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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Janet Fox, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 10 of 10
1. Author Interviews: Kate Hannigan & Janet Fox on Facts in Historical Fiction

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

My current work in progress is a middle grade historical fantasy set in 1903. 

Delving into the past has made me think about how history is presented in novels and the balance between real and imaginary. 

For more insight on that topic, I turned to the authors of two of my favorite recently published books, focusing on process.

Kate Hannigan’s The Detective's Assistant (Little, Brown, 2015) is based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, America’s first female detective. It won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award in 2016.

Was there a particular item, fact or event that sparked the idea for The Detective's Assistant?

KH: I was researching a story about camels in the American West in the 1850s when I came across a single nugget about Kate Warne. I read how she walked into Allan Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in downtown Chicago, and he had assumed she was there for a secretary position. But she talked her way into a detective’s job, convincing Pinkerton she could “worm out” secrets from the wives and girlfriends of the city’s crooks and criminals.

Stumbling on this little gem, I was hooked! I dropped that camel story and ran with Kate Warne!

At what point did you start researching that? Did you start drafting a story first, or did you do research up front?

Kate's model for her main character
KH: I’m kind of a nutter about gathering facts. My background is newspaper journalism, so maybe that’s to blame. But I wanted to know all I could about Kate Warne, Allan Pinkerton, and Abraham Lincoln during this part of American history.

The biggest research was around understanding the Baltimore Plot, which is the pivotal part of the story — the plot to assassinate Lincoln before he could be sworn in for his first term.

So the whole process was immersive. I dove in deep before writing a single word. Once I felt like I had the facts, then I began my story.

Did you continue doing research as you were writing?

KH: I’m still doing research! And the book published over a year ago! But I love this story so much, I can’t not learn more about it. I do school visits all the time, and I talk to students about it. So it’s very much in the front of my mind.

As I was writing, I would come across a question — my characters are walking down the street in 1860 Chicago, so what were they walking on? How comfortable would a train ride be in 1860? Would we ride on upholstered seats or hard wood? — and drop down another rabbit hole.

Research is never ending with historical writing!

Were you surprised by what you learned doing research? Did any unexpected finds end up becoming significant parts of the story?

KH: If you’re writing historical fiction, you’re probably a pretty huge history nerd. So digging up a juicy nugget can be a thrill! And I dug up so many!

I enjoyed researching and writing this story to a ridiculous degree!

My characters live in a boardinghouse, so getting that setting right was foremost in my mind. I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852) and Sister Carrie by Theodore Drieser (1900) (which was set a bit later but still illuminating nonetheless), just to get a sense of language of the times.

But I also plunged into nonfiction about the era, and I found a particular book about boardinghouses that was helpful. It described how incredibly cheap the managers — usually women — had to be to keep these places afloat. They were notorious for serving terrible food, which I thought could be played for a lot of humor in my book.

And this is what led to the chapter about Nell and the other residents eating a questionable meat for dinner, and Mrs. Wigginbottom getting shifty when there is talk about the orange tabby cat going missing.

Your book mixes well-known historical figures (Abraham Lincoln) with lesser-known, yet real individuals (Kate Warne) as well as completely fictional characters.

Tell us more about balancing the fact and the fiction – did you lean heavily on things the historical figures actually said? Were there some details you changed for the sake of the story? Were there some fixed points you felt couldn’t be altered?

KH: Fact and fiction! This balance kept me up at night! I agonized over being true to the players and what was on record as having happened. I visited Kate Warne’s grave site here in Chicago more than a few times, and I deeply desired to do right by this woman.

But I also worried about the reader, and I wanted to make sure that the story I was telling would hold the interest of a 21st-century American kid. So it was agony!

Pinkerton had written about the cases that involved Kate Warne, so of course I wanted to nod to those. But I took artistic license and shuffled their order, so that the culminating case is the saving of Lincoln’s life. I needed to put them in a different order to serve my story, and I had to come to terms with that decision. It took me a bit though.

Do you feel authors writing for middle grade readers have a greater obligation to present an accurate picture of a historical time period, than those writing YA or adult fiction?

KH: I very much believe authors for young readers have a greater responsibility to get historical fiction right. Because history is all new to this audience — this might be their first introduction to the Civil War, to Abraham Lincoln, to the Underground Railroad.

