Before writing Kaufman’s Hill, it was my meditative essays that often veered toward the personal; my fiction was about stories I made up. Then in 1996, on a whim, I wrote a story about when I was seven, based on an image I had in my head for years—late afternoon, playing down at the creek with the Creely brothers who were often cruel to me, and one of them finds a dead rat.
For me, the first act of writing historical fiction is resistance. There are tropes within the American imagination that pop up readily; it takes a slapping of your own hand to not reach for these tropes and recycle them.
The 1991 murder of four teenage girls that inspired my novel, See How Small, has haunted me for 23 years. It struck a deep chord in anyone who lived in Austin, Texas, then—one that reverberates even now.
Priya Parmar is a former freelance editor whose first novel, Exit the Actress, was based on the 17th-century actress (and royal mistress) Ellen "Nell" Gwyn. Her second novel, Vanessa and Her Sister, is based on the life of the artist Vanessa Bell. In this behind-the-book essay, Parmar explains how important—and how personal—choosing a historical fiction subject can be.
In his latest novel, Bradford Morrow exposes the dark side of the rare-book world, where literary forgers create fake letters, signatures and manuscripts by famous authors. His richly detailed mystery opens with a grisly scene: A reclusive book collector is found in his studio with his head bashed in and his hands severed. Morrow, a professor of literature at Bard College, explains why he was drawn to this shadowy subject.
My nonfiction story, “The Messenger,” is one of 101 miraculous stories of faith, divine intervention and answered prayers selected from thousands of submissions to be included in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel book. Now, that’s a miracle! But it almost didn’t happen because I almost didn’t send my story in. One might suspect a lack of faith, but...
A chance discovery of an old biography at The Strand inspired journalist Alix Christie's debut novel, Gutenberg's Apprentice, which tells the story of the invention of moveable type and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. In this essay, Christie explains how her lifelong love of letterpress printing left her uniquely suited to fictionalize this remarkable true story.
For teens looking to make a difference in the world, Laurie Ann Thompson's Be a Changemaker is an invaluable resource—not just for creating an action plan, but also for mustering up the confidence to take a risk and start something new. "You have the power—now more than ever—to be the change that you seek," Thompson writes.
It's no surprise that Thompson spent her teenage years in search of her own way to make a difference in the world.
Julia Keller's debut mystery, A Killing in the Hills, introduced prosecuting attorney Belfa “Bell” Elkins and the small Appalachian town of Acker's Gap, West Virginia. In Summer of the Dead, Keller's third mystery set in Acker's Gap, Bell faces a new murderer, as well as family challenges and the burdens of the coal mining community.
The opening acknowledgements in Summer of the Dead hint at a heartbreaking story: "Some years ago I met the wise and stalwart wife of a coal miner in McDowell County, West Virginia. She had created a place for her husband under the big kitchen table; because of his many years spent working underground, and injuries to his spine, he was only comfortable in a crouching position. The story has haunted me ever since, and it inspired a key element of this novel."
Keller shed some light on this inspiration and the questions and challenges of caretaking.
Science is far from serious in Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, the first in a new series from Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs. Take one kid genius, add two hilarious robots and an archnemesis with a doomsday plan, and you've got the perfect blend of imagination and invention. But with so much hilarity and adventure, how do you choose a favorite scene? We put Scieszka and Biggs to the test.