobile notes function to get core ideas down and then polish and finish on my laptop. I’m enjoying modest success around this, especially spoken word performance and have been regularly featured by the BBC, quite a big deal in the UK.
What do you love most about it?
Freedom. Imagination is limitless and the worlds I can conjure are entirely down to what I want to make happen. Mother of Floods looks at the power of creation in each and every one of us. I do truly believe that what we create can manifest itself in one way or another. So, what I love about writing is also what makes me fear it, limitless potential.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Mother of Floods?
I think the best way of answering this is actually by citing a couple of reviews from Amazon and Goodreads:
“I have just finished reading Mother of Floods I absolutely loved it. To be honest I don’t usually go for the alternate virtual world in books but really enjoyed the concept of us all being connected via invisible links. The ancient spirits of the earth rebelling against the cruelty and greed that exists all aided by the internet spirits. Beautifully written, heart-rending in parts and a book that made me think. One not to be rushed.”
“The storyline of Mother of Floods is not something that I would usually have pulled off the shelves as my preferred reading material is usually more thriller or based on scientific fact. However, I was thankfully seduced by the mix of the hard reality of our physical world, the comfort of our spiritual world and the challenges we face with our digital world. I really loved the book and found it an absorbing, thought-provoking and most enjoyable read.”
Wow–great reviews! Does your day job inform your novel writing at all?
As a ‘storyteller’ consultant, I create a Safe Space for Storytelling for governmental organisations and international development partners to connect diverse cultural, geographical, and digital communities with a focus on Education and Women’s Economic Empowerment. I conceptualized the Imlango project in Kenya, created Nina Magazine for the World Bank and So! And Oi! youth magazines. I’m currently supporting Make Trade Sweden and Pen to Print as the editor of Write On! and Write On! Extra, offering digital and print platforms for real people telling real stories. These ‘safe spaces’ bring writers from around the world together to share experience strength and hope online.
None of this is separate from my identity as an author. The cloak woven by my heritage – German, British, Canadian First Nation – is what defines me. At the heart of this is my quest for a new way of being, which I manifest by calling myself ‘Storyteller’.
In this sandbox of our changing world, questioning and then sharing our own truths allows allow us to move beyond being defined by geography and skin colour, to a place in the world we feel truly able to occupy. If we draw on the lessons our cultural heritage has bestowed upon us, while moving into the future with the globalisation that is driving every aspect of our lives, we become stronger and will so be able to contribute to a more cohesive society.
What an interesting background! What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Balance is very important to me and exercise is key to this. So running, swimming and riding (I have a rescue horse) are very precious to me. I also love spending time with my family and friends.
Are you working on a new project?
Yes – or attempting to at least! This is a bit of the blurb.
Sisters of Storms is a fantasy adventure that combines the speculative mash-up of Erika Johansen’s Tearling Trilogy with the mythical power of Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Intimate in conception, yet far-reaching in thematic scope, Sisters of Storms chases us across dimensions of spirit and human experience. Eventually we stop, recognising that even in our world, the boundaries of life and death are not puzzles to be solved but mysteries to stand in awe of.
Where can readers find you?
Mother of Floods on Goodreads:
Instagram + Twitter @madeleinefwhite
Linked in: linkedin.com/in/madeleine-white-3938a07
I’m always looking for interesting new writing to feature on Write On! You can find out how to submit your poetry, prose and even book launches in my Editor’s intro here. We collaborate with organisations such as Writers and Artists ( Bloomsbury), Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation, Romantic Novelists association among others.
Thank you, Madeleine! Mother of Floods is available NOW.
To find our future we need to reconnect to our past and each other…
Mother of Floods is set at the end our world. Ravaged by greed and technology it has seemingly spun beyond human control. Yet in this unravelling is a chance for a new beginning. as the digital, physical, and spiritual worlds collide.
The story begins in London, with Martha and Dave, her dead husband who lives on in digital form. Together they embark on a journey to heal their troubled family, overcoming mountains of debt and supporting an anorexic daughter and a reclusive son.
Their quest is aided by three other women from very different countries and backgrounds, who are also desperate enough to go to any lengths to wrest back control over their lives. And as the interlocking narratives unfold, their quests become a battle for the soul of the world, as connections between the spiritual, technological, and human worlds, create a transformative energy that infects the digital world, creating a new kind of being. The impersonal, transactional information superhighway is transformed into a sentient force for good, with the language of electric pulses shaping words of power that convert the thoughts we think into positive changes in our physical world.
In other words, the internet gets a soul.
Underpinned by strands of ancient and modern mythology, Mother of Floods immerses the reader in the brave new world of 24/7 self-sustaining algorithms, showing how individual choices can lead to powerful ripple effects, if only we have the courage to collectively hit the reset button.
Madeleine F White was born in Germany, with roots in Canada and the UK. Her 25-year career has spanned journalism, teaching, educational technology and publishing. As a publisher she has created national and international web and print magazines aimed at creating a voice for those without one. A notable example of this is the successful Nina-Iraq, a project that she worked on with the World Bank to reach out to Iraqi women everywhere and Oi and So magazines aimed at young people. Since 2019 she has been editor and creator of Write On! and Write on extra, digital and print platforms for real people telling real stories. These are published by Pen to Print an Arts council NPO organisation.
Madeleine is a storyteller consultant, working with educational technology companies and international development partners to connect diverse cultural, geographical and digital communities. Her debut novel, Mother of Floods, has been inspired by the growing belief that fiction is often more powerful than factual journalism in opening us up to truth.
Madeleine is married with three children and lives in Broadstairs, a small coastal town in England
- Mother Of Floods published by Crowsnest Books 2020, available online and in Bookshops UK, US and Canada
- Placed in National Pen to Print Poetry Competition
- Short stories publication on Thanet Writers
- Contributor to Margate Bookie E-zine
- Spoken word poetry and extracts featured on BBC Kent + Alternative Stories Podcast
- Contributor to Writers and Artists website
- Former Contributing editor Thanet Writers
- Creator and Editor, Write On! Magazine + Write On! Extra