And if we make history engaging for them, we’re opening the doors to more exploration of our past, to creating more history lovers.

It’s a responsibility I take pretty seriously. Which is why I tend to research my books to death!

Have you gotten any feedback from history or social studies teachers? Or any school visits or other presentations aimed specifically at the history aspect?

KH: Yes! And it’s been so great! I’ve gotten tremendous feedback from teachers and librarians.

The Civil War hits with fifth-grade curriculum in many schools, so The Detective's Assistant has been on reading lists around the country. I’ve done Skype visits as well as in-person school visits, and the response from young readers has been mind-blowing!

The New York Historical Society included it in their family book club, the Global Reading Challenge in Chicago listed it among their 2016 books, an entire fifth-grade in Dallas read the book as part of their Civil War history unit. It’s been wonderful to share the story with so many kids!

Was there anything you found while doing research for The Detective's Assistant that will find it’s way into your next book?

KH: Answer: I’ve been bitten by the research bug, and specifically, research into amazing women and people of color forgotten by history. So my next book is focused on World War II women beyond Rosie the Riveter. I can’t say there’s any overlap with the Civil War era, but the passion I feel for dusting off these remarkable players from the past and sharing them with a whole new audience, that definitely has carried over. It’s kind of become my mission!

The Detective's Assistant is realistic historical fiction, do things change when the story includes more fantasy elements? For that aspect, I asked Janet Fox, author of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle similar questions.

Was there a particular item, fact or event that sparked the idea for The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle? (what was it?)

JF: Yes! I was mucking around on the internet when a friend posted a picture of an object the like of which I'd never noticed before. It was an 18th century German chatelaine. I thought it was peculiar, and I had to find out more about it, so I googled and discovered that this chatelaine was an offshoot of the more practical set of keys - to the chateau - worn at the waist.

I learned that chatelaines had evolved from keys to practical items, like scissors and coin purses, to charms. This chatelaine was all charms, and they were so odd that a story began forming in my mind almost right away.

At what point did you start researching that? (i.e. – did you start drafting a story first, or did you do research up front?) 

JF: Once I'd learned what a chatelaine was I began writing almost at once. Within a week of seeing the image, which is the same as the image that's in the novel, I'd completed the first 40 pages of what would become the novel. That's generally the way I work. I have to discover who my main character is and what her problem is before I can begin to flesh out the story, and research is part of that fleshing out.

Did you continue doing research as you were writing?

JF: Yes - once I have a handle on my protagonist and what the story is generally about I tend to blend research with writing. For example, as soon as I decided to set the novel in Scotland, I took a pause and did a bunch of research on Scotland. That's almost always how I work - I write first to discover what I need to know more about. But it all starts with the character and her problem.

Were you surprised by what you learned doing research? Did any unexpected finds end up becoming significant parts of the story?

JF: Not really - at least, not in this story. But read on - there's a relevant answer to this in your last question.

Your book mixes actual events and places completely fictional – and fantastical - events and characters. Tell us more about balancing the fact and the fiction? Were there any fixed points you felt couldn’t be altered? (why?)

JF: I felt it was very important to be true to any factual details. For example, I had to learn what I could about enigma machines, about the inner workings of clocks, about movements and activities in the North Sea during that part of World War II, and so on.

That's where I really pay attention to accuracy - when I'm weaving facts into fantasy I want those facts to be right. In that way the reader more readily suspends disbelief for the fantasy elements.

Do the fantastical elements have a historical influence?

JF: In a way. My grandparents were Irish and English, and I heard many stories growing up about the fantastical beliefs they carried with them from home, things like the stories my grandfather told me about "the little people." And Celtic and pagan practices have a basis in history and yet are mystical or fantastic in nature. To me, there's always a kernel of truth in a fairy tale.

Do you feel authors writing for middle grade readers have a greater obligation to present an accurate picture of a historical time period, than those writing YA or adult fiction?

JF: I think any writer writing for any audience has an obligation to be accurate when it comes to historical detail. But I do think that the vulnerability of the younger reader requires a special adherence to accuracy. These are readers who will feel cheated if I give them information they later find to be false. They are also readers more likely to believe whatever you tell them, and I would hate to plant falsehoods in their minds.

Have you gotten any feedback from history or social studies teachers? (or any school visits or other presentations aimed specifically at the history aspect?) 

