Researching Historical Characters: They Tell You Who They Are: by Dianne K Salerni

Today it is my pleasure to bring readers another installment in my posts on historical research. In this 6th article, YA and MG novelist and fellow Kid Lit Author’s Club member, Dianne K Salerni, will talk about researching historical characters. Here’s Dianne:

The very best thing about writing a book with real, historical characters is that you get to skip the process of building their personality from scratch: their strengths and weaknesses and emotional wounds. Historical characters tell you who they are through their letters and other writings. When I wrote about the romance of spirit medium Maggie Fox and Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane in We Hear the Dead, I had years of their love letters to draw upon.

Researching my upcoming novel, The Roosevelt Ghosts, I had not only letters to guide me, but also the autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (who was born a Roosevelt long before she married her fifth cousin, Franklin). Eleanor’s first cousin Alice, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, was so much a fixture of Washington D.C. for her 96 years that she was known as “the other Washington Monument” and left untold writings and interviews behind.

Eleanor’s primary emotional wound isn’t hard to identify. She spells it out pretty plainly in her autobiography: My mother was always a little troubled about my lack of beauty, and I knew it, as a child senses those things. I can remember standing in the door, often with a finger in my mouth, and I can see the look in her eyes and hear the tone of her voice as she said, “Come in, Granny.” If a visitor was there, she might turn and say, “She is such a funny child, so old-fashioned that we always call her Granny.” I wanted to sink through the floor in shame.

It is reported in multiple sources that Eleanor’s mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, spoke quite harshly to her young daughter. You have no looks, so see to it that you have manners.

Eleanor

Eleanor was orphaned at the age of eight, losing her mother and one of her brothers to diphtheria and her father to the effects of alcoholism. Thereafter, she lived with her oppressive maternal grandmother, who ran an austere household and dressed Eleanor in made-over garments that left her sadly out of place among her peers. Her cousin, Corinne Robinson, commented (in regards to a dance when they were both young teens): No one, young or old, wore very short skirts in those days, even for sports, but her grandmother bought her a dress that could have been for a five-year-old. A friend of Corinne’s remarked, more bluntly, that Eleanor was a living freak.

Teens are cruel, but so, apparently are adults. Edith Roosevelt, Theodore’s second wife and Alice’s step-mother was as snide as they come. Eleanor has been here too – poor little soul; she is very plain. Her mouth and teeth seem to have no future. She was also a master of the side-slander. I got Alice a beautiful dress at Stern’s, dark large plaid with navy blue velour, but how much do you think it cost? Forty-two dollars. Alice is a child who needs good clothes and would look quite forlorn as Eleanor in makeshifts.

Only Alice defended Eleanor’s physical appearance: She was always making herself out to be an ugly duckling, but she was really rather attractive. Tall, rather coltish-looking, with masses of pale, gold hair rippling to below her waist, and really lovely blue eyes. It’s true that her chin went in a bit, which wouldn’t have been noticeable if only her hateful grandmother had fixed her teeth.

Alice, meanwhile, had her own emotional wounds. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father abandoned her to the care of an aunt while he ran off to the Dakotas to assuage his grief. Theodore refused to call his daughter by the name she shared with her mother, and when he married Edith, his childhood sweetheart, Alice felt that she became even more of a burden. My father obviously didn’t want the symbol of his infidelity around. His two infidelities, in fact: infidelity to my stepmother by marrying my mother first, and to my mother by going back to my stepmother after she died.

Alice

It was no wonder that Alice acted out in response to this domestic drama. As she got older and attempted, more and more dramatically, to capture her father’s attention, she alienated everyone in her immediate family.

Edith referred to her as a guttersnipe. One of Edith’s friends described her like a young wild animal that had been put into good clothes. Alice’s own half-sister, Ethel, said she was a hellion, …capable of doing almost anything to anyone at any time. When Alice was sent away, at age fourteen, to live with her aunt in New York because her family in Washington couldn’t stand her, Edith made sure Alice knew where she stood, remarking that Alice’s first letter home was so sweet, the family thought it must have been done by (your cousin) Helen.

Ultimately, I had little character-building to do at all. It was only left to me to construct the ghost that would bring these two cousins, similarly-rejected but with opposite personalities, together.

Salerni Head Shot

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of the The Eighth Day fantasy series and historical novels, The Caged Graves, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead. Her next book, The Roosevelt Ghosts, featuring young cousins Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt and a vengeful ghost, will be released in the fall of 2020 by Holiday House.

Dianne K. Salerni
Author of Middle Grade and YA Fiction

  • The Roosevelt Ghosts (Holiday House) ~ coming Fall 2020
  • The Eighth Day (HarperCollins) ~Minnesota Young Readers Award Nominee 2017-2018, Young Hoosiers Book Award Nominee 2017-2018, Virginia Readers Choice Nominee 2016-2017, Tome Society It List 2016-2017
  • The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) ~Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Nominee 2016-2017
  • The Inquisitor’s Mark (HarperCollins)
  • The Morrigan’s Curse (HarperCollins)
  • We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks)

 

Advertisements

Getting Lost in Research Land by Rosi Hollinbeck.

Welcome to part three of an ongoing series of posts about how authors conduct research for their books. Today it is my pleasure to have ROSI HOLLINBECK talk about her research for an MG she is writing.

If you write historical fiction, you know research will be a big part of what you do if you are going to do it well. Research is actually one of the things I like best about writing historical fiction. It is so much fun to learn about everyday life in a particular period I haven’t experienced and to find fun bits of history to drop into my story and make it come to life. But where to begin and how to go about doing the research is the dilemma. All writers need to develop methods that will work for them and help them dig for the historical gold.

One thing editors never want to see in a bibliography is the word Wikipedia. After all, just about anyone can get into a Wikipedia article and add to it or change what is there, so they can be a bit unreliable. That said, Wikipedia is where I always begin. Not because I think I will be able to take facts from the articles and use them, but because when you scroll all the way to the end of the article, you will find a pretty comprehensive bibliography. That is the place to begin. Look through the list and find good adult books by respected authors, the more recent the better. I once wrote an article on spec for a children’s magazine for which I used a book that had been printed in the 1970s. I later heard the editor who had turned the article down speak to a group, and she complained that she had no articles on that particular topic in her inventory and really wanted some. I spoke to her after and mentioned I had sent such an article. She remembered it and told me the sources I had used were too old. The main source I had used was an excellent adult book with the same focus as the article. I hopped on line and found the author of that book had revised and published a much later edition. I polished up the article and listed the later edition. This time the editor took the article to acquisitions!

This doesn’t mean you should never look at older sources. I am working on something right now where I am using books published in the 1920s, but one is the published diaries of my subject and the other is a book written by the subject’s sister about her famous brother. Diaries, letters, and biographical writings by family members are terrific sources no matter how long ago they were published. Also, even though I said to look for good adult books, don’t overlook good children’s nonfiction books as they might well have good bibliographies that will lead you to other sources. If you use a book you don’t own, copy the title page, the copyright page, and every page on which you found pertinent information and file those.

P1010049

Look for newspaper and magazine articles in the Wikipedia list. You can access most articles through on-line services where you can not only read the articles but print copies out for your records. It is a lot easier to go back to an article you have printed out and filed than to go back to the on-line service and look it up again. You want to keep records of every source you use. You will need to have that information when you try to sell your book or article. There are some good on-line services that are free. The Library of Congress: https://loc.gov/ is a good place to start. Some of the on-line services are quite expensive, but you will probably be able to access them through a library. My public library has some services I can use from home by putting in my card number. Some I have had to use at the library of a local university. Make friends with the librarians. They love to help people find things and will lead you to discover even more and better information.

Check the bibliographies of any source you use. These might lead you to better, more specific sources. If you run across a section in a book that is very specific to what you want, check the end notes to see where that author got their information.

If there are people still around from the time period about which you are writing, contact them and see if you can interview them. If your story is set in Medieval England, you are out of luck, but if your story is about surviving the Dustbowl in Oklahoma, you might just be able to talk to someone who did. Don’t be shy. Ask if you can chat about old times. Chances are you will find a real treasure. Make sure to ask if you can record your conversation. While you are talking to them, ask if they have any family diaries or letters that might help in your research. It never hurts to ask, and you never know what you will uncover.

Ask a college professor who specializes in the area of your subject or write to an author who has written about your subject. Most of these folks love to talk about their special subject and can fill you in with lots of information and lead you to other sources that will be helpful to you.

