Today I am pleased to present the fourth installment in my historical research series with this entry by middle grade author Janet Smart who discusses the research she did for her debut novel DUCK AND COVER. Here’s Janet:
Historical fiction books take readers back in time. They take you back hundreds and thousands of years or as little as fifty. My MG book, Duck and Cover, transports readers back to the fall of 1962. Many baby boomers remember where they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember the early years of our space race to the moon with the Russians. But many young people today don’t not know much about that time period. I searched and not many books are written about that frightful time in 1962.
For many years I had this vague memory from when I was very young. We were visiting my aunt’s house and people were crying and saying the world was coming to an end. I finally realized what the memory was about – the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I decided to write a book about it.
Aside from the memories told to me by relatives, I did a lot of research. I mention in my book about the pamphlet the main character, Teddy, found in their cellar titled, in time of EMERGENCY a citizen’s handbook on NUCLEAR ATTACK and NATURAL DISASTERS. I have that booklet. I looked up the timeline of October in 1962 during which most of my book takes place. I looked up 1962 calendars to make sure I got all the days right and researched the speeches President Kennedy gave.
In addition to the historical facts, I also researched food, songs, clothing, and other cultural trends of that time period. The book isn’t all serious; the characters are like all kids and enjoyed Halloween after the threat was over and listened to the song Monster Mash on their transistor radios. They ate tuna casserole with crushed potato chips on top, which was popular in the 60s, and they eavesdropped in on people’s conversations on the telephone party line, something that kids today know nothing about.
The main character’s best friend, Melvin, had polio when he was a toddler. It left him with a limp. During the early 1950s, when he was born, polio was widespread in the country.
Historical fiction books need to get the facts right and at the same time make the story interesting, and not boring, for the reader. If you can do that, you have succeeded.
History books tell you when and where the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. My historical fiction reveals how kids felt when they ducked under their desks during a duck and cover drill, how they felt when they went to bed after listening to President Kennedy’s speech, and their fear when they saw a shooting star and wondered if it was what a Russian missile would look like soaring through the sky.
You can check out the trailer for Duck and Cover on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bJTus-T5Vk&t=36s
Janet Smart lives just down the road from the small town of Ripley, WV. She is the mother of three grown boys and loves writing for children. She wrote a children’s column in the regional magazine, Two Lane Livin’ for 8 years and is the author of Fun Through the Seasons: Recipes, Crafts and Fun Facts for Kids, and the historical fiction Duck and Cover (Saguaro Books). She also has written a cookbook titled, Cooking with Family: Recipes and Remembrances. You can visit her website at Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch or connect with her on Facebook, @JanetFSmart on Twitter, or on Pinterest.