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<<October 2016>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: historical fiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,161
26. Listen in on the What Should I Read Next podcast

I recently talked with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy on her new podcast, What Should I Read Next. We discussed verse novels, why I’m uncomfortable talking publicly about books I don’t enjoy, and being a generous reader.

After recording, I realized I misspoke about something and want to set the record straight. I said Mimi from Full Cicada Moon could have been friends with my May Betterly, if the two had been real girls. But I realized it was my Alis and Kimi that I thought would befriend Mimi. You can find literary friends for May here.

Anne and I had an invigorating conversation, one that left me with two new library books on my nightstand. I hope you’ll listen in!


Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Listen in on the What Should I Read Next podcast originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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27. Battle of Reviews: THE GLITTERING COURT by Richelle Mead // Restores Your Faith In Mead Books..

By Becca... THE GLITTERING COURT By Richelle Mead Series: Glittering Court #1 Hardcover: 416 pages Publisher: Razorbill (April 5th, 2016) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead. For a select group of

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28. THE GLITTERING COURT by Richelle Mead // Disappointment Is An Understatement..

Review by Sara.. THE GLITTERING COURT By Richelle Mead Series: Glittering Court #1 Hardcover: 416 pages Publisher: Razorbill (April 5th, 2016) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.For a select group

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29. Thursday Review: THE NAMELESS CITY by Faith Erin Hicks

Synopsis: If you keep up with Finding Wonderland, you'll know I already have plenty of awe and amazement for graphic novelist Faith Erin Hicks. (See reviews here, here, and here, and interview here.) Her latest contribution—officially to be... Read the rest of this post

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30. STONE FIELD by Christy Lenzi \\ A Wuthering Heights Retelling

Review by Krista  STONE FIELDby Christy LenziInspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Hardcover: 320 pagesPublisher: Roaring Brook Press (March 29, 2016)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon A stunning debut novel that offers a new look at a classic love story about soul mates torn apart by the circumstances of their time.Catrina Dickinson is haunted by her past and

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31. A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson

      On the morning of Barbed Wire Sunday, the people of East Berlin woke up to the sound of sirens. Investigating, they found that the government had found a way to stop them from leaving: the Berlin Wall. It was a great fence separating East Berlin from West Berlin. The two parts of Germany had been on tight terms for a while, and rumors of a third world war were plentiful.

      The one hundred yards of smooth dirt leading up to the wall was called the "Death Strip." And the fence slowly evolved over the years into a 11.8 foot cement wall. Guardtowers were set on top, where soldiers would point their guns at anyone trying to escape East Berlin.

      For twelve year-old Gerta, the rise of the Berlin Wall takes something more than freedom from her. A couple of days before Barbed Wire Sunday, her father and brother had traveled into West Berlin. The fence had split her family into two parts just like Germany.

     Gerta knows she must take her remaining family members in the East to meet her family members in the West. But escaping isn't easy, and getting caught means death.

  The German police threaten Gerta's family often, but the violence is minimal up until the end. I recommend it for 11+.

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32. By The Stars

By the Stars. Lindsay B. Ferguson. 2016. Cedar Fort. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Do you enjoy reading books about World War II? Do you enjoy reading romance novels? Would you find it refreshing to read a book with Mormon characters that isn't about polygamy and sister wives? By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson may be just the book you're looking for. The book is primarily set in Utah, except for the chapters that follow our hero, Cal, to training camp and war. The story has a framework, someone has come to Cal's home to interview him. Subsequently, Cal is telling his story--his and Kate's story humbly and simply. Most of the book, I suppose, is what I'd call a flashback.

Cal and Kate met in junior high school. Their lockers were next to each other. For him, it was love at first sight. For her, well, she wasn't looking for love right then. And while she was friendly enough, she wasn't overly interested in being best-best friends or having him as a boyfriend. But that was then. The book gives readers glimpses of their encounters, meetings. A scene here and there spread out over ten years.

I can see why these glimpses had to be so short and almost disconnected. To keep the story moving. After all, if the narrative were continuous, and the book started when he was in eighth grade, the book would be at least a couple hundred more pages. And it would have a lot more angst more likely. That being said, I had a hard time at first really connecting with the characters. This didn't stay the case by any means. But it was almost like I was waiting for the "real" story to begin.