You can get some great sources cheaply. My historical novel is set in 1926. I was able to buy some helpful CDs on line. One is a 1925 Sears catalogue. Did you know Sears sold food? I was able to find out the prices clothing, food, hardware, tools, camping gear, etc. from that. My character is a boy scout and refers to his Boy Scout Manual many times. Since he is pretty poor, he doesn’t have a new one. I was able to get a 1914 scout manual on a CD for a few dollars. I bought a 1926 Farmer’s Almanac that even helped me get the phases of the moon correct in several scenes. And the 1925 Columbian Atlas I found on Amazon helped me get the routes of roads and trains right. If your character talks about the 1926 World Series, as mine does, you had better know who was in it, who won the games, and what the scores were. It’s all on line. Trust me. If you don’t get those details right, someone will complain!

fullsizeoutput_a83

There are many books available on the craft of writing and some have good sections on research. My go-to book when it comes to research is Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas. It has two chapters on research that are chock full of great tips. It’s a very accessible book and will help you be a better writer whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.

Don’t forget to get back to your writing! Sometimes I have so much fun doing the research that I get lost in Research Land and forget to work on my own writing for days and days.

 

Y8PHuzW1

Rosi Hollinbeck writes mostly for children — fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in Highlights, Highlights High Five, and Humpty Dumpty magazines, The Noyo River Review, and some anthologies. She has a middle-grade historical novel, a contemporary YA novel, and some picture book manuscripts out on submission. She also writes book reviews specializing in children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review, the Manhattan Book Review, the Tulsa Book Review and for her own blog which you can find at https://rosihollinbeck.com/blog/.

 

 

Winner of PB Critique From Vivian Kirkfield.

On January 28, I had the pleasure of hosting PB Author Vivian Kirkfield as she talked about the collaboration that took place between author/illustrator for her upcoming picture books. Vivian was gracious enough to give away ONE critique to a random person who left a comment. SEVENTY-ONE  comments later (it has been the most popular post on my blog to date), I am happy to announce the winner:

Drum Roll Please……drums

Congratulations, JODIE PARACHINI. Please send Vivian your email address so she can be in touch with you.

Thank you Vivian, and all you wonderful writers out there who responded  with warmth and enthusiasm to Vivian’s success. She’s an inspiration to us all!

Authors and Illustrators and Editors…Oh My:When Creating a Book is a Collaborative Effort + Free PB manuscript critique by PB Author Vivian Kirkfield.

I’ve always been a fan of collaboration. As a kid, I loved getting together with friends to plan a fun project. As a kindergarten teacher, I treasured the contributions from parents who brought a wealth of diversity and talent to school functions. It seemed natural to me that there would be a team effort when a book was created—with input from author, illustrator, and editor. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

In theory, the author brings her vision to the story with words. The illustrator adds another layer of vision. But some editors may fear if too much communication is allowed between author and illustrator, the author may try to influence the illustrator to do things her way. Although I understand that point of view, I also believe that there is so much good that can come out of working as a team.

At this point in my writing journey, I have multiple book deals. That is certainly something to cheer about. But it’s also given me the opportunity to experience different publishing processes. The first contract I signed was for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019). Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

I never saw early sketches, there was no collaboration between author and illustrator, and when the color layouts were finally shared with me, there were many changes that needed to be made for historical accuracy. I’m grateful that those changes have been made and the finished product will be stellar, but that is why a book that was signed in November 2015 isn’t launching until May 2019. Happily, for the other two books that also launch next year, there has been a level of collaboration which exceeded even my expectations. 

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019) began as a Picture Book Idea Month thought back in 2013. cover on amazon

When one of my in-person critique buddies, author/illustrator Jill Weber, saw it at the end of 2017, she fell in love with it and brought it to her long-time editor in NYC who also fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. Jill signed on to illustrate and what followed was pure pleasure for me, although lots of hard work for Jill. She showed me early sketches—I loved each one. She shared early color illustrations—they were fantastic. And when the book dummy was complete, we shared a cup of hot chocolate at our favorite local meeting place while I got to flip through the pages to see Pippa Mouse and all the other characters come to life. Hurray for collaboration! 

