Jul 21

Something New Under the Sun...

Gumshoes, Fangs, Rockets, & Spies: How Literary Genres Evolve and Change Our World

“A sprawling and engrossing map of genre fiction. As a broad survey of genre fiction, and particularly as an investigation into the origins of classic genres, the book more than delivers.” --Kirkus Reviews

"A fascinating account into a fascinating subject." --Steve Berry

From Beowulf to The Time Machine to Harry Potter, an entertaining and provocative look at fiction genres, at how they shift and grow, and how they change society, often in profound and unexpected ways.

How did a mystery writer invent modern police detection? How did Edgar Allan Poe’s story of treasure hunting help win two world wars decades after his death? How did a novel about peace unintentionally inspire the atomic bomb? How did a forgotten volcanic cataclysm kickstart genre fiction as we know it today?

Wars, disasters, plagues, and technological breakthroughs have shaped stories, and in turn, genre stories, both good and bad, have shaped human societies.

The connections are endless.

GUMSHOES, FANGS, ROCKETS, & SPIES digs deep to uncover these connections, and to celebrate the world of readers and writers.

Aug 18

The Evolution of Genres: A Sideways Look at Literature

My work in progress, an entertaining and provocative look at genre fiction, from Beowulf to The Time Machine to Harry Potter, how it evolves, and how it changes the world, often in profound and unexpected ways.

For a sneak peek, check out the companion timeline...

Jul 17

"When the Hurly Burly's Done"... A MASTERS REIMAGINED Story

Masters-Cover_Ken_Final_v2Now available... THE MASTERS REIMAGINED, an online anthology of short stories, each for $0.99, each based upon a classic work literature. My story, "When the Hurly Burly's Done," a finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, tackles Shakespeare's Macbeth, in a speculative take set in Depression-era Brigands Key.

The witches are calling...

Aug 16

"Under the Whelming Tide"... a Return to Earth Story

Whelming-Tide_Pelham_AHeaven and Earth. Sometimes the difference is a matter of perspective.

Check out my contribution to RETURN TO EARTH, the 2nd collaborative project from the award-winning Alvarium Experiment.

"It's refreshing to find a science fiction story that ponders the grand concepts of futurism these days. Recommended for the cerebral science fiction reader"... from 5-star Amazon review

$0.99. Download now!

"Under the Whelming Tide" has been named a semifinalist in the 2017 Royal Palm Literary Awards. RPLA_17_SemiFinalist_Badge_01






Jan 16

IN SHADOWS WRITTEN: An Anthology of Modern Horror

Twelve chilling horror stories by outstanding new voices. Available for just $2.99 from:



Sep 15

THE PROMETHEUS SAGA...Now in Softcover & Ebook

History is never fully told...

The 13 stories and 12 authors of the The Prometheus Saga are now collected and available in both single print and single ebook volumes. Embark upon a 40,000-year journey of discovery into who we are as humans.

4 stories in The Prometheus Saga were winners of the prestigious 2015 Royal Palm Literary Awards:

Antonio Simon, Jr.'s thoughtful "LILITH" 1st Place for Published Short Story. Daco Auffenorde's thrilling "THE PISCES AFFAIR" 3rd Place for Published Short Story. Elle Andrews Patt's intriguing look at the early colonization of America, "MANTEO", 3rd Place for Novella; Parker Francis's tale of the mysteries of literary creation, "THE STRANGE CASE OF LORD BYRON'S LOVER," 1st Place for General Fiction, and 1st Runnerup for Published Book of the Year.

Nov 14

"First World War:" A Tale of THE PROMETHEUS SAGA

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? The Alvarium Experiment releases THE PROMETHEUS SAGA, short stories by award-winning authors that explore who we are...Check out the TRAILER...

Check out my interview about the project on novelist Parker Francis's website...

And if so moved, download my Saga installment, "First World War," here...

The authors:

Ken Pelham   Charles A. Cornell   Bard Constantine   Daco Auffenorde   Doug Dandridge   Bria Burton   Antonio Simon, Jr.   Elle Andrews Patt   Parker Francis   Kay Kendall   M.J. Carlson   Jade Kerrion

Aug 14

For Writers of Suspense...