Dunrobin Castle, Janet's inspiration, located in Scotland
JF: Not yet, although I would love to present something about the specific history aspects of the story.

I'm fascinated by World War II (and as we can see by the large number of middle grade novels out the past couple of years set during the war, so are others.)

The Blitz alone was a big deal, and I've given talks at bookstores at which adults have come forward after to tell me that they or their aunt or their father was sent out of London - and that's why they're in America today.

Was there anything you found while doing research for The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle that will find it’s way into your next book?

JF: Since Kat is clever with clocks, I did a bit of clock research and uncovered a rare old timepiece called a "Death's Head" watch. After further research I discovered that one of owners of one of the most bizarre of these was the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots. Well, that didn't feel accidental. As you can imagine, that watch is the centerpiece of my sequel.

chatelaine
Cynsational Notes

Janet Fox on Blending History with Fantasy from Cynsations. Peek: "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."

Gayleen Rabakukk holds a master of fine arts in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She co-moderates the middle grade book club for Austin SCBWI and loves making discoveries – both on and off the page.

Always eager to track down a story, she has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and freelance writer. Gayleen is married and has two caring and outspoken daughters. Their Austin, Texas home is filled with books and rescue dogs. You can find her online at  or on Twitter @gayleenrabakukk

Congratulations to Gayleen on recently signing with Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Agency!

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2. 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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3. FAITHFUL: DAY THREE


“I’d recommend to other writers to see if story elements can be slipped into flashback, and whether the story has better forward momentum as a result.”

                                         Author Janet Fox

 

 

 

Q: Janet, reading Faithful gives you a great look at early Yellowstone Park through Maggie’s eyes. Maggie is both in awe of Yellowstone’s beauty and afraid of its dangers, many of which she has to face head on. Can you talk about the writer’s process of pitting a character against nature? How did you find the balance between adventure and realism, given that Maggie is pretty much a greenhorn and just sixteen?

 

“I was writing about how I feel about Yellowstone and transferring that to Maggie. The Park has actually changed very little since her time – better roads and hotels, yes, but that raw nature is still there. It’s our own American landscape, unique to this country, and I drew upon the feeling of awe that anyone, whether in 1900 or 2010, would feel upon entering the Park.

 

“I think for Maggie her conflict with nature rises out of her loss – her mother’s disappearance by, perhaps, drowning in the ocean.

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4. TX Novel Revision Retreat Reports

Thanks, Texas SCBWI!

What a great time in TX last weekend. Here’s some blog posts about the retreat from the participants.

Yes, I’m booking for next year and have lots of open dates. Email me at darcy at darcypattison dot com.
TXRetreat2

Here’s more from Facebook Photos: What a hard working crew!

I did some video there and plan to do a new video soon. Meanwhile, here’s the video from last year in San Francisco.


*|YouTube:SK4pf5yyy1c|*



It's Here.

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5. Authors are Rocking the Drop All Day!

Authors are Rocking the Drop around their areas RIGHT NOW! Here's who's tweeting so far.... use the #rockthedrop tag and join in with readergirlz and Figment to ROCK THE DROP!



More updates to come throughout the day...


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6. Day One: 2-Week NaNoWriMo-themed Blog Book Tour for the New Plot Whisperer Book

Today The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master is featured at:


Janet Fox at Through the Wardrobe
Guest post on revision techniques for writers wanting to use the structure and spirit of Nanowrimo for a major rewrite. Before you jump into Nano and begin writing, first follow the tips I provide on Janet's blog about how to re"vision" your story.


Master Schedule of the 2-week blog tour for the Plot Whisperer book.

For step-by-step guidance into pre-plotting your novel, memoir, screenplay, refer to:
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
For more about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit the Monday Plot Book Group series (A directory to this 2nd plot series is to the left of this post and scroll down a bit) and visit the first Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. (A directory of all the steps to the 1st plot series is to the right of this post.)
and visit:
Blockbuster Plots for Writers
Plot Whisperer on Facebook (for up-to-the-minute news on plot events, giveaways and inspiration)
Plot Whisperer on Twitter
7. Day 17 and research to write


Didn’t get too much actual writing done today, in day 17 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month. Instead I researched and thought, still trying to figure out the middle that I thought was behind me. Sigh. It’s frustrating, but worth it to do this work and get it right.