When my agent sent FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK to the editor at PomegranateKids, she also sent some sketches from one of her illustrator clients. Essie had a feeling that Mirka Hokkanen’s style would be the perfect match for my lyrical text. And she was spot on right! The editor loved the partnership and signed Mirka to do the illustrations. four otters cover amazon

Mirka and I live 5000 miles apart and can’t meet for hot chocolate, but we were able to connect via Facebook messaging and email. And thank goodness for that, because Mirka, being a conscientious illustrator, did her research before she began drawing (sadly, not every illustrator does that). She uncovered a big problem. All ten of the endangered animals were supposed to inhabit the ecosystem of the Colorado Rockies. “No!” Mirka said. “Not the Golden Cheeked Warbler.” “Yes, it is,” I replied. “It’s found in Colorado Bend State Park!”

Now, wouldn’t you think that Colorado Bend State Park is in Colorado? I certainly did. But no. It’s actually in Texas.

1st spread

Thank goodness for Mirka’s attention to detail and for our ability to collaborate. We researched other birds and found the perfect substitute—the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Of course, we immediately let the editor know why we were making the change and he was totally fine with that. But how much better it was that we made the change before the publisher fact-checked and discovered my incorrect information.

Later in the process, Mirka sent me a sketch of one of the spreads and she questioned why I had peregrine falcon babies in a burrow. “Don’t they live on a high cliff ledge?” she asked. They certainly do, but the ‘bobbing beaks retreating to the borrowed burrow’ referred to the five burrowing owls from the previous spread, not to the six peregrine falcons who were circling overhead. 5 burrowing owls

If Mirka and I were not collaborating, she would have spent a lot of time refining her sketch and perhaps even crafting the block from which she would make the woodcut illustration. Or worse, if I didn’t get to see the book until it was almost ready to ship, expensive changes would have to be made. Hurray for collaboration!

Just a few weeks ago, I got to see the dummy for FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Illustrator Gilbert Ford had a huge task…nine nonfiction picture book bios in one compilation book. The editor kindly asked me to comment on the PDF, but there was very little for me to say except how much I loved it! And although I haven’t seen any sketches yet for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), I’m thrilled with the portfolio of Allenanna Harris, the illustrator who will be bringing that story to life. I know she will do a fabulous job and I look forward to the collaborative effort that will create a wonderful picture book for children.

Although this writing journey can be frustrating at times and disappointing at others, I always feel blessed to be on it. And lucky to have all of you as my traveling companions. I truly believe that we can turn our dreams into reality if we keep moving forward, help one another, and never give up. Our destination is within reach.

Vivian is giving away ONE PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE to a random person who leaves a comment on this post. All commenters names will be placed in a hat and one winner will be drawn and announced on this blog on Thursday February 7, 2019. If you share this post on Twitter or FB, or reblog it, let me know and I will add your name twice to the hat.

cropped-pippa-home-page-031-e1543009948671

Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. She shelved them at the library during her college years. She read them to her students when she taught kindergarten. And she writes them. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, February 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner. You can visit her website at Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linkedin.

GIVE SOMETHING AWAY DAY, Round Three:by Kim Pfennigwerth

Sunday July 15 will be National Give Something Away Day and my third post for Darlene’s blog.  

When so many feel our ideals are being pummeled what could we possibly give away that could help combat any of this? More often than not it’s the small things that warm our hearts.

Time, food, clothes, books, money donations, household items. They all show two things—kindness and love.

Giving something away lightens you while it can also brighten the mood or load of someone else. By taking a few moments to reflect on what could be gained by giving something away, more often than not, it is the small things that warm our hearts.

A child taking our hand, either out of trust or eagerness to show us something, gives us warmth and joy. Reading a book aloud to someone, making time for conversation, gives something to both people—a happy connection.

Feeling your spirits lift is a joy than cannot be described but lifting another’s spirit is even more immeasurable. Wish someone a better day or give away some fresh baked cookies. Look at what volunteer organizations need and how you can help. But above all give yourself a smile while giving someone else a boost.

As a writer I collect a lot of books. My giveaway is two books. A ‘writer’s block’ busting read THE WAR of ART: Breakthrough the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creativity Battles by Steven Pressfield and LIGHT THE DARK: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, And the Artistic Process by Joe Fassler. 

just-one-thing-cover         Darlene’s giveaway is a book:  JUST ONE THING by Nancy Viau, I middle grade story of a boy trying to lose a dreaded nickname as he enters middle school, hoping to find the one thing he is good at. 

