Author Katharina Gerlach lets us into her mind and writing process, as she addresses the following topics. Feel free to leave her your own questions and comments below!
How to research a historical novel
Weeellll -- the easiest way is to have a friend who loves genealogy, hands you the details on a silver platter and is always prepared to do more research if you ask. ;-)
I had that luck for my first historical novel, but of course, I did my share of the work too. I developed a system that works well enough for me regardless whether I’m writing historical novels or historical fantasy (naturally I have more leeway with the fantasy).
As a first step, I look up the things I’m interested in on wikipedia and follow any links I can find. I then compile a list of essential reading (mainly books but also magazines or blogs). When I finish working through the pile, I either visit museums or interview specialists (if I can find contact information). Most are very happy to talk about something they love, all the more when I tell them it’s for a book. Sometimes it’s really hard to nail the one fact that will make the time come alive for the reader because that’s not necessarily what a pure-bred historian is fascinated with.
Your character who is the most like you
That’s a tough question. I think a little bit of me is in every character I create (that’s why I’m always having a hard time developing the bad guys -- I’m too happy for their frame of mind). In Urchin King, it’s probably Harlan when I think about it. He’s tough and stubborn but has a heart of gold. I’ve been told that I’m quite like that. Of course I’m a terrible judge of my own character; so I can only tell you what others think of me.
How a PhD in science helps your writing
A PhD helps in many ways, like knowing how to research, knowing people who know people who know something... and of course the bic-factor (but in chair). During my time at university I learned that I won’t get things done if I don’t sit down and do them regardless how tired or uninspired I am. Most often, the passages I thought dull and boring and stupid turned out to be quite decent. With some revision they were always good enough to make them work. I’ve applied this approach to my writing as well. As long as I get words on (virtual) paper, I can revise the story into something worth the readers while. There’s just no way I can revise an empty page.
The appeal of writing for the middle grade/young adult audience
Younger readers are energetic and always looking for new ideas and intriguing stories. They don’t define a genre with hard boundaries. If they like something, they don’t worry if they should file it as SciFi or fantasy, historical or alternate history. The simply enjoy. Also, they’re far more enthusiastic when they talk about the stories they like. I’m always delighted when readers reach out to me with questions, criticism, or praise. It makes me feel as young as my spirit is and lets me forget (for a while) that my body is aging.
Title- Urchin King
By- Katharina Gerlach
Genre-YA/ Middle Grade/Fantasy
For fourteen years, street-urchin Paul's miserable existence has kept him safe from an ancient law that sentences all second-born twins to death. When he learns he is the younger twin of the mentally handicapped Crown Prince who's in danger of being killed for his disability, he agrees to play the role of the miraculously healed royal heir.
Paul struggles to learn how to act like a born ruler, but finds that his greatest skill, getting by unnoticed, is now his greatest liability. He knows if he is discovered, he will be executed like all second-born twins. When a vengeful sorcerer threatens the kingdom, Paul is the only one who can oppose him. But using his unique talents will expose him. Now, he's got the choice. What is more important, his life or his family's and the kingdom's safety?
Read an excerpt:
They rode through the cold autumn air, and soon the ache in Paul’s head faded. When they passed the edge of the forest, he spurred his pony. Heloise followed, and they cantered toward Wynburgh. When the turrets of the city walls came in sight, Paul reined his pony in. He dismounted, patted the pony and whispered his goodbyes. It would raise too many suspicions if he rode any further. “Take good care of him,” he said to Heloise.
The princess shook her head and dismounted too. “I’m not leaving you.”
Paul sighed. “You can’t come along. It’s too dangerous.”
“I am used to danger.”
“Heloise, I need to do this on my own.” He looked into her eyes, trying to make her understand. “I know every nook and cranny in that town, and I know how to blend in. If I don’t want to be seen, no one will set eyes on me.” He knew the reasons were weak but he found it impossible to tell her that he would worry about her too much.
Heloise set her jaw and ripped his pony’s reins from his hands. “Leave me alone then. I don’t care one bit.” She turned to her horse as if to leave. Then, she turned again, threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.
Paul was so shocked that he didn’t move.
She pressed her lips on his nose. “Come back alive, please.” She let go of him, jumped on her horse and galloped off without looking back, dragging Paul’s pony along.
Open mouthed, Paul stared after her. The sensation of her body’s firm softness pressed against his lingered for a long time, and his heart beat as fast as if he had run. He couldn’t move until the tingling in his nose subsided.
About the Author-
Katharina Gerlach has had her head in the clouds from her birth. She and her three younger brothers lived secret lives in the heart of a forest in Germany. After climbing every available tree with imagination as her guide, she learned to read and disappeared into magical adventures, past times or eerie fairytale woods.
She never reached the ground properly although she did manage to successfully train as a landscape gardener, study forestry, and crown it with a PhD in Science. One day, she realized that she’d have to write if she wanted her dreams to become real. Her first novel was unpublishable and shall never see the light of day without major revision (if at all). But her stories improved and now, they even sell. Katharina writes Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Historical Novels for all age groups.
At present, she is working on her next project in a small house near Hildesheim, Germany, where she lives with her husband, three children, and a dog (who ground her enough that she won’t fly away on imaginary wings).
Please visit Katharina’s website (www.katharinagerlach.com), like her Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/KatharinaGerlach.Autorin), or follow her on twitter (@CatGerlach).
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