Saturday, April 30, 2011

In My Mailbox [8]

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren.

I actually got a few books this week!
For Review
Dark Eden - Patrick Carman
Special thanks to Harper Collins

Red Riding Hood - Sarah Blakley-Cartwright
The Goddess Test - Aimee Carter

Yeah, I had to go to the mall one day, and my plan was just to walk right past the bookstore...but I couldn't. And so my little broke self bought two books. I've put myself back on a book buying ban until I hit up Books of Wonder and Strand in a few weeks!
What did everyone else get this past week? And has anybody read any of these yet? What did you all think?!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


By These Ten Bones - Clare Dunkle
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
# of pages: 229
Publisher: Henry Holt, Macmillan
Recommended for: MS & Beyond
There's hidden places all over this land-old, old places. Places with a chain for them to chain up the wolf when it's time.

A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver's daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves. There is an evil presence in the carver's life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her-and what price she is willing to pay to keep it.

My Thoughts

When I found out that Clare Dunkle's newest book was getting a cover makeover and being rereleased, I was so excited. I'd only read one other novel of hers, The Hollow Kingdom, but it remains one of my absolute favorite books of all time. I just had to grab a second helping of some Dunkle literary genius. I read By These Ten Bones in literally 24 hours - started at 8:00 one night and finished at around 8:00 the next night. It was that absorbing. If nothing else, reading this book will *not* be a waste of time. At all.
So to keep it all simple, I'm going to divide this review up into 3 categories:

Does it Better than...what I remember

The setting in this book was so vibrant, so alive, I really felt like I was reading this at the foot of some giant rolling hill high up in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by mist. The atmosphere lends itself well to the apprehensive and wary tone of the novel...eerie, eerie, eerie! I can't say enough how the setting just came to life here. I always look for that when I read, and I definitely felt that extra connection to the story here.

Just as good as...what I remember

Dunkle's writing style is so special. She really has a knack for making storytelling seem easy and effortless. What I really enjoyed about this book was how easy it was to read - it didn't contain nuanced or over-the-top language, it wasn't overly flowery with literary devices. No, instead the prose was simple, yet elegant, and the simplicity is what made it so absorbing. Just as absorbing, in fact, as what I remembered in The Hollow Kingdom.

The story is also so incredibly creative. Dunkle previously worked with goblins and elves in The Hollow Kingdom, and here she takes on werewolves. Tired of werewolf stories? You'll likely appreciate this one.For one, it just seems more like a fantasy: no urban setting, no high school, no "ohh, what if he doesn't shift back in time for prom?!" Instead, By These Ten Bones reminded me of a longer, more epic campfire story.

Could Have Been Better

All these things said, I could have done with a little more character development. Bones is not very long, so at times it felt like I was missing some character connection that a few more chapters might have remedied. Maddie was a headstrong and determined protagonist, sure, but there were times when I wondered what drove her to be so brave, and headstrong, etc. I said this book reminded me of a campfire story...well, a campfire story is something you hear, not something you see, so I didn't always feel like I was observing the characters closely enough to have a true emotional investment in them. The love story was sweet, but seemed slightly underdeveloped. However, I'm certainly not complaining, and don't let that sway you from possibly checking this out. There's way more to the story than the romance aspect, plenty more in fact to keep you entertained (and delightfully creeped out!).

All in all, By These Ten Bones was a fun, decent, distracting read that I devoured in about 24 hours. If you're in between books, in a slump, or just itching to pick up something you would normally pass over, I definitely suggest giving this one a try!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Imagination in Focus is LEGIT! Business cards!

