Teresa Funke is a long-time friend of this blog and a fellow historical fiction fanatic; as she mentions below, we have both spent time telling home front WWII stories. After you read her post today, head on over to her website to learn more about her work as a speaker and writing coach; she also has terrific experience with and information for those interested in learning more about self-publishing.
It’s such a pleasure to appear again on this blog and support one of my favorite writers, Kirby Larson. Kirby and I have a love of history in common and have each written books about World War II. In fact, we have each written books about Pearl Harbor!
I’m the author of seven works of fiction, including five titles in my middle-grade multi-cultural series The Home-Front Heroes. Each of my books in that collection is inspired by the memories of a real person who lived through the war as a child. My newest book (which debuted in March 2018) is called War on a Sunday Morning (Victory House Press) and is told from the perspective of a Navy officer’s 13-year-old daughter who watches the attack on Pearl Harbor from her front yard. This marks the first time in children’s literature that we see what happened to the women and girls on the base after the attack. Why is that important?
Throughout my career, I have been fascinated by the way women’s history always seems to take a backseat to that of men’s history, especially when it comes to stories of wartime. I greatly honor, of course, the contributions of men, and I write male characters with as much affection and attention to detail as I do my female characters. But I’m often surprised how little we know about women’s contributions to our nation and equally surprised to see how women ourselves have downplayed our own stories.
In writing War on a Sunday Morning (Victory House Press), I was confronted, as a writer, with a dilemma we often face when writing women’s history. Advice from my writer’s group and trusted writing friends often veered toward having my character do a more “masculine” sort of heroism and, say, sneak onto the base to help in the rescue effort or be more directly involved in the attack itself. But I wanted to show that women’s struggles, though not often as overtly dramatic as those of men, can be just as intense.
In my story, you see my character dealing with fear of an invasion; worry for her father and brother who are in the middle of the heavy action; concern for her friend whose Japanese father is unjustly arrested immediately after the attack; and desire to help a wounded dog that arrives on her doorstep, as well as her neighbors who were wounded in the attack. These are all very real repercussions of war and very emotionally charged concerns. And my readers are picking up on that.
As writers we are often tempted to take directions with our plots, stories or themes that seem to fit current or popular trends or reflect tried-and-true story elements or structures. Sometimes even our agents or editors (if we have them) might suggest changing our stories to make them more “marketable.” And sometimes we go along. But other times, we must stand by our choices. Literature, like everything else, should be diverse and should celebrate all kinds of heroes and all kinds of drama, not just the ones that are easy to define or sell. That is not to say our stories must ever be boring. If you are writing a “softer” story, you might need to work a little harder to make it engaging. But you can do it. And history will thank you!
Teresa R. Funke is the author of six books based on true stories from World War II. She is also a sought-after speaker, a nationwide writer’s coach, and the author of her blog Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life. She loves conducting school visits and meeting via Skype with book clubs all over the nation. She is also the creator of the Self-Publishing Blueprint, the only resource you will need to successfully publish and sell your book. Teresa has a goal to visit a new state or country every year and is addicted to personality tests. You can learn more at about Teresa on her website or connect with Teresa on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter!