Please welcome the enormously talented debut Author, Caroline Leech. Her novel, Wait for Me, will be of special interest to those of you who are writing historical fiction, or to anyone who likes a great read or a story set against the backdrop of WWII. Caroline is generously donating a copy of Wait For Me to one lucky reader who stops by to leave a comment. Winner will be chosen by random.org in one week. Last week's contest winner is posted at the end of the blog.
Writing from the Inside Out . . . Author Caroline Leech shares about her debut novel, WAIT FOR ME and also her journey to publication.
What was your particular path to publication?
I didn’t start writing fiction until my husband’s job brought us over from the UK to Texas. I’d left one career back in the UK, and now I had the chance to think about finding another. I’d been an avid reader all my life, so I found myself drawn back to writing fiction for the first time since I left school, but I knew that there must be so much more to writing a novel, or even short stories, than just … well, writing. So I signed up with the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut for their Writing for Children correspondence course, and I loved it instantly. Suddenly I had a valid excuse to take time out of my life as a mother and homemaker to do something for me. And then, I signed up for the Advanced Course, where my mentor was a certain lady called Clara Gillow Clark! By the end of that course, Clara had guided me through the drafting of a whole novel for teenagers, and had also helped me look at the market to see where my book might fit, how to write a query letter and how to organize my approaches to agents and editors. It was exhilarating, knowing that I had grown so much as a writer, and that I had someone helping me to stay on track.
Over the next few years, I developed some great friendships with other would-be authors through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I also wrote a second novel, which then won an SCBWI competition, the Joan Lowery Nixon Award. The same year, it won the YA categories in two Romance Writers of America competitions, once of which was judged by Alice Jerman from Harper Teen. Something about my characters and setting – a Scottish farm in World War Two – really resonated with Alice and having read the full manuscript, she offered me a two-book deal. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to get that email! Although Alice loved the book, she knew it still needed work to make it ready for publication, and over the next few months, she helped me work my way through the story to tighten up the text and expand on all the bits she loved the most. As I had found working with Clara, having a mentor like Alice allowed me to see aspects of my story – the good and the bad – which I’m sure would never have noticed on my own.
It might have taken me a while from beginning to end, but on January 31st this year, I became a published author when Harper Teen released my World War Two novel, WAIT FOR ME.
Why did you choose World War Two for WAIT FOR ME?
Both my parents were involved in WW2 – my mother was a child evacuee, and my father became old enough to join up as a soldier a few months before the war ended – so I grew up with their memories and stories of their experiences. My dad’s four older brothers were also soldiers, as were my mother’s uncles, and her aunts worked in a parachute factory, meaning there were so many stories to listen to, just from within my own family.
When it came to writing a whole book set in that time, I found that I was drawn away from the front line fighting, back to the home front where wartime brought very different challenges, especially for women. Everyone knows that men were called up to serve during the war, but did you know that women were too? Who else was there to take over the jobs the men had left behind? Any woman in Britain between 19 and 40 could either join the armed forces, or work on farms or in factories. Many had to leave their young children with relatives of neighbors while they worked, or move away from home completely. Women in the home also had to deal with strict rationing of food, fuel and clothing, and they lived with the constant worry that their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers might not come home again. My own grandmother waved goodbye to her five sons as they each went off to war, one by one. Sadly, only four of her boys came home. I know that Scotland did not suffer the same devastation that the countries occupied by Nazi Germany did, but still, I feel that there are stories of bravery, commitment and compassion from my homeland which I would like to tell.
Why are historical novels important for teenagers to read?
It can be very easy for ‘history’ to be dismissed as that boring class, third period between algebra and Spanish, when you’re forced to learn by rote names and dates of battles and surrenders, plagues and eruptions, births and deaths, none of which you will ever need to know again. But history is so much more than that. Understanding the path by which humanity found its way from then to now is a crucial part of understanding not only the world in which you live, but also the decisions we have to make about its future. There’s a famous saying, attributed to Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, which says, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Sadly, the way that many history textbooks and non-fiction books are written – densely packed with names, dates and numbers – can make learning history off-putting. That’s why I’ve always loved historical fiction, first as a reader, and now as a writer. I enjoy finding books which let me see historical eras and events through personal stories. For example, I might not get excited about a book detailing the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940, but reading Ruta Sepetys’s amazing YA novel, BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY took me there and made me feel the Lithuanian people’s pain. And no textbook could have shown me the individual bravery and sacrifices of those who lived through the First World War in the heartbreaking way that Michael Morpurgo did in WAR HORSE, or let me see of the impact of the Vietnam War on the families left behind like Gary D Schmidt’s OKAY FOR NOW.
What we call ‘history’ was once everyday life for other people, and perhaps seeing historical events from their perspective might help all of us to see how fortunate we are to live in the age we are in right now.
What are you working on now?
I am almost at the end of the revisions for my second book which will be released next spring. It’s another Scottish World War Two story, though not a sequel, and tells the story of another teenage girl who is determined to do her bit for the war effort while trying to discover her own place in the world. We have a title, and our wonderful designer is working on a cover right now, and hopefully we’ll be revealing both later in the summer. I’m really excited about this book, and I hope that everyone who has enjoyed WAIT FOR ME will find in it another story which makes them smile (and perhaps cry just a little bit too!).
Do you have some advice for aspiring writers?
Read. And write. The best way to become a better writer is to do lots of both. There are so many amazing authors out there, in every genre, so try to read a wide cross-section, and learn from all the things you love about those books. And while you are at it, learn from everything you DON’T like about those books too.
Another important thing is that when you are writing, and you become convinced (as we all do) that all the words you are setting down are awful/inane/nonsensical, you must still keep writing. No one ever publishes a first draft of anything, and since you know you will have probably several rounds of revisions to go, your job for now is just to get words down. Any words. Because you can’t revise, polish and make perfect words that you haven’t yet written.
Praise for Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
A breathtaking WW2 romance for fans of Elizabeth Wein’s CODE NAME VERITY and Ruta Sepetys’s BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY.
Can their love survive a war?
It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?
But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.
Reviews from other authors
“Caroline Leech’s story shines a beautifully written light on the precarious nature of love and war and asks its readers to believe, even when the hero doesn’t, that love can prevail. This is a book that makes you want to curl up with a cuppa and read straight through till the morning.”
~Kathi Appelt, National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor Winner
“Wait for Me is a delicately written love story with a gorgeously evoked setting, an intrepid heroine, and a knee-weakening romance. This book is not to be missed.”
~Anne Blankman, author of The Prisoner of Night and Fog series and Traitor Angel
|Photo credit:Priscilla Dickson Photography|
Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. Caroline’s career in public relations with performing arts companies in the United Kingdom culminated with her editing a glossy photographic book, WELSH NATIONAL OPERA – THE FIRST SIXTY YEARS. Her debut novel for young adults, WAIT FOR ME, was published in the USA and UK by Harper Teen in early 2017. Set in Scotland towards the end of World War Two, the book tells the story of a girl’s friendship with a German prisoner of war who is sent to work on her father’s farm. Harper Teen will also publish Caroline's second YA novel in early 2018. Caroline lives in Houston TX with her husband and three teenage children, and she can be found online at www.carolineleech.com
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Thank you, Caroline, for sharing your journey to publication. Congratulations on the publication of your first novel!
The winner of last week's contest who included a favorite first line from a children's book is: Janet Smart! Congratulations, Janet! You won the autographed copy of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge. Please email me (claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com) with your mailing address and to whom you'd like the book personalized.
Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to celebrate authors and children's books!