Just got my business cards in the mail and eep! They're so pretty!
I'd seen on a couple of blog sites that business cards were a good idea for BEA attendees, and that Vista Print did good work.
They were so right!
I was able to design my own, include my button, and ended up paying about $15 for 500.
They also quoted me May 2nd for the delivery, but I got them yesterday.
If anyone is thinking about doing business cards (for their blog or anything else), I sincerely recommend using Vista Print! I thought around $15 for 500 was very reasonable.
The cards aren't really smudgy in real life - I just blurred out my address & last name.
What do you guys think?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Favorite Easter Story :)

Happy Easter, everyone! This is an Easter story that I've heard for years and probably some of you have heard it, too. I put it up last year, too. So in honor of Easter, here is -

The Empty Egg (apparently based on a true story)

Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of 12, he was still in 2nd grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became frustrated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool, and make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy just irritated his teacher.

One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, "Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn't fair to him to be with younger children who don't have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students."

Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. "Miss Miller," he said, "there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here."

Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn't fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying?

As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining, when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy's noises and his blank stares.

Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. "I love you, Miss Miller!" he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris' face turned red. She stammered, "Wh-why that's very nice, Jeremy. N-now please take your seat."

Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter.To emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. "Now," she said to them, "I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Miss Miller," the children responded enthusiastically- all except for Jeremy. He listened intently; his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises. Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.
That evening, Doris' kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse, and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy's parents.

The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller's desk. After they completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs.

In the first egg, Doris found a flower. "Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life," she said. "When plants peek through the ground, we know that springis here." A small girl in the first row waved her arm. "That's my egg, Miss Miller," she called out.

The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, whichlooked very real. Doris held it up. "We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that's new life, too."

Little Judy smiled proudly and said, "Miss Miller, that one is mine." Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, "My daddy helped me," he beamed.

Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty. Surely it must be Jeremy's, she thought, and of course, he did not understand her instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Becauses he did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.

Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. "Miss Miller, aren't you going to talk about my egg?"

Flustered, Doris replied, "But Jeremy, your egg is empty."

He looked into her eyes and said softly, "Yes, but Jesus' tomb was empty, too."

Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, "Do you know why the tomb was empty?"

"Oh, yes," Jeremy said, "Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up."

The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away.

Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the funeral were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket... all of them empty.

I love stories like this that deal with teachers and their students. I want to be a teacher when I graduate (which will happen THREE SATURDAYS FROM NOW!), so that's one reason this story has always stuck with me. Happy Easter, everybody!

Friday, April 22, 2011

5-star Favorite Books!

Occasionally I run this feature called "Memory Lane," where I look back at whatever I was reading approximately one year ago (or sometimes two).
This time, though, I wanted to take a look at all the 5-star "fangirly" reviews I've written in the past twelve months, April-to-now.

The Dark Divine - Bree DespainEyes Like Stars - Lisa MantchevThe Hunger Games - Suzanne CollinsJellicoe Road - Melina MarchettaThe Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick NessNevermore - Kelly CreaghSabriel - Garth NixShiver - Maggie StiefvaterTyger Tyger - Kersten HamiltonUglies - Scott WesterfeldWildwood Dancing - Juliet MarillierWondrous Strange - Lesley Livingston

I guess you could say that these (and some 4-star rated books I've read) are my favorites.
So...yes, I do use the 5-star rating, though the most common rating I give out is 4-star (which is still really good!). Just wanted to showcase these fangirly reviews from the past year.

Does rating a book 5 stars mean that you liked every single sentence? Can you still rate a book 5 stars overall, even if there were parts of the plot you wish had been done differently?
Because that's true for me with pretty much all of those...still loved them overall!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review - PLAGUE

Plague (Gone, #4) - Michael Grant
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction/Science Fiction/Dystopian
# of pages: 492
Publisher: Harper Collins
Recommended for: 14+

