a guest post by Nancy McDonald
Look on the shelves of any bookstore and you’ll see plenty of fiction set during the Second World War for adults. But you won’t find nearly as much for the 8-12-year-old reader.
Let’s face it, the Second World War was a terrible time in history, full of unspeakable horror, unrelenting fear and evil seemingly everywhere.
But at the same time, there was courage, camaraderie, and countless every day acts of kindness and sacrifice.
The Second World War brought out the very worst in people, and the very best, which is why authors continue to mine the era – and readers still seek out new stories that prompt an age-old question: if put to the test, would I rise to the occasion how matter how dangerous or difficult it was?
I’m a WWII history buff who happens to love writing for middle grade readers. I like that age group. They’re curious. They’re open. They’re trying to understand their world and their place in it without being terribly introspective about it. They want an exciting read that leaves them entertained and inspired. And that’s just what I like to write!
All of my novels are set during WWII – I’m currently working on a sequel to The Doktor’s Daughter – and here are the things I keep top of mind while I’m researching and writing.
- If I don’t create a likeable, plucky hero or heroine who young readers can identify with and care about, it doesn’t matter how accurate my history or well plotted my novel, they’re going to lose interest. The supporting characters – the ones who are either with my protagonist or out to thwart him/her – need to be equally memorable and believable, both in their actions and their “voice”.
Plot is a close second.
- Plot is a close second. I craft my stories carefully so that there is non-stop action and suspense from page one, and cliff hangers to ratchet up the tension and drive the plot. That’s what my readers tell me they want! I put my hero or heroine in real-life peril, but make sure they’re able to overcome the obstacles put in their way, using wit, bravery and resourcefulness unique to them – and realistic for their age. I don’t shy away from difficult themes such as persecution, fear and loss, but I’m careful not to be too graphic.
Stay true to the characters and their story.
- Stay true to the characters and their story. I watch to be sure that my characters don’t act or speak in a way that would be unexpected for them or the time they’re living in – and that the challenges they face are appropriate for their age and situation.
Don’t get bogged down in the history.
- I’ve spent countless hours reading about the Second World War and countless more visiting the places where my novels are set – London, Paris and Berlin – to ensure they ring true. But I often have to remind myself not to get too detailed. Children experience things differently than adults – and they remember them differently too. For them, it’s often the little details that make an impression and stay with them.
Remember your readers.
- And write accordingly, keeping in in mind that the goal is to give them a love of history and historical fiction – in my case WWII – that follows them all through their lives.
It’s 1933 in Berlin. The Nazis have seized power, and for thirteen-year-old Amelie Meyer life is changing in ways she never could have imagined.
Her new teacher is picking on Jewish students, her friends are starting to shun her for not joining their Aryan youth group and her father is getting remarried. As tensions mount at home and school, Amelie embarks on a perilous journey – with nothing less than her whole future at stake.GIRL ON THE RUN (The Doktors Daughter) Book Tour Giveaway
About the Author
Nancy McDonald began her career as a journalist on television programs that include W5, Canada AM and Marketplace before going on to become a sought-after freelance writer, penning everything from documentaries to live-action scripts to comic books. The Doktor’s Daughter, the sequel to Girl on the Run, is her fourth novel. Nancy lives in Stratford, Ontario where she revels in Shakespeare, treads the boards with the Perth County Players and works part-time at Fanfare Book, Stratford’s only independent bookseller.
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