Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Interview with children's author, Nancy Kelly Allen

Today, I have children’s author Nancy Kelly Allen as a guest.

ADL:  Welcome back to my blog. I know it's exciting to have TWO books released this spring. One is a folktale and the other is a middle grade novel. Tell us about your experience writing a folktale.

NKA: Hi Alison. Thanks for inviting me back to your wonderful blog. I’m a retired school librarian, so I’ve been exposed to numerous folktale retellings. These stories were originally told orally to explain the mysteries of the world. The child in me still loves a good mystery. Like kids, I’m curious. Storytelling is an intricate part of many cultures and each culture has its own tales. When I read the Cherokee folktale, First Fire, I was immediately captivated. My great-grandmother was a Cherokee so the story resonated with me on a personal level, but also on a storytelling level. The story has a problem to solve that seems impossible, a moment of high tension, an unlikely hero, and a satisfying conclusion. This creation story tells how animals captured fire for Earth, and in the meantime, each animal that tried to capture fire returned home with unique characteristics. The snake is black, owl has red eyes, etc.

ADL: Did you find that writing a folktale was different from writing a fictional or nonfictional picture book?

NKA: The basic story was already developed, but I wanted my imprint added. I did that by with details. As a writer, I was tempted to enhance the story with elements I invented, but the folklorist in me disagreed and demanded that I remain true to the original version. My folklorist side won the argument. I spent time studying the Cherokee culture and talking with members of the Cherokee Nation to give credence to the retelling and deliver accurate details. FIRST FIRE: A CHEROKEE FOLKTALE, was fun to write and I feel honored that I can pay tribute to my Cherokee heritage with this book. Sherry Roger’s illustrations added colorful realism. This book was published by Sylvan Dell Publishing. The publisher just changed names and is now Arbor Dale Publilshing.

ADL: I, too, love folktales and look forward to reading FIRST FIRE.

Now about AMAZING GRACE, your first middle grade novel. Why did you choose to write this story?

NKA: AMAZING GRACE ( A KENTUCKY GIRL WITH GUMPTION DURING WWII), has a short title with a long subtitle. This book has been a 15-year-long project. The story began as a picture book. I sent it to some editors, and several recommended that I make it into a long story. I rewrote it as a chapter book and got basically the same feedback. The story stayed tucked away, and about three years ago, I decided to write my first middle grade novel. I remembered the feedback I’d received so I decided to revise the story once again.

ADL: Since the setting is during WWII, I imagine you had to do some, maybe a lot, of research.

NKA: I love research and it’s a good thing I do since AMAZING GRACE required a massive amount of it. I began the process by reading fiction and nonfiction books about WWII and life on the home front during the war. I tooled away at the keyboard bouncing between researching and writing. Much of my research was centered on D-Day and facts relating to the troops. Another even larger research effort was based on the Kentucky home front: what people ate, what they grew in Victory Gardens, common WWII phrases, newscasts, school activities, automobiles, and everyday life for families who were helping with the war effort.
My father and uncle both served in WWII. The book is dedicated to them.

ADL: Tell us about the story.

NKA: Eleven-year-old Grace Ann Brewer’s comfortable life is torn apart when her father joins the Army in 1944 during WWII. Her family moves from Hazard to Ashland, Kentucky, to live with her grandmother. Grace enrolls in a new school and is immediately forced to deal with a bully, but the greatest challenge is to keep a positive outlook as she fears that her father has been injured—or worse—when his letters stop arriving in the mail. Gumption, that’s what Grace’s grandmother tells her she must have,but gumption isn’t easy to grasp when she listens to the wireless, a radio, that keeps the home front updated with the frightening events of the war. Grace finds solace in writing letters to her father and even more comfort in talking with her dog, Spot. With amazing strength Grace fights her own battles on the home front. Meryl Shapiro’s black-and-white illustrations depict the characters and setting in small bursts of art scattered throughout the book in each chapter. This book was published by The History Press.

ADL: Congratulations, Nancy, on the publications of FIRST FIRE and AMAZING GRACE.

Nancy’s books are available in bookstores nationwide and on and

Thank you for visiting my blog and good luck with the books.

To learn more about Nancy, please visit her website and blog

No comments:

Post a Comment