Pretty much because if you're like me and you've read/enjoyed the previous three books in the Gone series, *not* continuing would not be an option. We're all way too invested in the FAYZ at this point.
For the most part, Plague was just as entertaining and action-packed as its predecessors.
To be honest, though, I'm starting to have an issue with the determined length of this series.
You see, I kind of wish this series would only be 5 books, instead of, like, 6. Knowing that there are (at least) two more books to go before any kind of resolution hits is rather exhausting.
I loved Gone and thought Hunger was very well-done, but starting with Lies, the series started to take on an almost soap-opera element: there were so many characters to keep track of, and they all seemed to develop sudden, arbitrary fights with each other. And while I initially loved Sam and Astrid (the series' main couple), I hate to say that now it's difficult to read their segments, because they're always fighting. For no reason. At the beginning of the book, Sam does something really stupid, and Astrid seems to have developed this nasty, crabby personality.
I understand why the characters are portrayed this way - at least, I think I do. It's like the author's trying to add drama with character interactions, but having characters who don't get along and act incredibly immature is not the way to maintain intrigue. At least, I don't think it is.
To be fair, this was a quick book to read, mainly because the plot was very absorbing. Grant has always done a great job giving readers excitement and lots of action. However, there really wasn't anything new that happened in Plague. That's one of the reasons I'm getting a little bored with this series: it just seems like everything's been done already and in many ways, Plague's storylines were just like those in Hunger and Lies. There really wasn't anything new here.
I think series books should progress and move on towards the big climax of the overarching story, but that doesn't seem to happen here. Instead, Plague just kind of meanders along, biding time until the next installment.
I spent the last week trying to figure out how to word this review. In truth, I read Plague back in February, so my thoughts have congealed since then. I still enjoyed Plague and since I'm already hooked on the series, I'll definitely be reading the next installments. If you haven't read the series, I'd still put it on your 'to-do' list, because the concept (what would a society made up of kids 15 and younger look like?) is really intriguing, but this series is starting to take a repetitive path...

Final Rating

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5 Reasons Why I Love MG/MG-YA Novels!

1. More exciting/original fantasy stories!
This is definitely a bias of mine, but it really seems to me that some of the most well-though-out fantasy storyworlds are in the MG books/series and the MG-to-YA crossovers. One of the kids I know said it's because "kids believe more stuff and don't need a lot of convincing."

2. The awesomeness of Rite-of-Passage
I don't know about you guys, but I absolutely love watching characters grow and mature.
I like being able to see them grow up as the greater, overarching story goes along.
A lot of times in Young Adult, the series timeline doesn't last longer than a year, or a few years at the most. Characters who begin as teenagers are usually still teens
(though perhaps older) at the story's conclusion. What's cool about a series like Harry Potter is being able to see the main characters grow up.

3. Cute love stories
If love stories are even part of the overall plot (and in a lot of MG series, they are not), they seem to be much sweeter: boy seems nicer to girl, girl seems nicer to boy, there's less likely to be elements such as love triangles (though this may loose some, I love it!). I really think a lot of the dialogue is better: my two favorite literary couples of all time happen to be from MG/MG-YA crossover series: Percy & Annabeth (Percy Jackson series) and Taran & Eilonwy (Chronicles of Prydain). There's also less of an overall focus on the love story part of the plot, and a bigger focus on ACTION!

4. BOYS!
A librarian once told me that in elementary and middle school, boys (overall) read more than girls, but by high school, girls read more than boys. The majority of true "YA" novels are either narrated by a girl, or have a girl as the main character. As a girl, I
kind of like this, but I also love that younger boys have an incredible amount of options available to them: Septimus Heap, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, Greg the "Wimpy Kid," Harry Potter, Eragon, Thomas (Wardstone Chronicles), Josh Newman (Secrets of Nicolas Flamel), etc.

5. "Seed Books"
Many, if not most, of modern books targeted at the "middle grade" audience can be enjoyed and devoured by older readers. And I definitely believe that there are more quality books out there being written and targeted specifically at young readers than when I was a kid.
I know that for me, my love of reading really took root when I was in the "middle-grade" age.
And I continued into the more teen-oriented branch of Young Adult Fiction (which I never outgrew). So I thank you, middle-grade novels and MG-YA cr
ossovers, for being the "seed" books that really get kids invested in reading. Those teens (and older) who read YA, I'm willing to bet, started out with you!

