Welcome to my stop on the 2017 Debut Author Bash! I'm proud to share my post with you today, as I was able to work with Caroline Leech, whose debut novel is a WWII story based in Scotland in 1945. And you all know how I feel about WWII books. SO. Read on! Below you'll find goodies such as an interview and giveaway, plus all the information you could ask for on both the book and the author.
Have fun, and don't forget to check out the other posts on the Bash Tour!
Title: Wait for Me
Author: Caroline Leech
Release Date: Jan 31, 2017
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars
Description from Goodreads: The perfect blend of sweet romance and historical flavor, WAIT FOR ME, from debut author Caroline Leech, brings a fresh new voice to a much-loved genre.
It's 1945, and Lorna Anderson's life on her father's farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?
But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him-- from his time in the war to his life back in Germany-- the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she's always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she's willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.
Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer not living in Texas. She writes YA historical fiction, and her first novel, WAIT FOR ME, won SCBWI's Joan Lowery Nixon Award in 2014, as well as the YA categories of both the RWA Emily and Lone Star contests, and was published by HarperTeen in early 2017. Her second novel-- IN ANOTHER TIME-- will be published in August 2018.
During Caroline's previous career in performing arts public relations in the UK, she edited a glossy photographic book, WELSH NATIONAL OPERA- THE FIRST SIXTY YEARS.
Caroline lives in Houston with her husband and three teenage children. You can find her online at http://www.carollineleech.com and @carolinesblurb.
I had the chance to sit down and ask Caroline a few questions, and I thought I'd share them (and her answers!) with you....
Q1.) When/where were you when the idea for WAIT FOR ME popped into your head?
A1.) A chance comment by a friend of mine originally exploded Lorna and Paul's story in my mind. She mentioned that her father had grown up on a farm in South Wales during World War Two and that they had been sent a German prisoner-of-war to work as a farmhand. The German had given her father a gift which he had made by hand, and it was something her father still treasured. I'd had no idea that prisoners were let out of the POW camps to work, so I immediately went off to do more research about it. Unlike Allied prisoners, who were generally determined to escape and return to Britain to carry on fighting-- I grew up reading about such escape stories in books like COLDITZ and THE GREAT ESCAPE-- many of the German prisoners captured were so relieved that they were not part of a war they had been conscripted into and did not believe in, they were happy to work out the rest of the war in the British countryside. Many of them spent their evenings making gifts for their British hosts, especially wooden toys for the children, and many lifelong friendships resulted between the Germans and for the British people they worked alongside. Having discovered all of this, it wasn't too long before my brain swam with the vision of a young and handsome German soldier being dropped off in a farmyard where there was a pretty farmer's daughter... and well, you know the rest!
Q2.) Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
A2.) I have always loved reading books set during World War Two, fiction and non-fiction. Both my parents were involved in the war-- my mother was evacuated as a child from London on the day that war broke out, and my father followed his four older brothers into the Army in 1944 as soon as he turned 18. My grandmother had to watch her five sons go off to war, and sadly, only four of them came back. With so many family members to tell me stories as I grew up, about air raids and rationing, basic training and dawn patrols, it felt very natural for me to set a story of my own in that period of my country's history.
Q3.) Did you have a particular character you enjoyed writing about the most? The least?
A3.) Of course, I love Lorna and Paul, but Nelly was a joy to write. Being a Londoner, she has a brash self-confidence that Lorna could never hope to have, and there are wonderful moments when it's clear that this city girl has been thrown into a countryside setting she's not quite ready for. That's the perfect fuel for some comic relief. Nelly is endlessly funny and enthusiastic, and a bit raunchy too, and even though she makes some really poor life-choices, she remains loyal and sweet to the end. Definitely the big sister that Lorna never had. As for my least favorite character? I loved Lorna's best friend, Iris, but I got very frustrated with her at times. I'm sure you can understand why.
Q4.) I have to know your favorite scene-- Mine was Lorna and Sandy's walk!
A4.) How interesting! That was a fun scene to write for sure, as I tried to capture that natural teasing banter between siblings, even as they were talking about serious issues. But I think my favorite scenes to write, and now to read out loud at events, are definitely the afternoon where Lorna and Paul dance in the barn (As I was writing it, I was blushing just as much as Lorna!) and the fight she has with her oldest brother, John Jo. Family arguments are wonderful to write, because siblings can usually let all their fury loose on one another, while knowing deep down that they still love each other. Lorna certainly pays for what she shouts at John Jo, but still, it was a great release of so many pent-up emotions for her.
