I was lucky enough to win a copy as part of a Twitter giveaway, and was intrigued by the reviews I’d seen. Hailed as ‘prophetic,’ I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book.
Mother of Floods by Madeleine F. White starts out with a series of disconnected narratives that span the globe. They are tales of loss, of decline. Very quickly we enter into not only more hopeful and cataclysmic events, we also move into the realm of the fantastic and the spiritual. We encounter mythology from around the globe being brought to life, as well as interacting with the modern digital world.
A journey of the story of humanity, told with women at the centre, it’s a dystopian view of the world that gives us hope for a more creative and connected future.
The sheer scale of the novel is impressive, so I knew there must have been a lot of research and experience of other cultures. Read on to find out how such a sprawling and spiritual book came into existence:
Your book is an interesting mix of a warning about the decadence of humanity and a hopeful image of what our future might look like. Why did you decide to combine these and which do you feel is stronger in the book?
When my publishers started selling Mother of Floods in, they used the word ‘prophetic’. It’s obviously up to the reader to decide – however, bearing in mind I started writing Mother of Floods in 2017, pre pandemic, pre the direct consequences of Global warming we’ve seen this summer – heatwaves, wildfires, floods, I think the term they used is probably correct. For several years, I’ve had the feeling we are moving inexorably towards an ending which is also a beginning.
The ending, I believe, is based on fundamental and inevitable changes coming to our world as we know it; the beginning on our willingness to make change happen by embracing a new way of living that includes realisations of responsibility to each other as well as necessary scientific advances around climate change.
Watch the book trailer here
I’ve been fascinated by ancient religions, myths, and beliefs since I was a child, gorging on the Brothers Grimm fairytales. I remember as a 15-year-old reading Marian Zimmer Bradley’s the Mists of Avalon, and then Aztec by Gary Jennings, a couple of years later. I also loved Robert McGammon’s Swansong, which I read in my early 20s, a hopeful dystopian novel, written before the term was even coined. Add into this mix, my work in International development, which took me across the world, from the Middle East to Africa and Asia – and a strange kind of reality started being born.
I fundamentally believe that we can learn from what has happened in human history. Similarities in myths, and legends from the dawn of time, span the globe. The connections between these ancient stories can’t just be explained away.
History contains destruction, but also hope, as does our present. My tangible experience of women’s economic empowerment and activities of hope and growth across the globe are great examples of this. It’s further augmented by my time working in Educational Technology, using digital networks as part of an overall solution to create a better world.
Mother of Floods would never have happened if I hadn’t witnessed hope shining in peoples’ eyes: the belief of a subsistence farmer who invested everything she had and more in beehives, believing that honey was the way towards a better life for her family, the statement from a young university in Morocco, quoting her father that equality is not a given, it has to be earned. Her passion shone through when she told me she would be making this happen, for herself and a new generation of women.
Humanity lives in hope, but we have forgotten our roles as creators, instead focussing on being consumers. I wrote Mother of Floods as an expression of hope that there is a way forwards, even if we might have to leave the familiar behind.
You also use a huge range of locations and traditions in your book. How did you go about choosing which to use in your book and how did you go about researching them?
I have been lucky enough to work with some astounding people in some astounding places. My background is one of communication, the belief that shared experience strength and hope can create a Rosetta Stone that connects across boundaries of geography and culture. I also believe women are at the heart of this. I was once lucky enough to hear Linda Denny, now President Emeritus of the powerful Women In Business National Enterprise Council (US organisation WBENC) speaking about women as peacemakers.
The desire to connect organisations, ideas and people led me into creating a number of publications as well as leading the conceptual strategy as marketing director, for an organisation that uses algorithms to teach Maths, reaching children everywhere eat their point of need.
These activities led to my work across many African and Asian Countries. Thanks to a project I created for the World Bank, I had a particular, focus on Iraq; a country riven by war and internal conflict. Working with a local partner I created Nina-Iraq, a magazine and web portal, that connected women in country, with the Iraqi diaspora – creating a digital ‘Safe Space’ in which experiences and ideas could be shared.
Powerful connections: You can view Nina-Iraq here
The characters in my book are based on women and men I have been lucky enough to meet in the course of my work, not as exact facsimiles, rather as a kaleidoscope of interlocking parts. Much like the ancient legends themselves, the connecting power of hope, faith and love, is what brings Badenan and Fatima from Iraq, Anjani from Indonesia, and Mercy from Zimbabwe – not to mention Martha from the UK – together as ‘Ghostdancers’ and creators of a new world.
We are more than just a ‘tribe’ of individuals. My characters, drawn from different corners of the words, show the power of coming together to create a new way of living – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Your book is written in a dense style that combines a number of elements both ancient and modern. Did the style come naturally based on the subject of your book?