*MG/YA Crossover is my own vocabulary term for books that fall, I'd say, into both genres - "middle grade" because technically the characters may begin in that age group (11-13) - but gradually get over and become teens as the series progresses. The
Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series are the examples that immediately come to mind.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

6 Weeks Till BEA - WHO'S GOING??

Hey all!
I calculate about 6 weeks until Book Expo America 2011!!!And I am super pumped because, if all goes well and there aren't any hiccups, I'll be in New York to attend. It was my family's graduation gift to me, and I seriously cannot wait! Like I said, unless anything unexpected happens, I'm planning on being there.

Is anybody else going to BEA this year? Has anybody been before? If so, do share your experiences!! Is there any bit of advice that you'd like to pass on?This is apparently what it looks like!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Love You Too, 3rd Person Narrative

Did you know that third-person narration is the most common narrative mode in literature?
As someone who mostly reads MG & YA literature, I found that surprising. It's my observation that a lot (maybe not 'most,' but a lot) of YA books these days are written in first person. And we like that. First persons have "authentic" voices, they make the characters seem more real, and they're more interesting than third-person narratives. Supposedly.

Third-persons, on the other hand, can be limiting. I've seen a lot of reviews where the chief reason for not liking a book is because the story was told in a 3rd person narrative. And that's fine, if that's your prerogative. I guess I don't need a book to be told in 1st person only in order to relate to the characters, or in order for them to seem real to me. It's kind of a bummer when I see this narrative mode dismissed for not being as cool-sounding or authentic as first-person. And as someone whose MS is written in third-person format, I'd hate to think that my story may be passed aside because my "character's voice" isn't strong enough or authentic-sounding. But that's a writing point. As a reader, I have to say that I usually love third-person narratives and am a little "iffy" on 1st persons.
A first-person narrative can be amazing and add a whole new dimension to a story, if the reader likes the narrator's voice. My favorite narrative voice to this day is Percy Jackson of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. On the other hand, the deciding factor between loving a book and...not exactly loving, has often been the voice of narrators not quite so endearing, like my personal experience with Katniss from the Hunger Games series (especially Mockingjay), Lily from Forgive My Fins, Bella from the Twilight series, and (though I liked the book as a whole), Ari from Darkness Becomes Her. In all of these cases, I got a little *too much* character attitude that, perhaps, a third-person style would have quelled. This is all my opinion.

So what is the real purpose of this random, meandering post? To declare my love and admiration for this popular and classic storytelling mode, and to offer up some of my favorite/well-known examples of effective, non-limiting books (that still managed to have three-dimensional characters!)

The Artemis Fowl series - Eoin Colfer
The Books of Bayern
- Shannon Hale
The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis*
The Chronicles of Prydain - Lloyd Alexander*
The Great Tree of Avalon series - T.A. Barron
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
Holes - Louis Sachar
The Hollow Kingdom
- Clare Dunkle
The Keys to the Kingdom series - Garth Nix
The Looking Glass Wars trilogy - Frank Beddor
The Mortal Instruments series - Cassandra Clare
The Redwall series - Brian Jacques
Sabriel - Garth Nix
The Septimus Heap series - Angie Sage
The Theatre Iluminata trilogy - Lisa Mantchev
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Wondrous Strange trilogy - Lesley Livingston**
A very recent debut,
Nevermore - Kelly Creagh
And lest we forget,
The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling

I tend to think, light-heartedly of course, that if third-person narratives were a good enough storytelling mode for J.K. Rowling to use, they're good enough for any future writer! Or reader.
So live on, third-person, whether limited or omniscient. There's just something enticing about your style.
Your fan,
Amelia :D

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Progress Report: MATCHED

I started Matched about two months ago, and as of right now I just hit page 100.
I think I'm going to have to put this one back on my shelf and come back to it after a little while.
It's a bummer that I can't seem to concentrate on it, but in all honesty it hasn't really been holding my interest, and I've had to read about 10 or so pages at a time, every once in awhile. I don't want to get really specific, just because this isn't technically a review and I don't want to say anything "official" sounding without having finished the book first.

