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Author Jeanne Moran on Writing Historical Fiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jeanne Moran as she discusses her new book, The Path Divided, and its journey to publication.

But first, YAY! Jeanne is generously giving away two FREE copies of her book, one in print, the other in eBook form. To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a blog comment below. (US residents only, ends Jan 1, 2020)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The Path Divided is the sequel I didn’t plan to write. Seriously, who wants to research and write a second novel set in Nazi Germany? After Risking Exposure was published, I was ready to move on to more pleasant subject matter. And I did, for a little while.
Then, (I tell you this in full trust that you won’t call the men in the white coats) I awoke in the middle of the night with a grouchy old man’s voice in my head. Without knowing who he was, I stumbled to the computer and documented his words. About five hundred words into his dictation, I realized he was an unrepentant Nazi. After another five hundred words, I recognized him as the antagonist from Risking Exposure, but six decades older. The seed for The Path Divided was sown.
I wouldn’t write about an old, unrepentant Nazi without a counterbalance of someone with decent morals and behavior. When I revisited the character of his more noble sister and found her still in 1938 (I’m not a time traveler, just a writer,) her story grew also. The Path Divided weaves together her historical narrative with his more contemporary one.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My novels were born of my curiosity and my ignorance. Books about Nazi Germany tend to focus on the war and the horrors inflicted on Nazi targets. They’re typically told by either the regime’s victims or the WWII victors.
Enter my curiosity. As a second-generation American of German descent, I wondered about the German experience. If my grandparents hadn’t emigrated, my parents would have grown up in Germany during the Nazi era. Their school curriculum would have been Nazi-designed and approved. They would have been members of Hitler Youth, as was the law. They would have been bombarded with the regime’s version of news through government-controlled media. Perhaps they would have been caught up in the fervor of a torchlight parade or an enormous rally.
I knew the Nazis were good at brainwashing their citizens; they spewed propaganda into German minds for six years before war broke out. But I wondered—what if a regular teenage German thought for herself? What if she was headstrong and independent and refused to go along with the crowd? Those ‘what if’ questions pushed me on.

Please share some of your writing process.
I typically start with a character and spend some time getting to know that character and her world before I write anything. I try to understand what she wants and why she wants it. I jot down ideas—settings, events, secondary characters, etc.
The writing itself tends to be in fits and starts as a scene takes shape in my mind. Don’t tell my English teachers this, but I don’t start by writing the opening scene. Gasp! I write scenes out of order, and I always write the ending before I write the beginning. Also, I avoid heavy edits until the entire first draft is finished.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was one of those kids who wrote stories and stuck them under the bed, but in my adult life, I worked as a pediatric physical therapist. We therapists ask children to do exercise that’s really hard, and the kids on my caseload struggled to participate. All that changed when I embedded the needed exercise into a story. The kids were no longer lifting a weight, they were raising their sword to defend against pirates! They weren’t walking to increase endurance, they were explorers on a jungle safari! Their cooperation (and their motor skills) soared.
Time and again, I was struck by story’s power to transform. I knew I had to do more of that, and I’m delighted to do so still.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
While I won’t discount the possibility of writing more historical fiction (I love research,) I’m delighted to say all the Nazis are out of my head! I’m currently writing a funny middle grade chapter book series tentatively called The Companion Finders. In it, a prank-loving Friendship Fairy must team up with the self-absorbed Fairy of Love to find human companions for the world’s loneliest creatures: Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, and Jack Frost.

Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I love character-driven kidlit, and a classic favorite of mine is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. When I read it as a kid, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m crying about a spider!” and when I read it again as an adult, I was again touched to the core. The characters of Charlotte, Wilbur, and Fern still ring with authenticity. A more contemporary favorite is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. The unique voice and delightful character of Suzy were so well drawn that I actually missed her after I closed the book.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
When the reader truly experiences a story, that story becomes part of their understanding of the world.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Banana ice cream with chocolate coated almonds swirled through. Why? Because the color yellow brightens everything, the almonds swirled in because I’m a bit scattered and nutty, and the chocolate because, hello, it’s chocolate!

BIO
In my career as a pediatric physical therapist, I helped hundreds of children gain strength and motor skills. That left me spare time (ha!) to teach Sunday School, direct an after-school program, organize an international student-athlete exchange, and plan a new community playground. Along the way, I learned a bit about tang soo do and sudoku, tap dancing and German, whole foods cooking and the joy of selling on eBay. Anything to avoid cleaning!
I write fiction and creative non-fiction for young and young-minded readers surrounded inspirational quotes, vinyl records, countless books, and innumerable dust bunnies.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JmoranAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeannemoranauthor
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jeannemoran.author/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu5e32rKDY2CPkkIv8ZH_Q

To purchase book:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KGHFQLH
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-path-divided-jeanne-moran/1130061077?ean=9781987019278
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781728729152