Way to go Wednesday Interview with Author Keely Hutton: Secret Soldiers

Way to go Wednesday Interview with Author Keely Hutton: Secret Soldiers

Way to Go! Children’s author Keely Hutton’s new book titled SECRET SOLDIERS (released 2019) is a story about four boys who dig tunnels underneath no-man’s land during World War I. The young soldiers endure many challenges and discover friendship and family while working as artillery shells and bombs are exploding above the ground. (YA Historical Fiction)

welcome to way to go Wednesday this is a new monthly series that I'm starting where I introduced you to some of my writing friends and their new releases and today I'm going to be meeting with Keeley Hutton who is the author of the new release secret soldiers so welcome Keeley yay thank you hello glad to be here way to go thank you so we're here to talk about you how did you get the idea for the book so after my first novel Soulja Boy came out in 2017 my editor and I started discussing what I should do for a second novel and we both agreed that it should be something in the same vein as Soulja Boy so I started just looking into other conflicts throughout history particularly looking for the role of children in these conflicts I wanted to explore that some more I used to teach eighth grade English so I knew that there was quite a bit of literature to choose from in young adult and middle grade that wanted to look at some of the the wars that we don't delve into as much in our school curriculums around the same time my husband and I were binge watching a show called peaky blinders what I found is that while watching the show the main character and his two brothers were soldiers during World War one and every time they were having these PTSD flashbacks on the show they were underground and I was really curious and I kept asking my husband I don't get it why are they in tunnels why are they under ground why are they fighting in the ground and finally he's like google it I don't know I googled it and learned that during World War one because of the stalemate of the trench warfare that there was an entire secret underground mission of tumblers on both sides the conflicts the Allied forces and the central forces that were digging tunnels beneath no-man's land beneath the battlefields and an attempt to get under enemy's trenches to undermine their lines and I was fascinated by it I think to be a bit claustrophobic myself so the idea of being in these really tiny narrow tunnel while artillery shells are falling on the ground above your head it's both terrifying and fascinating so I started looking into it and then I also discovered when I started looking into it that during World War one over a quarter of a million British boys had lied about their ages to go and fight in World War one or underage soldiers in every army you know the German side Canadian Australian so I focused on the British so many of whom didn't ended up kind of becoming beasts of burden on the front line either in the trenches or in the case of secret soldiers so that was the inspiration that I got very excited about it and wanted to learn more and the more I learned a story developed from there you know so research was it was a really big shift for me because when I was working on soldier boy the main character in soldier boy was a Christian contact for me you know Ricky and I worked for five and a half years we had conversations it was his story so anytime I had a question about even smallest details like what type of flowers did his father grow outside of their bathroom but I could message Ricky he'd give me the answer and I felt very confident about that answer when I started researching secret soldiers in World War one there are no surviving World War one veteran's so I had to rely on books and articles documentaries British historians who focus on the tunnels and the tunnelers of World War one and was able to ask them some questions but the hardest thing for me was that the details were conflicting so then I would have to research further and because it's historical fiction it gives me a little leeway in deciding which facts then to go with for my story it worked very hard to get it as as close to possible with accuracy with the details how did you find a balance when you were writing those intense scenes are both in soldiers boy and on the scenes and secret soldiers have very intense emotionally heavy scenes you know we're talking about children in war and be very emotionally taxing to to write those as a writer in order for my readers to emotionally connect to a story I have to first emotionally connect to that so we're working in writing these scenes about these young people being put in these horrible situations it can drain you emotionally and I'm gonna work for hours and hours writing about children fighting and potentially dying try to find some balance so that I'm not feeling depressed all the time I love Disney so I surround myself with things that make me happy you know images from Disney with people that make me happy like my family and friends I work out six to seven days a week because I find that that alleviates stress as well and I usually had chocolate on hand because I also find rock that makes me happy help lift my spirits after after a hard day of writing that's the workout that's another balanced thing if you eat the chocolate get up and go get up and move a bit six full revisions and then you know the copy editing and but I actually love revising that's that's the part of the writing process I'm happiest in you know right now I'm working on writing a new draft for a manuscript and that's the part that stresses me out once I get to the revision process and have something to play with I'm excited so it's just getting through the writing just so I can revise I tend to be a plotter I need