for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations
How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?
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.
What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?
My Wait for Me journey back to World War II was prompted by a conversation with a friend in Wales who mentioned in passing that her father had grown up during the war on a farm which had German prisoners of war working as farmhands.
|Craigielaw Farm farmhouse, where Caroline
imagined Lorna would’ve lived
The proverbial light bulb went off in my head, and I immediately started researching how these prisoners came to be working alongside British people on farms, in parks and forests.
Life in Germany had been terrible for more than a decade, and many had been forced into the army under threat of harm coming to their families.
I also discovered that many of the men chose not to go home again at the end of the war, especially those who had lived in what was to become the Russian Zone and then communist East Germany.
|Aberlady Bay, the regional setting for Wait for Me|
What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing the text to life?
I was very lucky to have great sources to aid my research.
Although the same rules applied for the time period of my second book, In Another Time (HarperTeen, August, 2018), it felt quite different.
My main character is one of the girls who chose to leave school and take over a job usually done by a man, that is being a forester in the Highlands of Scotland. Maisie joins the Women’s Timber Corps—the Lumberjills—and she rather makes her own rules after that!
I did everything the wrong way around. Normally, you’re supposed to get your agent, who then shops your book out to editors, but I actually got my editor first.
I was still working on revisions to my WWII book when I won the Joan Lowery Nixon Award at SCBWI Houston conference. My prize was a year’s mentoring from the amazing Newbery Honor winner, Kathi Appelt.
|Kathi Appelt and Caroline
at the Texas Library Association Conference
Even though I was still working my way through revisions under Kathi’s expert guidance, I entered the first few pages into two contests with Romance Writers of America chapters in Houston.
Within two weeks, she’d offered me the deal. I still didn’t have an agent, so several writer friends in Houston and Austin offered to make some introductions.
What is your relationship to the children’s-YA writing and illustration community? To the larger children’s-YA literature community?
While there’s romance in the image of a struggling author sitting alone in a chilly garret, hunched over a sturdy typewriter bashing out the next great novel, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
The other enormous influence on my writing has been my membership of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I went to my first SCBWI conference with the sole purpose of meeting one particular agent.
Back then, most of my new friends were still dreaming of publication; now, one by one, we have almost all got book deals, but we are all still supporting each other’s writing from “the other side of the fence.”
|Caroline at the Brazos Bookstore launch of Wait for Me,
photo by Penny Linsenmayer
I can track my book deal directly from attending that first SCBWI conference, through winning the Joan Lowery Nixon competition, straight to publication, so I cannot stress how much I owe to everyone in SCBWI.
Getting a book deal is not only exciting, it is truly terrifying!
Since I was having my debut in 2017, I joined the Swanky Seventeens, now called the 2017 Debuts.
Now there are second books being published, and we support those, too. My second book, In Another Time, comes out in August, by which time a couple of my debut friends who write fantasy series will be on their third publication!
I don’t know if I could have got through this last year without their support. Even though I’ve met only a few of them in person, I have made so many fantastic friends via the chat forum and our Facebook group, it feels like I’ve known some of them for years. Over the last year, I’ve been privileged to read some of the most amazing books in advance of their publication.
One of best is certainly that lightbulb moment when suddenly this new story exploded in my mind, and I had to rush to grab a pencil to get it started.
|Women’s Timber Corps memorial statue
in Aberfoyle, Scotland
And of course, I’ll never forget the moment when I received the email offering me my book deal. We were in Scotland on a family vacation and were in the middle of my daughter’s 18th birthday party.
When I felt my phone buzz in my pocket, I had a quick look without making it obvious I was checking my phone during a party. The email from Alice not only said she wanted to buy that book, but wanted another one after that.
I had never expected to get a two-book deal, so I was totally thrilled.
From across the room, my husband saw me check my phone and looked questioningly at me. He was the only other person who knew that I was waiting for news, so I nodded and forwarded the email to him, meaning that both of us were sitting on opposite sides of the room grinning madly.
But of course, we didn’t want to distract from my daughter’s birthday, so we said nothing until the very end of the evening. It was so hard to keep the secret , even if it was only for a couple of hours.
Women’s Timber Corps, also known as the Lumberjills,
photo courtesy of Women’s Timber Corps.
What advice do you have for beginning children’s-YA writers?
Read, read, read and write, write, write! And keep on writing, no matter how bad you think your first draft is. You can’t revise and perfect words that haven’t been written down yet, so sometimes you need to switch off your inner editor and just get the words onto the page. You can concentrate on making them pretty later at revision stage.
Also, try to find your “writing people” as soon as you can, even if it just starts out as one buddy to sit beside you as you work, someone to keep you accountable for the time you’ve promised yourself you’ll give over to writing each week.
And finally, even when it gets hard, keep going. As you can see from my publication story, it only takes one editor to like your story for your whole life to change. That might happen next year, or it might happen tomorrow, you can’t know. But if you stop now, you will never know.
|Photo by Priscilla Dickson|
Kirkus Reviews wrote of Wait for Me, “Clandestine meetings and stolen kisses will satisfy die-hard romantics, while history buffs will be drawn in by the details of war-torn…Scotland.”
Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago.
She has written numerous feature articles on the performing arts in a number of newspapers and magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.