One of my favorite bookish blogs, Notebook Sisters, is hosting an exploration of blogger’s books in progress. I apologize that my blog has been overrun with bookish things for the past few weeks. Just kidding, I don’t apologize. I’ve recently been alluding to my work-in-progress children’s historical fiction novel, so I thought I’d give you a few more details here:
What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A very very general idea for the plot actually came from my wonderful mommy. I took her spark of inspiration and began thinking up characters, since to me characters are the backbone of every novel. Since then, the characters have developed and grown, but stayed generally consistent while the plot has twisted, turned, and, well, completely changed. Call me a panster.
Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”?
Working title is “The Day After Doomsday”, but I am looking for something else. I don’t have an official “back-cover-blurb” at the moment, but here is a short summary:
Lyddie is peasant with a limitless imagination: somedays she pretends to be a beautiful lord’s daughters, while others she imagines saving England as a noble princess. Yet in reality, Lyddie is nothing more than an enslaved orphan working in the fields and avoiding the nosey town gossip. There is little hope for anything more.
With death closing in on her village, Lyddie is forced to leave the life of her ancestors behind with nothing but a stubborn pig to keep her company. Desperate for food and shelter, she takes refuge in an abandoned castle. There she meets a diverse cast of folks escaping from disparate plague created situations: a baker’s wife and daughter attempting to run the castle while their lord is gone, a monk’s son fleeing from a vicious tour of flagellants, a proud but unlucky minstrel honing his musical skills, and a Jewish peddler attempting to right past wrongs in London while surviving deathly prejudices.
Lyddie must find courage to face one of history’s greatest disasters by forging a new family with her strange company of friends. In a terrible time when many thought the world was ending and every certainty was turned on its head, Lyddie begins to wonder if anything, even her craziest dreams, could somehow become possible if she can only manage to survive.
What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?
Right now I’m at just over 60,000, which I think is a good general area for a children’s novel.
Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.
An overly imaginative girl must flee from her village to avoid a deathly outbreak of the plague. In her quest to survive, she finds an abandoned castle where she must learn to cope with and depend on a diverse set of folks also running from various plague created emergencies. Together they forge a new life and a new family.
Sum up your characters in one word each.
Lyddie: dreamer. Brown: wannabe-hero. Ben Haviv: tradition. Clementia: mother. Peg: curious. Petrus: proud. Father Bate: strong. Ooh, you are killing me with these one word descriptions. I can’t do anymore.
Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them!
I love Brown. On the one hand he is running away from his flagellant past. He disagrees with his father and realizes that what his religious community did was wrong. And yet, although he has physically escaped his past it remains deeply rooted within his views on the world, biases, and every other aspect of who he is. While deciding between doing what he feels is right to the sweet and heroic Jew vs. doing what he feels he must do according to his religious beliefs and upbringing, Brown’s inward struggle bubbles to the surface. I enjoy writing every aspect of Brown. He is fun, loving, loyal, and rather complex. I’m looking forward to diving deeper into his character.
What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal?
Honestly, my villain is disease and fear. Mostly my villain is expressed through questions. Why does God let this happen? Who does it strike and why? How can we survive it? Is it ultimately for evil or for good? It is these questions that define a lot of the struggles within my major characters.
What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?
At the beginning, Lyddie of Doppledore can only wish for two things. 1. To be more than a peasant and 2. To find her brohther Hugh in the city. The setbacks? 1. her status, history, and culture prevent Lyddie from every being anything more than a slave in Doppledore and 2. a terrible disease prevents her from turning the right way towards the city. Throughout the novel however, Lyddie’s motives and goals change rather dramatically as she begins to see things in a completely new way.
What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?
In Lyddie’s eyes, she sets out on her journey because her father has disappeared and she must now convince her brother to come home from Ashbury. However, in the eyes of the faithful priest, the incident is very different. A sickiness reaches their village, a sickiness he must save Lyddie from by taking terribly great risks and trusting in God’s hands for the rest.
Where is your novel set?
1349. Kent, England.
What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?
I think three defining scenes in the book are
1. When a half starved Lyddie finds the Castle of Winney and meets the inhabitants for the first time.
2. When Lyddie returns to Doppledore to find the priest and discovers the wrath of the pestilence.
3. The final feast for Peg, in which the fate of the company is sealed and the character developments that recent struggles and terrifying incidents have molded into the my cast, begin to surface.
What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?
I think Lyddie’s most important relationship is with the faithful village priest. Although he is technically a minor character, he acts as Lyddie’s trusted advisor and moral compass. His influence on Lyddie guides the entire novel. It is by his urging that Lyddie sets out to meet a whole new cast of friends and family on her journey to survive.
How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
In so many ways. She learns what it means to have peace, closure, and contentment. She goes from being a girl lost in her imagination (based on being who she wants to be and doing what she wants to do), to a strong young women (based in reality) willing to give everything she has for the sake of the people she loves.
Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?
Definitely an ending in mind. Although, I am still not sure the best way to close up some of the details.
What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?
Hopes and dreams? Simple. Publication. I’m not expecting it to sell big. Children’s historical fiction isn’t exactly the hottest market right now. I just want to see it get into the hands of children who will be impacted by it.
I hope it will leave the reader with a deeper appreciation for the life we have and some thoughtful questions about why we live it.