I will try and get back to it in the summer time, after I've read through the books I have to review and all the upcoming sequels that are about to be released!

What did you guys think of Matched? Yay or nay?
And has there ever been a book you've had to put down and revist later?

Monday, April 4, 2011


The Year We Were Famous - Carole Estby Dagg
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
# of pages:
243 (ARC)
Published by Clarion, Harcourt
Releases TODAY!
With their family home facing foreclosure, seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, need to raise a lot of money fast—no easy feat for two women in 1896. Helga wants to tackle the problem with her usual loud and flashy style, while Clara favors a less showy approach. Together they come up with a plan to walk the 4,600 miles from Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City—and if they can do it in only seven months, a publisher has agreed to give them $10,000. Based on the true story of the author’s great-aunt and great-grandmother, this is a fast-paced historical adventure that sets the drama of Around the World in Eighty Days against an American backdrop during the time of the suffragist movement, the 1896 presidential campaign, and the changing perception of “a woman’s place” in society.

Fabulous YA historical fiction! The Year We Were Famous has a lot to offer readers - fun, original story (that just so happens to be a *true story*), thoroughly interesting characters, and highly intriguing chunks of American history and geography. The story is based on the real-life experiences of the author's great-grandmother and great-aunt, who, in 1896, trekked clear across the country (Washington state to NYC) by themselves. The book is set against the backdrop of the American suffragette movement and the famous Bryan-McKinley presidential campaigns.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I began this story - I knew it was a historical fiction, but I wasn't sure how much history would play a part in the story. The further I got into the story, the more riveting it became! I admit to having a Google Images browser up for every place the characters mentioned. I seriously cannot imagine walking over lava fields in Idaho, crossing the Snake River, or braving through blizzards, much less doing it in the late 19th century, with no hotel reservations or ATM machines or, you know, Mapquest. Clara was an especially endearing character to follow, and her mom will charm and entertain you with her wit and determination, though I did find her a little strong and kind of overwhelming, and she seemed almost out-of-place, out-of-setting with her "New Woman" speeches. But still, both characters were well-rounded, and their interactions were entertaining and heart-felt.
I do wish the story could have been a little longer. I know it's not feasible to give each day/location out of their seven-month excursion its own chapter, but Estby Dagg has such a knack for bringing not only history but rich American places to life, I was left feeling full but still wanting more! The passages dealing with the Suffrage movement were thoroughly interesting, and I especially liked them because they reminded me of what I learned in my American West class last year - for example, that women were way more successful getting the vote in western states and territories than in the more "civilized" east, and that Wyoming was the first to grant women the right to vote (Utah had given them the vote, but that was edited out of their constitution when they were admitted to statehood, as a matter of fact).

If you consider yourself even a slight fan of Historical Fiction, or if you just like to keep up with the newest, coolest YA releases, you'll not want to miss The Year We Were Famous!

Final Rating

Check out my interview with the author!
Click here to view the trailer!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In My Mailbox [7]

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren.

Been a slow couple of weeks, but I did get some good stuff this past week!Received for Review
Awaken - Katie Kacvinsky
Special thank you to HM Harcourt!

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
You Are Special - Max Lucado

I had bought Chime (Franny Billingsley)...but after reading a few chapters and being unable to get into it (and then just skimming the rest), I returned it.

Books Read!Just finished
- Re reading Nevermore by Kelly Creagh (favorite 2010 release!)
The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg

About to start
Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Friday, April 1, 2011

Interview with YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS' Carole Estby Dagg!

Tonight I am pleased to have author Carole Estby Dagg with us! Her new novel, The Year We Were Famous, comes out this Monday, and I can say that it's one of my favorites of the year!
There is a lot of research that goes into any novel, particularly those in the historical fiction genre. For anyone who's ever wondered, "How do they find OUT all this stuff?" or "I wonder how much of this is true," we have a resident expert to answer some questions!