After Cal returns from his three year mission trip for the church (which we learn little about besides his bus trip there, and his first day there), he reconnects with Kate. But don't imagine for a second, that it will be easy to woo her. For Kate won't easily be persuaded to say "I do" to anyone. She doesn't, she asserts again and again, believe in marriage....

Cal's time in the war was in the last year. Readers get glimpses of the war as well....

Once the romance starts, the story picks up. If you like romance, I think this one will work for you. I have to be in the exact right mood for romance. (I think of Anne Shirley needing just the right kind of pen in order to be able to right mushy love letters to Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Windy Poplars.) I wasn't in that right mood while I was reading this one. But even so, I found it enjoyable enough.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Straight From the Source: Author Kate Hannigan on Writing Historical Fiction

Kate Hannigan writes fiction and non-fiction for young readers. She got hooked on historical fiction when she discovered a copy of The Thorn Birds on the tippy-top highest shelf when she was in seventh grade – clearly forbidden reading, which made it even better! She used to work in daily newspapers but now spends her time down the rabbit hole researching her next books. The Detective’s Assistant was named a 2016 Golden Kite Award winner from SCBWI, a Booklist “Best of 2015” pick, as well as a “Best of the Best 2015” book with Chicago Public Library. Visit Kate online at KateHannigan.com.

Detectives Assistant cover medium

Why is historical fiction important?

It’s a window into the past, and for children who are meeting historical figures for the first time in our books, it’s so important that we engage and inform as well as entertain. If a reader really takes to a historical fiction work, then that might open up a whole new world to them. They might dig deep into learning more about a particular era in history, or pursue more historical work. It’s very exciting!

What kinds of sources do you use? 

I try to do full-immersion research, and I tap from anywhere I can find material. Right now, for a new project, I have a couple documentaries I’m watching, stacks of library books (shhh, don’t turn me in, but I use FOUR cards for our public library; mine and my three kids’ cards), original writing or reporting when I can find it, as well as museum trips so I can see and absorb all I can.

For The Detective’s Assistant, I was wandering the Chicago History Museum when I saw their beautiful exhibit of Daguerrotypes. And I knew at that moment that a framed photo like I was seeing in the museum would play a part in my book.

To get a sense of the language of the times, I try to read books that would have been in circulation at the time my book is set. So for The Detective’s Assistant, I read books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which published in 1852 but would have still been read and discussed when my book is set in 1859. Sister Carrie, which came later, helped me understand the desperation a woman might feel moving to the big city and trying to fend for herself in the 19th century.

I found a copy of “Godey’s Ladies Book,” the popular magazine of the 1850s, for sale on eBay. So I got an 1856 copy and read what women in my book might have been reading. And newspapers! I am a former newspaper gal, so my heart is with newspaper research. The headlines, the way stories are presented, the language of the times: newspaper archives are a rich source of understanding the day to day living.

What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

Sometimes the subject of our research has been obliterated by time. For the research into Kate Warne’s life, I had to rely on Allan Pinkerton’s writing. But the Great Fire that wiped out Chicago in 1871 destroyed Pinkerton’s detailed record-keeping of his operatives and cases. So what I could find of her was very limited.

What is your favorite thing about research?

It is endless! It’s like falling down a rabbit hole.

What’s your least favorite thing about research?

It is endless! It’s like falling down a rabbit hole!

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

There was a whole lot of Underground Railroad research in my book, as well as the buildup to the Civil War. And best of all, Abe Lincoln. I learned so many interesting things by reading so much about this era. I’d say the most interesting thing I read, among so many wonderful anecdotes, had to do with the connective tissue of Life.

People might already know this one, but it was fascinating to me to learn that Lincoln’s son Robert was once saved from grave injury or death by John Wilkes Booth’s brother, Edwin Booth, a popular actor. Robert Lincoln was waiting for a train in 1863 or ’64 when he was jostled by the crowd and fell into the gap between a moving train and the platform. Robert Lincoln recalled the incident later:
. . . the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.
Such a human moment – one individual coming to the aid of another. We know what transpired just a year or so later between Edwin’s brother and Robert’s father. It reminds me how our lives are all so closely intertwined. And it’s one of the reasons why I love history!

The post Straight From the Source: Author Kate Hannigan on Writing Historical Fiction originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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34. My Writing and Reading Life: Alexandra S.D. Hinrichs, Author of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry

Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs, author of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry, loves exploring new places, including France, where she once studied.

