Thursday, March 10, 2011

Part V Boys of Wartime -- Discovering America's Past through Historical Fiction

Dear Readers,

Please welcome my dear friend, Laurie Calkhoven. She's a veteran in the industry, so you won't want to miss this inside look at how her historical fiction series was born, her background research, her writing process, and much more!
Laurie has generously donated two autographed books that will be featured in the next several posts. As always, simply leave a comment for a chance to win, and will pick the winner!We LOVE hearing from you!
Author Laurie Calkhoven
Bio: Laurie Calkhoven has always loved reading and writing (arithmetic is another story). She’s especially interested in the intersection between big moments in American history and the lives of ordinary people. That’s how the Boys of Wartime series was born. She is also the author of middle grade biographies and other nonfiction books for kids along with contemporary novels in American Girl’s new Innerstar University series.
She watched too many That Girl reruns as a child and decided she HAD to live in New York City. She made a beeline for Manhattan right out of college and has lived there ever since. She doesn’t have nearly as many madcap adventures as That Girl, but she has a nice life.
 Read more about Laurie and purchase her books here:

Laurie Calkhoven  shares about her Research:

I love doing research. I love the twists and turns it can take. I love putting on my detective hat to find a particularly hard-to-find nugget of information. And I love that collections of facts can fire up my imagination to the point where I’m creating characters and worlds for them to live in.

I approach the research for each of my historical novels pretty much the same way, so I’ll discuss Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 as an example. I began with broad historical overviews, books and documentaries, about the entire war.

I decided to focus in on the Battle of Gettysburg for a couple of reasons. It was a pivotal battle that changed the course of the war. It was also fought in the streets and homes of Gettysburg’s citizens. I knew that I could put a 12-year-old boy in the middle of the action without being too unrealistic.

Of course, there are a huge number of books and articles written about the battle, and I think I read them all. One of my favorite things to do is go the library to get specific books and prowl around on the shelves nearby. There are always surprises that jump out – books I didn’t know existed but have exactly the information I’m looking for. I also prowl through the bibliographies of those books, looking for more.

Of course those books tell me what historians have to say about the battle, but ultimately I’m interested in the people. I want as many primary sources – first hand accounts – as I can get my hands on. The people of Gettysburg knew that something world-changing had happened in their town, and many of them put their thoughts down on paper. I was able to find copies of many of them in the excellent New York Public Library, and the rest were on file at the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg. These diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, and memoirs told me not just what happened, but how people spoke, what they wore, and how they lived before and after the soldiers came.

Ultimately, the most valuable research I did was in Gettysburg itself. Many of the buildings are not only still standing, but still sporting their bullet holes. Walking the streets Will would have walked, picking out his house and his church, and following his route throughout the battle was invaluable. He came to life for me there, and I hope I was able to bring him to life for the reader too.

Thanks for joining Laurie and me for this first of a three-part post about Laurie's historical fiction series, Boys of Wartime.  In the interview next week, Laurie will talk about other books in the series, Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776, as well as the project she is currently working on, and her writing process!

Stop by often to leave comments for additional chances to win one of the autographed books!  The link again for Laurie's books:  


  1. Hi Clara and Laurie,
    Thanks for the insight into the research process. I agree that people make history come to life.
    Your book sounds perfect for my twelve-year-old grandson (who lives with me).
    Donna v.

  2. Laurie, I totally get this love of research. It's addicting! And I relate to that need to be there, to know which house your character lived in.

    And I would love to read and win any of your books. Looking forward to learning more soon.

  3. Donna (Irishoma), Laurie's books would be perfect for your grandson! No need to be shy--feel free to leave additional comments for a better chance to win! And thanks for your support!

  4. Hi Joyce, I knew you'd connect with Laurie's love of research. Now, how did I know that? :o) Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I can't wait for the next installment of the interview - Laurie makes me want to start writing historical fiction to share in her sleuthing joys. Thanks so much for posting this.

  6. Thanks, Claudia! All that joyful sleuthing makes me want to write historical fiction, too!

  7. Laurie, thank you so much for undertaking telling the story of a young person during the turbulent years of our nation's history. I remember our family vacations in Gettysburg and our father's taking us to visit the battlegrounds. He made sure that we knew the cost of the war and to remember all who died.

    As for libraries and museums, where we would writers be without them. Research means searching and searching and then searching again.

    Thanks, again, for bringing to the limelight the story of these young boys.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Bobby, and thanks for your thoughtful comment. You'll love the upcoming interview and finding out more about Laurie's writing process and research!

  9. Hi Clara and Laurie!
    Thank you so much for this post. Laurie, you made your research sound like so much fun, especially the Gettysburg part. I can't wait to hear more!

  10. I can't wait to share these titles with my 10-year-old son, Clara! He's a history buff and big reader -- so a great combo in these books. Thanks for sharing this with us!! Love to you, my friend!! :)

  11. Hi Lorrie, Thanks for dropping by, Lorrie! The research journey was enthralling for me, too!

  12. Hi Susie, So nice to hear from you! Your son will love Laurie's books. There are lots of extras in the back of each book--A timeline, a glossary, short bios of the historical characters, and more! Love you, too, Susie! Your name is added to the list for a chance to win!

  13. I like how Laurie starts with broad research and narrows it down. I did the same thing when writing my book about the Battle of Vicksburg. I also found the best information when I traveled to Vicksburg myself. It totally changed my story the more I learned. I don't think you necessairly have to go to a place, but it does help. Thanks for the information, Clara and Laurie!


  14. thanks for the interview. It was very informative. I love reading about history, I guess that is why I love reading historical fiction. Sounds like the research is half the fun of writing.

  15. Hi Margo and Janet, Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. It's nice to hear from lovers of historical fiction and to hear that you enjoyed reading about the research of the author's books. More to come, too! Plus, your names go in for the drawing!