Monday, September 25, 2017

Behind the Scenes of REFUGEE: An Interview with Alan Gratz and Giveaway-Part II

Congratulations to Connie Saunders and Jennifer Ervin for winning FIRST TIMES from last week's blog.

As promised last week, Alan Gratz  has returned to share some of the intricate process of writing his middle grade novel, REFUGEE
Alan autographing a copy of REFUGEE
for the Cousins Club


CAROL: How much time did you spend researching REFUGEE? Was that typical for all your books?

ALAN: I spent a month or two researching REFUGEE, which is typical for me.

CAROL: Why did you pick the topic?

ALAN: Writing about refugees was something I wanted to tackle. I empathize with the plight of refugees in today's world, and wanted to do something to bring that situation to the attention of school children, the way Linda Sue Park did with water in Africa and A LONG WALK TO WATER.

CAROL: At what point in that process did you realize you were going to use three different characters in three different time periods? Did you plan it or did it “just” happen? Did you know the ending when you started writing? 

ALAN: I knew I was going to write a story about three different kids in three different time periods when I began researching and outlining the book. That decision--to tell three stories--took a while to come up with on its own. But as soon as I realized I could not only show parallels between each story, but actually link the three main characters and their families across time, that's when I knew I had a novel!

CAROL: Each POV is a complete story. Did you write the 3 POV separately or concurrently the way the book appears?

ALAN: I outlined each separately, all the way out--first Josef's story, then Isabel's, then Mahmoud's--although Isabel's story was created knowing what happened to Josef, and Mahmoud's knowing what happened to the other two children. Once I had all three stories outlined, then I wrote the book linearly. That is, I wrote Josef's first chapter, then Isabel's first chapter, then Mahmoud's first chapter, and so on and so on.
CAROL: What system do you use to keep the research, plot lines, and characters straight? 

ALAN: I had a system I had developed over the years, but that has now been replaced by the awesomeness that is Scrivener. Scrivener is a great program for writers that allows you to store all your research and outline and story notes and character sketches in the same file with your manuscript--and it doesn't take a million years to load. You can click between separate screens very easily. It even has an outlining feature with faux note cards on the screen, but I prefer to do that by hand on the big pin board in my office. I'm a heavy outliner, and Scrivener allows me to keep all of my pre-writing notes in one place and at my fingertips when I'm writing.

CAROL: You make writing look easy. 😀 How many drafts? 

ALAN: Including my outline--which, again, is pretty extensive--I did eight drafts of Refugee. The first drafts see the bigger things hammered out, and see major changes to the book's structure and characters. Beginning with the fifth draft, I'm focusing on much more specific problems. By the final drafts, I'm doing line editing. After the manuscript was finished, the Author's Note went through many more revisions than the book, as I tried to stay on top of all the changes happening in American politics and policy--both for the Syrian story AND, to my surprise, the Cuban story!

CAROL: This isn’t your first multi-POV book. What have you learned in the process of writing books from several POV? 

ALAN: With multiple POV books, you have to be very careful to make sure that each POV character has a unique voice and character. Ideally, you want the reader to know whose story they're reading just by the narration and dialogue, even without names or chapter titles. So I do a lot of work on the front end to develop my POV characters, and make sure they have rich, detailed lives off the page as well as on!


Leave me a comment for a chance to win this amazing book. If you left a comment last week, I'll add another entry. MAKE SURE you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog! will choose a winner on September 28. Like last week, if you also leave a comment through Talking Story, I'll give you another chance (PLUS there are other great books on this topic in the Refugee issue!).


Connie Porter Saunders said...

Wow! Writing three POVs sounds overwhelming to me but I'm sure that the three characters and their stories make this an outstanding story. Refugee sounds very relevant!
Thanks for sharing.

Linda Phillips said...

Thanks, Carol, for giving us this peek into the great mind of Alan Gratz! And thanks, Alan, for sharing this timely story with the world. Congrats on the NY Times best seller listing, too!

Unknown said...

Great interview. This was very interesting. I don't believe I've ever read a novel constructed in this way. Oh, I've read other books with multiple POVs, but not with such separate and distinct stories as this one seems to have. Alan Gratz said he has written other multiple POV books. I'm going to see if my library has them and study what he has done.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda and Betty. Your names go in the hat! This is middle grade, Betty.

Carol Baldwin said...

And thanks, Connie. You're in too!

Mr. V said...

I'm excited to share Alan's point about the revision process ... eight drafts! I shared w my students this week that most writers feel their best work happens during revision. I am also excited to use this book as the first Reader's Lunch book of the year, a club I host for my students. A giveaway copy would go right into my classroom library and from there to a student reader:) Books are best shared!

Carol Baldwin said...

So happy to hear from you, Mr. V--but I need your email address to enter you!

Rosi said...

I can't imagine handling three points of view. Amazing. This sounds like such an important book. Thanks for the post and the chance to win.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. You'r win again.

Gretchen Griffith said...

I'm looking forward to reading the book to see how the three are linked!

Carol Baldwin said...

You'll be impressed, Gretchen--and your name is in the hat.

sheri levy said...

Wonderful information, Alan. Can't wait to get my hands on this novel. Thansk for sharing-

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. You're in twice!

TeresaFannin said...

this is not a surprise. We've all seen pictures of Alan's office, the WALL and his notes. This is how you write three books in one year! And with all that research, you can continue to put out stories along the same path. He may only eat french fries and pizza, but he does write amazing books!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment, Teresa. You're in too!

Cat Michaels said...

I cannot imagine attempting three POVs, so kudos to Alan for pulling it off so well. Thanks for taking us behind the keyboard, Carol.

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol, thanks for sharing how Alan did 3 POV characters and how he used Scrivener to help him keep everything organized. I know I am late. Reading the information on your blog iscreward enough for me.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comments, Joan. So sweet of you to put me and Alan in the same category of, "amazing " but I appreciate your support. Glad you liked the review and behind the scenes posts. Makes blogging worthwhile!

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