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35. GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT by Monica Hesse // Good Historical Mystery With Beautifully Written, Complex Characters

Review by Sara.. GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT By Monica Hesse Hardcover: 320 pages Published by: Little, Brown (April 5, 2016) Language: English Grades: 9 Up Goodreads | Amazon  An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible timesThe missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do. Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering

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36. Guest Post: Janet S. Fox on Blending History With Fantasy

By Janet S. Fox
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Some of my favorite books ever are the books of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. The fantasy of leaving home and entering a land where a child can experience talking animals, mythological creatures, desperate (and deadly) battles - where a child can be perceived as making real, respected choices - where good deeds are rewarded by kindness and love and bad deeds are punished, but only by "just desserts" - I read these books (and still read them) over and over.

They articulated lessons without didacticism. Included in those lessons were reflections of the real world of the characters, World War II era England, and an interesting Arthurian tilt to the Pevensie children's experiences of Narnia.

So for me, the young reader, reading these books in America during the post-war years, they had the taste of something "historical" and of course foreign.

And then there were the myths and fairy tales I devoured. The Red Fairy Book, the Anderson and Grimms's tales, Greek and Roman myths and legends - I read these over and over, too. In my mind history became inextricably linked with the fantastic.

And why shouldn't it? The truth is that we are all shaped by perception, and even history is subject to personal interpretation. (If you don't believe me, check out the new hit musical "Hamilton".)

My first three novels are historical YA romances. When I wrote Faithful (Speak/Penguin, 2010), set in 1904 Yellowstone, I sought to capture the natural magic inherent in that environment of spouting geysers and colorful hot springs.

In my second YA, Forgiven (Speak/Penguin, 2011), I tried to capture the dark magic of the terrible 1906 San Francisco earthquake. By the time I wrote my third YA, Sirens (Speak/Penguin, 2012), set in 1925, I added full-on fantastical elements, including a ghost, an approach I felt was consistent with the 1920s obsession with spiritualism and magic.

I realized that as a writer I was drawing closer and closer to crafting books like the ones that so captivated me as a kid. It has become my goal, now, to try and evoke the same wonder in my readers as I felt when I was young.

Yes, fantasy is my aim, but having written history, I became game to try a blend of the two genres. My newest book, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle (Viking, 2016), is that blend.

It's set in World War II; the children are sent out of London during the Blitz; there are enigma machines and short-wave radios and even spies. But...there are also ghosts, and magicians, and a ghastly monster, and only magic can save the day (while itself being a double-edged sword.)

Whether writing historical fiction or fantasy, the objective of suspension of disbelief can only be accomplished if the world-building is sound. In historical fiction, that means lots of research to get interesting tidbits right. In fantasy, it means crafting an environment in which those interesting tidbits feel right.

I loved writing The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. I loved being able to play with a world that is both real and fantastical, where terrible and beautiful things did happen, and could happen. I can't wait to try it again.

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37. A Sudden, Fearful Death

A Sudden, Fearful Death. Anne Perry. 1993. 464 pages. [Source: Library]

A Sudden, Fearful Death is the fourth book in Anne Perry's William Monk mystery series. I am definitely settling into the series and enjoying it very much! To catch up readers:

William Monk, our detective-hero, has lost his memory. Occasionally, he'll get a flash of something resembling a memory. But for the most part, he's always got one case on the back of his mind: his own. He's piecing together who he was. What he's learned so far is that he was an absolutely horrible jerk that most everyone hated. He does NOT want to be that guy anymore.

Hester Latterly, our heroine, was one of the "Florence Nightingale" nurses during the Crimean war. Her employment since coming home is irregular but somewhat steady. Usually, she's a private nurse. In this book, however, she's going undercover at a hospital...

Oliver Rathbone is a lawyer--a barrister--on "friendly" terms with both William Monk and Hester Latterly. He's even invited Hester to meet his dad, Henry! I've come to greatly appreciate him. He has at various times hired William Monk to do detective work for him.

Lady Callandra Daviot is a saint--nearly. She helps William Monk find work as a private investigator. When he's in-between cases, she makes sure he has enough to see him through. She takes an interest in some of his more interesting cases. She is very good friends with Hester. At times she's helped Hester find suitable employment as well.

These four are our "main characters" that we spend a lot of time with in each book in the series.

