When Kathryn Fitzmaurice was thirteen years old, her mother sent her to New York City over the summer to visit her grandmother, who was a science fiction author. After seeing how her grandmother could make the characters in her books into whomever she wanted, Kathryn decided that she, too, wanted to become a writer someday. Years later, after teaching elementary school, she now writes full time and lives with her husband, two sons, and her dog, Holly, in Monarch Beach, California.
Kathryn is the author of The Year the Swallows Came Early (2009, HarperCollins), A Diamond in the Desert (2012, Viking), and Destiny, Rewritten (2013, HarperCollins). Visit her at www.kathrynfitzmaurice.com or at http://kathrynfitzmaurice.blogspot.com/
How did you conduct your research for A Diamond in the Desert?
Kathryn: Very carefully and with an amazing amount of note taking. I conducted several interviews over the course of two years and read through four years of THE GILA NEWS COURIER, which was on microfiche. I collected photographs and maps, printed several pages from the newspaper, and kept all of this in a file. I made sure to find at least one other back-up source, which confirmed what I had learned, so that I had two primary sources. In some cases, I was unable to do this, but for the most part, I did my best to confirm what I had learned. This was so that when the copy editor asked a question, or was attempting to confirm a fact, I could easily send her what I had.
How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?
Kathryn: I make sure ALL of my research is complete before I start writing. This is because I want to understand everything that has happened in my story before writing the first word. I need to know how the story will begin and how it will end. I believe that by making a timeline in my office on the wall (with sticky notes) that this helps me to know where I am going. Each day, I can write, using the timeline as a reference, and then the next day, I am able to pick up where I left off. I also like to place photographs on my wall and maps of the area I am writing about. All of these things help to keep me grounded in the time period I am writing about.
What is your favorite thing about research?
Kathryn: Finding something I had no idea had happened, and then deciding whether or not to include it in my manuscript.
What kinds of sources do you use?
Kathryn: Phone and in person interviews, newspaper articles from the Pacific Region National Archives Center in Laguna Niguel, online research, The Japanese American National Society in San Francisco, and California State University at Fullerton provided a collection of Japanese American interviews.
What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
Kathryn: Being able to give a copy of the finished book to the person whose life it was written for. In my case, I was able to do this because the gentleman I interviewed is still alive. This was such a thrill and to this day, nothing brings more joy than to see how happy Mr. Furukawa was when he first opened A Diamond in the Desert and saw that it was dedicated to him.
Why is historical fiction important?
Kathryn: Historical fiction novels are able to show young readers a part of our history they may not be aware of. These stories are important because often times, readers are introduced through a medium that brings more understanding and therefore, perhaps, more compassion toward a situation or group of people.