Historical versus Contemporary YA Novels by Beverly Stowe McClure (Contest)

Our special guest is Beverly Stowe McClure, author of the young adult novels, Rebel in Blue Jeans and Just Breeze. McClure’s latest release, Caves Cannons, and Crinolines, is a departure from her contemporary stories. Today she will discuss the differencs in writing an historical novel versus a modern-day story, and why she plans to keep writing both.

Historical Versus Contemporary Novels–The Similiarities and the Differences by Beverly Stowe McClure

History was never my favorite subject. Writing an historical novel had never entered my mind. Then one summer my husband and I drove to South Carolina to visit our son and daughter-in-law. On the way we stopped at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and toured the national park there. We visited the museum, located in the old courthouse that dates back to the Civil War. I talked to the curator of the museum and also to a little old lady whose grandparents had survived the siege of Vicksburg. I read journals kept by the women who faced the horrors of war in their daily lives. And I knew I had to write their stories.

In some ways writing historical fiction is the same as writing contemporary fiction. No matter the time element, a story needs characters, a plot and theme, and a setting. To make my story set in the 1860s authentic, however, I needed to research the times. What did they eat? How did they dress? What were their interests: books, music, sports? How did they talk? Travel? To answer these questions, I bought books and journals and copies of old newspapers and read them and marked them and put myself in 1863 Vicksburg with its dirt streets, hillsides, and families terrified by daily cannon and rifle fire that destroyed their homes and in many cases their lives. I scoured the Internet where I found more journals, some written by children. Many university Web sites have great collections of Civil War information, including letters from soldiers to their families back home. From reading the way they wrote, their choice of words, and how many of the words differ in meaning today from the 1860s, I learned the flavor of their language. It’s very easy to let a modern term, such as a cell phone, slip in, so I had to check for the dates many items were invented. These letters also gave me the idea to have Lizzie write to her brothers who were away.

Research for my historical novel took several months, but it was worth every minute. When I knew what daily life was like for the people, not just the soldiers fighting the war, I could put myself in Lizzie’s place, or Nat’s. I could see the destruction of my home through their eyes, which added depth to the scenes.

My contemporary stories sometimes require research, as well. Small details make the difference, especially if the reader has some knowledge of the area of your setting. Readers will catch those little mistakes and then question the rest of the book, if the agent or editor doesn’t see them first. For instance, in Listen to the Ghost, set in Charleston, SC, I had to research the streets of the city to visualize a map of where they lived, where the library was located, and the park. I have been to Fort Sumter, where part of the story takes place and had pictures and other info to help me with that scene.

As for writing historical as opposed to contemporary, I enjoy both and hope to continue writing a variety of novels. My second historical fiction novel is under contract. It will be a couple years before it’s out, but the story is loosely based on my mother’s story as an Orphan Train Rider. I’ve discovered how much I love history. After all, our ancestors and the men and women who lived before us made us who we are today. What better reason to tell their stories?

Beverly Stowe McClure is the author of novels for teens including Just Breeze, Listen to the Ghost, Secrets I Have Kept, Rebel in Blue Jeans, and her latest Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines. A native Texan she lives in the country with her husband, cat, and a variety of wild critters.

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure is a fascinating story for teens that will bring them up close to the American Civil War and the seige of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The year is 1863. Young Elizabeth (Lizzie) Stamford is fourteen years old, but has already lived a lifetime of troubles. Vicksburg is under siege by the Union Army. Shells fly overhead, damaging their beautiful home. The family is forced, like many in Vicksburg, to seek shelter in a nearby cave.  Lizzie’s mother has some of their belongings brought down to the cave, but no matter how many things from the house are placed inside, for Lizzie, it’s still ony a cave.

Lizzie’s father tends to the wounded at the hospital, while her brothers Willie and Joseph fight for the Confederacy on the front lines. Lizzie’s heart aches with worry over her brothers, being kept from her home, and rarely seeing her father.

Torn between living the life of a proper young lady during a time where nothing seems proper anymore, and her need to do her part, Lizzie disguises herself as a boy and decides to enlist in the Confederate Army. She quickly discovers the horrors of war. An encounter with a Yankee soldier places everything she knows about the North and the South in jeopardy. Is it possible the Yankees and the Rebels have more in common than she thinks?

