1. Welcome to As Told By Tina! Thank you so much for being a part of #LetsReadIndie! Could you tell us a little about yourself and your book “The Last April”?
Belinda Knoll: Hi! Thanks for having me. I’ve been writing since I began elementary school. I published my first book as a high school senior and I was hooked. I write young adult historical fiction set in the Victorian era (1831 – 1901) and children’s storybooks. I watched Jeopardy! every day as a child, and read Jane Austen after watching an episode of Wishbone, which began my love of history.
THE LAST APRIL is my newest release, set in 1865 Columbus, Ohio.
Spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen vows to help heal the nation from the recently ended Civil War. On the morning of President Lincoln’s death, Gretchen finds an amnesiac Confederate in her garden and believes this is her chance for civic goodwill. But reconciliation is not as simple as Gretchen assumed.
When her mother returns from the market with news that a Confederate murdered the president, Gretchen wonders if she caught the killer. Tensions between her aunt and mother rise as Gretchen nurses her Confederate prisoner, revealing secrets from their past that make Gretchen question everything she knows about loyalty, honor, and trust.
THE LAST APRIL is an entertaining, thoughtful novella of Ohio after the Civil War, meant to encourage readers to reflect on themes of fear and hope in uncertain political times.
If you could describe in ONLY three words “The Last April”, what would they be?
Belinda Knoll: Assassination. Amnesia. Secrecy.
What was your inspiration for “The Last April”?
Belinda Knoll: I stumbled onto an article about Camp Chase, a Civil War training barracks in Columbus, OH that doesn’t exist anymore. The only part remaining is a cemetery from the portion of the camp that was turned into a Confederate war prison. It is the largest Confederate cemetery outside of the Confederacy. It intrigued me!
Could you tell us about your writing process? Do you outline or do you just let the story flow by sitting in front of the computer? Do you set goals for yourself?
Belinda Knoll: This was the first time I’ve outlined, honestly. I had a rough timeline for my last book, Haunting Miss Trentwood, but this time, I used a couple of different outlining exercises. For the most part, I let the characters tell me their story, but this time around I knew the beginning, and the ending soon after… it took three years to figure out the middle, and I have multiple journals full of discarded outlines to help me get there!
My goal was to release this book so I could host a launch party on the anniversary of Lincoln’s death. His assassination is the inciting incident of the story, and it seemed too perfect to align with that historical day.
How much research goes into writing a historical fiction? Would you say the research is the easiest or hardest part of writing?
Belinda Knoll: If I spent three years writing this version of the book, I spent almost six years researching. I spent weekends in my local libraries studying their archives that couldn’t be removed from the building. I bought a membership to the Ohio History Connection (historical society) so I could browse their microfilms of 1865 newspapers. Eventually, I stumbled onto the Library of Congress, which had digitized newspapers, so I could continue research from home.
Research is the easier part, for sure. The hard part is coming up with a compelling thesis to center the story after having done the research. Whenever I struggled with the fiction, I turned to the research to inspire and inform, but at the end of the day, the story must come from me and the characters.
You mainly write Historical Fiction and Children’s Books, would you ever venture into other genres? If so, which ones? If not, why not?
Belinda Knoll: I’ve tried to write contemporary fiction, and it just didn’t ring true. The next draft of that story became a time travel, and the draft after that, it was historical fiction again. I wrote short stories in graduate school for a class, and my professor told me I had a gift for magical realism. I keep meaning to return to those stories and deep dive into the genre, but in the meantime, historical fiction keeps pulling me back.
Who are some of your favorite historical fiction or historical non-fiction authors?
Belinda Knoll: Historical Fiction: Ann Rinaldi, Kathy Cannon Wiechman, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Cat Winters, Janette Oke, Jean Ferris, Amanda Quick, Mary Jo Putney
Other genres: Brandon Sanderson, John Green, Joan Lowery Nixon, Patricia A. McKillip
I must confess that I’m not big on historical fiction (I don’t think I’ve really read one to be honest), how would you convince me and other readers to read your book?
Belinda Knoll: The best historical fiction does not slap you in the face with history. The Last April is about a teenager trying to find her place in the world when the world is falling to pieces around her. Her family isn’t who she thought they were, her nation isn’t what she thought it was, and the country’s leader is gone. This story is a coming of age that just happens to be set in 1865. My hope is Gretchen is relatable, the story escapist, and readers accidentally learn things along the way.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a self-published author?
Belinda Knoll: I love the control of self-publishing. I hire out my cover art now that I’ve found a reliable artist who realizes my vision without me describing every detail. I hire out my editor, whom I trust to catch my errors and usually goes above and beyond to improve my story.
The disadvantages are… well, honestly, I don’t know of any. This book succeeds or fails by my hand, and I’m ok with that. I think if I had a publishing company working on my book, they would change it too much, or maybe not give me marketing support. It’s amazing how little money is available to traditionally published authors these days.
What advice would you give an inspiring indie author?
Belinda Knoll: Take your time and write the story that only you can write. When you’ve done that, give your story the best chance possible by hiring an editor, getting a professional interior layout and cover art, and read as many blogs as you can about best practices for publishing and marketing. The indie publishing scene changes frequently. Just when I think I’ve figured it out, something shifts. Keep reading to stay on top of your market, and to know the best way to market.
Before, I let you go. Could you tell us about any projects you may be working on at this time?
Belinda Knoll: I had a reader ask in a private message on Facebook whether I would consider writing a sequel to Haunting Miss Trentwood. The idea was interesting, so I’m exploring whether I could make it happen. I’ve never written a sequel before, and I wrote the book seven years ago, so I have to re-read it to reacquaint myself with the characters. Though, Mary and Hartwell are never too far from me.
Lastly, where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Belinda-Kroll/e/B003Z8LT7M/