Author Interview with Heather McBriarty: Amid the Splintered Trees


Today, the Book’s Delight is happy to chat with Heather McBriarty, author of a WWI tale, Amid the Splintered Trees.

JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Heather. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

HM- Hi, thanks for having me here! I live in Atlantic Canada, in a historic city by the sea. My passion – other than writing – is sailing, so for me a perfect day is spent on my boat, sailing and swimming, then finding a sheltered cove for the night, where I can sit and read, and be rocked to sleep in my bunk. My boat is where I wrote much of my first book!

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

HM- When I was young, I was obsessed with ancient Egyptian history so much so that I wanted to be an Egyptologist/archeologist. To be honest, I still do when I grow up (*she says as a 59-year-old*).  I used to write my English class notes in Egyptian hieroglyphics which drove my teacher crazy – not that it was anything she had to read. Then I became interested in and read a lot of Iron age/Roman era/dark ages/medieval English history. I love watching Time Team! However, five years ago, I “discovered” the First World War and that period has become a passion. It is the people involved and their experiences, rather than battle strategy or weaponry.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

HM- I think Hatshepsut, the queen/Pharoah of Egypt, stands the test of time as my most admired (female!) historical figure. She was smart, strong and did not let men tell her what she could do or how high she could rise. She broke a big glass ceiling! Honestly, I think I’d be too intimidated to ask her anything, but I am curious how she negotiated her way to the throne.

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

HM- It began as a pre-teen while trying to write my own fictional story of ancient Egypt. I spent too many hours imagining what it would really be like to live in those times. I felt a need to walk through the lives, in those people’s shoes – or sandals - to piece together what I had learned about the time and make it real… if only on paper. That has not changed in the intervening decades. Frankly, historical fiction is what I love to read, so it only seems the done thing that I write it.

JMR- Did you visit anyone of the places in your book? Where did you feel closest to your characters?

HM- One of the locations in my novel is Halifax, Nova Scotia which I have visited many times. It is where my grandmother lived and experienced life in 1914-1918. Just last November, I traveled to France and Belgium, to visit Vimy Ridge, the Somme and the Ypres Salient. It was standing on the top of Vimy Ridge, looking down over the slopes the Canadians stormed up, imaging my main character, Will, in their midst. He represents all those brave, scared, determined men who won the ridge that stormy Easter Monday in April 1917, the ridge that the French and British tried and failed to take in two years of fighting. It was hugely emotional.

JMR- Heather, tell us about your book, Amid the Splintered Trees.

HM- Amid is the story of two young lovers, Will and Emma, who want the simplest things in life – marriage, children, a long life of happiness. Their biggest obstacle seems Emma’s determination to break into medicine and become a doctor despite her gender. But 1914 has other plans and they are torn apart by circumstances beyond their control, the most brutal and bloody war in history. Can they ever pull the pieces of their lives together again? Can either of them survive the traumatic events of those four devastating years?

JMR- Your story was inspired by your grandmother. Can you tell us about her and how she influenced this book?

HM- There is a little of both my grandparents in this book. My grandmother (before she met my grandfather) was in love with a classmate who felt it his duty to serve at the Western Front. He was one of the First Canadian Contingent to go over in 1914. Sadly, he did not survive the war, even though his letters to her survive today. They make the bulk of my first book (non-fiction) and sparked my interest in WWI. She didn’t know, from one letter to the next, if he was still alive. He often mentioned how he longed to see her again, to return to her if he “should be spared”. How emotionally devastating would that have been? I wondered what if he had survived, how changed would he have been when he came home? He was so afraid he would be changed and not the person she had known.

My grandfather was a medical student in Halifax during the war and met my grandmother after her young man’s death. He experienced the great Halifax explosion of December 1917 (the largest man-made explosion in history until Hiroshima) which killed and injured thousands, and spent the first three days after it in the hospital helping treat the victims. He had a female classmate at the time, so I put Emma in her place. Yes, Grandad is obliquely mentioned in my book, and my grandmother’s young man makes a cameo appearance.

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

HM- I’m working on a novel told from the point of view of a woman who, as a small child, loses her father to the fighting at Vimy Ridge. It is the story of the impact at home and in the decades following, of those lost to the war.

I have an idea for a sequel to Amid also inspired by my grandparent’s life in China in the first half of the 1920s where my father was born. Grandad went as a medical missionary and there were several female doctors trying to bring health care to Chinese women, most of whom were sequestered and not allowed to see male doctors. It was a tumultuous period of Chinese history, between the fall of the Imperial family and the rise of Communism. My grandparents fled the warring in the interior of China in 1926, leaving everything behind but their 4 small boys. And what if Will and Emma had a son who fought in WWII? Book 3!

 I also have notes for a triple timeline book that involves Vikings, WWI and the present day… not at all complicated!

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

HM- I have a website – – where I have a blog, links to my books and social media, and my reviews for one of Canada’s biggest book review sites. I am on Instagram, Twi… er, X, Threads and Bluesky under my name, and have a Facebook page, Somewhere in Flanders

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

HM- Actually, you covered it all!

JMR- Thank you Heather for stopping by and for your wonderful interview. I love Time Team as well and watched all the shows! Readers, I've included a link for Heather's book below, be sure to check it out. 


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