Saturday, November 01, 2014

Giveaway: What Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of two signed hardcover copies of What Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky (namelos, 2014). Eligibility: U.S. From the promotional copy:

Most folks probably think gardens only get tended when they’re blooming. But most folks would be wrong. According to the almanac, a proper gardener does something every single month. 

Old Red Clancy was definitely a proper gardener. That’s why I enrolled myself in the Clancy School of Gardening. If I was going to learn about flowers, I wanted to learn from the best.

Delia and Old Red Clancy make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. When they dream up a seed- and flower-selling business, well, look out, Tucker’s Ferry, because here they come.

But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he
 can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for 
no reason. 

As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save
 as many memories as she can. 

Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her.

What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

Cynsational Notes

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month in the United States.

In a recent interview with Cynsations, Shannon says:

"There was a lot of truth I could have drawn from. Moments when we battled the disease and sometimes my grandfather, too, as his personality, as well as his physical and mental abilities changed. In the end, I included only one truth.

"The emotion of being forgotten." 
Reviewers say:

"[Delia’s] frustration, fear and sense of loss will be readily recognizable to others who have experienced dementia in a loved one, and her story may provide some guidance on how to move down that rocky path toward acceptance and letting go. ...What do flowers remember? The stories of the people who cared for them, of course, as Wiersbitzky’s sensitive novel compassionately conveys." – Kirkus Reviews

“Fans of wholesome, uplifting stories similar to Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, will best enjoy this gentle reminder of the goodness of life and people.” 
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Please consider supporting We Need Diverse Books through a donation or signal boosting!

At the time of this posting, we've raised $56,910, which is 57% of our goal.

Thanks to all who've already participated.

Diverse Campaign w Thanks Card from Undercurrent on Vimeo.

Don't miss John Green on Why We Need Diverse Books and a celebration dance by WNDB president Ellen Oh and her daughter (Ellen promised this if we made $15K within 24 hours). See also Looking for a Diverse Middle Grade Book? from CBC Diversity.

More News 

Author Interview: Martine Leavitt and Blue Mountain by Lisa Doan from WCYA The Launch Pad. Peek: "Tuk is the name of my viewpoint character – he is the biggest and the fastest and the cleverest sheep. I love him because he is smart and strong, and yet he doubts himself."

Story Mapmakers: No GPS Required by Sarah McCoy from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "We, authors, are story cartographers. We navigate characters, plot courses of action, and direct readers in an expedition across unfamiliar terrains."

How Morals and Basic Needs Influence a Character's Strength by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: " of the main reasons we fall in love with characters is because we want them to succeed, to achieve their goals and overcome their flaws; this is where the positive attributes come in."

I Can't Be Faithful -- To Genre by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Diary of a Writer. Peek: "...many of the writers I love have convinced readers to know them well enough to know that their fiction won’t fit neatly into a genre label."

Mix It Up: 15 Books About Kindness and Giving from Lee & Low. Peek: "Mix It Up At Lunch Day, an annual day started by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago to encourage kindness and reduce prejudice in schools by encouraging students to sit and have lunch with someone new, one day out of the year."

Kapow! Cutting Scenes Like a Superhero by Liz Michalski from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Every single one of those deleted scenes was a tiny jewel, and it’s obvious it pained Bird to cut them."

Not Scary Scary Children's Books: a bibliography by Ally Watkins from ALSC Blog. Peek: "...books for your kids who want to have some Halloween reading but want to be able to sleep at night." See also Scholastic Highlights Books that Celebrate The Day of the Dead! / ¡El Dia de los Muertos! from Latin@s in Kidlit.

Compelling Middle Grade Boy Readers to Turn the Page by Joe McGee from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Through progressive revelation, shorter chapter construction, and powerful, chapter-ending beats, middle-grade fiction can compel boy readers to keep turning pages, despite the lure of the multitude of electronic sirens."

Best Illustrated Books from The New York Times. Note: online gallery.

When Terrifying Leaps of Faith Pay Off: An Art- and Sketch-Filled Q&A with Abby Hanlon by Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "When I started the book, the scary thing was that I knew I would get better as I got to the end, and that I would have to re-do everything (somehow before the deadline)."

