Tag Archives: historical fiction

Abbotsford Christian School interviews Kevins Sands, Author of Mark of the Plague

Mark of the Plague coverWhere did you get your idea to write about a boy in the Middle Ages? [Note: It’s actually the Age of Exploration—Middle Ages ends in the 15th century]

From my research. I chose 1660s London specifically because it was such a rich time of plots, conspiracies, and secrets, as enemies struggled against each other for power. Basically, it was too good a time to pass up!

A Journal of the Plague Year coverHow did you do your research to find out what life was like in the Middle Ages in general, and for apothecaries and The Plague specifically? [sic]

A lot of time in and out of libraries. I read many, many different books, drawing as much as I could from them. Fortunately, we have a lot of good first-hand accounts from that time, especially of the plague (the best of which is A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe). I always find doing research valuable; the details really help bring the books to life.

Did you always want to be a writer? Is it a full-time job for you?

Writing is my full-time job, yes. But I had no interest in it when I was young—if you’d have told me back then that I’d grow up to be a writer, I’d have thought you’d lost your mind! Just goes to show you never know where you’ll end up.

What does a “writing day’ look like for you?

Get up early (around 5 am). Work all morning: either reading, or doing research, or plotting, or writing. If I’m writing, then I usually have a word or page count, and I don’t stop until I’ve reached it. I’m usually finished work around lunchtime, or early afternoon.

How long does it take for you to write a book?

Every book is different. So far, the shortest took me five months, while the longest took just over a year. I have no idea why some take longer; for whatever reason, some books are harder to write than others.

Do you enjoy writing?  Did you like to do it as a child? Were you good at it?

Depends on the day! When I’m stuck on something, it can be pretty frustrating. But overall, I think writing is the best job in the world.

I was pretty good at it as a child, but back then I hated doing it. Maybe that’s because I had to, rather than wanting to.

What was your favorite book to read as a child?

Probably the Belgariad series by David Eddings. Though there were many, many books—mostly fantasy—that I loved.

Did you read a lot as a child?  What do you like better, reading or writing? Why?

I read every single day when I was a child, often for hours—and I still do! I still like reading better than writing…but I have to admit, nothing in the world beats that feeling of satisfaction when you finally finish writing a book.

What advice can you give us to become writers?

First, always be reading. Seeing what makes other writers effective are the best writing lessons you’ll ever get.

Second, always be writing. Just like you can’t learn to ride a bike by watching someone, you can’t learn to write just by reading. It takes years and years of practice. (So start now!)

Third, don’t get discouraged. We all write things that don’t go anywhere. I had to write three whole manuscripts, none very good, until I wrote The Blackthorn Key. In writing, you never really fail until you quit.

How many books do you have planned in this series?

As many as I can think of! As long as people want to keep reading them, and I can come up with good ideas, I’ll keep writing them. So hopefully you’ll see Blackthorn Key adventures for years to come!

-Linda Groot, Elementary Teacher-Librarian, and students from Abbotsford Christian School

École South Sahali interviews Gabrielle Prendergast, Author of Pandas on the Eastside

 

Pandas on the Eastside coverHow did you come up with your characters?

Usually I start with a situation or a premise and I slot in a character who is very much like me to start with. As I write I kind of carve away my own personality and carve in a new personality if that makes sense. Sometimes giving a character a name tells me a lot about them. What kind of parent named a child “Journey” in 1962? How does Journey feel about her name? When I add appearance details like hair color and age and size I get to know them more. Then I choose clothes for them. What kind of clothes do they like? Why? Most of my characters maintain some key characteristics of me. I love animals, for example. I love reading and learning.

panda

from wikipedia.org

Have you ever experienced anything like what happened to the characters?

I’m a little younger than Journey would be today, but I did live in a city in the 1970s so I remember what that was like. And I HAVE seen pandas (in a zoo). The only animals I’ve helped are my pets and occasionally a bird if it gets stunned from flying in a window.

Gabrielle PredergastHow long have you been writing for?

I started writing my first (unfinished) novel when I was about 11. I still have it!

Are the characters based on real people?

My brother-in-law, Ben thinks David is based on him and that’s pretty much true. The rest of the characters are made up.

What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve tried pretty much every other job and this is the only one I’m good at that doesn’t make me sad.

What difficulties did you encounter when you were writing the book and how did you solve them?

Sometimes I’m not sure what is going to happen next. Sometimes when that happens I just wait and work on something else until I get a good idea. Other times I just write any old thing and fix it later.

Harvest Writer

from flickr.com

Do you have any tips for young writers?

Write something short enough to finish. Start with poems. Then short stories. Always try to finish. Then revise your draft to see if you can make it better. Writing is rewriting.

Did you have a plan for the novel or make it up as you went along?

I made this one up. Sometimes I use a plan because it’s faster that way.

How long did it take you to write Pandas On the Eastside?

I started writing it in 2010 and sold it to my publisher in 2015. So about five years. But I was working on a bunch of other things at the same time and published four other books.

JK Rowling

from wikipedia.org

If you could have added anything else to the book, what would it have been?

I don’t know! What a good question! Maybe Journey could have met the president or something.

Who is your favourite author?

I really admire Margaret Atwood and J.K Rowling.

-Melisa Hunter, Teacher-Librarian, and students from École South Sahali, Kamloops, BC

Spring Creek Community School Interviews Ellen Schwartz, Author of Heart of a Champion

What inspired you to write Heart of a Champion?

