Hi guys! Today marks the last day of the last full week of school for the semester! I am finally so glad that it’s almost over–I can finally take a big breather from all the busyness of the holiday and finals season. I am planning on relaxing, reading, and blogging more over the break and catching up on some needed-to-be-written posts and reviews. Today, I have for you an exclusive interview with another author I met back at the Southern Festival of Books (let me tell you, after book fests, I usually invite many of the authors I meet onto the blog–look at all the SE-YA author posts!). Funny story, I actually met Kimberly in the line for a Korean food truck there and noticed her name badge and realized that she was having a panel with Alan Gratz. I loved meeting with her, and she’s a Tennessee author, which is awesome! Here is our exclusive interview, and I hope you enjoy!
About The War that Saved My Life
An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.
About The War I Finally Won
When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?
World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?
1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
Wow, a tough question right off the bat. Why does anyone love anything? I was born loving both stories and books—I definitely loved reading before writing—but honestly, it’s just who I’ve always been.
2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?
I like to think I have my own style. Childhood favorites included Madeleine L’Engle and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Right now I’m loving Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Laura Amy Schlitz, among others. When I’m not reading children’s lit I like historical fiction and oddball nonfiction.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
Writing is the only job I have, so in that sense it’s full-time, but I don’t physically write 8 hours a day. There’s lots of research, for one thing. And I write best in 2-3 hour spurts. I work one afternoon a week at a local social justice center, and I ride my horse (and take care of our barn) and read a lot.
4. The War That Saved My Life is one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read, and I loved following Ada as she discovers her strength and potential when she and her brother Jamie are evacuated to the English countryside and placed in care of Susan Smith, who at first does not want to take them in. How did you first stumble upon the mass evacuations of children in the United Kingdom at the start of World War II? What are some of the most interesting or surprising facts you’ve learned from your research?
For me it wasn’t something I stumbled on—it’s a background fact in novels I read as a child, including Bedknob and Broomsticks and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Interesting facts—mmmm—well, I discovered why British people used to commit suicide by sticking their heads in gas ovens, but Americans never did and British haven’t since the 1960s—before that, British stoves ran on coal gas instead of natural gas, and coal gas is 10% carbon monoxide.
5. Ada was born and grew up with clubfoot. Why do you believe it is important to realistically portray characters that are going through both physical and mental challenges and their trials in MG and YA fiction?
Because children are going through physical and mental challenges.
6. You’ve written 18 books, from your debut Ruthie’s Gift to your long-awaited sequel The War I Finally Won. As a veteran author, looking back at your writing style from your first book to now, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your writing process and the most valuable lessons you’ve learned over the years?
I don’t use nearly as many adverbs as I used to. Also, I’ve learned to really take my time and not be afraid to massively change things—some of my old books would be much better if I rewrote them now.
7. Since your novels (excluding picture books) are categorized as historical fiction, what could you say about that genre that attracted you as both a writer or reader? What do you wish you could see more in the historical fiction genre for both MG and YA?
I do have two contemporary novels. But usually with historical fiction I’m attracted to a certain aspect of life I didn’t know much about, and I enjoy learning more about it. Then sometimes I can see a story there.
8. If you could travel to anywhere back in time, where would you go and what would you do?
That’s really hard—so many good choices! I’d love to see what ancient Rome was really like. Also ancient Egypt—also the silk road—also I’d love to meet Elizabeth I.
9. How would you describe your reaction when you first learned that The War I Finally Won received a Newbery Honor Award and reached the #1 position on the New York Times bestseller list?
For the Newbery Honor, I was so overwhelmed by the phone call that I later had no idea what I even said to the committee. When we hit #1, my husband saw the email telling me so first, and read it out loud, and I replied with a line that made it into TWIFW—“If you’re joking, that isn’t funny!”
10. I am so glad I was able to chat with you at the Southern Festival of Books this year! How was your experience at SFB, and what were some of the highlights of your stay in Nashville?
I loved being part of Southern Festival of Books. The best part was presenting with Alan Gratz—I’ve known of him and enjoyed his books for years, but we’d never met.
11. It was also really nice to meet a local author from my home state of Tennessee! Since you are originally from Indiana, how was life different down here than up north when you first moved here? How is the author community here in the Mid-South region like?
I live in a smaller town than the one I grew up in, so it’s more close-knit, but it’s hard to really say—Indiana was my childhood; Tennessee is where I’ve lived as an adult. The children’s lit community here is amazing—not to many Mid-South folks live near me, but they’re family, and I relish every chance I have to be with them.
12. What could we expect from you in the future? Could you give us any secrets about your upcoming works?
Right now I’m working on a novel set around the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. After that I’m contemplating several ideas—one is a medieval castle/Nazi ghost story, a bit different from my usual.
13. Before you go, do you have any tips you would like to share to any aspiring authors or writers, both young and old?
Successful writers are the ones who keep learning, and keep working. That’s really all it takes.
Thanks so much, Kimberly, for coming onto the blog! It’s an honor to have you!
About the Author
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a longtime Anglophile, first became interested in World War II evacuees when her mother read Bedknobs and Broomsticks out loud at bedtime. Her historical fiction has garnered great acclaim: The War that Saved My Life was a Newbery Honor Book and won the Schneider Family Book Award, the Josette Frank Award, and an Odyssey Award; Jefferson’s Sons was an ALA Notable Book and received four starred reviews; Ruthie’s Gift was a Publishers Weekly Flying Star; and For Freedom was an IRA Teachers’ Choice and Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. Ms. Bradley and her husband have two grown children and live on a fifty-two-acre horse farm in Bristol, Tennessee.
Have you read The War that Saved My Life? Do you like MG historical fiction?
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!