Learn to write suspense for less than a buck! Just released on Amazon for all Kindle ereaders (plus PCs and IPads with the free app from Amazon)!

GREAT DANGER: A Writer's Guide to Building Suspense

Jul 14

RPLA 2015 PUBLISHED BOOK of the YEAR ... OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: A Writer's Guide to Mastering Viewpoint

Now available on Amazon for Kindle readers, this concise guide delivers everything every writer needs to know about writing from the viewpoint of characters. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind was named 2015 PUBLISHED BOOK OF THE YEAR in the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Click OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND to order.

Dec 13

Brigands Key...from a Redhead Point of View

A new review...

Redheadreader on BK

Oct 13

PLACE of FEAR...Available in Ebook and in Paperback

Place of Fear cover onlineA powerful narcotic, a missing scientist, a desperate rescue...and a great mystery deep in the rainforest of Guatemala. PLACE OF FEAR, the stunning prequel to BRIGANDS KEY, is available on Amazon for Kindle e-readers (and for I-Pad, I-phone, and any laptop or PC, with the free app also available from Amazon), for $3.99. Winner, 2012 Royal Palm Literary Award.

Click here to order the ebook.

Click here to order in paperback.



Jul 13


Brigands Key.

Winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award. Don't miss out on the thriller described by Florida Weekly as "A Perfect Storm of Menace!"

Hardcover, ebook...and now available in paperback!


Jul 13

Island Mystery! Tales of Old Brigands Key...

Available for Kindle e-readers (plus IPAD and desktop, with the free Amazon app), Tales of Old Brigands Key, a collection of three new short stories about the little island's troubled past.

"The Rum War." A bootlegger battles to retrieve his impounded boat during the Prohibition, aided by a famous stranger.

"The Light Keeper." Electric change sweeps the island in 1938, and affords a chance to settle old scores. Finalist, 2014 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

"The Wreck of the Edinburgh Kate." A ghost ship drifts into the island in 1890, importing a great horror from across the Atlantic. Winner, 2nd place, 2014 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Download now and get your brigand on!

Mar 13

Enjoy a Good Scare?

Scarier by the Pairier...

Now available on Amazon for Kindle readers (and for i-Phone, i-Pad, and home PC with the free app from Amazon): A DOUBLE SHOT OF FRIGHT: Two Tales of Terror, by Ken Pelham. $0.99 !!!...best entertainment value this side of a Russell Crowe singing engagement!

Two short stories of horror from award-winning author Ken Pelham, guaranteed to make you keep the lights on.

"Myrna": A drunken brutal husband, a beautiful young wife with the mysterious skills of a lost race...and an unwillingness to be a victim. Originally appeared in Stellanova Magazine, 1988.

"Familiar": A modern twist on the myth of the witch's familiars, those creatures subservient to their masters' whims. Old Salem meets MIT. Originally appeared in Black Petals Magazine, 2004.

Buy now while supplies last! No lines! See ball-point pen offer!


Jan 13

Batten Down the Hatches! From MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL...

June 6 Newsflash! Okay, I never claimed to be a meteorologist. As soon as I said it was too early for hurricane season, up pops Tropical Storm Andrea in the Gulf of Mexico. As I write this, Andrea is sloshing ashore in Brigands Key. Or where the fictional island is located, at any rate. And of course, there's not really much left of Brigands Key after the bitch goddess named Hurricane Celeste slammed into the island. Anyway, it looks like this might be a helluva season coming at us in 2013.

The calendar just flipped June 1st, so hurricane season is officially here. Now I don't necessarily agree with that date...anyone who's lived along the Gulf Coast or the U.S. Atlantic seaboard knows that they're unlikely to see a hurricane in June, or even July. The real season is August and September. On the other hand, the waters are warmer every year, so it's reasonable to assume tropical storms will begin earlier. Nevertheless, I thought I'd highlight this by returning again to the MRJ story linked below...

Janet Rudolph's wonderful quarterly, MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, covering the gamut of mystery fiction, has a short piece of mine in the Florida-themed Winter 2013 edition. Titled "Storms, Mayhem, and Mystery", it reveals a bit of my Brigands Key thinking. I'm reprinting the story here, but I encourage mystery lovers to subscribe to MRJ, or to buy the individual issue...it's chock-full of terrific writing by noted authors who use Florida as the springboard of imagination.