Q5.) I LOVE how Paul isn't the typical YA love interest. While he shares some of those qualities, he's not perfect and flawless on the outside. Did you know early on that he would have this specific appearance?
A5.) I'll admit that Paul started out as straightforwardly handsome as any other YA love interest, even if he had been damaged emotionally by his dreadful experiences in the war. And for a long while, he stayed like that. But the idea that he might be physically injured too came to me one evening as I was working again on the first page of the book, trying to pack the opening lines with more punch. Although the first line ultimately changed by the time we went to print, for all sorts of reasons, it suddenly came to me that night as, "Lorna Anderson was ankle-deep in cow-shit and milk when she first saw the boy with the steel grey eyes and only half a face." I had no idea where that last phrase came from, but immediately I could see Paul's dreadful burns in my mind. It also dramatically changed Paul's story for the rest of the book, and meant that Lorna's immediate shock at having an enemy soldier standing in front of her in her own farmyard was doubled. Of course, by the end of the book, she barely sees his injuries anymore. He's just Paul.
Q6.) One of my favorite things about this book is that there isn't really one big pivotal MOMENT when everything blows up. There are minor explosions all throughout the chapters, which makes the story so much more realistic. Was the original way you planned the novel, or was there one big MOMENT in the first drafts?
A6.) WAIT FOR ME is very much a story set in a real place at a real point in history, but it's populated with fictional characters. It's not a war story full of battles and bombing raids, but even so, I hope it shows the enormous effects that being at war has on a family and on a small rural community, even one far from the front lines. Therefore, it felt natural to write a series of "minor explosions," as you nicely put it, because that's how life is for most people, whether we live in wartime or not.
Q7.) Was there a particular scene or chapter that was difficult for you to write, for one reason or another?
A7.) There were scenes in this story when I felt very emotional, particularly the later scenes, but I don't think there was any that I really struggled to draft. I did however have a very hard time when it came to revising the book once it had been bought by my editor at HarperTeen. I know I write long-- she bought it as a fat manuscript of 108,000 words and asked me to cut it down to 80,000 for publication. While I knew she was right, and that it needed some serious tightening, I still struggled. Cutting the first 20,000 words was relatively straightforward. But those last few thousand words? That felt like I was cutting my own heart out!
Q8.) Would you rather have John Jo, Sandy, or Paul as your older brother?
A8.) Oh, good question! I have a sister, four years older than me (could you tell that I was channeling some of our real teenage arguments in Lorna's fight with John Jo?), so I'm not sure what having an older brother would be like. But of course, I know that either Sandy or Paul would be perfect big brothers. They're both so protective and loving, without being suffocating. But John Jo? To be honest, I'd rather have him as a boyfriend! Perhaps not the John Jo as he is in this story, when he's having to deal with his own emotional wartime damage, but certainly the John Jo from before the war. Loud and sociable, fun and hard-working, and of course, broad-shouldered and darkly handsome-- definitely my kind of guy!
Q9.) What does your writing process look like?
A9.) In terms of story development, I'm definitely a plotter. I spend a lot of time creating an outline of the whole book, chapter by chapter, before I ever start writing. The thought of sitting down to write the first page without any clue of where the story is headed gives me a panic attack. That's not to say that the story never changes as I write it, but having a rough map of the path that I'm following makes it a lot easier to stay focused. And in terms of where and when I write... well, most of the time, I write in a Barnes & Noble coffee shop when my kids are at school, or in my local Starbucks, starting at 6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I find writing at home very difficult because no matter what deadline I am facing, there are too many distractions. You have no idea how vital the laundry can suddenly become when you are struggling on a tricky chapter!
Q10.) What would be your #1 piece of advice to aspiring authors?
A10.) Read, read, read! And also, when you are writing a first draft, turn off your inner editor. You really have to get your first draft on paper (or screen) without any editorial judgement at all, from yourself of anyone else. We all write dreadful first drafts-- every author will tell you that-- and it's only once you get to the end of the draft that you can start on the real work of making it all beautiful. After all, you can't perfect and polish words that haven't been written yet.
Caroline and I have partnered up to give you guys the chance to win a YA WWII package! Don't forget to enter, or you'll miss out on some goodies!