November is Native American Heritage Month

Here are a few links, two from American Indians in Children's Literature, to get you started:

Cynsational Screening Room

For those who missed yesterday's reveal of the Feral series book teaser created by Book Candy Studios! Please share the trailer with your networks and the YA readers in your life.

Morganville: The Series; Rachel Caine's The Morganville Vampires Comes to Life, An Exclusive Behind The Scenes Look At The Web TV Series from Mundie Moms.

Cynsational Giveaways

See flap copy & enter giveaway!

The winner of Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little was Anna in Indiana.

The winner of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen was Katy in Florida.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Thank you, Reading Is Fundamental, for hosting me at a school visit last week at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. See AP coverage.

With Judy Blankenship Cheatham, R. Gregory Christie and Carol H. Rasco at Daily Grill in Washington, D.C.
Thank you, Writers' League of Texas for honoring me with your children's-YA novel award for Feral Nights (Candlewick, 2013).

With children's picture book winner Doris Fisher, author of Army Camels (Pelican, 2013) at the Texas Book Festival.
I'll post a full photo report on the festival tomorrow, but quickly...

Greg Leitich Smith (with Anne Bustard and Jennifer Ziegler) was a featured author for Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn.

Last call! My e-edition of Blessed (Candlewick) is on sale this month for only $1.99. A perfect read for Halloween and beyond--check it out!

Personal Links
Never Counted Out 

Cynsational Events

Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak on a panel "Where Are the Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci Fi Lit?" from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at YALSA's YA Literature Symposium in Austin.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Feral Pride Cover Reveal, Feral Series Book Teaser & Giveaway

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for my upcoming novel, Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2015) and the book trailer for the Feral series, produced by Book Candy Studios.

From the promotional copy for Feral Pride:

Anti-shifter sentiment is at an all-time high when Kayla’s transformation to werecat is captured on video and uploaded for the world to see.

Suddenly she becomes a symbol of the werebeast threat and—along with fellow cat Yoshi, Lion-Possum Clyde, and human Aimee—a hunted fugitive.

Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed weresnake has kidnapped the governor of Texas and hit the airwaves with a message of war.

In retaliation, werepeople are targeted by law enforcement, threatened with a shift-suppressing vaccine, terrorized by corporate conspiracy, and enslaved by a top-secret, intelligent Cryptid species.

Can Clyde rally his inner lion king to lead his friends—new and old—into battle against ruthless, media-savvy foes? A rousing blend of suspense, paranormal romance, humor, and high action.

The explosive finale to the Feral series by New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith.

First take on Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2015), just in from Kirkus Reviews:

"...the wickedly funny, quickly paced style is anchored by the novel's underlying theme of the marginalization of people and its effects, both those obvious ('Our legal rights are slippery,' explains Kayla) and more insidiously subtle (like the wedge driven between Clyde, a werepossum/werelion hybrid, and his human girlfriend, Aimee, because of her father's prejudice). ...witty, smart and moving—sure to satisfy..."

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win Feral Nights (Candlewick, 2013), Feral Curse (Candlewick, 2014) and an advanced reader copy of Feral Pride. Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: North America.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest Post: Chris Barton on Writing & Cross-Generational Interests

Via Public Domain Pictures
By Chris Barton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

There’s never an answer I that I find quick, simple, and faithful to the full truth when someone asks what inspired one of my books.

Take Shark Vs. Train (Little Brown, 2010), for instance.

Yes, I’m sure the seed was planted by my now 15-year-old son’s love of sharks and trains. But...

He loved reading books about sharks. He loved playing with wooden trains. Putting the two things together, however, just wasn’t his style of play. As a small child, he had a much more literal view of the world. Sharks were fascinating ocean creatures. Trains rolled on wooden tracks that he could build with all day long. There was no crossover.

My style of play as a kid, however, would have been to mash those two concepts together. And I guess that still is my style of play, because that’s how it worked with Shark Vs. Train.

The idea grew out of my paying attention to my kid, to what he loved, but the book that resulted was much closer to my imaginative comfort zone than to his literal one. I wrote it for me, not for him.

(See? It took me nearly 140 words to get close enough to the full truth to suit me.)

As another example, take my new book, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet (illustrated by Joey Spiotto and published by POW!)

