THE SCENT OF GARDENIAS: An Interview with Lorraine Haas

When a writer discovers her mother’s secret past, she is compelled to tell her story in The Scent of Gardenias. (Photo courtesy Canva)

The older we get, the easier it is to see our parents from the same vantage point as an outsider would. As such, we’ve often found that we gain better understanding of choices they have made over the years, some of them having been made even before we were born. As author Lorraine Haas wrote her latest book, The Scent of Gardenias, she delved deep into her mother’s past to fictionalize her life story and gained similar insights along the way. She shares some of what she learned in this enlightening interview. We hope you enjoy it! —J&H

Interview banner

J&H: There’s something about survivor stories that really captures our imagination, and in today’s novel, The Scent of Gardenias, the protagonist is a woman who defies the odds. To tell us more about her is the book’s author, Lorraine Haas. Lorraine, welcome!

LH: Thanks Jathan and Heather. I agree that stories of overcoming circumstances help us to envision how we can handle and overcome our own problems in life.

J&H: Every author we chat with has their own reasons for writing about a person, time, or place that is personal to them. What is it in The Scent of Gardenias that compelled you to sit and write this fascinating story?

LH:  It is inspired by my mother’s story. It wasn’t until she passed away that I learned the full story and as it stuck in my mind, I would share it with others who said I had to write it. As I began it, more characters “showed up” and the story took off.

J&H: What challenges did you face fictionalizing your mom’s life?

LH: Being so close to the story. I worked with someone to help me take what is a powerful plot line and develop a character and timeline that works for this story. In some ways, I got to be introduced to my mother as a young woman that I’d never known and in other ways, the character is her own person.

J&H: While digging into your mother’s past, did you find that your relationship with her changed at all, even if only in your own head? How and why do you think that happened?

LH: Yes. As I wrote some of the scenes my heart broke for the character. It was then that it hit me what emotional trauma my mother had experienced as a young woman. I wish I could share with her today how many readers have spoken of Margaret’s fortitude and ability to keep moving forward with her life, and thus, her own life.

J&H: Margaret Rose also has complicated relationships with several of the men in her life. What do you think helped her deal with them and what lessons do you hope readers will take away from how she deals with these situations?

LH: While we may not experience the same things that Margaret does, there are many women who can relate to some of the things she’s experienced (and have said so in reviews, etc.) Because Margaret’s father played such an important role in how her life evolved, I wanted to show that he had a back story as well. The lesson we can take away is trying to understand the other person and the reasons why they act or react the way they do. That said, we are all accountable for the way we treat others. Margaret stood up for herself in a time when that was rare.

J&H: For a time, Margaret Rose is a single mother. What difficulties did this present, and do you think single parents still face similar challenges and decisions even now?

LH: Having been a single mother myself for a while, it is difficult juggling your desires with wanting to do the best thing for your children. Margaret struggles with this a lot and it causes her to make some bad decisions. Along the way, I’ve made bad decisions as well. Today, single mothers do have more access to work opportunities and childcare, but it wasn’t the case during Margaret’s time and divorce was as bad as a scarlet D on the chest. Sadly, divorce today is more commonplace. I’d never wish divorce on my worst enemy.

J&H: We oftentimes hear people comment that the world seems bleak or hopeless these days. What helped Margaret Rose maintain her hope and how do you think we as readers can learn from her example?  

LH: This is a somewhat difficult question to answer as I contemplate how my mother did it versus Margaret. I think for my mother, her faith and tenacity sustained her. She came from an impoverished background where she just “got on with it” and so I think when she fell, she simply dusted herself off and kept going. Margaret is similar in that she had no choice. Once when I was discouraged, I had a friend who said, “It’s okay to have a pity party but at some point you run out of drinks.” Life isn’t fair. Bad things, even horrible things happen every day. Especially in our times, it can seem hopeless, and despair can attack us. We need to recognize those emotions are normal, go ahead, have that pity party. Then dust yourself off and refuse to let the bad destroy the good that is all around you. As I write this, my glass patio door which shattered at some point either on Saturday or Sunday is now losing chunks of glass. It’s a fairly minor thing in the scheme of things. I’ve called the insurance adjuster and I know at some point I’ll have a new door. But in the moment, it feels like that last straw on the camel’s back. Someone reading this may feel the same about something that is going on in their own life. I have to remind myself that “this too shall pass” and take five deep breaths. Though easier said than done!

J&H: Before we forget, we just want to say how much we love the cover of your book! Did you have much say about choosing the right artwork for your story? What message did you want to convey with the cover?

LH: Covers are so important as they convey the genre, the themes, etc. For instance, most historical fiction shows the woman facing away. In this case, Margaret is seeking her future. The trees with the hanging moss give a hint to the geography, and the light represents new beginnings yet also closing doors. Yes, I had a lot of input into the cover.

J&H: Finally, now that you’ve told your mom’s story, what are you working on next?

LH: I’m currently narrowing down three possibilities. First, a story about one of the other characters in the book, continuing Margaret’s or even her daughter’s story, or a totally new one set back during the Revolutionary war. I’ve asked my newsletter what they’d like to see next and there was no clear winner. Right now, I’m working on other writing projects but doing research and outlining on each of those possibilities.

J&H: The book is The Scent of Gardenias, and you can order it now from Jathan & Heather Books and everywhere else fine books are sold. Lorraine, thanks so much for chatting with us. Please come again soon.

LH: Thanks for having me Jathan and Heather. I appreciate your sharing Margaret’s story and my book with your readers. If anyone wants to read an excerpt from The Scent of Gardenias, they can go to and check it out.

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Synopsis banner
Morewellson, Ltd.

She had big dreams. But will war, tragedy, and naïveté ruin her aspirations?

America, the 1940s, Margaret Rose longs to escape her family’s poverty. So against her domineering father’s wishes, the determined young woman elopes with an older man. But shortly after the US enters WWII, her grand ambitions sink when her husband’s ship is torpedoed.

Training to become a nurse to give herself a future, Margaret’s despair deepens when she discovers she’s pregnant and is forced to quit to have the baby. And now without income to support a child, the desperate widow marries a man who takes her far from home… and into disaster.

Will Margaret rise above catastrophic misfortune and create the life she deserves?

Poignant and heartfelt, The Scent of Gardenias chronicles the struggle of a Twentieth-Century woman carving a place in a society stacked against her odds. Based on her mother’s true story, Lorraine Haas lays bare a brave and challenging journey of grit and self-discovery you won’t soon forget.

The Scent of Gardenias is a beautifully crafted women’s fiction novel. If you like raw emotional battles, family drama, and gut-wrenching dilemmas, then you’ll love Lorraine Haas’s tale of courage and tenacity.

About the author banner

Lorraine Haas is a lover of life, learning, and leisure. She’s been accused far too often of being a strong woman, and even that she was raised to be too “independent.” She loves stories of women overcoming obstacles and thus, decided to write about them. She loves men–being married to one, the mother of one, and friends with many.

To learn more, visit, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, BookBub, and Goodreads.

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By Lorraine Haas
414 pp. Morewellson, Ltd. $19.99

Purchase The Scent of Gardenias direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, or Walmart.

The Scent of Gardenias is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.


About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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