setting: Nevada, 1905
genre: historical fiction
age range: 9-12
Please tell us about your book.
Life in a 1905 Nevada boomtown is tough; for thirteen-year-old orphan Kit Donovan, it’s downright impossible. Especially when she’s tasked with avenging her father’s murder and revealing the dangerous practices taking place at a local mine. The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan is a story about doing the right thing – even when the right thing surprises you.
What inspired you to write this story?
A road trip! My husband and I passed through the town of Goldfield, Nevada and it just seemed like a place that had so many stories to tell. Every time I visit somewhere new, I wonder what it would be like to grow up there. Goldfield was no different. While we were exploring, we met a man (and later a woman) who told us the history of the place. It all seemed so far-fetched, I just had to dig further.
I love museum libraries. They always have the best books – and the Central Nevada Museum was full of journals and nonfiction books about the area, gold mining, and the famous people who lived there. Those books formed the foundation of my research.
Some fun things I discovered:
You can build a house out of glass bottles.
Beer will put out a fire in a pinch – but it will leave the place pretty smelly.
Wild burros don’t like to be ridden.
What are some special challenges associated with writing historical fiction?
The middle grade historicals I love manage to immerse you in the feeling of the time period and place while letting the characters and the story take center stage. It’s tough to figure out which details to include to give the reader a real sense of place and time while keeping the story moving in a fun and engaging way. It took many rewrites to strike the balance between truth and story.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan covers a lot of ground. Some topics appropriate to the classroom include:
Doing the right thing. How do you know when to stand up for something/someone?
Courage. What is it? How do you show it?
Friendship. How do you show you are a friend? What do you expect from your friends?
Changing times. How do you adapt when new ideas/technologies come along?
Character. Who are you? How do you know what matters to you? How do you know what kind of person you want to be? How does that differ from other people’s expectations of you?