Once again the seed was planted by the interests of that now-15-year-old, along with his now-10-year-old brother. This time around, those interests were video games such as Legend of Zelda, Wizard101, Little Big Planet, and Minecraft.

But in this case, my comfort zone would have resulted in no book at all. Though I had played video games some as a kid, I hadn’t played in many years, aside from the occasional encounter with an old arcade game.

And I was deeply skeptical of my kids’ respective abilities to balance time spent in front of a screen with time spent on their own creative pursuits, on outdoor play, on reading.

I also, however, wanted to understand what the heck they were talking about when they spoke of mods, sandboxes, attacks, bosses, and cheats. And I wanted to demonstrate to them that I took seriously the things that they loved -- or, rather, their love of those things.

I guess I could have done that simply through playing video games with my boys. Instead, I chose to demonstrate my appreciation for their passions through my own work. In other words, I wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! for them, not for me.

Even though those two books resulted from my going down different paths, they both offered a similar choice: Is it for them, or is for me? But then, isn’t the same true for every book for children?

Chris writing with fellow Austin author April Lurie and Greg Leitich Smith
Isn’t there always a decision to be made regarding how much the experience of a book reflects the interests of the adult -- be it an author or illustrator doing the creating, a parent or grandparent doing the buying, a librarian doing the recommending, or a teacher doing the assigning -- and how much the experience of that book stems from consideration of what the child audience will bring to it or is likely to take away from it?

Every book is an opportunity to navigate that territory in the middle, between what we adults want and love and think we know and what those kids want and love and think they know.

Through my experiences with Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!, I’ve come to appreciate just how much room there is to maneuver through that middle ground.

Yes, I wrote Shark Vs. Train for me -- but that didn’t stop me from trying out scenarios on my boys and trying to crack them up and seeing what they responded to before deciding with illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and our editor which competitions to keep.

Chris with his wife, fellow author Jennifer Ziegler at Texas Book Festival.
And yes, I wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! for my boys -- but I couldn’t have done that without relying on my own research skills and my own judgment about what was important to include or exclude, even when that put me at odds with a 9-year-old who totally thought that “M” should be for Minecraft.

Each book we write, and each book we recommend, is partly about us and partly about them. If we keep that in mind before we put our fingers to the keyboard or pull a title off the shelf, and if we consider how best to strike a balance in that particular case, I think we’re all more likely to be happy with the outcome.

Not every book will fall squarely between our desires and those of our readers. But the more books we share -- truly share -- the more opportunities we’ll have to average out closer to the middle.

And the more we’ll learn to trust each other.

And the better the chances that we’ll each be able to think of a book -- one that we give and that they receive -- as ours.

Cynsational Event

Join Chris and K.A. Holt, author of Rhyme Schemer, at 2 p.m. Nov. 1 at BookPeople in Austin.

Cynsational Notes

Chris Barton is the author of the picture books Shark Vs. Train (Little, Brown, 2010)(a New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller) and The Day-Glo Brothers (Charlesbridge, 2009)(winner, American Library Association Sibert Honor), as well as the young adult nonfiction thriller Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities (Dial, 2011).

His 2014 publications include picture book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet (powerHouse) and his YA fiction debut as a contributor to the collection One Death, Nine Stories (Candlewick), and 2015 will bring picture book biographies The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdman's) and The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition (Millbrook).

Chris and his wife, children's-YA novelist Jennifer Ziegler (Revenge of the Flower Girls (Scholastic, 2014)), live in Austin, Texas, with their family.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Author Interview: Ginger Wadsworth on Yosemite's Songster: One Coyote's Story

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Yosemite’s Songster: One Coyote’s Story, by Ginger Wadsworth, illustrated by Daniel San Souci (Yosemite Conservancy, 2013). From the promotional copy:

A sudden rockslide in Yosemite Valley in California’s Sierra Nevada separates Coyote from her mate. 

Readers journey throughout the valley observing its many famous landmarks on four paws with Coyote. You’ll explore both the natural world and the human world with one’s nose leading the way.

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

Illustrator Dan San Souci and I have known each other for years; we’re both part of the San Francisco Bay area community of children’s book authors and artists.