The opening of A Sudden, Fearful Death reminded me of some of Wilkie Collins' books--in a good way. I was absolutely hooked though a bit confused since I didn't see how these opening chapters could connect with the book's description on the back cover. The chapters serve as a compelling prologue of sorts--an overture.

The premise: Prudence Barrymore, a nurse at a London hospital, is murdered. Lady Callandra herself discovers the body--in a laundry chute, I believe. Who murdered her? The police, of course, are on the case, but Lady Callandra doesn't fully trust the police to get it right. She hires William Monk to do some investigating for her, and Hester goes undercover as a nurse to see if she can help out on the case. The murderer works at the hospital most likely, and important clues could still be found by close observation. Most of this case focuses on WHY would anyone want to kill her? Several motives are suggested by those involved in the case--prosecution and defense--but, it takes some thinking outside the box to find the right motive and the murderer.

One of the themes in this one is women's rights--or lack thereof. Prudence Barrymore had ONE big dream in life, to be a doctor, but as a woman she faced huge obstacles. Everyone thought they knew what was best for her: give up her idea of doctoring, even of nursing, and MARRY quickly before someone realizes you're thirty-ish. Her family, instead of being proud of her for being so extraordinarily good at what she does, was disappointed and ashamed that she was so unnatural. Very few "understood" her and accepted her as she was.

In addition to reminding me of a Wilkie Collins' novel, this one also reminded me of the show Law and Order SVU. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about how rape and sexual assault would have been viewed in the 1850s. About how the victims would in most cases rather die than go to the police to report the crime, and the thought of pursuing justice in court--NEVER. This book deals with how rape is viewed in society, and, also abortion.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. Top Posts of All Time


In 2009 I stopped teaching without any publishing prospects, but with the burning conviction it was time to put everything behind my efforts to finally sell a book. I did what every other aspiring author was doing then: I started a blog.

A few months later, I signed with my first agent. Four months after that, May B. was under contract. Through highs and lows this blog has been a constant, a place for me to think through ideas, share bits of encouragement, introduce readers to new books, and celebrate my own. Whether you’ve been here from the beginning or are entirely new, I thank you for the ways you’ve added to the conversation and become a key part of my writing life.

Over the next few months I plan to highlight key posts that have risen to the top. Today’s are the posts that are read most often (I wrote this before last week, when this post, now the top post of all time, went live). While my sense is most regular readers are aspiring writers, it’s interesting to note these posts almost exclusively speak to teachers, librarians, and parents looking to share books with their children.

Running a Book Club for Kids

The first post in a series based on my experience running after-school book clubs, this post has been number one around here for years. Included in the post are links to the rest of the series.

girls and pearls

The Gift of Friendship

I love knowing that the second most-widely read post on the blog is essentially a love letter to my dear friend, Jamie C. Martin, whose own book comes out later this year. The post touches on the ways friends bolster and inspire us, in this case how Jamie pushed me to be brave when writing Blue Birds.

Third-Grade Book Club Reading Lists

Straight from my after-school book club days, this is the list I used with third-grade readers, plus a run down of everything I included in my Welcome to Book Club handout.

Classroom Connections: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Lynda’s had a pretty phenomenal year, hitting the NYT Bestseller’s List with her second middle-grade novel, Fish in a Tree, and going on to win the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, which “embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” This interview includes links to Lynda’s website and educator’s guide.

Fast Five: Novels About Teachers and Their Students

This one’s been a favorite for a long time, with a number of oldie but goodies sure to inspire.


Reading in the Wild: 5 Things Wild Readers Do

Teacher turned author turned Scholastic Press guru, Donalyn Miller, has written two glorious books about reading and teaching that I devoured. This post is one of several that grew out of her second book, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. Read our interview based on Donalyn’s first book, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, here.

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Top Posts of All Time originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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39. Author Interview: Deborah Hopkinson on Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

By Deborah Hopkinson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

What was your initial inspiration for writing Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (Schwartz & Wade, 2016)?

Actually, several years ago my agent, Steven Malk, mentioned that it might be fun to do a book about Beatrix Potter. After reading about her life (and enjoying the film "Miss Potter"), I became fascinated by her story, accomplishments, and legacy.

My first attempts at writing a nonfiction book about her failed, however. But when I went back to try again, I hit upon focusing on one incident from her journal that illustrates her love of animals and of art.

The promotional copy describes the story as "mostly true." So this is historical fiction, yes? Where did you honor the Potter's actual life and where did you creatively extrapolate?

