White Pelican Press (2015)
Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (age 14) for Reader Views (01/16)
Holly Moulder is a former elementary school teacher who left the classroom in order to write historical fiction for middle-grade students. Her fascination with history has helped her create four award-winning novels: Eyes of the Calusa, A Cord of Three Strands, Crystal City Lights, and A Time To Be Brave.
Holly has two adult daughters and one granddaughter, Macie. She and her husband Don, live in Sharpsburg, Georgia.
Holly: I taught elementary school for over 20 years, mostly fifth grade. I loved teaching—especially history and language arts. But over the years I became frustrated with the kinds of books my students were choosing to read. Captain Underpantssprings to mind. A funny series, to be sure, but not much substance.
I left teaching in order to write books that would entertain my fifth graders, but would also challenge them to think a little bit. Maybe even learn some new vocabulary words along the way.
Sheri: What is A Time to be Brave about?
Holly: The story is set in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1910. In the spring of that year, the Wright brothers began a school for pilots just outside the city. My story is largely set against that backdrop. 1910 was also a very busy period in American history for other reasons. Lots of political unrest with the suffrage movement and racial unrest was prevalent across the country. It was also an exciting time for manufacturing and industry as many inventions found their way into American homes. I tried to incorporate details into my story that give readers a taste of what our country was really like at the beginning of the 20th century. From taking part in a suffrage rally to riding in a runaway Model T, my main characters, Macie and Theo, fully experience life in 1910.
Sheri: What was your inspiration for writing A Time to be Brave?
Holly: I come from a family of pilots. My dad loved airplanes, my younger brother is a hot-air balloonist, my older brother is a private flight instructor, and I took flying lessons—even soloed—so I knew I wanted to do some kind of story with aviation as a central focus. Also, I knew that my students enjoyed learning about the Wright brothers, so they might be inspired to pick up A Time To Be Brave to find out a little more.
Sheri: How did you come up with the storyline?
Holly: Lots and lots of research! I visited Montgomery, drove around the area, talked to historians, and chose interesting tidbits to weave into my story. I knew that I wanted to develop a friendship between a white girl and a black boy because they would bring such different points of view to the book.
Sheri: What can you tell us about the two young protagonists in A Time to be Brave? How did their friendship transpire?
Holly: Macie was terribly lonely. She had moved to a new part of the country, her father was away at a new and dangerous job, and her mother was occupied with the suffrage movement. Her grandfather was very ill. Theo was dealing with his own family issues. The two characters were thrown together by circumstances, but were able to forge a strong friendship based on trust and mutual respect.
Sheri: What motivates you to write in the Teen/Young Adult Historical Fiction genre?
Holly: Teens are so open to new ideas. They’re anxious to learn about life and their place in the world. I’m still a teacher at heart, and I love to give young people something to think about, talk about, ponder deeply. And, I like to give them strong characters—especially females—that they can emulate.
Sheri: How do you think writing for the Teen/YA crowd differs from writing for a more mature audience?
Holly: Teen readers deserve the very best I can give them. That’s why I spend so much time on my research and my writing. I want my books to be as close to perfect as they can be—for them. I want readers to be engrossed in my stories. I want them to laugh with Theo and cry with Macie. I want them to miss them when the book is over.
Sheri: What is the best part about being an author of Teen/Young Adult novels?
Holly: Talking to my readers about my books. I love to hear their comments, questions, and even criticisms. My stories get better when my readers challenge me. I want to know what they like or dislike. And they don’t mind telling me!
Sheri: What was your biggest challenge in writing A Time to be Brave?
Holly: I switched the point of view back and forth between Macie and Theo in alternating chapters. That was a challenge. But I think it gave the readers a better understanding of both characters. It was fun to write a chapter as Macie, and then switch to Theo’s voice. I hope it made the story richer.
Sheri: What is it you hope readers take away from this story?
Holly: Young people are stronger than they think and can accomplish great things. Faith and friendship are mighty forces!
Sheri: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?
Holly: Someone told me to keep writing even though the big publishing houses rejected my manuscripts. After all, it took Dr. Seuss nearly thirty tries to get his first book published. I guess if he can hang on, I can, too. A friend said it this way, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle!” That pretty well says it all. Never, never give up.
Sheri: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Holly: First, I recommend that anyone who wants to write must read, read, read. Every day. All the time. Everything you can get your hands on. Secondly, a writer has to write. Again, every day. In a diary, a journal, a blog. Whatever. Just keep writing.
Sheri: What do you like to do in your free time?
Holly: I love to read. You’d think I get enough of that, doing research for my novels, but I always want more. Gary Paulsen stands out as one of my all-time favorite authors. I love Hatchet! I’m also fond of Scott O’Dell, Mary Downing Hahn, and Lois Lowry, just to name a few!
I also love spending time with my family. My eight-year-old granddaughter (Macie!) keeps me on my toes.
Sheri: So, what’s next? Is there another project in the works, and if so, what can you tell us about it?
Holly: I’m currently researching a story set during World War I. It’s based on the remarkable work of a group of young women, “The Telephone Girls,” who manned phones on the front lines—right in the trenches with the soldiers—in order to facilitate communication between the French and U.S. officers. Fascinating!
Sheri: Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your works?
Holly: You’ll find me at www.whitepelicanpress.com.
Sheri: Holly, thank you so much for joining us today! I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!
Holly: Thank you.