Alda P. Dobbs is the author of the historical novels Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna and its followup, The Other Side of the River (September 2022). Her debut novel received a Pura Belpre Honor and is a Texas Bluebonnet Master List selection. Alda was born in a small town in northern Mexico but moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. She studied physics and worked as an engineer before pursuing her love of storytelling. She’s as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, different cultures and nature as she is about writing. Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston, Texas.
What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?
A story idea usually comes to me first, kind of like a blurry image. As you get closer, it begins to take shape. Usually, the era comes to me first, followed by the character. I begin working on all three simultaneously – story plot, setting, and character – and before long, the characters begin taking the lead and share with me their story.
How do you conduct your research?
I research books that cover the era, the theme at hand, and various subjects I’d like to include. I use newspaper archives, vintage and modern maps, photographs, and non-fiction books written by historians, anthropologists, psychologists, and other professions depending on the subject.
How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?
I usually do both at the same time, writing and researching. When I find new information, I revise and rewrite scenes.
What is your favorite thing about research?
I love discovering new tidbits that help me feel as if I am there, walking along with my character.
What’s your least favorite thing about research?
My least favorite is when I have to stop to write the story, lol!
What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
I love that I get to share a story that not much is known about. I also enjoy sharing stories about our past and see how history repeats itself.
What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?
Knowing what historical facts can go into the story when there’s so much wonderful information out there. You just don’t want to bog down your story and turn it into a history book.
What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?
I’d say finding out that an old family story from 1913 had been true and accurate all along despite having been passed down for multiple generations.