Monday, July 18, 2016

Meet Kathleen Burkinshaw--Debut Middle Grade Author

As many of you know, I love sharing my fellow writers' good news. Here is an interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of the debut middle grade historical novel, The Last Cherry Blossom. Next week I will post my review. I hope this will get your interest aroused and you'll leave a comment to win my ARC!

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CAROL: I understand that you grew up hearing your mother’s stories about Hiroshima. How much of The Last Cherry Blosoom was fact and how much was fiction? 


KATHLEEN: I used quite a bit from my mother’s life.  Some of the ‘fiction’ was the order and timeframe. The events in her life did not happen all in one year like Yuriko’s in the book.  The facts I used included: my mother came from a wealthy family with Samurai ancestry, and her Papa did own his own newspaper business.  Her Aunt and cousin moved into her home prior to the double wedding.  My mother lived on the same street as her friend Machiko and they enjoyed listening to jazz music together.  

CAROL: What did your research entail?

KATHLEEN: I spent many, many, many hours reading books written about how WWII affected the people in Japan. There were some books that had diaries of older people during the years that Japan was at war.  Japan had been at war since 1937 with China. So by the time that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the Japanese people had already been at war for four long years. By reading these accounts, I was able to get a better understanding of how the Japanese viewed their Emperor and the lengths some would go to support him.  I researched newspaper headlines, radio show slogans, and propaganda poster copy.  

Of course my mother gave her account of her experience on August 6th.  I also read books about other survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well.  My intentions when I wrote this book and when I do my presentations are to keep it nonpolitical.  
Kathleen with her mother, Toshiko Ishikawa, 2013
We visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum last year. We also honored my mother at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic bomb victims. The people in the library were so kind.  They spent two hours with me and helped me find on a map where my mom lived.  That was when I realized that she was much closer to the epicenter than she had remembered. She was only 2 miles away. A miracle that she survived.
Kathleen with her daughter Sara at the
A Dome in Hiroshima, 2015
I also researched effects of radiation from that blast, as well as the different type of damage and burns caused by an atomic bomb vs. a regular bombshell. The main fact that I learned which always leaves an impression on the middle school students: a comparison between the number of tons of TNT the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (15 thousand tons of TNT) that caused all the damage I show them on my slides to the largest of the warheads America now has (2.5 MILLION tons of TNT)!!


"Little Boy" replica of the bomb
photo courtesy Kathleen Burkinshaw
CAROL What was your mother’s reaction to the story?

KATHLEEN: My mother read my first draft, so she had me change words that were not accurate or settings that needed tweaking.  She read the final draft of the manuscript that my agent used for submission to publishers.  She loved it, probably because I was her daughter.  But the one thing that amazed me – her first reaction to hearing it would be published--she couldn’t believe that people would really want to read about her and her Papa. That deeply touched her.

CAROL: You used a lot of Japanese words in the text. Was it difficult to decide which to use? 

KATHLEEN: I really wanted to stay true to the culture and the way they spoke during that timeframe.  My editor supported me with that.  I initially was going to write it with an explanation of the word later in the sentence, but that could be cumbersome.  My editor suggested the glossary.  

CAROL: How did you know where to begin your story?

KATHLEEN: That stumped me in the beginning.  Originally I had too much info dump and flashbacks, which did not work well.  That’s when I had to throw the actual timing of events away and start fresh with lining up events in a one-year time span.  It took a lot of sticky notes and blank paper to re-arrange the time line.

CAROL: How did you decide to write it in first POV? 

KATHLEEN: I was on the fence until I read BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, which was in first person. As the reader, I felt closer to the character’s emotions. The more I thought of it, I felt it would touch my readers more if they witnessed the horror through the main character’s eyes.  Originally my agent wanted me to write it in 3rd person.  I really want to keep it in first.  But I rewrote the crucial scenes on the day of the bombing in 3rd person and submitted that to her.  She agreed first person would be best. I was very happy and relieved. After reading excerpts from THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM many students feel they are “there in that moment”.  It is something a few paragraphs in a textbook does not give them.

CAROL: Can you tell us a little about your path to publication?

KATHLEEN: I found my wonderful agent, Anna Olswanger, through a written critique at the 2012 SCBWI Carolina’s fall conference.  I didn’t get an offer of representation at that time though.  I continued to work on the manuscript with her comments and suggestions. When I felt it was ready, I emailed Anna around January 2013 and asked if she would look at my revisions.  She had me do several rewrites. I submitted my revised 10 pages to the SCBWI Carolina’s Writing Contest in 2013 and won first place! 

Just before the 2013 SCBWI fall conference, she offered representation.We did one more round of revisions before she submitted my manuscript to publishing houses in November of 2013.  I received the offer and contract from Sky Pony Press in November 2014!  Once revisions began with Sky Pony, one of the issues we worked on was how to show the “polite” conversation that adults had with other adults and children without it sounding stilted.  An author who writes wonderful MG and YA books set in Japan suggested using contractions when the young people talked with each other to make it more informal. 


Thank you so much for interviewing me, Carol. I’ve been reading your wonderful reviews and interviews with authors and I’m so excited to finally be one of them!

CAROL: My pleasure!