Yes. Mother of Floods started life as an idea, a concept of an idea I wanted to share based on my fundamental beliefs (what I have read and experienced spiritually) and what I have seen in the course of my work. Having worked as a journalist, editor and publisher. I assumed writing a novel would be the next stage. That it would somehow come naturally. The story did, the way of pulling it together into a coherent piece of fiction, didn’t. Maybe that’s why Mother of Floods is unlike anything that’s out there at the moment!
I like to think, though, that I’ve drawn from writers I admire, like Paulo Coelho and Margaret Atwood. However, the process of writing the speculative, spiritual adventure is very much my own and, to get from that heavy block of rough marble, to the ‘statue’ it is now, was a true labour of love!
I know how privileged I am to have got the book I set out to write into the public domain. However, being published by a small US/ Canadian publisher at the heart of a global pandemic didn’t do much for sales; constraints (and my inexperience of the process) meant it was impossible to communicate the nature of Mother Of Floods.
But despite disappointing sales, the five-star reviews do keep coming in – nearly 18 months on! AlI I can hope is, that a bit like with Della Owens’ When The Crawdads Sing, it will continue to build, hitting the mainstream a few years on.
I’m very much hoping that comments in some of my reviews such as ‘a spiritual masterpiece’ and ‘a brilliantly written book by an extremely talented author’ will inspire people to give it a go, despite it not being an easy read.
How did you go about publishing your book?
After 30+ rejections from UK agents, I started looking at other options. These included some of the Twitter pitch parties. In July 2018 @canlit ran one. I added a short pitch to the mix and Crowsnest Books came back to me saying they really liked the sound of Mother of Floods and could I send them the MS. I did, and after some back and forth we signed the contract. There were significant rewrites though – a whole section of the book had to come out – and I went from 160,000 words down to 128,000.
The novel continues to get thoughtful and positive reviews
I learned so much from the editorial process – as a journalistic, commercially driven writer, my work was very fact based, especially where some of the research was concerned. The process has taught me how important it is to get research ‘off the page’ to let the story sing by itself!
Mother of Floods launched in April 2020. Despite having hope at its heart, the subject matter means it’s not an easy read when the world as we know it has changed overnight. This, coupled with the fact that many of the speaking events were cancelled (I was for example supported to be presenting at the Toronto Public Library AGM as part of my launch), meant that I wasn’t able to connect with an audience in the way I’d hoped to.
In a nutshell, the editorial process, and the sense of achievement around what I’d created was spot on, the last bit of the publishing process in terms of sales, reach, awareness etc. – not so much. In retrospect, it would have been helpful if I’d have contacted the groups I joined after publication, such as the 2020/2021 Debuts Facebook ones, or the Twitter Women’s Writers Network, before.
I am working on Sisters Of The Storm, the first of the Children Of The Gods trilogy, to which Mother of Floods was the prequel. I still haven’t decided whether the lessons I have learned are of help or a hindrance!
What advice would you give to writers starting out?
Write because you love it, for the sake of the story and because you can’t do anything else. Write without expectations, other than to tell the story to the best of your ability.
Connect with writers groups and organisations to help you along the way, and if you can afford it learn how to put together your novel with professional help. Be open minded about the support you might need. No matter how much experience of other kinds of writing you might have, creating a full length piece of fiction is something in and of itself. Pentoprint.org has a number of free events and classes and Write On! magazine (I’m the editor) is all about creating connections and a safe space for writers, emerging and established, to come together by sharing heir work as well as experience, strength and hope.
Someone once told me, getting your work published is a bit like a game of blind man’s bluff… each rejection, each stage is a learning experience. You will get there in the end, as long as you are prepared to keep learning, keep connecting and above all, fundamentally believe in the story you want to tell.
Madeleine was born in Germany, with roots in Canada and the UK. A magazine publisher and editor, she has produced national and international web and print magazines, creating a voice for those without one, such as the successful Nina-Iraq, a project she worked on with the World Bank to reach out to Iraqi women everywhere. Since 2019, she has been founder/editor of Write On! magazine and Write on Extra e-zine, published by Pen to Print, an Arts Council NPO organisation.
- Mother Of Floods was published by Crowsnest Books 2020
- Placed in National Pen to Print Poetry Competition
- Short stories publication on Thanet Writers
- Contributor to SOS: Surviving Suicide Poetry Anthology with Benjamin Zephaniah
- 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 on Thanet Writers
- Creator and Editor Write On! Magazine + Write On! Extra
- Co-founder and former Editor Nina-Iraq Magazine
- International Women’s Day Speaker
- Senior Advisor to the Board Make Trade Sweden
Mother Of Floods is available online and in bookshops in the UK, US and Canada and through Amazon and other online retailers. Sisters Of The Storm, a companion novel, is due for release in 2023.
Connect with Madeleine:
Madeleine White: firstname.lastname@example.org
Socials: Twitter + Insta @madeleinefwhite
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