It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Annette Oppenlander. She answers the question:
ELF: What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre(s) you like to write in?
AO: I write historical fiction and my first four novels have teen protagonists, so appeal to readers of YA fiction and adults who love YA and/or historical fiction.
I’m drawn to historical fiction because I love stories that have truth to them and stories that really happened. By implementing characters who actually lived, we learn something about them and the way they lived, what they believed in, what they ate and how they survived.
Well written historical fiction takes the reader into the historical era and makes it come alive. I think humans are fascinated by what once was, just as they’re fascinated with their family histories.
Consider the popularity of services that help people find their ancestors. We want to know where we came from and deep down a story set in the past does that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a story set in a different country or a thousand years in the past. In the end we are looking for truths.
I think we also seek to understand why certain events happened in the first place. Look at our fascination with wars. How could our great grandfathers have participated? We want to understand how and why they started? Who fought in them? How something this atrocious could have happened? Why else are we forever interested in the American Civil War, the American Indian Wars, the World Wars.
The second genre I’ll briefly touch on is young adult fiction. It is a vastly popular genre and according to some convincing statistics, 70-80 percent of YA books are purchased by adults for adults. Of course, there is also a vast population of teens readers. It is however, a smaller percentage because many are into gaming, especially boys, and never touch a book outside of class. But then there is the group of avid teen readers who devour their YA libraries.
What attracts me to YA is the directness, outspokenness and yet, vulnerability of my characters. They’re brash, they’re frank, they say what they think, they experience the world through fresh eyes. Many things they do, happen for the first time. First love, first broken heart, first break from their parents. Teen protagonists are amazing because they’re outrageous, sometimes in a hilarious way, sometimes utterly depressed. Their feelings swing wildly and unpredictably. Another YA criteria is that plots typically move fast. A YA story has to be primarily a good tale. Forget the mythical knots of complicated language you find in literary fiction. Things must move and happen. Most of the time.
I’m a huge fan of YA though I’ve grown a bit tired of dystopian themes. I tend to include some universal truths and while I’m not for entirely happy endings, I want to leave the reader with a story that ultimately uplifts in some way. Even if the protagonist has suffered and there are long-term consequences, in the end I envision a world that we all can live in and not one that has been destroyed for all eternity.
by Annette Oppenlander
GENRE: YA historical/sci-fi
Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey through the Wild West of 1881! After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn’t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid’s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy.
Getting back on the donkey was the hardest thing I’d ever done. By the way the sun hung lower, it had to be mid-afternoon. I was bone-tired and so hot that my light shirt was dark with sweat. Once in a while I scanned the horizon, wishing for clouds, wishing for something to change and get me out of my misery.
Of course, there was no such thing. The relentless blazing continued, the sky huge and intensively blue. My muscles screamed with every step and the insides of my thighs burned raw.
“Hey, Kid.” The voice sounded muffled as I woke from a daze. The Irish had pulled his horse next to Donkey Biter, watching me with clear green eyes.
“What?” I croaked.
“You don’t look so good. Where do you say you come from?”
I swallowed, but there was nothing but grit in my mouth and my mind was blank. I finally waved my chin toward my right shoulder. “East.”
“You a city boy.” It wasn’t a question. “Going to make your fortune in the west? Get some gold?”
I nodded and threw a sideward glance at the man, my eyes aching from the scorching brightness sinking low in the sky. I had to ask. “Where’re we going?”
The Irish threw me a quick look. “Santa Fe. Isn’t that where you were heading?”
I managed another nod. That was in New Mexico if I remembered right. “How far?”
“Boss, look.” Wade yanked around his horse. I saw nothing, but Scarface next to him raised an arm. Everyone stopped. I was glad Donkey Biter got his cues from the other horses or I would’ve walked on.
“Looks like settlers,” Broken Nose said. “Are we going to take them?”
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”
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