Kathleen Burkinshaw resides in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja. For the past six years, she has visited middle schools to discuss her mother’s life in Hiroshima during the last year of WWII and her experience when the atomic bomb dropped on August 6th. During this time, she wrote her debut Middle Grade historical fiction, THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM (Sky Pony Press August 2016). She has carried her mother’s story her whole life and feels privileged to now share it with the world. 


I will be giving away my THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM arc on July 28th. Leave me a comment on this post and I'll add your name to the list. If you're new to my blog, please include your email address. Leave me a comment on both posts, and you'll be entered twice! And if you don't win, you can order a copy here


37 comments:

Michelle Leonard said...

Love this interview and the close personal tie Kathleen has with the story! Can't wait to read!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Michelle.

sheri levy said...

Thanks, Carol, for another great interview. I can't wait to read Kathleen's story. It will be powerful, knowing this is a true story and learning of the effects it had on the lives of Japanese people. A brave story to share!
Sheri

Sandra Warren said...

Wonderful interview, Carol!

I can't wait to read Kathleen's book. (I hope I win it. If not, I'm buying it at the fall conference.)

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in Sandra. You'll also have a chance to win a copy through Talking Story in September.

Barbara Younger said...

Love reading of the process from idea to publication. Congratulations. The books sounds wonderful.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Barbara. You're in. You would love this story!

Lisa Fowler said...

This was a wonderful interview Carol. I especially love that Kathleen's mother was surprised that anyone would want to read her story.
I'm looking forward to reading this book.

VJewel40 said...

So excited to read your book Kathy. My mothers sister married a Japanese doctor during WWII. They have there own story. I am excited to read yours.

Vicky

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comments, Lisa and Vicky. I'll enter your names in the giveaway. Vicky, I need your email address in case you win!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
Thank you for interviewing Kathleen Burkinshaw. Her story, The Last Cherry Blossom is one that needs to be heard all over the world. I am so proud of Kathleen for writing this touching story!

Never Give Up
Joan

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joan. Your name is in the hat!

Jo Hackl said...

Many thanks for this great interview. I can't wait to read Kathleen's wonderful book. Kathleen has been incredibly generous to the SCBWI community and other writers over the years and I'm thrilled for her.

Rosi said...

Wonderful interview. The books sounds terrific and I hope to read it soon. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

Vijaya said...

I really enjoyed this interview and looking forward to reading LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. Truly, an important story for all ages. I'm so grateful your mother survived, otherwise you wouldn't be here with us today. Congratulations Kathleen!!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi, Vijaya, and Jo. I know Kathleen appreciates all SCBWI'ers support!

kathleenburkinshaw said...

Hello everyone! Thank you so very much for all your kind words. Your sentiments touch my heart. I'm truly the lucky one to be a part of such a supportive, wonderful group of people such as yourselves. Sending a big hug to all :)

Erica Wood said...

Getting more and more excited about reading this book! I've never read anything from a Hiroshima survivor POV. Thanks for doing this drawing Carol. I remember that you have a soft spot for historical fiction. :) ericaanne2000@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

My pleasure to host you, Kathleen! Thanks for your comment. Erica. YEs, a BIG soft spot for historical fiction.

Linda A. said...

Carol,
I have wanted to read Kathleen's story since the first day I heard of her work-in-progress. I was a big fan before I read the first word. I am so excited that Kathleen's book will debut soon. What a powerful story and a great legacy. What a terrific author and friend!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. It is an exciting time for Kathleen!

Theresa Milstein said...

This sounds like an important, special book. Perfect title and cover to go with the subject matter.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Theresa. Fun meeting you at Highlights!

Young Authors Program said...

This sounds like a great book! I look forward to reading it!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Dorothy. You're in!

The Forever Joyful Homeschool said...

Thanks for sharing this interview! I've never read a first-person book (fiction or non-fiction) from a Hiroshima survivor. I'm sure it is moving and enlightening. I plan to feature your post at the Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup today.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Leslie. I am honored and I know Kathleen will appreciate it too. Monday will also be the review of her book.

Mary Hill said...

Leslie beat me to featuring you, but I am going to break the rules and feature you too. I hope you link back up with us alot. ;)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks,Mary! I'm still figuring out your group but will do what I can.

beingwoven.org said...

Kathleen, I am so excited to see this interview and know that your book is published!!! I am so pleased for you and proud of you! I have had this book on my TBR list.
Caring through Christ, ~ linda

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda, for commenting. If you win, I'll get your email address from Kathleen.

Tracy Campbell said...

Hi Carol and Kathleen,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview, ladies.

My sister and hubby and family live in Toyko and work as missionaries, so Japan is dear to my heart. I visited many years ago and I loved it.

Thank you for Linda Andersen for sharing this post. She deserves to win this book.

Happy Heart Thanks,

Tracy

P.S. Congratulations, Kathleen, on snagging an agent.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Tracy. You're in!

Tracy Campbell said...

Thanks, Carol ❤️

kathleenburkinshaw said...

THeresa, Linda, Erica, Young Authors program, Forevery Joyful Homeschool(thank you for your literacy Monday link up!), Mary, Linda, Tracy

I'd like to thank you all for your kind words about the interview. Being able to write about my mom has given me heart warming memories that I can carry with me always. Thank you for wanting to know her story. You all are such a wonderful supportive group of people!!

Carol Baldwin said...

We're all so happy for you, Kathleen!

Tracy Campbell said...

Your most welcome, Kathleen ❤️