Monica, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?
Journalists--I work for the Washington Post--want to get quotes right, so we're really attuned to listening to how people talk.They trail off, change subjects, and almost nobody is eloquent in real life, off the cuff. As a result, my favorite fiction scenes to write are always ones with lots of dialogue, where I can let characters' wonderful human imperfections come through. I loved writing scenes between Hanneke and Ollie, the brother of her late boyfriend. Action scenes are really hard for me, though, or anything with a love of movement and no talking. There's a chase scene in GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT that I put off writing again and again, until finally the rest of the book was done, and I had to go write those two pages or else there would be a gaping hole in the middle of the book.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I'm both really rigid and totally disorganized when it comes to writing. I write a thousand words a day, rain or shine, cold or flu, usually late at night when I get home from my job. Writing every day is the only way I can make sure I keep up momentum with a project. If I haven't reached my thousand words, I feel as guilty as if I'd skipped brushing my teeth. But! When it comes to composing actual chapters, I'm all over the place. I almost never start from the beginning. I'll usually start somewhere in the middle and spiral out, and sometimes it's just a bunch of random sentences that I know will appear somewhere, eventually, hopefully. And all of this usually happens in my pajamas.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Write! WRIIIIIITE. It sounds so basic, but I'm always amazed at how many people I meet who say they want to be writers but whose stories exist only in their heads and not on the page. The physical act of writing is always going to be the easiest thing to put off. There will always be something more interesting or more pressing to do. But you have to set yourself a schedule and make yourself stick to it, and you have to take your craft seriously so that others will learn to as well.
What are you working on now?
Right now? A nonfiction book about a series of arsons in a rural county. It's totally fascinating. But as soon as I'm done with that, I'm back to World War II and a story set in an American internment camp, for which I'm now devouring gobs of research.
ABOUT THE BOOKGirl in the Blue Coat
by Monica Hesse
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times
The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do.
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.
On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman's frantic plea to find a person--a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice in historical fiction.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Lindsey, Sarah, and Kristin