Please tell us about your book.
Just how many homes and friends does a kid have to lose in twelve years?
Driven from his neighborhood during the Chicago fire of 1871, Adrian and his parents move to the Michigan wilderness where his father lands a job at the sawmill. The town is called Singapore – as if a name could make a tiny spit of a town into a great seaport.
Back in Chicago, it was easy to keep his hobby a secret, even from his father. But in this small town, will people discover who the true knitter of the family is? Only his best friend, big R.T., keeps him level.
Adrian’s attempts to protect his new – and first – girlfriend, Elizabeth, from the school bully seem to backfire, especially when he hears Jake’s big brother, Otto the Monster, is heading to town.
Then, just as Adrian starts to feel that Singapore is his home, he discovers the moving sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shore are slowly burying his town. He tries to stop it, but how can he fight both man and nature?
What inspired you to write this story?
An elderly friend from church grew up in Saugatuck, Michigan. She remembers running down the sand dunes as a child and diving into the Kalamazoo River. Some days there would be a roof exposed from Singapore, an 1800’s buried town. Other days there might be a different roof. And still other days there was nothing but sand and the river. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would have been like to have lived through that time – when my town was threatened to be buried by active sand dunes.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
First of all, I need to walk the land where the story takes place, even if it’s 150 years after the time of the story. Each time I return and wander the streets or dune hills or beaches, I feel rather ghostly – imagining what it was like back then. The unceasing waves coming in would be the same. The wind blowing dry sand around the dune grass would be the same. The crying sea gulls would be the same, as well as the quiet stillness in the woods or just a little farther up river from the Lake.
My limit for doing library research (done in various Michigan towns) is about three hours. After that I find myself rereading a line several times. When I start rereading, I scoop up all my notes, pile the books and magazines and news clippings, put everything away, and wait for another day to do more research with a cleared mind.
I especially love staring at old photos of the area in which my book is set…imagining what it would be like to be there, and then I compartmentalize and focus on the photo, ignoring people around me; for I’m sure they think I’m crazy, on drugs, or have fallen asleep.
Sometimes research falls right into my lap. I went to a jeweler to re-clasp a necklace. I noticed a box of watch “guts” on the counter and asked about them. He was a watch man. I told him of my grandfather’s pocket watch. He informed me that real pocket watches weren’t very common because they cost as much as a buggy (or today’s SUV). (A nice historical fact which shoots down all the westerns I’ve ever seen.)
What are some special challenges associated with writing MG historical fiction?
How to get my book into the hands of kids. Actually, I know a lot of my readers are adults, because they are interested in local history.
If a kid is a reader, they’re likely to read anything, especially if they can relate to the characters or are interested in an area or a specific time. Libraries and booksellers often prefer the hottest and latest and most popular books. As long as I continue developing the craft of writing to make my characters, plot, and language golden, well, then, I’m golden, too.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
The book begins with a new kid moving to town. Nearly every kid today has either moved, or been in a classroom which received a new student. (Relevant.)
There are several true local stories in the book, as well as description of jobs kids would do, like chopping wood, working in the family store, or knitting. (History.)
There’s a bully in town, but there may or may not be a resolution. You’ll have to read it to find out. (Resolutions.)
Adrian is ahead of his time, trying to find a way to stop the dunes from burying his town. (Environmental Studies.)