25th October 2018

We are delighted to welcome the highly-experienced author, Rosemary Kind, on this month’s An Author’s Mind blog and Rosemary has chosen to discuss with us her most recent novel, New York Orphan.

Welcome, Rosemary! It’s a delight to have you here on An Author’s Mind!

Rosemary: Thank you, Lizzie. It’s lovely to have the opportunity to describe my writing processes, especially in relation to New York Orphan.

Lizzie: Could you tell us a little about the story, Rosemary, obviously keeping your secrets!

Rosemary: From fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, to losing his parents on the ship to New York, seven-year-old Daniel Flynn knows about adversity. As Daniel sings the songs of home to earn pennies for food, pick-pocket Thomas Reilly becomes his ally and friend, until he too is cast out onto the street. A destitute refugee in a foreign land, Daniel, together with Thomas and his sister Molly, are swept up by the Orphan Train Movement to find better lives with families across America. For Daniel will the dream prove elusive? And how strong are bonds of loyalty when everything is at stake?

Lizzie: Who is your favourite character and why?

Rosemary: I’ve grown close to all the main characters. I think while I was writing it probably Miss Ellie, but now I’m on the second in the series and Molly is an adult I’m right there with her.

Lizzie: Do you empathise with any of these people or wish you were more like them?

Rosemary: I have never been in their shoes, but I couldn’t help but feel their struggle with them. Right from their fighting starvation to the lives they have gone on to lead. Reading about the potato famine and about lives on the streets of New York and the real hardships they faced moved me to tears many times and I hope that has been conveyed to the reader.

Lizzie: I’m sure it has. As Robert Frost said, ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.’ Which character would you most like to invite to dinner this evening and why? Who would you invite along too? What would you hope to learn?

Rosemary: I’ve been going for walks with these characters almost daily for a very long time, so we know each other pretty well already. I’d like them to meet up with some modern day politicians so they could see the parallels with the current migrant crisis and realise the importance of giving people a chance in life.

Lizzie: Do your characters change in your story? Is this important?

Rosemary: Most definitely. The inner struggles, as well as the external difficulties, are vital to the development of the characters and the crux of the story.

Lizzie: When writing, do you like to plan in detail or set up a situation and see where it takes your characters?

Rosemary: I’m a planner. I know where the story is going and that’s the path it takes. Until, that is, the characters take on a life of their own and revolt! The ending of the novel is not the original one I planned. The characters simply weren’t happy with it. They had their own story to tell and gave me no choice. I’ve already written the ending of the next in the series, now I just need to wait to see if they are happy with it or not.

Lizzie: Could you lose yourself in this novel’s world? Why?

Rosemary: Totally. I’m a bit of a method writer. While I’m writing I’m living and breathing their lives. I listen to music that fits. I read related items of non-fiction. I spend my whole life talking to the characters and walking with them. I can forget what’s real and immerse myself in what is happening in the story.

Lizzie: Where and when would you like to set another novel? Why?

Rosemary: I’m currently in the late 1860s but the series will run through a number of historical events. It is giving me the chance to be part of key moments in history that happened before I was born, which really is quite a privilege. I don’t know if the characters will let me follow the next generations, but ideally I’d like to go at least as far as the years up to when I was born.

Lizzie: What is the predominant moral issue? Who understands what is ‘right’ here or does no-one?

Rosemary: I like to explore the whole question of what makes us who we are. What drives us to make the decisions we do. Right and wrong are not black and white concepts. If you are starving the way you view theft of a loaf of bread is different from those who are rich and steal more wealth. Where does one draw the line? I don’t ask the reader to agree that wrong is right, but I do try to challenge them to understand that a guilty party should not always simply be condemned for their actions. Morality is such a fascinating area. I want readers to put themselves in the shoes of the children in this book, in the way that in The Appearance of Truth I challenge them to think about the reality of being childless and what that can feel like. Life is complex. I wrote a short story years ago that sums much of it up called Wall of Shoes. An old lady has over the years collected shoes of every type – workman’s boots, school shoes, etc – it is her way of thinking about the people who might have worn them and what it would mean to walk a mile in their shoes. That’s the challenge I want to put to readers.

Lizzie: How would you describe the genre of your book, if any? What drew you to this genre?

Rosemary: This one is definitely historical fiction. I heard the story of the Charles Loring Brace of the Children’s Aid Society sending orphans across America by train to be adopted and I was off. From the point I heard about it there was a story that had to be told.

Lizzie: On re-reading, have you noticed anything that is inaccurate or inconsistent? How would you explain this away if challenged?

Rosemary: Not in that book, but I am going back to one of my early novels and re-editing it for that reason. I try very hard to research thoroughly and hate to let myself down.

Lizzie: What does this novel tell you about the difference between fiction and non-fiction?

Rosemary: Non-fiction tells you what it was like. Fiction tells you what it feels like. I don’t want the reader to look at a picture of a street in New York, I want to put them in that street and let them take in their surroundings. I don’t want them to picture a field of corn, I want them to feel the blades cut their skin as they work their way through it. Fiction brings the story to life.

Lizzie: How do you research a novel? How do you include what you learn?

Rosemary: I do a huge amount of research, both internet based and where possible in person. I don’t feed in paragraphs of detail, but use subtle detail to ensure the scene is authentic. I don’t write non-fiction masquerading as fiction, but I do make sure the detail the reader gets is correct. The language needs to be authentic and the settings believable.

Lizzie: What would you tweet (in 147 characters) about this book?

Rosemary: Daniel’s parents died onboard ship. He knows about adversity. Can the Orphan Train save his life? How strong is loyalty when everything’s at stake?

Lizzie: What comes next?

Rosemary: This is the first in a series. The next one finds the characters involved in the struggle for equality in America and in particular the campaign for votes for women.

Lizzie: How far along are you with your new project?

Rosemary: I’m about 15% through writing the first draft.

Lizzie: We look forward to the rest! Thank you so much for your fascinating insights into how you work. Is there anything more you want to tell us?

Rosemary: I write because I have to. You could take almost anything away from me except my pen and paper. Failing to stop after the book that everyone has in them, I have gone on to publish books in both non-fiction and fiction, the latter including novels, humour, short stories and poetry. I also regularly produce magazine articles in a number of areas and write regularly for the dog press.

I spend my life discussing my plots with the characters in my head and with my faithful dogs, who always put the opposing arguments when there are choices to be made.

For more details about Rosemary Kind, please visit her website. For more details about her dog then you’re better visiting www.alfiedog.me.uk

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