What inspired you to write Blood on the River?
I was inspired to write this book because I thought it was a fascinating, exciting story that I could make really interesting for young readers.
Also, the reason I started writing in the first place was that I felt I had something to say to young people -- I wanted to encourage them to follow their dreams, find the courage inside of them, believe in themselves, choose love over fear -- and I felt that presenting those kinds of messages within the pages of exciting novels was the best way to communicate. So writing Blood on the River was another opportunity to send a message, while at the same time helping kids learn about the Jamestown colony.
How long did it take you to write Blood on the River?
It took me three and a half years to research and write Blood on the River. (My best estimate: about 4,000 hours).
You do a lot of research for your historical fiction books. We have read that you read books, interview others, and sometimes reenact events or visit sites. What was your research process like for Blood on the River, and was there any aspect to it that was the most interesting?
Yes, I did loads of research. I got a lot of my research materials directly from Jamestown, Virginia. I used original records—materials written by the men and boys who were there at the time. I interviewed historians and reenactors who work at the James Town village—many of the reenactors are also scholars of Jamestown history. I camped out and tried to experience what Samuel experienced, hearing the same insects at dawn and dusk as he did, even going hungry for a few days to see (a little bit) what it was like for him. To learn more about the Powhatan tribes, I went to the Pow Wows held by descendents of those Indians, and visited one of the reservations where the descendents still live. I interviewed members of the tribe, spent an afternoon with the daughter of a chief, and even had a chance to interview one of the chiefs. I’d have to say that was the most interesting part of the research—to have the privilege of learning about the culture of Virginia’s Native Americans.
I loved to read when I was a kid, and my favorite books at that time were the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. I loved the fantasy aspects of those stories, and when I set about to write my first book, I wrote a fantasy novel. Unfortunately, that was at a time when nobody wanted to publish fantasy, so that book still sits in my file drawer!
If you could live during any time period in history, when would it be? Why?
NOW! Why? Because from everything I’ve learned from my historical research, things have never been better on earth than they are right now. People have never been kinder, life has never been easier, clothing has never been more comfortable, activities have never been more interesting, and humans have never had more opportunities. When people wax sentimental about the “good old days” I like to slap them back to reality with a simple statement about something horrendous from that time period that they either didn’t know about or forgot existed.
If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
Oh goodness, I have to choose? Alright, I’ll settle on two. Either Ann Maria Weems, from Stealing Freedom because her life and courage became so fascinating to me, and became so much a part of me while I was writing her story (and because she was a real person.) Or Critter from Jump, because he has such a firm handle on what life is supposed to be about, and because he’s funny.
|Running the Dry Fork River in West Virginia|
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I’m very happy living in the mountains of West Virginia for part of the year, and getting the heck out of here during mud season in the spring and gun season in the fall and going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to spend some time on the water. Then we spend our holidays in Maryland, which is central for our parents, kids and grand kids to come visit. So, I guess I am already living where I want to live – it just happens to be three places!
Where can we purchase your books?
My first suggestion would be your local independent book store – give them a call and if they don’t have my books in stock, have them order whichever books you want. Then, when you go pick them up you can spend some time browsing, and you might find something else you want to read.
If you want to buy online, my best suggestion is bn.com.
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