Click on the links and enjoy!



Dec 12

Tales of Mystery & Suspense

Get Your Skullduggery On! Download TREACHEROUS BASTARDS today...

TREACHEROUS BASTARDS: Stories of Suspense, Deceit, and Skullduggery, a collection of three short stories, is available for Kindle e-readers at Amazon.com (or for I-Pad, I-Phone, or PC, with the free Kindle app). Two stories--"Itchy" and "Great Minds Think Alike"--were previously published. For fans of Brigands Key, the previously unpublished "Double Effect" peels back a layer of the onion skin for a glimpse into the island's troubled past.

Nov 12

"A Perfect Storm of Menace": BRIGANDS KEY Review...

Florida Weekly's Phil Jason weighs in...

BK Review

Aug 12

Order Now!

Brigands Key

An ageless, impossible body at the bottom of the sea. A lethal plague. A ruthless murderer. A monster hurricane. When archaeologist Carson Grant comes to tiny Brigands Key to escape the limelight and repair his shattered reputation, he finds himself instead staring down the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

A first-place winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award, BRIGANDS KEY is a roller-coaster ride through murder, vengeance, and secrets best left undisturbed.

Available at Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com.

Praise for Brigands Key:

"A perfect storm of menace...highly entertaining...breathtaking!" --The Florida Weekly

Jun 12


Welcome to the website of Ken Pelham! I'm hoping you dropped in because you're a fan of suspense fiction ladled with science, philosophy, and adventure, and topped with a dripping dollop of gore. If not, maybe we can turn you. Come. Join us. Do not be afraid...

In addition to updates on my novels, I'll weigh in on literature in general, and thrillers and suspense fiction in particular. Feedback is welcome.



* * *

...'tis true that we are in great danger; the greater therefore should our courage be.

--William Shakespeare, Henry V

Mar 11

What I Write (and Why)

Give me a story that plunges ahead with breathing, breakable characters, and a setting indispensable from the tale. Take those characters, stick them in that setting, and throw the kitchen sink at them. An exploding kitchen sink with rusty, razor edges for shrapnel.

That’s thriller territory.

BRIGANDS KEY was released upon an unsuspecting public in July, 2012. Others are underway and will (fingers crossed) follow Brigands Key shortly into publication.  Zip to "My Novels" for info.


Feb 19

Warping the Universe for Fun and Profit

Beginning in 1905 with a series of papers and little fanfare, Albert Einstein turned the Universe on its head. The notion of time and space being fixed, separate entities, he deduced, is all wrong. He envisioned “spacetime” as a single thing in his special and general theories of relativity. Better yet, spacetime flexes and bends and warps with gravity. And if all matter exerts a gravitational force, my time is not your time and your time is not mine.

This radical idea still boggles the mind today, but Einstein did the math, and observations and experiments have since proven him correct. So here’s a tool, courtesy of Uncle Albert, for all of you arriving late to work. Your boss glares and grumbles. Just say, “Dude! Einstein held that time is variable according to mass. You think you’re smarter than Einstein?” That should work.

Good writing, like Einstein and the rest of the Universe, ignores absolute, by-the-clock timekeeping, and good writers understood this principle long before Einstein was born. You cannot keep a readable pace in storytelling if you actually write an accurate pace. You must bend time and space to your will.

Here’s an example from my guidebook Great Danger: A Writer’s Guide to Building Suspense.

Your protagonist drives to Orlando International, checks her bags, boards her flight, waits, flies to Atlanta, waits, eats chicken fingers, wonders what kind of chickens have fingers, waits some more, catches a connecting flight, and arrives at London’s Heathrow Airport the next day. This takes eighteen hours. Guess what? Unless that long sequence of real-life drudgery somehow is integral to the story, as if, say, a mobster watches her every move, and takes the seat right behind her, nobody cares. Most of us have endured the Atlanta airport and don’t want to think about it. Write the entire scene in a line or two, or not at all.

