Wednesday, April 10, 2024

When the Ocean Flies by Heather G. Marshall NBtM Virtual Book Tour


I’m in love with research. I’ve loved it since I was a wee girl, roaming the stacks of the public library in Kilmarnock, Scotland. My favorite research thread for When the Ocean Flies was women’s history in Scotland. There’s an epistolary section in which Eilidh is writing letters to Jayne. To avoid spoilers, I won’t explain that relationship any further here, but will say that Eilidh is, in the first several letters, offering Jayne the stories that have been handed down to her through generations of women in her long line of family who have lived on a small island off the west coast of Scotland for as long as it has been populated. I grew up in Scotland and was familiar with all the history we get in school, but I was looking to dig more deeply into buried stories relating to women, which led me to the suffrage movement, to witch trials, to women warriors, Viking and Roman battles, ancient myths and legends and the old ways of being in the world. 

In my research, I read about Eilean nam Ban Mora (The Isle of the Big Women), another name for Eigg, one of the Small Islands in the Hebrides, and Eilean nam Ban (Island of the Women) near the island of Iona. This, and the tales of women who were warriors and queens in the Scottish islands inspired both the name of the island—Eilean nam Ban Cailleach—that Eilidh is from as well as the stories she recounts in some of her letters.

(Since the island in the novel is a fictitious one based on these islands, I’m including photos of a few different Scottish islands.)

An email from a stranger tells Alison Earley that her natural father, whom she has known for only six years, has died suddenly. What begins as a short trip back to Scotland for a funeral soon becomes a journey that puts adoption, sexuality, and identity on a collision course as Alison finds herself caught between the life and family she has so carefully constructed on one continent and the family from which she was taken on another.

Shunned by her father's family, reunited with her natural mother, and reconnected with a long-lost love, Alison finds herself trying to shepherd her youngest child towards college while questioning everything she thought she knew about herself.

When her natural mother uncovers a series of letters written to Alison from the grandmother she never knew, resurrecting stories of generations of women--stories long buried by patriarchal rule--Alison realizes that she must find the courage to face and reveal the secrets of her own past. At what cost, though? And who and what will be left in the aftermath?

When the Ocean Flies explores the pain of separation and abuse, and the power of love to heal even over huge gaps in time and geographical distance.

Buy links for When the Ocean Flies



Barnes and Noble:

Blue microfiche, the image yellowed. Alison perched on the edge of the chair. There was her name. Not her name, now. Not Alison. The one she started with: Jayne. Jayne Kerr. The handwriting small and neat. Mother’s name: Mary MacGilavry Kerr. 


And Mary.

The tight signature at the bottom: her mother’s signature. She lifted one hand to the screen. Her chest clenched. She pulled her notebook from her bag, copied the name, as though she was likely to forget. Father’s name ______________.

Heat. Red cheeks in this gray basement. She wished she were stoat, or beaver, water creature, able to dive down. Cool, dark water. She held her breath. Held her tears. Who are these people? This Mary? This Jayne? Who am I? Jayne and Alison, like two separate people, with two separate lines of possibility, one body. No father. She couldn’t look at it a second longer.

She pushed the chair back, suddenly taken by the need to burst up, out, back to light and air. 

Heather G. Marshall is an adoptee, author, speaker, teacher, coach, and traveler. Her short fiction has been published in a variety of journals, including Black Middens: New Writing Scotland, and Quarried, an anthology of the best of three decades of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. Her first novel, The Thorn Tree, released in 2014 (MP Publishing). Her TED talk, “Letting Go of Expectations,” centers around her adoption and reunion. Her second novel, When the Ocean Flies, released in February 2024 (Vine Leaves Press). In her writing, Heather explores family, adoption, women (especially older ones), the natural environment, and how these intersect. When she isn’t writing, she likes to hike, travel, practice yoga and meditation, do a wee bit of knitting, and, of course, read. Originally from Scotland, Heather is currently based in Massachusetts.



Instagram: @heather_g_marshall


Heather G. Marshall will award a randomly drawn winner a $20 Amazon/BN GC.


  1. Thank you so much for featuring WHEN OCEAN FLIES today.

  2. This looks really good. Thanks for hosting this tour.

  3. If anyone has any questions, I'll be popping in throughout the day and am happy to answer!

  4. If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?


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