Friday, August 10, 2012

Author Interview with Michelle Isenhoff

The DMS was lucky enough to interview Michelle Isenhoff, author of the middle grade novel Beneath the Slashings, the third book in The Divided Decade Trilogy. Lizzy recently reviewed this historically engaging novel, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind the story. So, without further ado... take it away, Michelle! 


What inspired you to write Beneath the Slashings?


It all began with a family vacation, actually. When my husband and I planned a trip to Gettysburg, I did a lot of research on the Civil War before leaving. My book, The Candle Star, was inspired by a true story I came across of a Detroit man who hid runaway slaves in his barn while housing slave catchers in his hotel during the years just prior to the war. Being a teacher, I soon realized that one story barely scratched the surface of this era, so I expanded it into a trilogy of stand-alone stories that explore three different aspects of the Civil War.  The second book, Broken Ladders, takes place on an unmanned northern farm in the middle of the war. Beneath the Slashings is the final installment, set in one of the many lumber camps that cropped up just after the war to aid in the nation’s rebuilding.


How long did it take you to write Beneath the Slashings?

Two years.  I did nearly all of the research in three months or so, immediately after finishing book two.  Then I wrote the first fifty pages and got stuck, stuck, stuck. I was simply burned out on the trilogy.  During the remainder of that year, I started (and finished!) a different, unrelated novel. Coming fresh to Slashings more than a year later, I rewrote all fifty pages and cruised to the end during the next six months. Wrapping up the series was a great feeling!

Are any of your characters based on people you know?

Not “based on,” no, but I include elements of my friends and family in my characters all the time.  I’ve found it’s much more freeing and less offensive to keep my characters unidentifiable. However, I always discover a whole lot of myself in my main characters. In this case, I wanted to avoid that. I wanted a character very unlike me. That was a challenge! I had to continually ask myself what Grace would do, not what I would do. In the end, I still identified some of my own traits in her, such as her love of books and a strong attachment to family.

What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?

Oh, I could go on and on!  Just a few childhood favorites would include anything by Beverly Cleary, the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I also distinctly remember reading Bambi in fourth grade and being shocked that I liked it more than the movie. Teen and adult favorites would include Avi, particularly his True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the All Creatures series by James Heriot, anything by Gary D. Schmidt, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter books.

If you could live during any time period in history, when would it be? Why?

I get lost in any historical research I do and find myself wishing I could visit, but I think my favorite era would have been Colonial and early America, the days of homesteading and pushing west from the populated Atlantic coast. I’m drawn to the simplicity of life back then, the self-reliance. I know the work was hard, the medical care non-existent, the mortality rates high, but I could have taken a shine to living off my own land and doing without all of today’s media.

If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?

I think I’d like to get to know Malachi, the young black boy in The Candle Star. He was a surprise, sort of stole the show away from Emily, my main character. I admire his determination, his confidence, his convictions. He’s exactly the sort of person who would make a great friend, the sort of friend Emily needed.

It would be entertaining to meet old Mrs. Parsons, too, from The Quill Pen, but I’m not sure I’d actually like her. 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

I’m happy right where I’m at, but I could be convinced to accept a cabin somewhere in the Appalachian mountains, or perhaps in the Yellowstone River Valley—but then I’d probably need a plane, too.


Where can we purchase your books?

My books are available in digital and paperback editions and can be found on Amazon and on Smashwords. But probably the easiest way to locate them is them is to visit the “books” page of either my blog or my website. Clicking on any cover image will give you all the information you need, including a variety of “where to find it” links.

Author WebsiteBlog FacebookTwitter






  


** Copies of Beneath the Slashings will be on sale for .99 ¢ for the month of August! 
Check out the blog tour! **


22 comments:

  1. Great interview! Mrs. Isenhoff, what state with the Appalachian Mountains in them would you visit? :)

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  2. Hey, Erik. Any of them! I just love the mountains. I visited Tennessee and North Carolina this summer, as you know, and I really like that they have shorter winters. Same for Virginia and West Virginia. But I love the "up north" feel of New York and New Hampshire and Vermont. They're especially gorgeous in the fall. And you know how beautiful Pennsylvania is! I'd have a hard time choosing one place, so it's a good thing I get to vacation there every few years. :)

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  3. I think I'm more interested in the first book, The Candle Star, it sounds like it would be filled with moments that I would be freaking out and my breath catching. Enjoyed the author interview (:

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    1. Adriana- The Candle Star does sound realyl good. I would love to hear your thoughts if you do read it. Glad you enjoyed the interview. :)
      ~F

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  4. You always do the best author interviews!

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  5. I will definitely be checking out The Divided Decade Trilogy. Thank you for introducing me to this author. I love historical fiction, and this series sounds very interesting.

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    1. Elaine- If you love HF then I am sure you will enjoy Beneath the Slashings and the other books in the series. Thanks for stopping by! ~F

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  6. Oh I loved Beverly Cleary and Laura Ingalls Wilder as well! I don't know the homesteader and colonial days were tough living! I think this sounds like a very interesting series! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Heidi- I love Beverly Cleary and Laura Inglalls Wilder, too! I agree with you that living back then was not easy. Thanks for stopping by!
      ~F

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  7. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I really loved The Arrivals. It sounds kind of like aliens coming in. And, the cover just makes me want to live there! I cannot for the life of me grow roses like that in my yard here in So. Louisiana. Too too hot. Donna

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    1. Donna- I enjoyed your review of The Arrivals. I love to grow things, but I am not sure I could get those roses gowing/growing. Thanks for stopping by! ~Jess

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  8. What a great interview. You've captured my interest. Don't know if I'll be able to wait for these books to make their way up to the top of my TBR list ;)

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    1. Ruth- So glad you stopped by and enjoyed the interview. I hope you enjoy this series. :) ~F

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  9. Cool interview. This series sounds like something I could really get into. I like a lot of the same books as the author! Great to learn more about her and the background of the book.

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    1. Trey- If you like HF and reading- then I am sure you will enjoy this book. How cool that you like so many of the same books as Michelle, me too! :) Glad you enjoyed the interview. ~F

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  10. I still love Beverly Cleary and Laura Ingalls Wilder too. I fancy that I love back in Laura's day while working on the farm here. Ha. Sweet interview. Loved reading about my fav historical fiction author. I loved reading about Slashings and the time spent and how you came back and rewrote. Sounds like what I had to do. You should have come here to my farm in NC, Michelle. We live just outside of Asheville. *waving to you both*

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    1. Hi Robyn- I love those authors, too! Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out our interview with Michelle. I am so happy that you enjoyed learning more about this fantastic author and her writing process. :) ~F

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    2. Robyn, I didn't realize you live in Asheville. I was in the Smokies this June. We turned off US40 to visit friends in Franklin. That would have been so cool to visit!!

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  11. The title is great, making me want to read this book. I love hearing how stories come about.

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    1. Donna- So glad you liked the titled and enjoyed hearing about the story's origin. Thanks for stopping by! ~F

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  12. Oh, wow, I guess I overlooked coming back here after answering Erik's question. Shame on me! Thanks, everyone, for your comments and interest!

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