It’s absolutely historical fiction! I do author visits at schools all over the country, and one of the first things students and I discuss is the distinction between nonfiction and historical fiction. I’ve been previewing the cover of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, and have found that even young children recognize that it’s a made up story (and slightly silly to boot).

In fact, some details in the story are based on fact, including the part where Beatrix borrowed from her neighbor a guinea pig named "Queen Elizabeth," which expired in the night from consuming a feast of paper, paste, and other scrumptious tidbits.

As I mention in the note, Beatrix was actually in her twenties when this occurred, but we have set the story when she was younger. The dialogue is invented also, although we do include several excerpts from her journal in the book.

I’ve included an author’s note of her life that also explains that the story is fictionalized.

What were other the challenges--research, craft, logistical and/or emotional--in bringing the story to life?

One of the aspects of Beatrix’s own creative process I wanted to emulate was the “picture letter.” She originally got the idea for The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) when writing a get well note to a young boy in the format of a letter that included spot art illustrations. I wanted to make this book a sort of picture letter itself.

Working with Charlotte Voake’s delightful illustrations, the amazing team editorial team of Anne Schwartz and Lee Wade (Schwartz & Wade) were able to capture that feeling for the book. For instance, even before you get to the title page, there is a spread that begins, “My Dear Reader…” which shows a hand penning the words. At the end, the story is signed by me and the author’s note is in the form of a postscript.

I’m always looking for ways that teachers and librarians can use books with students, and I think that, in addition to being an author and illustrator children enjoy, Beatrix Potter is a model for someone who began working on her craft as a child.

How did Charlotte Voake's illustrations enhance your text?

Charlotte’s work is absolutely perfect for this story! I love her illustrations of Beatrix’s pets, which are filled with wry humor.

Charlotte is British, and we’re excited that her British publisher, Walker, will be publishing the book in Great Britain in July to coincide with the 150th anniversary celebration of Beatrix Potter’s birth.

(This anniversary is, as you can imagine, rather a big deal in England, and the Royal Mint is even issuing special commemorative coins.)

What other new releases should your readers be sure to check out in 2016?

As it happens, 2016 is also the 150th anniversary of the founding of the ASPCA in April 1866. And this April I’m excited that my new historical fiction middle grade novel, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket, will be out from Knopf.

It’s set in New York City, and is narrated by a young Italian immigrant brought over to be a street musician. It also features appearances by actual historical figures involved with improving the rights of children and animals, including Jacob Riis and ASPCA founder Henry Bergh.

What advice do you have for fellow writers about historical research and blending facts with fiction?

In October 2016, I’ll be teaching a Highlights Foundation workshop (with Pamela Turner) on writing nonfiction for middle grade students. I taught this class last year, and one of our main discussion points was how to know when a project can -- or should be -- fiction or nonfiction.

I’ve always been a huge fan of both genres, and enjoy writing about the same historical periods in different ways. My first long work of nonfiction, Shutting out the Sky, Life in the Tenements of New York (Scholastic, 2003), came about because I had written a Dear America historical fiction book (Hear My Sorrow (Scholastic, 2004)) about the Triangle Waist Company fire. In A Bandit’s Tale, I am returning to the same setting but telling the story in a picaresque style.

I think the main point whether one is writing historical fiction or nonfiction is that the piece must work as a dramatic, compelling story. This sometimes means including less research than one might like – but, then, you never know when you might use it again.

Cynsational Notes

Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @deborahopkinson.

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40. Turning Pages Reads: LIONS IN THE GARDEN (The Uprising #1) by Chelsea Luna

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages! Synopsis: Ludmila Novakova is a girl of wealth and privilege. The daughter of the Chancellor, she has lived her seventeen years as the pampered denizen of Prague Castle, a good Catholic girl who accepts... Read the rest of this post

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41. Straight from the Source: Kristin O’Donnell Tubb on Writing Historical Fiction

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is the author of The 13th Sign, Selling Hope ,and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different . Watch for John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy this month (written as E.F. Abbott) and  Miss Daisy’s Job summer 2017. Tubb can be found far too often on Facebook and Twitter.  Oh, and she has a website, too.

What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

An era or idea usually precedes the character for me, and once I’ve done some research, it becomes clear what kind of character would struggle in that setting. It can be painful to write the underdog or the outsider, but it’s usually much richer story if that’s the case, and I find it’s easier to do so knowing a lot about what constitutes “underdoggedness” in a certain era. (I think I just made up a word. ☺ )

You do have a specific system for collecting data?