Every time I read a book by Beverly Stowe McClure, I am astounded by how much better her newest book is than the last. All of her books for teens that I’ve read have strong female leads, but the addition of her younger brother, Nat, in this book will also allow it to appeal to young men. While Rebel in Blue Jeans and Just Breeze were contemporary stories, with Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, McClure shows she can write an excellent historical. I absolutely loved this book!

Having studied the American Civil War for many years now, I can say without a doubt that McClure did her research and used it well.  I felt I was right in the middle of Vicksburg alongside Lizzie. In an age where we teach our children so much about tolerance and acceptance of others, this book could be helpful in relaying that message. Students studying the Civil War would also get a great deal out of reading Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, as it would open up room for discussion on a variety of topics surrounding this period of American history.

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines is a thought-provoking, emotion-filled read. While targeted for young adults, don’t be surprised if a parent ends up enjoying this one as well. Readers who appreciate strong female characters, those with an interest in American history, and anyone who likes books you just can’t put down, will want to pick up a copy of this one.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher:  Twilight Times Books
  • ISBN:  1-60619-112-8
  • SRP:  $14.95



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Double Eagle by Sneed Collard III – Giveaway at Cafe of Dreams

My friend April at Cafe of Dreams is giving you the chance to win a copy of Double Eagle by Sneed Collard III.

April reviewed Double Eagle at her blog last week, saying:

“I truly feel that Double Eagle is a story that even the most hesitant and picky of reader will dive into and love. Though Double Eagle is the first work by this author that I have read, I am incredibly anxious to read more!”

She rated the book a 5 out of 5, which I can tell you is a rare thing; so the book must be superb.

The suggested age range for this one is 9 – 12. You can read April’s entire review here.

You’ll also find a link to the review in this interview that April performed with Sneed Collard. Your giveaway opportunity is listed in this interview.

The contest is open to U.S. residents only and will remain open until midnight on March 15th.

Don’t miss your chance to win a copy of Double Eagle by Sneed Collard III. Stop by Cafe of Dreams today!

My Dear Phebe by Janet Elaine Smith

My Dear PhebeYoung adults will experience the impact of the American Civil War from a young Northern girl’s perspective when they read My Dear Phebe by Janet Elaine Smith.

Ten-year-old Phebe’s family has moved from Pennsylvania to Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. But even living in Upper Michigan can’t protect her from the coming Civil War. Her best friend Sarah’s father, Caleb Tuttle, is one of the first men to sign up when President Abraham Lincoln calls for volunteers from every state to help preserve the Union.

As Sarah must say goodbye to her father, Phebe’s parents agree that she should help the large Tuttle family in Mr. Tuttle’s absence, even though Mama and Papa could use her help looking after her sickly baby brother, Benjamin.

Even though Phebe corresponds with Uncle James Irvine who lives in Pennsylvania, the war still seems a bit far away for her. Then one day, a black family arrives at the Tuttle farm via the underground railroad stating that Mr. Tuttle said they could live on the property in the woodshed. As Phebe listens to Grady’s stories about living on the plantation down south, the war suddenly becomes all too real. And when tragedy strikes the Irvine family, Phebe is determined to make a difference.

My Dear Phebe is filled with memorable characters: Phebe, Sarah, Sarah’s brother Josiah, Grady and his wife Maisie, Mama and Papa Irvine, Uncle James; each character leaves his or her mark and the story could not exist without any of them.

The mixture of historical details and figures with fictional characters and events is very well done, though I feel the book gives the reader the impression that the Civil War was fought over slavery, when it was actually fought to preserve the Union after several southern states seceded.

I truly enjoyed My Dear Phebe. Not only does it give young readers a chance to relive history, it allows them to think of the challenges that lack of technology presented in the ability to communicate with each other. The strong message of the importance of family is witnessed throughout. A great bonus comes in the inclusion of actual letters between James Irvine and his niece Phebe.

This would make an excellent gift for the young adult in your family.

 

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Star Publish
  • ISBN-10: 1932993738
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932993738
  • SRP:  $11.95 (U.S.)