Upon her arrival at Heathrow, a gunfight breaks out in baggage claim, and rages for two minutes. This is what we came for and stuck around for. Milk this section for five pages, eight pages, ten pages. Describe it in minute detail. The whistling of a bullet past her face, plucking at her collar, can take place in a microsecond, but can be described in an entire paragraph.

An obvious exception to that rule would be if something story-wise happens during that otherwise unimportant trans-Atlantic flight. If something happens, the flight becomes important. Maybe it’s not physical action. Maybe it’s internal, a self-reflection. Either way, it’s plot-developing or character-developing. Maybe your protagonist watches a young mother nursing a baby, and the scene tears at her because of the loss of her own child. That would be a story element worthy of description. Not the little bag of peanuts the flight attendant brings. Unless someone chokes on the peanuts.

Another exception occurs when the mundane details create a setting new to the reader, because then they are not mundane to that reader. They become new and exciting. If you write about flying from Atlanta to Heathrow and your target audience is a previously uncontacted naked tribe from deep within the Amazon rainforest, your readers may have seen the giant birds high in the sky but have no knowledge of airplanes other than that. If you skip the details—the pilots and passengers and peanuts—the reader would be mystified. Those details explain what it actually means to fly, and the reader would be fascinated. Similarly, details of the workings of 19th-century whaling ship might fascinate us.

Don’t bore; make that your mantra. Real life can be boring. You cannot. Think of a favorite epic. Even a multi-generational saga skips years, maybe decades, at a time but dwells upon the critical moments, the ones that move the story. The terror-of-the-gunfight moments. The night-of-passion moments. The slipping-on-a-banana-peel moments. Not the watching-Harlem-Globetrotters-on-Gilligan’s-Island moments (unless they drive a character to insanity or murder). If the flight across the ocean moves the character but not the story, keep it short or nonexistent.

But hard and fast rules in writing tend not to exist (other than “don’t bore”). Brevity can highlight the story of years. Watch Orson Welles’s breakfast montage in Citizen Kane. Brief shots, separated by a dizzying spin-cycle of images, tell the story in seconds of a marriage souring across decades. Great, spacetime-warp stuff. No doubt Einstein, sitting in the darkened theater and munching handfuls of popcorn, shouted, “That! That’s vat I’m talkin’ about!”

Play with time and space. Einstein toiled long and hard to grant you that license, so acknowledge it, embrace it, and bend the Universe to your will. It’s the only way to write.

(originally published on www.Floridawriters.net)

Aug 17

FOR WRITERS: When Setting Becomes Character

When I was in college, studying landscape architecture when it didn’t interfere with my busy beer-drinking schedule, the dean liked to hammer home a recurring concept. “Genius loci,” he would say, his eyes agleam, his bowtie aflutter. “Spirit of the place.” You must understand a site fully before you design for it, he argued. Ideally, one should sit upon the ground in the middle of the place and meditate. Throughout a full year. Feel the sunshine. See the dappled light and shade on the grass. Observe the angle of the falling rain. Melt in the heat. Become one with the place.

Obviously, that ain’t happening, and he admitted as much. But his point was sound and it stuck.

It’s a lesson to apply to writing.

Setting matters. I read stories in which setting is irrelevant. I read mysteries set in Cornwall that may as well be set in Akron because place makes no difference. That’s fine; a story can be a good one even without a strong setting. But when the reader feels the setting, the place, the time, depth and dimension are added. Genius loci! The spirit of the place! One feels the grit and grime of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, the heat and anger of John D. MacDonald’s Florida, and the small-town intimacy of Stephen King’s Maine.

There’s yet another higher level at which to take setting. This is when setting not only provides a descriptive backdrop, it becomes a character itself, inseparable from the story.

In Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), the desert planet of Arakis shapes the characters, plot, history, religion, and social relationships. Take the setting away and you lose pretty much everything about this complex novel. Herbert realized this and let his master class in world-building dictate the story as much as any of the characters, and the novel resonated with a generation becoming environmentally aware and concerned with living with diminishing resources.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

So begins Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938). It’s a carefully crafted first line, seductive, but not a tease. Manderley, you think. What’s Manderley? Why does it haunt the narrator’s dreams? I’m glad you asked. It’s the vast, English manor house and lands in which the story unfolds, and which bends the characters and their motivations. It’s a living, breathing place, not just a whopping big mansion as one expects in an Agatha Christie novel. It’s beautiful, elegant, sinister, and oppressive, practically oozing the questionable spirit of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca.