First of all, welcome to Imagination in Focus! Thanks for being with us tonight. Would you describe your journey researching you family and the historical time-period?

I started with two articles from Minneapolis newspapers rescued from a burn barrel after Great-grandmother Helga died. Even after writing to librarians across the country for more newspaper articles, though, I couldn’t find out much more about the walk itself, so I broadened the research to the places Clara and Helga passed through and the people they met.

There’s danger in being a research person. I can spend half a day researching what kind of compass Eric might have given Clara, right down to finding antique compasses on E-bay and taking notes on the wording on the box of a Keuffel and Esser. I’d guess 99% of my research never makes it into the book in a way that is obvious to the reader, but it helps draw me into that other world. Besides – it’s fun.

For The Year We Were Famous, I read biographies of the people they met, habits of bears and rattlesnakes, frontier cures for blisters, and the history of women’s suffrage. I found an old atlas with maps of all the old railroad lines and spent weeks establishing a plausible day-by-day route for every mile of their 232-day trek. Besides reading books, I scrolled through microfilm of old newspapers for articles on the presidential race of 1896, and took notes on the ads for corsets, bicycle costumes, bicycles and typewriters. I drove part of Clara and Helga’s route with my daughter and stopped in at a little museum in Rawlins, Wyoming, where I bought a pamphlet about a Victorian-era local woman doctor who became the model for Clara’s ‘someone to talk to.’ I approached the Internet like a treasure hunt, hopping from clue to clue to research relevant trivia like the history of Underwood typewriters, the elevation of the pass in the Blue Mountains, and what the Indian Agent for the Umatilla reservation looked like.

E-bay was another great source research. I bought a rubberized poncho of the type Clara might have worn, and bid on period postcards of the places they passed through. A postcard of Mrs. William McKinley helped inspire the chapter on meeting the president. Another postcard depicting Umatilla twins laced into cradleboards found its way into another chapter.

To get into the head of a young woman of the late Victorian age, I gave up reading contemporary fiction for a year and read only books Clara might have read for school or for diversion. I found dime novels on the Internet, and that that florid writing style influenced how I had Clara write about shooting the brigand in Oregon and demonstrating the curling iron to Native Americans in Utah. All told, I tallied up about six million words of background reading.

I never would have thought of E-bay! Research does seem challenging, but also really fun and informative. What were the challenges of blending fact and fiction?

I didn’t intend to write fiction. I couldn’t find enough facts about the walk itself, thought, so I had to start connecting the dots between known facts with my imagination. It took years to work up to putting words into the mouths of Clara and Helga. They were real people, my Great-aunt and Great-grandmother, and they weren’t still around to defend themselves if I portrayed them inaccurately. But to write about characters anyone would want to read about, I had to ascribe motives and dreams to them. Although I didn’t know what they thought and felt, by reading diaries and biographies of other women of the times—particularly suffragists—I could at least give them the thoughts of the collective New Woman.

Whose writing has influenced you, and who do you like to recommend to young adults?

As an eight or nine year-old, I read most of the Victorian children’s classics: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden, George MacDonald’s Princess and Curdie books, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Dinah Craik’s Little Lame Prince, and the Fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson. Besides the Victorians, I enjoyed books with a hint of fantasy, like My Father’s Dragon, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle,series; books set in other eras and places, like the Betsy-Tacy series and Anne of Green Gables; and books which featured braver and more talented children that I could pretend to be, like Posy and her sisters in Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes and the Melendy children in The Saturdays.

Thank you very much for joining me! It's been great to have an author's insight into what it takes to balance research and writing.

Carole Estby Dagg's The Year we were Famous is published by Clarion (Harcourt) and will be released this Monday!

Carole Estby Dagg's website

On Goodreads

The Year We Were Famous @ Amazon

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