Writers are tagging each other with a questionnaire about what they’re working on now. I was tagged by Gary Barwin. To read Gary’s answers, go here.
Addendum: Karen Wilsey Bass has responded here.
Urve Tamberg has responded here.
Gabriele Goldstone has responded here.
What is your working title of your book?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The story of an Eastern European boy captured by the Nazis who escapes and joins the resistance.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
This is a linked novel to two of my previous WWII novels, Stolen Child and Making Bombs for Hitler. All three novels step into the shoes of a child captured by the Nazis. The first is about Larissa, who is deemed “racially valuable” and brainwashed into thinking she is German. The second is about her sister Lida who is deemed “not racially valuable” and is used as a slave to make bombs. This current work-in-progress is about Lida’s friend, Luka, who escapes the slave camp in a wagon of corpses, joins other escapees and fights back.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Liam Hemsworth is Luka all over.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by Dean Cooke of The Cooke Agency. The novel is already sold to Scholastic Canada and will be published in Feb 2014.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am still writing it! My first WWII historical came out eleven years ago. I have been researching the era for two decades. This particular story has been in my head for more than a decade, but I only began putting it down on paper in the spring.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Luka Underground is WWII historical fiction for children. Luka is Ukrainian, and other than the novels that I write, there is not a body of commercial fiction on Ukrainians in WWII. The European war was fought on land that is now Ukraine and between Hitler and Stalin, ten million Ukrainian civilians were killed, yet very few writers have tackled this topic.
Part of the reason is that it is hard to tell your story if you’re dead.
The other reason is because while Naziism ostensibly ended when Germany lost the war, the Soviet Union continued with their atrocities until that entity dissolved in 1991 (and have they truly ended? Putin is not exactly a shining light of democracy. Ditto for Yanukovych in Ukraine). It wasn’t until after the fall of the Soviet Union that people from nations oppressed by the Soviet Union were able to come forward and tell their stories.
Before 1991, the Soviets promoted a propagandized version of WWII, where all heroic deeds were done by “Russians” and citizens of nations captured by the Soviets were painted as evil. Non-Russian Soviets were sent in great numbers to the Gulags for “re-education”, so even after the fall of the Soviet Union, these people didn’t have the vocabulary to relate their own WWII experiences.
Recently there have been books written, like Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, and Alexander von Plato’s Hitler’s Slaves, that paint a more complete picture of the fate of Eastern Europeans in WWII.
Comparable novels would be Urve Tamberg’s just released The Darkest Corner of the World, about an Estonian child in WWII, and Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray, about a Lithuanian child in WWII.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My late mother-in-law, who lived in Ukraine during WWII and survived the Front moving through her town — twice. She told me so many snippets and flashes of memory from a perspective that I had never read about in books. I promised her when she was on her deathbed that I would write the stories of people she had known and loved and lost. For Luka’s story in particular, Peter Potichnij, a retired professor from McMaster University, has been an inspiration. As a 12 year old, he joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and he has spoken at length about his experiences, as well as collecting a tremendous amount of primary data.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The two prior novels have met with critical acclaim. Stolen Child, published in 2010, was the inaugural winner of the Crystal Kite Award for the Americas, was shortlisted by the Canadian Library Association for Children’s Book of the Year and was an Honour Book for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award. Making Bombs for Hitler, just published in Feb 2012, has been shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Fiction award and is receiving rave reviews.