The DMS was lucky enough to interview Gennifer Choldenko. Lizzy reviewed her books Al Capone Does My Shirts and No Passengers Beyond This Point, and it was great to share our thoughts and hear yours! We're excited to learn a little more about her stories. So, without further ado... take it away, Gennifer!
What inspired you to write No Passengers Beyond This Point? How did you come up with the characters India, Finn and Mouse?
The starter seeds for some books are really clear. The Al Capone books began when I read an article in the paper about kids who grew up on Alcatraz when it was a working penitentiary. My newest novel Chasing Secrets, (due out in August) began when I read a nonfiction book about rats that mentioned a plague outbreak in San Francisco in 1900. Honestly, I have no idea where the idea for No Passengers came from. I was traveling a lot to promote the Al Capone books. I was spending a lot of time in airports and I really missed my family. One day I closed the door of my office and out popped No Passengers Behond This Point.
The characters Finn, India and Moose were loosely based on my brother, my sister and me.
You must do a lot of research for your historical fiction books. What was your research process like for the Al Capone at Alcatraz series? Was there any aspect of your research that was the most interesting?
I find the reserch process absolutely fascinating. So the question here might be, what didn’t I find interesting? Gangsters, the depression, autism, a maximum security prison on an island in the middle of the San Francisco bay . . . it’s all such juicy stuff.
I have been researching these subjects off and on for sixteen years.
I have done everything I can think of to find out more. That includes: working as a docent on Alcatraz, interviewing scores of guards, convicts and kids who grew up on the island, attending something like fifteen Alcatraz Alumni Days on the island, reading the prison files of famous and not so famous Alcatraz convicts . . . the list goes on and on!
Did all of the books in the Al Capone at Alcatraz series take you the same length of time to write or do they each have a process of their own? Which one took you the longest to write?
Each of the books has it’s own process. Most have taken a good two and a half years to write, though Al Capone Does My Shirts took five years.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
Charlie and the ChocolateFactory, Harriet the Spy, The Egypt Game, A Wrinkle in Time, Across FiveAprils, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, The Oz books, The Borrowers, Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
In the mornings I typically write at Starbucks. In the afternoon, I write at the dining room table. Though, I also write in the car when my daughter is taking her trumpet lesson, in the parking lot of the gym, at the airport and just about every other place.
I don't like to listen to music while I’m writing, but I can block it out if I have to.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I love the San Francisco Bay area. I would like to live six months a year here and then six months in New Orleans, Paris, Boston, NYC and London.
The path to publication varies from author to author. Every author has a unique story and one that other authors can learn from. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication or do you have any advice for new authors?
Wow, that’s a long story. I had an easy time getting my first book published. (A picture book: Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon.)
And then a very difficult time getting my “second" book published: a novel called Notes from a Liar and HerDog. I say “second” because I probably write thirty or forty books written each of which I hoped would be my “second” book. I did not think I would ever get another book published, despite the fact that Moonstruck got good reviews, was bought by the book clubs, sold well, earned out easily and went to paperback. But I didn’t give up. I kept working to up my game. I don’t believe you can control how creative you are. But you can definitely improve your craft. So that’s my advice. Do everything you can to improve your writing skills.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Right now, I’m working on two new novels. But, I don’t like to talk about WIP. I will say I am very excited about the novel out this year: Chasing Secrets.
As I mentioned, Chasing Secrets: a deadly surprise in the city of lies is about a plague outbreak in San Francisco in 1900. The protagonist, Lizzie, is the daughter of a doctor, who finds herself dealing with rampant anti-Chinese sentiment in the middle of a plague outbreak which everyone, including her beloved father, is denying. Lizzie is the best female main character I’ve ever written. When I had to send the final draft to copyediting, I mourned the loss of the book. For the first time ever, I did not want to leave the world I had created behind.
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|Read the reviews!|