I still use the system that my freshman English teacher, Linda McGill taught us! The method is this: each source gets a number depending on when I’ve read it/taken notes from it. Each notecard (more on that in a bit!) is one fact, and it’s coded with that source number and the page number or the specific URL where the information was found. After I’m done researching (which for John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy was four months, but for Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different was four years), the notecards are spread and shuffled EVERYWHERE to create the story outline. Once the outline is complete, the cards are finally put in subject-order, things like “Church,” “Medicines,” “Foods,” etc.

While I’m drafting the book, I look at these categories often: “Hmmm, what kind of a hymn would be sung at a funeral?” And because it’s coded with a source and page number, I can always go back to that source. For every book I’ve written, I’ve needed to, at some point, relocate a source to clarify a fact. So it’s a useful system for me. Thank you again, Ms. McGill!

And regarding notecards: I don’t use them any more, although I did for both Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different – my debut – and Selling Hope. Everything is in a Word document now, though all facts are still coded with a source and page number!

What kinds of sources do you use? 

For Autumn Winifred Oliver, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a goldmine of primary sources: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an archives located in the basement of the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center. Cookbooks, photographs, hymnals, school books: all used by the folks who lived in Cades Cove, Tennessee.

For Selling Hope, I found an amazing resource in the online photograph collection hosted by the Chicago Historical Society. (Since the writing of that book, many local libraries, historical societies and universities have done this for their city. Be sure and use those historical societies! They LIVE for requests like the ones historical fiction writers ask!)

For John Lincoln Clem, I watched hours of Civil War reenactors on YouTube, particularly the drummers. It was critical to the book to capture the sound and cadence of the drum calls, and this was amazingly helpful. I use YouTube a lot. A LOT. Also eBay, which, when you search for a year and/or a city, will often produce fantastic results: jewelry, books, clothing, dinnerware, etc. I’ve also used classic advertisements to describe cars and clothing, and the want ads (my FAVORITE!) to gather unique and wonderful vocabulary for an era. Each book has taken me to unique places that I didn’t know existed.

What is your favorite thing about research?

My favorite thing about research is that it often builds my plot and my characters for me. I mentioned above that I sometimes craft a character based on who might be an awful fit for a certain time and place. In Selling Hope, for example, Hope is a homebody who longs for permanence based largely on my research of those nomadic vaudeville troops.

Research also often uncovers plot points that I know I’ll want to include in my story. In John Lincoln Clem, the research I did on the Civil War uncovered the fact that some soldiers, in their boredom, would pick a louse – a single lice bug – off their body and “race” them across a tin plate. The winner would get out of chores or win brass buttons. I knew this was a story kids would eat up, so it became part of the plot of the book. 

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

The answer is there, it just needs dusting off, possibly while wearing white gloves. Search and ye shall find! That, and writing historical fiction, to me, is just like writing contemporary fiction but with a more thorough setting, a tighter lens. What people want – love, togetherness, family, health, friends, to make a difference – never changes. Themes are everlasting. So uncovering what people want, and looking at that need within the scope of the era, is a very satisfying way to tell a story.

Why is historical fiction important?

Because themes are everlasting – because people still want now what they’ve always wanted – historical fiction reflects humanity’s attempts at achieving goals. Sometimes those goals are achieved beautifully. Sometimes they are a disaster. Historical fiction shows readers that our ancestors worked and played and struggled and won and failed – and survived. Humans have attempted many different ways to survive. Historical fiction reflects our wins and our losses.

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Straight from the Source: Kristin O’Donnell Tubb on Writing Historical Fiction originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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42. Monday Review: THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman

Summary: Calling all Regency period enthusiasts! Historical fantasy fans! Fans of books like A Dark and Terrible Beauty, the Stoker and Holmes books, anything by Robin LaFevers—I know those aren't Regency period, but you will definitely want to... Read the rest of this post

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43. The First Step – Perfect Picture Book Friday & Diversity Day

Another book for Black History Month. Title: the First Step, How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial Written by: Susan E. Goodman illustrated by: E. B. Lewis Published by: Bloomsbury, 2015 Genre: historical fiction, 40 pages Themes: segregation, discrimination in education, Boston, Sarah C Roberts, African Americans Ages: 7-11 Opening: Sarah Roberts was four … Continue reading

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44. Monday Review: A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller

The cover even LOOKS like a Libba Bray book...Summary: England in the Edwardian era…Besides bringing to mind a whole slew of fabulous Edward Gorey drawings, it was a time in which society was still stumbling out from under the long shadow of Queen... Read the rest of this post

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45. Top Ten Historical Fiction/Futuristic Books I Love...