Darlene is also giving away a $10.00 gift card to Barnes&Noble.

Let us know what your plans are and get in the running for our third giveaway.

To win one of these prizes – chosen randomly – leave a comment about something you’ve shared and what happened as a result.  Darlene will put your name in a basket and pick 4 winners – one for each prize.  If you share the post on Twitter or FB, let us know so we can add your name a second time to the entries.

From myself and Darlene—enjoy a warm-your-heart, happiness spreading National Give Something Away Day!  For everything we give away, we get back so much more in return. xo     diverse-hands

Kim Pfennigwerth is a lover of books, animals, children, and kindness in no particular order. She is often spotted in a bookstore or library reading piles of picture books while revising and writing her own manuscripts.

Laura Sassi Gets Her Diva On + Enter to Win a Copy of Her New PB DIVA DELORES

Today it is my pleasure to be the first stop on a blog tour for picture book Author Laura Sassi’s new book: DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE.  You’ll find other stops on the tour at the end of the post.  Now, here is Laura:

How to Write Picture Books – Diva Style!   by Laura Sassi

Thank you, Darlene, for hosting me on my DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour. I’m so excited that my protagonists, Delores and Fernando, are finally making their debuts, but as any well-trained diva knows, singing on stage is just the final thrill. What comes before that?  Hours and hours, even years of hard work! But is it all worth it? You bet!   

So now, in celebration of opera and divas and picture books, here are five fun tips for writing picture books – diva style! Enjoy!

1. Go to the opera… a lot!

If you are going to be an opera star, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the glorious world of opera by attending operas, listening to opera music, and all-around saturating yourself in all things opera.  Likewise, if you want to write picture books, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the world of picture books.  For me, this means making regular trips to the children’s section of my library, or my favorite local bookstore, and reading, reading, reading!  I read with two purposes:  first, just for the pleasure and joy of it, and second… to learn. That’s why I always bring along my writerly opera glasses and a notebook so that I can thoughtfully ponder and record what makes each opera (i.e. picture book) sing… or not.

2. Rehearsal is important. If you want to be a diva, you have to spend time rehearsing and developing your craft. For opera stars, I imagine this means a daily routine of warming up with scales, practicing a variety of pieces, working on voice projection etc. Similarly, if you want to write picture books, you have to be willing to invest the time and effort into writing daily.  My daily writing routine includes free writes (my version of scales), as well as working on a variety of poems, blog posts and the handful of picture book manuscripts I’m playing with any given moment.

3. Control those crescendos.

I’m not an opera expert, but it seems to me that in the field of opera, like in the field of picture book writing – less is more!  I mean divas don’t just cut loose and sing at the top of their lungs willy-nilly!  No, they artistically control their voices so that it plays a magical role in telling the opera’s story. Likewise, as a picture book writer – and especially as one who loves to rhyme – I work hard to control my crescendos so that every word, sound, phrase, action, magically and purposefully moves the story forward.

4. Be confident, yet humble. (i.e. be willing to learn from others)

Confidence is good, but if you want your singing, er writing, to shine, I’ve learned over the years that confidence must be tempered with an open heart, open mind, and gracious spirit when receiving constructive feedback.  As a young writer I thought my writing was fabulous! But now that I’m more seasoned, I look back on those early pieces and cringe. They would definitely have benefited from a little more humility and willingness to productively process and put into place suggestions from more experienced writers!

 

(Which leads me to my last bit of advice.)

5. Everything’s better with a buddy!

As Diva Delores discovers at the opera house, the journey to success is just all-around better with a buddy. Likewise, I’ve found that the picture book writing journey wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of like-minded children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my last bit of advice for writing picture books – diva style! – is to find a buddy or two to encourage you and help you grow along the way.


BIO:  Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Links:

blog:http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

Twitter: twitter.com/laurasassitales

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

Here’s the schedule for the blog tour.  Follow the links below to check out each website.

