Please welcome Kathryn Miller Haines of The Girl Is Murder to Alison Can Read!
1. How do you research for historical fiction books? Do you research first and then write or get the story down and then go back and correct facts?
It’s a little of both. I research just enough to verify that the story is plausible and to get some bare bone facts. Then I start writing and refer to research whenever I have a question or get stuck. Then when I’m editing, I double-check those things I was unclear about.
2. What are some of your favorite books about the WWII era - either young adult or adult novels?
My favorite adult WWII novel is probably John Dunning’s Two O’clock Easter Wartime. It’s about a small town radio station during the war and provides a really interesting look at what life was like in one small segment of the entertainment industry while serving up a really good mystery. For young adult, I would have to say The Book Thief. That book is just extraordinary in every possible way.
3. How would you describe Iris, your main character, in a sentence or two?
Iris is resilient, sly, insecure, and heartbreaking.
4. You've written both adult and young adult books. How does your writing differ for the two genres?
I think the main difference is that there’s more of an immediacy when you’re writing for young adults. Readers don’t want pages of historical description – they want action and dialogue. I prefer that, actually, since as a reader I tend to skim or skip over description unless it’s a crucial to a story. And I think it allows you to see the characters more as individuals then as artifacts of their time.
5. What advice do you have about improving writing - aside from the ubiquitous read more and write more?
Join a writing group. Reading and responding to other people’s work, as well as getting feedback for my own, absolutely changed my writing for the better. You don’t have to listen to everyone (nor should you) but learning to face criticism and discern between what is and isn’t useful will drastically help you read your own work with a more critical eye. And responding to other people’s writing will train you for what to look for in your own.
Thank you so much for the lovely interview Kathryn!