Asahi Baseball Team

Image Source: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu

I was watching TV one night and I came upon a documentary about the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. I had never heard of them, and I was amazed to hear how great they were—not
just great baseball players, but great role models through their dignity and pride in the face of
racism against people of Japanese descent. When the program was finished, I thought to
myself, “Every Canadian kid should know about the Vancouver Asahis.” So, since I write
children’s books, I decided to write a book about them.

What kind of books do you like reading and writing?

I love reading and writing all kinds of books, but I think the thing that draws me the most is
characters. I want to get inside the skin of a character and feel what that person is feeling and
learn what that character learns and grow along with the character. So I love to read and write
books where characters feel things deeply and grow and change in some way.
Most of my books are middle-grade novels, for kids 8 to 12 years old, although I have written a
few picture books and a few novels for teens. I wish I could write more picture books, but my
ideas mostly come as stories for older kids.
The Secret Garden book coverMy favourite book when I was a kid was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The
interesting thing about that book is that the main character, Mary Lennox, is totally unlikable at
the beginning. She is a vain, selfish, spoiled brat. And yet you root for her and care about her,
and it is so wonderful when she begins to change and become a nicer, more caring person. I still read The Secret Garden every year or so to try to figure out how the author does it (and I never can).

Which of your books is your favourite?

Mr Belinsky's Bagels coverAgh, I hate that question! It’s like asking a parent which is her favourite kid. But if I had to
choose just one, I would say Mr. Belinsky’s Bagels, one of my picture books. The character of
Mr. Belinsky is based on my grandfather. My grandfather was not a baker, but he was a sweet,
kind man just like Mr. Belinsky. And, interestingly, Mr. Belinsky looks just like my grandfather,
even though the illustrator, Stefan Czernecki, never met him or saw a picture of him.

When did you start writing books?

Dusty book coverWhen I was 30. My first career was as a special education teacher. At the same time, I was very
interested in the environment and energy conservation. So I started by writing a couple of
educational stories for kids about conserving energy. I sold one of them to the Province of
British Columbia and the other one to the National Film Board. I found that I enjoyed writing
and that it came naturally to me, so I tried writing a regular story. That was Dusty, which
became my first book.

How many books have you written?

Sixteen books for kids and one for adults. I have a chapter book coming out this spring called
The Princess Dolls, for 7 to 10 year olds. That’ll be my 18th book.

Who do you look up to?

Word Nerd book coverFrances Hodgson Burnett, as I mentioned above. My favourite Canadian children’s author is
Susin Neilsen. In my opinion, she is brilliant at writing stories about sad and complex subjects
but doing it in a hilarious way. Her books make me laugh and cry. That’s what I try to do, too.

What book are you working on now?

I’m writing a middle grade novel called Up in the Sky. It’s about a girl named Sophie whose
father has died in a helicopter crash. Sophie and her dad used to build remote-controlled model airplanes together, and they were in the middle of building one when her dad died. Sophie wants to finish the model, but she can’t, because she has a reading disability and she can’t read the manual. And now her mom has a new boyfriend . . .

Do you get calluses from typing? Or other injuries related to your job?

No, thankfully. I write the first draft of my books longhand with a pen and paper, so sometimes
my hand gets cramped from holding a pen for hours. But I can stretch out the sore muscles.

What’s your favourite colour?

Turquoise, followed closely by purple. Interesting question!

-Sara Leach, Teacher-Librarian, Spring Creek Community School and the Spring Creek Community School Red Cedar Book Club

Heart of a Champion

Heart of a Champion by Ellen Schwartz

Hear of a Champion coverTen-year-old Kenny (Kenji in Japanese) worships his older brother, Mickey (Mitsuo), a baseball hero whose outstanding performance on the Asahi baseball team has given him fame and popularity. Despite Kenny’s suspected heart condition, he is determined to practice secretly with Mickey so he, too, can one day try out for the Asahi. But world events soon overtake life in this quiet community. When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in 1941, everything for Kenny and his family spirals out of control: schools are closed, businesses are confiscated, fathers are arrested and sent to work camps in the BC interior and mothers and children are relocated to internment camps. When Mickey is arrested for a small act of violence, Kenny manages to keep his family’s spirits up, despite the deplorable conditions in camp. Coming across a “vacant” field covered with scrap wood, broken shakes and torn tar paper, Kenny gets permission to clear it and convert it into a baseball field. One by one, the boys in the camp pitch in, and the work gives purpose to their long days. Kenny’s persistence, hard work and big dreams shape the teen he is to become in this story of happiness found despite all odds. (Tundra)

Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens

Dear Canada coverThese Are My Words by Ruby Slipperjack

Violet Pesheens is struggling to adjust to her new life at Residential School. She misses her Grandma; she has run-ins with Cree girls; at her “white” school, everyone just stares; and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name—she is now just a number. But worst of all, she has a fear. A fear of forgetting the things she treasures most: her Anishnabe language; the names of those she knew before; and her traditional customs. A fear of forgetting who she was.

Her notebook is the one place she can record all of her worries, and heartbreaks, and memories. And maybe, just maybe there will be hope at the end of the tunnel.

Drawing from her own experiences at Residential School, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation’s history. (Scholastic)

The Case of the Girl in Grey

The Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford, art by Kelly Murphy

The Case of the Girl in Grey coverThe Wollstonecraft Detective Agency was supposed to be a secret constabulary, but after the success of their first case, all of London knows that Lady Ada and Mary are the girls to go to if you have a problem.

Their latest case is a puzzler indeed: A dead father, a missing will, an escaped lunatic, and a hasty engagement. How does it all connect? With the help (and sometimes hindrance) of their sisters Jane and Allegra, these girls break codes, break a girl out of the hospital, and break up a very bad betrothal. (Knopf)