March 8   Darlene Beck Jacobson  TOPIC: Guest post: “How to Be a Picture Book Diva”  – writing tips:   http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

March 16:  Susanna Leonard Hill   TOPIC:  Perfect Picture Book Friday Review  – details TBA :   https://susannahill.com/blog/

March 19:  Melissa Stoller   TOPIC: “THREE QUESTION INTERVIEW” on story, creativity, connection- through the lens of DIVA DELORES:   https://www.melissastoller.com/blog

March 23 and 24   Vivian Kirkfield  TOPIC: Cookie Interview/ PPBF:    https://viviankirkfield.com

April 3  Kerry Aradyha  TOPIC:  TBD but something dance/music/opera related because that’s the focus of her lovely children’s blog:  http://kerryaradhya.blogspot.com

April 10   Carol Gordon Ekster   TOPIC: Interview:   https://writersrumpus.com

For a chance to win a copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, leave a comment on this post. Your name will be entered in the random drawing.  Share this post on social media and you will get a second chance to win.  Winners will be announced on this blog on 3-28-2018.

A great way to remember and honor your favorite author is to post a review of one of their books on Amazon or Goodreads.  Happy reading.

Abigail Bostwick: On Writing From A Cat’s Eye View.

I recently had the pleasure of winning a copy  of THE GREAT CAT NAP by Abigail Bostwick, thanks to a random drawing on the Writing and Illustrating For Children blog hosted by Kathy Temean.  This “hard boiled” detective novel follows the antics of a reporter/crime solver named Ace – who just happens to be a cat.  I was intrigued by this unique point of view and asked Abigail if she would tell us a bit of why and how the story came about.  (My review of this fun story for middle grade mystery lovers is below.) Here’s Abigail:

Thank you for having me on your blog, Darlene! I’m happy to be here to talk about my debut middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap.

Told from the point of view of Ace, feline resident at a small town newspaper, the book opens when famous show-cat Ruby the Russian goes missing. But Ace bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play detective and find the lost cat, believed to have been stolen by animal smugglers. Calling on his feline friends, a few dogs and even a couple rodent nemeses – Ace’s investigation will lead him everywhere from the most respected parts of town to the lowly haunts of the underground alley cat system. He’ll have to try to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and get into a single-pawed battle with a few criminals before getting his shot at solving the dangerous crime, culminating on a chilly October night in the gray and lonely streets of downtown.

I’m a longtime cat lover – some of my earliest memories include felines. I was inspired to write from Ace’s perspective because cats are fascinating creatures. Each one has their own unique personality and quirks. They’re funny and intelligent, curious and talented problem-solvers.

As a child, I favored books told from the viewpoint of an animal Charlotte’s Web, The Little Prince, Bunnicula and anything Beatrice Potter. So when I sat down for the first time with the goal to write a novel for children myself, I wrote not only to amuse potential readers, but also myself.

I had a lot of fun writing Ace! He’s very much inspired by my own black cat, Boots, who is stubborn and motivated, yet cuddly and devoted. Ace had to be clever to take on solving a small town crime. I tried to give him a sense of humor, lots of action and road blocks to keep the story moving. As a young reader, it was meaningful for me to see animals and humans taking on challenges while leaning on one another. I could see myself in the characters’ place prevailing, and then too, see myself succeeding. I hope I’ve accomplished that for my young readers in The Great Cat Nap!

A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. Her debut middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap, earned the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children’s Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. It also earned the Moonbeam Children’s Award Bronze Medal in the Pre-Teen Fiction category. The sequel, The Clawed Monet, hit the shelves in 2016. Her young adult novel, Break the Spell, released in autumn 2015. An early draft of that book was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. She has placed in Rochester Writers’ contests in 2014 and 2016 and has had short fiction appear in Black Fox Literary.

You can visit Abigail at www.ambostwick.com or @bostwickam.

 Here’s my 5 Star review:  What do you do when your prize-winning show cat is missing? Call Ace – reporter/detective feline – who knows the neighborhood like the back of his paw. This delightful adventure is told from Ace’s point of view and takes the reader on a fun-filled ride through the lives of local cats, dogs and their human caregivers. This time out, Ace is on the trail of a missing show cat named Ruby who appears to be kidnapped. At first it’s just a good story for the newspaper. But soon, things get heated up and Ace realizes Ruby’s life might be in danger. He and his feline, canine, and rat friends set out to solve the mystery and bring Ruby home.
Curl up under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and be prepared for a great escape.