 At an informal party, Dan and I chatted about writing a book together, specifically about a coyote in Yosemite National Park. Dan, along with his brother, Bob, had already written several books for the park, including their Two Bear Cubs, a Miwok Legend from California's Yosemite.

I had published John Muir, Wilderness Protector (Lerner), Camping with the President (Calkins Creek), about the 1903 Yosemite camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt and naturalist John Muir, plus Giant Sequoia Trees (Lerner).

Photo by Ginger Wadsworth
I’ve visited Yosemite National Park my entire life as well as many other parts of the Sierra Nevada. In fact, I try to explore the park every year. Dan is just as familiar as I am with this amazing natural wonder.

We both agree that working in California’s Yosemite National Park, doing research in the library there or hiking the trails with a camera, binoculars, or art supplies, is almost like cheating. To be allowed to work in this gorgeous setting is a gift.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to work with Dan San Souci? His art is breathtaking! I said “yes,” and the rest is history!

How did you come up with a story line?

During one of my stays in the park, I took a nature walk with Ranger Shelton Johnson. We crossed Stoneman Meadow on one of the protective, wooden boardwalks.

We were a multicultural group and didn’t need to communicate with one another when Ranger Johnson pointed out famous rock formations or falls, or had us cross arms across chests to bang gently against one another to demonstrate how glaciers are formed.

At one time, when most of the group was looking up, I was peering into the meadow. A pair of pointed ears was moving through the grasses. Every so often, a coyote leaped high to pounce on something. It was “mousing” – hunting for an afternoon snack of field mice.

And so my story was born . . . of this wild dog that shares the park with us . . . and vice versa, yet we seldom notice one because we’re so caught up in taking pictures of granite walls and waterfalls. I’m just as guilty as the next person!

Photo by Ginger Wadsworth
I set my story in the Yosemite Valley because that is where most first-time visitors come. They seldom step beyond the valley in their typical one-day explore. There are many iconic spots in the valley—the wedding chapel, the Merced River, Half Dome, the Ahwahnee Hotel, Bridalveil Fall, and more—and I wanted to include as many as sites possible.

I am familiar with Dan’s work, and I hoped that my story would offer him a smorgasbord of possible images. After seeing his first images, I was “blown away” by what he captured with his watercolors. I recognized almost spot he painted!

Illustration by Dan San Souci; used with permission.
What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

The book is published by the Yosemite Conservancy, a nonprofit organization devoted to educating visitors about the world that is Yosemite National Park. I could not anthropomorphize the coyote in any way, and I had to be scientifically accurate. I also had to be willing to make changes to reflect the philosophy that the Park Service wants to portray. That meant that the manuscript (and Dan’s art) was reviewed for accuracy by the National Park Service staff.

Illustration by Dan San Souci; used with permission.
For example, coyotes are natural scavengers, and in the park they occasionally eat human food. I’ve seen them raid overflowing garbage cans, so I mentioned that in the text.

The staff works hard, with signs and handouts, to remind visitors that coyotes, bears, and all other wild animals should find and eat their natural food. After my reviewers asked me to revise that section, I took out the raiding of garbage cans. I even corrected the name of a pine tree I’d misidentified, and I’m most grateful that other eyes looked for errors.

Would you tell us about winning the Spur Award?

Last spring I stayed in the Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California, where I own a one-room cabin in an isolated canyon. It’s a perfect spot for this writer to concoct stories, photograph passing coyotes, or even go out and howl with them on a warm desert evening.

I have a well, electricity, and my cell phone sometimes works. Someone from the Western Writers of America called me to say that Yosemite’s Songster: One Coyote’s Story earned the 2014 Spur Award in Storytelling, the best illustrated children’s book. I was to receive a Spur Award for the text, Dan San Souci for the art, and the Yosemite Conservancy for being the publisher.

I’ve been a member for many years, and this past June, I attended the Western Writers of America’s annual conference in Sacramento, California. Belinda Lantz from the Yosemite Conservancy and Nicole Geiger, my editor, joined me at the WWA banquet where I received my Spur Award.

I spoke about the honor of receiving this award that has an actual spur mounted on the plaque. I was thrilled with the award’s description of “the best storytelling for children in a 3,000 word book.”