Not to bash Christie. She set perhaps her best novel, And Then There Were None (1939), in a whopping big mansion on a desolate English isle. This time it’s not just Colonel Mustard-in-the-Conservatory-with-the-Knife stuff. The place forces the characters’ actions and is inseparable from the nefarious goings-on. Did Christie take a page from Du Maurier’s playbook? I don’t know. I do feel that both setting and character in this novel surpass her earlier work.

In The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck uses setting not only as character but also as symbol. He paints a grim picture of dust-bowl Oklahoma:

Then it was June and the sun shone more fiercely. The brown lines on the corn leaves widened and moved in on the central ribs. The weeds frayed and edged back toward their roots. The air was thin and the sky more pale; and every day the earth paled…Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air: a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waste, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it. The dust was long in settling back again…

From there, we follow the Joad family west along Route 66 and into California, the promised land of milk and honey that turns out to be anything but. At each step, the settings—the lonely road, the deserts, the crowded migrant camps, the lush farmlands—create powerful symbols for the struggles of the Joads.

It’s easy to go overboard in describing a setting, and thereby boring the reader. A good approach would be to describe to your hearts content in a first draft, then savage it with a meat cleaver in the edits. But with a poet’s meat cleaver; craft the details so that they say as much as possible in as few words as possible.

So. Consider setting in your next effort. Find the spirit of the place and see where it takes you.

(This article first appeared in FloridaWrtiers.net, January, 2017)

Jan 16

THE JACKIE MINNITI BLOG TOUR & INTERVIEW: Teaching Kids History through Fiction

Special Treat Time! Jackie Minniti, journalist and author of the historical novel, Jacqueline, joins us today to share insights from a career as both teacher and writer.

Part I: The Guest Blog


Jackie Minniti

As a former middle school reading teacher, I’ve learned that middle grade books have to be interesting enough to tear kids away from their iPads and Wiis. So if you’re thinking about writing suspense for the 8-12 audience, here are some tips that might help.


Familiarize yourself with what’s hot in middle grade fiction. Browse bookstores and online sites to see what the kids are reading. Visit a local middle school or the children’s section of your library and talk to the librarian. If it’s been a while since you’ve been around kids this age, find a neighbor, friend or relative who has one and spend some time with him or her. Pick their little brains to find out what they like (and hate) in a book. And keep in mind that your book will have to make it past the gatekeepers – parents and teachers – before it can get into those eager little hands.


One thing that immediately turned off my middle school students was a “fat book.” Books with too many pages can intimidate them, and many won’t even bother to pick one up. For this age group, your book should weigh in at between 30 and 60,000 words with chapters around 10 pages long, so your writing will have to be very tight. And while you might love to wax poetic with lush, descriptive passages, a middle grade reader probably won’t share your enthusiasm. Focus on action and dialogue, and limit description to about 10% of your total content.


If your first page doesn’t hook them, you’re toast. Plunge right into the action. Your first sentence may be your only opportunity to pull them into the story, so start building the suspense there. For my book, Jacqueline, I spent more time on the first sentence than on the entire first chapter. I finally came up with this: “Her mother’s scream was followed by the crash of shattering glass.” My 10-year-old Beta reader called the sentence “awesome” and said it made her want to keep reading to find out what was going on.


Your protagonist will make or break your story. Middle grade readers are still figuring out how they fit into the world, and they want to read books with characters they can identify with and care about. Your main character should be between 10 and 13 years old with strong opinions and beliefs. Most of the character’s interactions should be with friends and peers, not parents or adults. The problem that triggers the suspense should be something your protagonist can resolve without adult intervention. This isn’t an age where kids do a lot of navel-gazing, so keep self-reflection to a minimum. By the end of the story, the hair-raising experience your protagonist has endured should result in growth and change that kids can recognize and perhaps apply to their own lives.


There are few things that will turn off middle schoolers faster than someone talking down to them, so don’t write down to them either. Make the language challenging, and resist the temptation to “dumb it down,” but include context clues for unfamiliar words so your readers won’t be running for a dictionary. Be sure to keep your content age-appropriate. Avoid graphic violence, coarse language and any hint of sexual activity. Your book should be something a teacher could read aloud to the class – without being called down to the principal’s office!


