FROM JACQUELINE FRIEDLAND, author of TROUBLE THE WATER
1. Where did you get the idea for Trouble the Water?
-I am a voracious reader, and there are so many books that have made permanent impressions on me throughout my life. There are too many to name. At the time that I began Trouble the Water, I was thinking deeply about Gone With the Wind and how this American “classic” manages to tell a complicated and beautiful story of human interaction, while at the same time completely glossing over many of the atrocities endured by slaves. As I began to research the 1800s, I became particularly interested in the fact that so many Africans were brought to America as slaves for years and years after the international slave trade had been outlawed by the U.S. government. The laws were not followed, and enforcement was lax, to put it mildly. I began to imagine a vigilante, a hero, who might step in where others had failed in order to protect these illegally trafficked slaves. This was my inspiration for Douglas Elling and his Blackbirder Blockade, a group of courageous and noble humans who refused to sit idly by in the wake of injustice. As I got to know Douglas as a character in my mind, the rest of the story simply grew around him.
2. What is your writing process like?
-People often group writers into two categories: Plotters and Pantsers. Whereas plotters create organized outlines and know exactly where they are going, pantsers, as you might guess, simply write by the seats of their pants. I fall somewhere in the middle. I need to have a general sense of where my story is going and how I am hoping the story will end. I find it very difficult to know exactly how a character will get from point A to point B until I actually start writing. As I get deeper into the story, I actually feel like I am only an observer, describing what is happening to my characters, rather than deciding it on my own. As I put the words on the page, I truly feel like my characters take the reins, and I simply follow where they lead. What I love most is when they surprise me and take actions that I completely did not expect.
3. How do you "get to know" your characters?
-I like to get to know my characters by doing little “jam sessions” on them. I will write a few pages on each person that are not intended for anyone but me. I will let myself get carried away and write stories about things that happened to them in their childhoods, what their parents were like, what their hobbies used to be, or their favorite foods. I just keep going until I really feel like I have a sense of who that character is and what their deepest desires might be.
4. What research tips do you have for someone venturing to write a novel like this?
-The best advice I could give someone about researching a historical novel is to make sure, before you commit, that you are legitimately fascinated by the particular era and location that you have chosen. The amount of time it takes to learn all the information you will need to know about your setting is staggering. It’s wonderful to lose yourself in the research, to let yourself be transported to a place so deeply that you feel as though you’ve actually been there, but that only works if putting in the time remains something you can look forward to for the duration of the process.
5. What is something funny about you that not everyone knows?
-Something funny about me that not everyone knows is that I can’t use chopsticks or snap my fingers, but I’m probably the fastest typist you’ll meet.
About the Author:
Jacqueline Friedland holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from NYU Law School. She practiced as an attorney in New York before returning to school to receive her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband, four children, and a tiny dog. TROUBLE THE WATER (SparkPress) is her first novel. Visit her online at https://
Check out more at the author website.