After all, isn’t that what each of us strives for every single day?

It was my second Spur Award. Ten years ago, I earned one for Words West: Voices of Young Pioneers (Clarion) in the category of juvenile nonfiction. I dedicated my 2014 Spur Award to the memory of my father, Hal G. Evarts, Jr., a founding member of Western Writers of America, and a prolific author of books about the west.

In fact I am the third generation of writers of the west. I never met my grandfather, Hal G. Evarts, Sr.,who wrote books that first appeared in serial format in many of the “big slicks,” magazines including the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, and The Red Book.

My Spur Awards hang in my office, over an original painting by Dan San Souci from Yosemite’s Songster: One Coyote’s Story. It’s a stunning night image of a coyote howling at Half Dome.

What’s next?

Yosemite’s Songster: One Coyote’s Story has been approved for a second printing! In the meantime Dan and I are under contract to write a second book for the Yosemite Conservancy. Think Sierra black bears that live in around Yosemite National Park. It’s due out in the fall of 2016. I’ve been doing research this summer; Dan will step in once the text is accepted. We have lots of ideas for future park-themed books.

What else would you like to share?

Nicholas and Willa via Paws to Read at Orinda Library (A). Photo by Michelle Bea, posted with permission. 

I have two Golden Retrievers, Scout, and Willa. My third dog, Oreo, is a young, miniature poodle mix. Most of the time, Willa, Scout, and Oreo join me in my office, lying under my desk while I write.

 Willa and Scout are trained therapy dogs. I take them into libraries and schools where elementary-aged children read to dogs as part of national program called R.E.A.D. Our local name is “Paws to Read.”

Oreo and I are in dog school every Wednesday night. We’ll see if he can settle down and earn his therapy dog certificate.

Helping children improve their reading, courtesy of my dogs, is a perfect extension of my writer’s hat.

Cynsational Notes

Photo by Bill Wadsworth
Ginger Wadsworth is the award-winning author of over 25 nonfiction books for young readers.

Biography subjects are John Muir, Rachel Carson, Benjamin Banneker, Cesar Chavez, Julia Morgan, Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and others; books with western American history themes including Words West: Voices of Young Pioneers (Clarion); and natural histories titles about the desert, rivers, sequoias, and spiders that include Up, Up, and Away (Charlesbridge).

Her most recent books are Camping With the President (Calkins Creek); First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low (Clarion); and Yosemite’s Songster: One Coyote’s Story (Yosemite Conservancy).

She lives in Northern California with her family.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Voice: Christine Kohler on No Surrender Soldier

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Christine Kohler is the first-time author of No Surrender Soldier (Merit Press, 2014). From the promotional copy:

A young man, an old soldier, and a terrible injustice. Should the punishment be death?

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, and he thinks it’s possible he never will. The popular guys get all the attention, but the worst part is that Kiko has serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam; his grandfather is losing it to dementia; he just learned that his mother was raped in World War II by a Japanese soldier. 

It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom – no matter what it takes. 

And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man ? 

Based on a historical incident, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view--first, second, third, omniscient (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel? What considerations came into play? Did you try the story from a different point of view at some point? If so, what made you change your mind?

point of view revision
Originally I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this idea; I only had a premise—a 15-year-old Chamorro boy discovers his mother was raped during WWII by a Japanese soldier; what he doesn’t know is that there is a Japanese soldier who has been hiding in the jungle behind the boy’s house for 28 years since the liberation of Guam during WWII.

So I wrote the Chamorro family’s chapters in third person omniscient. That way I could fully flesh out the characters of entire family—Kiko, tatan (grandfather), tata (father), nana (mother), and Bobo (dog).

From the very first draft, the story was in alternating point of view (POV) chapters between Kiko and the WWII Japanese soldier, Isamu Seto. But there was no prologue nor framing until much later.

From the first draft, Seto’s chapters were in third person limited omniscient with a close psychic distance. That never changed.

All that changed regarding Seto’s chapters is that they increased, and in deeper revisions, I had to keep making his routines bump up against Kiko’s so there was a constant cause and effect, action and reaction, actions and consequences. The plot and subplot run like two railroad tracks that keep intersecting until the big collision (climax).