From Becca's Shelves...  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & The Bookish. 
This week's topic is TOP TEN HISTORICAL/FUTURISTIC BOOKS I LOVE! I decided to do a few of each, because I can! Haha, plus I haven't read a ton of Historical YA books (or not enough that I absolutely loved like these). Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee - Under A Painted Sky was basically one of my top

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46. Turning Pages Reads: OF BETTER BLOOD by Susan Moger

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!Synopsis: One day she's leaping in the waves near the family's Paradise-by-the-Sea beach home, the fittest of the fit, dreaming of finishing Little Women and having a new best friend; the next moment her... Read the rest of this post

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47. The past made present | Class #3, 2016


Next Tuesday (February 9), Lauren’s class will be discussing several books. The theme for the day is “The past made present” so they will look at both historical fiction and nonfiction — including one book that’s a hybrid of the two.

Everyone will be reading One Crazy Summer; they will choose to read either No Crystal Stair or Bomb; and they are being asked to explore (but not necessarily read in full) either Claudette Colvin or Marching to Freedom.

We welcome all of you to join the discussion on these posts:

  • Two historical fiction books:
    • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
    • No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
  • Three nonfiction books:
    • Bomb: the Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
    • Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose
    • Marching For Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge

The post The past made present | Class #3, 2016 appeared first on The Horn Book.

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48. Two historical fiction books | Class #3, 2016

One Crazy Summer     No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Supplemental readings:

  • Rita Williams-Garcia’s profile in July/August 2007 Horn Book Magazine
  • No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Historical fiction is a balancing act of storytelling and character development with real-world events. How do these different aspects interact in each of these works? How do the authors engage readers in both the lives of the characters and their time and place in history?

The post Two historical fiction books | Class #3, 2016 appeared first on The Horn Book.

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49. SWEET HOME ALASKA by Carole Estby Dagg + Giveaway


Please tell us about your book.

Terpsichore Johnson is thrilled when her family is chosen for the Depression-era program that would transport 202 families from northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan all the way to Alaska to be self-sufficient farmers. She had always loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, and now she was going to have a chance to be a pioneer, just like Laura Ingalls.

She hadn’t realized, though, just what pioneering would mean – giving up inside plumbing, electricity, and even libraries! Worse yet, fumbled management of the project leaves some families in tents as the first snow falls.

Despite challenges, Terpsichore comes to love Alaska. Her mother, however, still misses their home in Wisconsin. What could Terpsichore do to make her mother love Alaska like she does? She hatches a plan that involves a giant pumpkin and a recipe for Jellied Moose Nose.

What drew you to this story?

When I think of the Depression, I think of the dust bowl, college-educated men selling pencils on the street corner, and lines at the soup kitchen. I never realized that New Deal programs extended up to Alaska until my son moved to Palmer, Alaska and bought a rustic cabin on the outskirts of town next to a potato field.

I’ve always liked old houses, and in researching the history of the early days of Palmer, I discovered transcriptions of interviews of old-timers who had moved up with the program in 1935. What a trove of first-hand accounts! If other people also hadn’t heard about the history of the Palmer Colony, maybe I should write a book about it. I couldn’t use all the incidents they described, but I combined many of them and assigned them to my fictional Terpsichore and her new friends.

Palmer tent city B1970_019_106

Palmer tent city

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

I love the AHA! moments when I find just the right info to connect the dots between previously known facts. Or to discover new info about historic characters I thought I knew. For instance, who knew that Will Rogers and his pilot, Wiley Post spent one of their last days visiting the Palmer Colony before crashing near Barrow, Alaska?

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

I discovered a recipe for Jellied Moose Nose – someone on the Internet rated it as one of the ten most revolting foods.

The other oddest incident I ran across also involved a moose. A grave was dug the day before a funeral and during the night, a moose fell into it. The graveside service had to be delayed until the attendees figured out how to get the moose out of the hole. I wish I’d figured out a way to include that incident into the book!

