1. If you could travel back in time, where and when would you go?
That’s a tough question, especially since I’d miss modern medicine and I don’t know how I’d narrow that down. However, I’m currently drawn to the Incas, and I would love to see the Incan Empire pre-Europeans. As long as I was more ghost than participant, so I wouldn’t somehow change history. There’s also that fear of getting stuck, or getting stuck on the end of a spear. Another era I’d like to visit is Germany in the time of Gutenberg. It would be amazing to see printing taking off, knowing where it leads.
2. Your book is set in Russia in 1917. What fascinates you most about this time period?
It was a time of drastic, rapid change. Not only was the world at war, but the Russian government was in the midst of a revolution, technology was changing at a very rapid place, and women’s rights were at the forefront in many countries. So many people focus on the Romanovs, but I’m really interested in the revolutionaries themselves, and the common people who had to live with the repercussions of all this rapid, confusing change.
3. What elements of this time period do we still see today?
Not much has changed, even though everything has changed. Women are still fighting for equality, technology is rolling so fast we can hardly keep up, and the government feels as if it’s teetering on the precipice. I imagine that the uneasy feeling we feel now is similar to theirs in 1917.
4. What do you think kids from 1917 could teach us today?
Resilience and patience, I think. To make great changes, sometimes you have to keep doing the dirty work, day in and day out, and trust that in the end, that mountain will get moved. So many of us want a quick fix now, and get disillusioned when we don’t get what we want immediately. In 1917, people were used to working hard and waiting for results. (Obviously, there are still people who work hard and have patience, but I think it was more common then than it is now. At least, it feels that way in my family.)
5. Is there an historical tidbit that didn’t make it in the book, but is super interesting?
There were lots of things that I couldn’t include in the story, for whatever reason. Sometimes, it felt like I had too much information and if I included this or that, it would detract from the story itself. One thing I found really interesting was that the 1st Russia Women’s Battalion of Death was the most highly educated battalion in the entire theater of war. There were peasants and factory workers, but also lawyers and doctors, and even aristocrats. I wish I could listen in to their conversations as they bunked down for the night, with the different social classes mixing and chatting while they cleaned their weapons.
6. What’s your favorite historical fiction (any age!)
I can’t have a favorite! That said, one of the historical fiction novels that really seeped into my bones was Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire. I know the first book in that series, Code Name Verity, gets more notice, but Rose Under Fire really hit me in the heart. I find myself thinking about it sometimes when I’m standing in the cold and think my coat is too thin.
7. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a Middle Grade Fantasy set during the golden era of the Hanseatic League, in the Baltic Sea. It’s so much fun, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to stick to the facts like I did with Open Fire. In this project, history is only a springboard.
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