to make myself a roadmap when I write especially when I'm dealing with historical fiction and making sure that I get all the events actually happened so I want to make sure historically I have those things correct so plotting them out helps I go to the dollar store and get one of these foam poster boards for a dollar and I use post-its I do a chapter breakdown and I plot them out I color coordinate them so in secret solders there were five characters points of view that you follow plot those out by color so that I can follow although the characters arcs as well and make sure each character has an arc and doesn't start and end the story as the same character so this is an older example when I was working on secret soldiers in the revision process like move the chapters around on my board I can see what works would see what doesn't work before I actually sit down with the document in this one you can see there's more blue than anything else because that's my main character those chapters focus on that characters art at that point so it's not he's the only character in those chapters and other characters may play important roles in the chapters but it's his point of view it's his arc that I'm working on the most journey at that point this lets me know I have like Frederick in this is purple not a lot of purple on there so when I went into revising I had to make sure that his art was pretty steady throughout and not just sporadic so I do one of those before I write a story and then it changes if I use the post-its I can take them off I can put in new ones I can replace or I can switch the order of things that happen but I I plot out the whole story before I sit down and actually write much of it meets Thomas you know introduction their first post and notall we also put down their goal is whether they're hoping to achieve you know what's motivating them it's kind of like bullet points there's nothing really lengthy writing wise this is to give me a roadmap keeps me focused it keeps me tethered to the what the heart of the story is but what I'm seeing in secret soldiers and what I saw in soldier boy are you have just the right way of describing how something looks making that comparison so that you can actually visualize as a reader what's going on in the story well I think especially when you're taking a reader and putting them in some situation that they themselves have never experienced in order for them to empathize with the character you have to immerse them in that scene and in order to do that you you have to hit on all five senses let them know what did it smell like what did it feel like did it look like it sound like and really for my stories you know I say I have five characters points of view that I write from in my story the setting for me always becomes a character in the setting for me is always an antagonist for the characters in the story so you want to develop that character of setting just as much as you're going to develop your other characters give them a more multifaceted perspective of the situation you know just getting it from you know a small slice of perspective from one character you're seeing from multiple perspectives and with secret soldiers in particular one of the reasons I chose to write it from so many characters perspectives is because when I started researching why these boys lie about their ages leave their families and their secure situations to go fight in this horrible war they had different reasons some of them I was so poor that that was the better solution fighting on the front lines joining the army was was the better option for them for some it was glory I think I was going to be a very quick war but let me go prove myself a man I mean I'm gonna go I'm gonna become a soldier I'm gonna fight in this very short war it'll be great it'll be over I'll come home and that just wasn't the case if they got there you had other other children that were just in really bad situations within their families were again fighting in a war was the better option for them and then you had those who are going out of a sense of duty to family instead of just picking one of those reasons to highlight I chose to write from four different perspectives throughout so that you could see each reason these thousands and thousands of boys went to fight and how those reasons then fell apart once they got to the frontlines can you describe what your ideal this is my ideal writing space used to reek of lacrosse equipment and karate equipment because we just jumped everything in here I decided for my birthday make a writing space out of it for myself a lot of Disney stuff that I brought here made a happy space although I don't usually work in it and the reason I don't write in it very often it's because I have amazing little dog named Maximus who I actually named one of the characters after and Maximus when I work wants to sit on my lap all of the time he wants to sleep on my lap and even though he's only about 15 pounds if I'm on your lap when you're sitting in a chair my legs start to fall asleep accommodate Max and his naps I usually kind of sprawled out on a couch when I was teaching most of the time my writing was done kind of on the fly I would bring my laptop with me to my son's lacrosse practice and I would sit in the car while he practiced instead of going home and right you know for the two hours he had practice do I bring my laptop with me to wherever I'll work there so you just well we can kind of take our writing wherever we need to to me 18 years it was like raising a child for the book was published sending them off to college started writing before my first child was born I probably started writing in 9899 and then my first book was published in 2017 I probably didn't really seriously start pursuing writing until about 2012 when I met Ricky and