Middle schoolers are quick to toss a book if it becomes “boring.” Pacing is vital to keep them flipping the pages. Plot your story so the suspense builds relentlessly, right up to the last page. Try to end every chapter with a cliff-hanger. Your climax should have them clutching the book and holding theirbreath. The end of your story should be positive and decisive. Middle graders HATE an open ending. I’ve actually seen students throw a book across the room because the conflict wasn’t resolved satisfactorily. Even if you have a sequel in mind, the end of your book should be the end of the story. If not, your sequel won’t have a chance.

All in all, middle graders enjoy books that transport them and help them make sense of the world. In that regard, they’re much like adults. But unlike adults, they’re still in their formative years, so what you write could impact them in ways you never imagined. It’s a heady responsibility – but it’s also what makes writing for them so much fun!


*  *  *

Part II: The Interview...

I had the pleasure of meeting author Jackie Minniti recently and reading her wonderful and touching new novel for middle grade readers, Jacqueline. By hook or by crook, I managed to get her to chat with us.

Welcome, Jackie! Give us the nickel tour of your background and your novel Jacqueline.

I was born and raised in the heart of New Jersey and was a teacher for 25 years. I also did some education writing for the Courier Post.

After I retired, I moved to Florida and decided to start working on my bucket list. The first item was to become a writer. I started by writing for The Island Reporter, a local paper. Two years later, I completed my first novel - Project June Bug, the story of a young teacher’s efforts to help a student with ADHD. It won several awards, including a Royal Palm Literary Award for women’s fiction, and was named Premier Book Awards “Book of the Year.” I’ve also had three stories included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Last year, I was offered a contract for Jacqueline, my middle grade historical fiction, which was released in July. I live on Treasure Island with my husband and two rather noisy macaws, but I spend a lot of time back in New Jersey visiting my parents, three grown children and six gorgeous grandkids.

Jacqueline  was inspired by an experience my dad, a 99 year-old WWII vet, had while stationed in France with the 127th General Hospital in 1944. A little girl named Jacqueline began following him to and from the military hospital where he worked. Their friendship blossomed, and when the 127th was transferred to another city, my father promised her that if he ever had a daughter, he’d name her Jacqueline. This was the only war story Dad was willing to share, and it became part of our family lore.

Describe your writerly influences. Who do you love to read, and which among them influenced you?

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I “published” a little handwritten newspaper using carbon paper (truly old school!) that I sold for a nickel. I always loved writing stories and dabbled in poetry in high school. But I never really had the time to pursue writing seriously until I retired and my kids were grown.

I’m a voracious reader, and since I write a column and a blog on Florida authors, I spend a lot of time reading books by Floridians. I’m constantly amazed by the number of terrific writers we have here, and I love to read their books. But my all-time favorite non-Floridians would include J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Maeve Binchy, and my writing’s been influenced by each of them.

Jacqueline fits squarely in the camp of historical fiction. Is that a direction you’re going? Do you write in other genres, or are you tempted to?

The funny thing is, I was never a big history buff. My genre preferences ran more along the lines of sci fi, thrillers and fantasy. I did love Gone With the Wind and Dos Passos’s USA trilogy, and I was always amazed by the amount of research that went into those books, but it never occurred to me to write anything historical. Now that I’ve done it, though, I’d like to write another. I’ve developed a real interest in the WWII era.

You resisted writing the story of young Jacqueline for years. What finally tipped the scales and convinced you to tell her story?

My dad always wanted me to put the story on paper. I explained that it wouldn’t interest the average reader, and there wasn’t enough material for the 80-90,000 words I’d need for a historical novel. It was a chance encounter with a stranger at my son’s wedding that changed my mind. “Your father says you’re a writer,” he said. “He’s been telling me the most amazing story. You’ve got to write a book about it.” I smiled politely and started to explain why it couldn’t be done, but he stopped me. “I have a daughter in sixth grade,” he said. “She doesn’t know anything about World War II. She’d love to read a story like this, and it could help her learn history.” And there it was – the “Eureka!” moment. I still can’t explain why I never thought of writing the story for younger readers, especially after I’d spent so many years teaching reading in middle school.

