Like a River
by Kathy Wiechman
Release Date: April 7, 2015
I am tickled to devote this blog to debut author Kathy Wiechman whose historical fiction novel Like a River will be released in early April. It has received a starred review from KIRKUS as well as other reviews like this one:
-Richard Peck, Newbery Medalist for A Year Down Yonder
Middle grade historical fiction
Please describe what the book is about in one sentence.
Two teens join the Union Army, each hiding a secret, and both unaware how much they will affect each other’s life.
What sort of research did you need to do to write this? Do you enjoy doing research?
I love doing research, except when a fact I’m searching for remains too elusive. For this novel, I read dozens of books, spoke with several experts, and visited many historical sites in Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi. I learned to load and fire a muzzleloader, and even had one arm tied behind my back before swimming, so I could see how difficult swimming would be for an amputee.
What new information about the Civil War were you able to bring to this book?
There has been almost nothing published for young readers about Andersonville Prison or the Sultana disaster, and I wanted to make readers aware of these events.
Is this a book teachers can use in the classroom?
Absolutely, and Boyds Mills Press has created a wonder Educator’s Guide to facilitate this.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
I was an adult when I first heard about the Sultana disaster and wondered why I hadn’t learned about it in school. I determined to write a book about it.
What was the time frame for writing this book, from idea to publication?
It has been 20 years since I first began thinking about a plot to lead up to the Sultana disaster, but I worked on other projects during most of that time. My storyline changed numerous times over those years. In 2008, I first decided to tell the story from more than one point of view. At first I wanted to tell it from 3 POV. In 2011, I cut it back to 2, and finished the first draft a year later.
What sort of kid will want to read this book? What would you hope he would take from it?
I hope both girls and boys will read LIKE A RIVER. It has much to offer for both genders. I hope he would get a realization about the victims of Andersonville and the Sultana, but I mostly hope he enjoys the story.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I was surprised by how many different “passes” the book would go through. I read it through 6 or 7 times to make sure it said exactly what it was supposed to.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I stuck with it and refused to give up. Getting published is downright hard and I received enough rejection letters to paper a wall, but I kept trying. I kept writing and honing my craft.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I might have been more aggressive with multiple submissions. When I first started, multiple submissions were a no-no, and I had trouble letting go of that when the “rules” changed.
Do you have a writing routine?
Yes. I try to write every day, beginning after lunch and working right up until supper time. God bless my crockpot!
Do you have a particular writing spot or do you move around?
I have a small, very cluttered, office that I work in. It’s a private spot, where I can focus. It has bright pink walls and is decorated in black and white. I think of it as my “Good ‘n’ Plenty room. And that’s what I hope my writing results will be. Good and Plenty.
Did you have a writer platform in place? Do you now? Do you have a website(s)?
When I was offered my contract for LIKE A RIVER, my only platform was my personal Facebook page and being part of a group blog with other writers. That blog is called Swagger, and after 4 years, we are about to end its run. Now I have an Author’s Facebook Page and a website (kathycannonwiechman.com). I even have a twitter account, but I am still a novice at tweeting.
Were you involved with any sort of writing community when you wrote this book? Was that helpful?
My two critique groups were essential to this book taking shape. And several Highlights Foundation writers’ workshops that I attended gave me numerous friends and contacts that helped me with LIKE A RIVER.
Best piece(s) of writing advice we haven’t discussed?
Always write from inside your main character’s head, even when you write in third person.
Are you working on another project?
Yes. I recently signed a contract with Calkins Creek (the same imprint as LIKE A RIVER) for another novel called EMPTY PLACES. It takes place in Harlan County, KY during the Great Depression. Right now I am working on revisions for it.
Can you talk a little bit about yourself? Is there something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I am one of seven children and my husband is one of seven children, so we have tons of family.
Some fun questions to get to know a little bit more about you:
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Poetry. Reading it and writing it.
Pen and paper or computer?
I map out plotlines with pencil and paper, but do the actual writing on the computer. I always write poetry longhand.
PB&J on toast.
My “grand dogs” (my’s son’s dogs)
When is your book available, and where can we find it?
It launches April 7, 2015. Blue Marble Books in Fort Thomas, KY will carry it. So will Joseph Beth. It can also be ordered online from numerous sites.
Do you have a book launch in the works?
April 7 and April 11 at Blue Marble Books in Fort Thomas.