started working on this there were other manuscripts I had been writing and working on 18 years from when I kind of caught the bug and wanted to become a published author to it actually happening there my used to have this on my classroom law so many of my former students see this they'll be I remember that when I write that's my constant reminder you know publishing takes time and it definitely takes perseverance and it takes some really thick skin not only prepare but you had to really anticipate rejection because it's gonna happen just for Soulja Boy alone it was rejected by two hundred and twelve agents before my wonderful agents of me arrived if it's something that you truly want to pursue and I really did and even once you published you have to have thick skin because reviews come in and not everybody's gonna love your book and that's okay reading is subjective it doesn't mean it doesn't sting when somebody see that they don't but you just have to keep going Wall Street Journal yes that was a shock and surprise and really happy to see that The Wall Street Journal had had reviewed secret soldiers and had some positive things to say about it yeah those are the things that you know when you get review or some feedback from a reader again it's that whole balance thing things out so that you can keep your equilibrium and keep going thank you I hope so the hardest part about trying to become a published authors there are so many things you don't have control of you know you don't have control of what editors are going to fall in love with your story you don't have control of how much time it's going to take you know to hear back from agents or editors what readers are ultimately going to feel about your story so you have to focus on the things you do have control over you have control over how much time you spend working you have control over whether you choose to listen to or not listen to critique when you get it I'm a big proponent of anytime you have a critique partner an editor an agent who gives you feedback that you listen to the feedback and you at least try it as long as you try the suggestions you may not ultimately go with those suggestions but you're always gonna find something that you can use to become a better writer a lot of times in writing you have to close your mouth and open your ears and and not get defensive listen to what people say take some time to think about it when I get editor you'll note I read the editorial notes then I put them aside I don't touch my manuscript to 24 to 48 hours so that I can actually think about get past maybe the initial like what how dare you and think about what they had to say and how I could potentially apply that to give yourself time to do that a lot of times it's shifting gears and and some of the editorial notes that I've received even like when I was working with my editor on secret soldiers there were big editorial notes he may come up with an idea that that I hadn't thought of but was a big shift in the story it takes time to actually think about how you're going to apply that to the existing store it's kind of a domino effect well if I change this one character storyline how is that going to affect every other character storyline so you need to give yourself times I think stuff out everything my editor told me you know once I had done it I was like yep you're right that needed to be done they're on your team they're trying to help they want the story to be as good as possible as well so we had to kind of take down that initial knee-jerk defensive reaction and and and listen and and think about what they're saying and then look at the story and and think about how those changes could better the story I think I've got a fabulous team you know Wes Adams is my editor and he's phenomenal and my agent has done a fabulous job getting all of my stories ready to where they need to be we're gonna end on something that's connected to your title character that you wrote in the story George is my favorite character good love all these characters but George is the one where you know I'm really rooting for him because he's kind of the underdog I'm the other character that has a very you know soft place in my heart for is max and he's kind of a mystery character so I won't give any wait any spoilers in that but because I named him after my dog I really love the character max something that we've never seen before or I haven't seen before some of the chapters write the normal other brilliant decision by by my publishing team and my editor and we're looking at five different perspectives four of them are the four boys who are working in the tunnels and then the fifth character is this young soldier he's an unnamed young soldier who's actually in the trenches and on no-man's land so you're getting the story beneath no-man's land and then you're getting the perspective of this soldier who's who's on no-man's land and to give a visual cue to the reader that we're switching from you know the boys down beneath to the soldier up on top they chose to do the black pages with the white writing for the soldier who's not part of that group before and I had never seen that before either there was so excited when I saw that I thought that was a really cool way to give the the reader a visual cue because we didn't title the chapters by the character's names so this gives you a visual cue that we're going back to the young soldier in the trenches to Keely about her new book secret soldiers Haley thank you so much for spending the time with me it's it's my pleasure I actually did not have Maximus in here for this interview just because he tends to get a little barking speaking with you today and thank you so much for discussing super soldiers with me thanks so much thank you Thanks


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