You write for The Island Reporter on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which makes me aware of a certain journalistic approach in Jacqueline. By that I mean economy of language, fitting the right word, the right image, the right emotion, within a tight framework.

When you’re writing columns that have to weigh in at around 500 words, you learn to make every word count. I’m a relentless editor. I’ve learned how to take a scalpel to my writing to fit as much information as possible into the smallest space. The ironic thing was that during the editing process for Jacqueline, most of my editor’s suggestions were to add more to certain scenes. That was a new experience for me!

The narrative is convincingly told from Jacqueline’s point of view. The language is direct, the emotions immediate. Did you find that difficult?

Not really. Jacqueline has lived in my head for such a long time, she’s like an old childhood friend. And I spent so many years working with kids and raising my own, it wasn’t too hard for me to get into the head of a 12-year-old. I considered telling the story in first person point of view with Jacqueline as the narrator, but I opted for third person limited with Jacqueline as the focus because I wanted the book to appeal to boys as well as girls. I’m happy with that decision.

Jacqueline has the feel of a well-researched novel. I find that the hardest things to research are the little details of daily life, rather than the big stories or issues. For example, the type of shoes a little French boy might wear is more difficult to ascertain than General Patton’s 3rd Army advances. What say you?

That’s SO true! In fact, when I started Jacqueline, the first roadblock I hit was finding out how the families of French resistance casualties were notified so I could describe the letter that Jacqueline’s mother dropped on the floor. I spent over a week scouring the internet. I even contacted Western Union, but I finally decided to give up or the book would never get written. Thanks to Google Earth, the internet, and Julie Trumbull at the University of Texas Moody Medical Library, the details in Jacqueline are as historically accurate as I could get them.  Frankly, the research was the thing that I originally found most daunting, but it turned out to be one of the things I enjoyed the most.

Do you want to revisit this setting, occupied France?

Not so much the setting, but I would like to revisit the era. I’ve developed such a profound admiration for the Greatest Generation that I think I’d like to write another book set in the 1940s. This time, though, I’d like to set it on this side of the pond. I’m toying with the idea of a coming-of-age story for young adults.

Jacqueline’s friend and neighbor intrigues me. We’ve all seen old footage of young women who’d consorted with Nazi officials during the occupation, and the anger and retribution unleashed on them after the liberation. You write her with compassion, yet the fear for her is palpable.

Next to Jacqueline, she’s the character I found most challenging to write. In my dad’s old photo album, there’s a snapshot of four “collaborateurs” with their shaved, painted heads and haunted eyes. My dad has a vivid recollection of these women, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to include one in the story. The challenge was how to present her. Middle graders are just beginning to see the world in shades of gray, and I wanted to incorporate this in Yvonne Jamet. While the adults in the story see her as a traitor and a tramp (which is, to some degree, justifiable,) I wanted Jacqueline to see a different side of her. I thought this could spark some positive discussion about how the perception of a person can depend on one’s perspective.

The broken kitten seems a deftly handled symbol, mirroring Jacqueline’s situation as well as David’s…

That one-eyed cat was there from the beginning. I thought it could work on a number of levels. It mirrors Jacqueline and David’s broken worlds, the stubborn tenacity and resilience of the French, and the ability to rise above one’s physical limitations. Middle grade kids have the tendency to find physical abnormalities frightening, and I wanted to present Clinoche in such a way that, by the end of the book, they’d forget all about his missing eye. I hope they can learn to do that for people with disabilities as well.

What’s next for the talented Jacqueline Minniti?

You’re making me blush! Right now, I’m focused on marketing Jacqueline, and as I’m sure you know, that’s extremely time-consuming. I’ve also got my two columns for The Island Reporter and my Fabulous Florida Writers blog, so I’m keeping pretty busy for a retiree. But I am playing with some ideas for another book. Time will tell.

Thanks so much for joining us, Jackie! In case anyone was still wondering, I loved this novel and recommend it to adults as well as younger readers. Purchase it online here... Jacqueline

For more stops on Jackie Minniti's Bodacious Blog Tour and Rolling Thunder Revue, click here...