Deer by Writer's Shack

I’ve always been charmed by your writing cabin. Could you tell us a little about it?

My writer’s shack started out as a wood shed – cement foundation with sturdy posts at the corners to support a roof. It’s one of the nicest spots on our get-away property on San Juan Island. Facing one direction, there’s a sliver of a view through the trees of Mosquito Pass. Facing the opposite direction, there’s a view of Garrison Bay and English Camp, established during the mid-1800’s when English and Americans were trying to decide which country owned the island.

Those views were too good to waste on a wood shed, so I asked my husband if I could claim it as my writing spot. I thought we’d just close in the sides with plywood and run an electrical wire out, but my husband found salvaged, leaded-glass windows for the view sides and had a small door custom made.

It’s only 7 feet by 8 feet, but it has all I need. I have a flat door held up by sawhorses for a desk, two lights, and a plug-in for an electrical heater so I can use it year-round. It’s about 30 paces from the house and another cup of tea.

What are you working on next?

My next book will be based on the Pig War, which took place on San Juan Island. 


Enter to win your own copy of SWEET HOME ALASKA below. The contest closes Wednesday, February 17. US residents only, please.

Carole - leaning smile-124 Carole Estby Dagg also wrote the middle-grade historical novel The Year We Were Famous. She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and has lived in Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. She has degrees in sociology, library science, and accounting. Her real-life adventures include tiptoeing through King Tut’s tomb, sand boarding the dunes of western Australia, riding a camel among the Great Pyramids, paddling with Manta rays in Moorea, and smelling the penguins in the Falkland Islands. She is married with two children, two grandchildren, a husband, and a bossy cat who supervises her work. She splits her writing time between her study in Everett, Washington, and a converted woodshed on San Juan Island.

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Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post SWEET HOME ALASKA by Carole Estby Dagg + Giveaway originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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50. Guest Post: Shawn Stout on Historical Fiction: How Much Research Is Enough?

By Shawn K. Stout
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Several years ago I had a story idea swirling inside my head. It was about three sisters who try to clear their father’s name after he is accused of being a Nazi spy.

The story was based on the real-life experiences of my grandparents, whose restaurant in Maryland in 1939 was boycotted by the townspeople over my grandfather’s purported “secret back room” and rumors of espionage.

It was a story that was personal to me and to my mother and her two sisters, but I kept it safely locked away for a couple of reasons.

The first was that I had never written anything even close to historical fiction before, and the story ultimately would have elements of xenophobia, racism, and super-patriotism of that period—heavy themes that, when I thought of writing about them, gave me the willies. The other reason, and perhaps the bigger one, was that I didn’t know how to balance the knowledge of historical facts with telling a mostly fictional story.

Basically, I didn’t want to write a history book—one that was so bogged down in historical details that the characters were overshadowed by the time period.

When I finally got up enough gumption to give my idea a chance, I began by interviewing family members and others who worked at my grandparents’ restaurant. Then I dived into history books, newsreels, newspaper articles, old radio shows, spy movies, and World War II timelines. A lot was going on in 1939, apparently, and I spent months trying to learn it all.

Pretty quickly, though, I became overwhelmed. I had accumulated piles of folders, newspaper clippings, CDs of digital recordings, and at least a dozen notebooks labelled “Important Pieces of History.” And, unbelievable as it seemed, there was still more to know.

After spending nearly a year in 1939, I wondered, how would I know when I’d learned enough? How much “historical” did a person need to know to write historical fiction, anyway?

Enough turned out to be tricky to define. The truth was that I had already learned a great deal. I knew about the short-lived Studebaker Dictators, about Hitler’s advances in Europe, about the voyage of the St. Louis, about restaurant prices, and about widespread anti-German sentiment.

But was that enough?

Uma Krishnaswami
Shawn K. Stout
And then the incomparable Uma Krishnaswami gave me some wise advice, which was essentially this: You could go on researching forever, but at some point, whenever you think you have a sense of place and time and a feel for that world, you have to take what you’ve got and just start writing.

Just start writing.

You can always go back and do more research, if you need to, she told me, but let your story and characters dictate what else you need to know.

Uma, of course, was right. I did start writing, and as I began filling out the characters of the three sisters, the edges of their small town, with bits of historical detail, became more defined, and their world soon came into sharp focus.

I only ended up using a small fraction of the many historical details I found in my research, but in the end, for my characters and their story, it was enough.

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