Coincidentally, today my husband sent me a link to an article about writing consultant Robert McKee saying Hollywood is “dying.” That was a quote, but if you read on, I don’t think it’s actually what he meant. He meant it more as a warning, that Hollywood is losing good stories.

McKee is a screenwriter’s guru, but what he teaches applies to writers of all fiction, be they screenwriters or novelists. McKee’s book Story, which Janet Fox quoted at the Brazos Valley SCBWI conference, is a very interesting and useful book to writers of all kinds. I’ve read it and recommend it for any writer’s shelf.

Anyway, at a recent seminar McKee was giving, he talked about the state of today’s movies (screenwriters are his primary audience) — of course, there’s a reason why most good movies nowadays are based on a novel. But McKee explained that to write good stories, writers should research. The more research they do, the story will write itself, he said.

Doing a lot of research follows what Cynthia Leitich Smith said about setting and Janet Fox said about character at the Brazos Valley SCBWI conference. Research is key to truly knowing your world and your characters, and from them the story will come.

Cynthia Leitich Smith suggested visited the settings you’re writing about, while Janet Fox suggested making scrapbooks for characters (click for more).

What do you do to research your work?

Write On!

      

0 Comments on Day 17 and research to write as of 11/21/2008 9:53:00 PM
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8. Cover Stories: Faithful by Janet Fox

Faithful-1.FrCVR.jpgJanet Fox is here today to talk about the cover for her new book Faithful, which I can't stop ogling. It's almost like a Vogue photo shoot -- the greens, the blues, the spirit of adventure in the air. And, oh, that dress.

Here's Janet to tell us more:

"While I was writing in the early stages, I had no idea about a cover; but as I revised I began to have avision of it, and most of the images that came to my mind reflected my research. I loved the vintage photographs of Yellowstone and carried around in my mind an image of a girl looking at Old Faithful geyser, but with a vintage feel.

jan_hattie.jpg"My editor asked me for advice! I was pleased and surprised. I don't know that it's common to ask. She wanted me to send her some of the photos I'd collected, especially photos with clothing details of the period and photos of girls I thought looked like Maggie (my protagonist.) And she asked me what I thought the cover should look like, so I wrote a narrative paragraph. I mentioned the cover of HATTIE BIG SKY (by Kirby Larson), which is close to the same period although a different social set..."


Read the rest of Janet's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

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9. JANET FOX'S NEW HISTORICAL FAITHFULL



 

            A few days ago at the Vermont College residency, author Janet Fox read from her soon-to-be-released sequel to the new historical novel Faithful. The audience was rapt. And readers will be happy to learn that it’s safe to fall in love with the world of Faithful, which we’ll talk about below, because some of her characters are returning for a delicious encore!  

           

First a little about Janet, who has recently moved from College Station, Texas, to Montana, where she, her husband and their college age son have a cabin in the mountains not far from Yellowstone. (The setting for her novel.)

 

Janet Fox’s writing for children has appeared in Highlights for Children and Spider magazines; her award-winning non-fiction middle grade book, Get Organized Without Losing It (Free Spirit Publishing, 2006), continues to be a top seller. She has served as a regional advisor for SCBWI and has taught middle school and high school English/language arts.

 

Janet has an MS in marine geology and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently working on Faithfull’s sequel Forgiven (due out in 2011).

 

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10. JANET FOX'S NEW HISTORICAL NOVEL FAITHFUL


“Maggie thinks that nature is her enemy – that even her own, internal nature is her enemy. So her struggle is about accepting what is natural around her and within her…”

                                       --Author Janet Fox

 

 


 

DAY TWO with Janet...

 

Q: Janet, I love the many contrasts in your novel which so evoke the differences of life in 1904 between the developing West and the more settled East, between high society and the rougher western culture. This thread reverberates throughout the story in many ways, beginning with sixteen-year-old Maggie’s Newport society life and the new life she is forced into in the wilds of Yellowstone, Montana.

 

In Newport, Maggie sees her future with Edward, the perfect high society catch, yet in Montana she’s drawn to the young but wise mountain man, Tom Rowland. This contrast is echoed in her internal struggle as Maggie both longs to fit into eastern society as easily as her friend Kitty, while at the same time she discovers she’s more like her independent, outcast mother who once disappeared into the West. Was this a theme which suggested itself to you early on? And why was it important for you as an author to write about it? Did you discover as yo

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