Hey guys! I am so excited about today! Back in February, I reviewed a fabulous MG, holocaust story, Odette’s Secrets, and since April is National Holocasut Awareness month (among other things), I’m excited to have the author, Maryann Macdonald stop by to talk about her story!
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day and this whole week is a week of Remembrance. I don’t know why exactly, but I have always been emotionally invested in the Holocaust. It is one of those times in history I always wanted to talk about in class (and I hated History class) and even today, I’m so humbled when I read literature on the subject–especially when the stories are based real people as Macdonald’s story is.
Before we get to chatting, here’s a little bit about her new novel!
“Odette is a young Jewish girl living in Paris during a dangerous time. The Nazis have invaded the city, and every day brings new threats. After Odette’s father enlists in the French army and her mother joins the Resistance, Odette is sent to the countryside until it is safe to return.
On the surface, she leads the life of a regular girl—going to school, doing chores, and even attending Catholic Mass with other children. But inside, she is burning with secrets about the life she left behind and her true identity.
Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyers—and written in moving free-verse poetry—this is a story of courage, of determination to survive, and of a young girl forced to hide in plain sight..”
-Summary from Bloomsbury
Published: February 26th, 2013 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Genre: Historical Fiction, Poetry | Pages: 240
And now what you’ve all be waiting for….
Inspiration behind the story…
1. How do you know what stories to tell, especially with Odette?
When I have a passion for a story, when I can’t know enough about it, when I am totally consumed by it, then I know I’m ready to write that story, to “love” it into existence. I felt that way about Odette’s story from the moment I first read it. I wanted to know everything about her life and what she experienced as a Jewish child hiding in plain sight in WWII France. I wanted to see what I could of her wartime world, to learn whatever I could about her life. I visited the places where she had been. I talked to people who had lived through the war in France. Then I sat down to write, to share her story with other readers who I thought might love it, too. And I’m pleased to say, I’m hearing from lots of them who do!
2. Was it hard to write her story, considering the time she lived in?
No one really wants to read about people whose lives and times that are easy. Odette had a difficult childhood. She lived in dangerous times. Sad things happened to her. But she met those challenges with her own individual kind of courage and resilience. And she developed a compassionate heart as a result. Telling a story like hers is an honor and a privilege, however difficult it may be.
3. What did poetry bring to her story that the prose form could not?
Odette loved poetry. She thought it’s beauty was one of the things that helped her survive her wartime ordeals. She grew up to marry a poet, and wrote poetry herself. So when I wrote the book, I tried to capture her childhood voice, that of a poet-to-be. That is why the story is told in verse rather than prose.
4. What is your hope for readers as they turn the final page of the book?
I hope readers will remember and appreciate Odette’s struggle to save herself, both body and soul.
The Writer in me has to ask…
5. What made you decide to become a writer?
I wanted to be a writer from childhood on. The trouble was, I just couldn’t figure out how it was done! No one I knew growing up in the suburbs of Detroit was a writer. So I went on reading and reading and writing my own stories, just for fun, for quite a few years.
Then one day I met a friend of my uncle’s, Mary O’Neill. She was a poet, and had written the well-known children’s book Hailstones And Halibut Bones. I was thrilled to see that Mary O’Neill was a real person. She loved parties and people! She baked great chocolate chip cookies! So it seemed to me then that it was possible to be a real person and a writer, too. I began writing for my school newspaper. I went to college and studied journalism. I worked in publishing after I graduated. And after my own daughter was born, I began writing for children myself.
And for a little fun…
6. What was your favorite book as a child? Is it still a favorite today?
When I was a child, I read nearly every single book in my local library on pioneers. I loved their dangerous adventures, and I was fascinated by how they lived so differently from me. I fell in love with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. On the Banks of Plum Creek was one of the first books I ever owned. It will always be a favorite of mine.
7. And finally, who is a heroine that inspires you?
I was very much inspired by Mary Lou Williams, the subject of Little Piano Girl, a book that I wrote a few years ago with my sister, Ann Ingalls. Mary Lou Williams was born into a very poor family. She was a talented pianist, but women were not accepted as instrumentalists in the world of jazz. But Mary did not allow that to stop her. When she felt sad, she just “played it out,” on her piano keys. And she got better and better, eventually becoming one of the most respected female names in jazz. She was known as the “Queen of Boogie Woogie,” but didn’t like that title because she could play in any style.
Wow! Thank you so much Maryann for stopping by The Hopeful Heroine today! I love hearing about the inspiration behind your story….and I especially love knowing that you “love” your stories into existence! What a great way to explain you passion.
Now here’s another great thing for you readers!
Bloomsbury USA Children’s has offered one lucky, US reader a copy of Odette’s Secrets! Check out my RAFFLECOPTER FORM here! Contest runs until Monday night (the 15th) and I’ll announce winners next Tuesday. Must be at least 13 to enter. Good luck!
Be sure to check out my review of Odette’s Secrets, and hopeful reading!
Maryann Macdonald has published over 25 children’s books and resides in New York City.
Visit her at http://www.maryannmacdonald.com