Once I had the family fleshed out and knew where they were and what they were all doing and how they would all react to each other and situations, then I needed to peel it all apart and put the focus on only Kiko, since he is the main character and it’s his story.

point of view notes
To convert Kiko’s chapters to limited omniscient I highlighted each character and his or her actions, dialogue, internal monologue (most IM should have been Kiko’s only) with different colored highlighters.

Then anything that did not adhere to Kiko’s plot problems or was from Kiko’s POV got axed. I kept his chapters in third person.

I didn’t count how many revisions I wrote, so let’s just say that eventually I took the plunge and wrote Kiko’s chapters in first person.

This was a difficult decision, not because I didn’t know it might make the story more compelling, but because I was so afraid of not being able to write an authentic 15-year-old Chamorro boy’s voice. There is no fudging in first person. And I write narrative in a character’s voice, too, just not as heavy in dialect. (Writing pidgin English is an entirely different writing craft topic.)

I would never have attempted either of these character voices had I not lived on Pacific-Asian islands, including Japan and Guam, for a decade. But in the end, I was glad I settled on third person for the Japanese soldier and first person for the Chamorro teen because I believe it is what added to making their chapters so distinctly different.

Christine's office
As a historical fiction writer, what drew you first--character, concept, or historical period? In whichever case, how did you go about building your world and integrating it into the story? What were the special challenges? Where did you turn for inspiration or support?

Christine with Abby
No Surrender Soldier is historical fiction set on Guam during the Vietnam war era, specifically 1972. It also involves a WWII topic, the occupation of Guam by the Japanese. And I needed to research my Japanese character’s pre-WWII life in Japan. So I researched three time periods and two Pacific island locations.

Although I had lived on both of these islands, I did not live in the specific locales of my characters’ settings nor during these early of dates. What drew me first to this topic and premise was my curiosity about why the Japanese soldier hid in the jungle for 28 years, suffering such extreme deprivation. What I couldn’t shake from working and living in Asia-Pacific was the atrocities done to the occupied people during WWII. So I guess you could say it was seeing human suffering on both sides of battling nations that drew me to combine these two situations/concepts.

There was never a question in my mind as to when the story would take place—1972, the year in which the real No Surrender Soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, was captured. Of course the Vietnam War was still in action, though winding down. But it reinforced the war theme since my story deals with the after-effects of war and how it affects families for generations.

Christine's research
At the time I started writing No Surrender Soldier I had lived on the U.S. mainland for a decade. I had recently left my job as a copy editor at the San Antonio Express-News to write full-time and specialize in children’s literature. So it was more challenging to get the research materials I wanted.

When I had lived on Guam I had the foresight to buy the Guam history book in high schools, although I didn’t know at the time I would write a novel. I read this history book cover to cover.

Then I read every book I could borrow from the library (not many) or purchase on-line. But more importantly, I wanted to read all the newspaper accounts—U.S. and Japanese—about Yokoi. I contacted my Gannett publisher, Lee Webber, and he had the archivist Carmelita Blas copy and mail me copies of Pacific Daily News articles. Dirk Ballendorf, then director of the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) at the University of Guam, also had an archivist Lourdes Nededog send me copies of everything in the files about Yokoi, which included foreign press clippings.

To purchase a compilation of Japanese journalists’ articles translated into English, I had to go on-line to an antique book dealer in Canada. I also read Yokoi’s autobiography, which was mostly about his life after he returned to Japan so it wasn’t as helpful.

Christine's blog
A funny side note regarding research: I’ve never lived on a farm, so when I wanted to write a pig-slaughtering chapter I checked out from the San Antonio library a book on how to slaughter pigs.

My husband used to spend his summers as a child on a farm and he said if anyone checked my library history they would show up at my door in the city and wonder what I’m up to.

Now that No Surrender Soldier is out, it’s being sold on-line at a sited called “Home Butchering Books”. No lie! Look it up!

I also contacted via internet Raymond Baza, a musician and composer, to ask questions about Chamorro music since it is as integral to the fiesta as food.

I had no problem building my world—place, culture, customs, food, etc. What was challenging for me was to know what to cut and what to keep in revision. I had to cut a tremendous amount of background and description so it wouldn’t sacrifice the natural storytelling.

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