The world's earth-shattering, history-changing movers and shakers are all well documented . . . right? Hardly! Take Homer, the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. His famous epics have inspired generations of writers and launched Western literature as we know it. Only problem, he never existed. No author named Homer ever traveled ancient Greece penning those really long stories about gods and heroes. So, who did author the books?
Other famous historical figures did exist, just not as you'd think. A man named Confucius really did live and breathe. But he wasn’t the wise old sage we learn about today. Instead of dropping quotable bits of wisdom, he preferred whacking people over the head with his stick. In the Middle Ages, an invented king inspired crusades, and in the 18th Century, a fake robot helped ignite the digital revolution. History is loaded with illusory figures that have left their mark on our world.
Faux Figures: Legends, Fakes, and Phonies Who Changed History is the first in a new nonfiction middle grade series that will explore the underbelly of history, making you question everything you thought you knew about history’s finest. It’s perfect for the history buff, the reluctant reader, or that kid who loves the strange and unusual. And who doesn’t?
The Yellow Emperor * Gilgamesh * Homer * Pythagoras * Confucius * Mary Magdalene * Hiawatha * Prester John * William Shakespeare * George Washington * The Turk * Major William Martin
Q. What inspires your writing?
A. History! I write nonfiction books that I would’ve wanted to read as a kid. I always prided myself on being a history nerd back in the day—a funny one, since I always tried to make my friends laugh at my hilarious (at least to me) history jokes. So I would’ve loved to have found a book full of the dirty laundry of history’s best and brightest—the humorous voice would’ve just been a bonus.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being an writer?
A. The fact that I can spend all day researching and reading about amazing people from history and call it “work”. That is unbelievable to me!
Q. What is the toughest part of being a writer?
A. The constant solitude. Writing is a lonely sport, and while I love my peace and quiet (like most writers), I’ll sometimes find myself chatting to total strangers in coffee shops. Something the introvert in me would typically cringe at. When my husband comes home, he can always tell if I haven’t spoken to another human being all day—I’m going a mile a minute.
Q. If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. An art history teacher. My life changed with one good art history teacher in high school, and if I could inspire one more art history student, it would be worth it.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. Patience is a Virtue… And a Pain in the Butt.
Q. What is your favorite book of all time?
A. Can I cheat and say a series? I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. And Harry Potter. Wow, I don’t know. It’s too hard to choose!
Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A. I’d like to think Hermione Granger, but since I don’t have a photographic memory, I’d say I’m closer to Luna Lovegood; it’s cool to be kooky.
Q. Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A. Besides history, I love Greek mythology. I’d spend a weekend in any of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series books—as long as I got to join Artemis’s Hunters!
Q. What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?
A. I would like to be remembered for writing a series that kids still go back to. That’s the dream.
Q. What is your favorite season?
A. Fall. I love this season! I’m lucky to have my book coming out the day before my birthday, so now October and autumn will have even more wonderful memories. Where I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, summers were so hot and long and sticky. Fall was just the best: crisp mornings, soccer, hot apple cider, pumpkin picking, college football, and all those other great fall activities. Now living in Chicago where the summers are cooler, I still enjoy all of the other aspects of fall, just not the changing temperatures! I miss the heat (but not the humidity) of Missouri.
Q. What inspired your book cover(s)? Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A. Authors really don’t get a lot of say in their covers. Sadly, if they have a problem with it, there’s not a lot they can do about it. I was very lucky in this regard. When they showed me the first cover, I hated it. I sat on the cover for a day, thought about what I didn’t like, and presented my concerns. My editor listened to me, and we brainstormed ideas that I’d be comfortable with. The cover of George Washington with a Groucho Marx mask on was actually my agent’s idea, and I adore it! We wanted to be as playful on the cover as I am in the text.
Q. Are you working on something new?
A. Famous Phonies is the first book in a series, so I’m currently working on the second about Fugitives Who Changed History (I’m still working on the title) due out a year from now. I’m halfway through the first draft and feeling good about it. This time, I really wanted more girls in the mix, and fugitives, surprisingly enough, gave me a great outlet for that. The book is half women, half men. There are some really fantastic stories in there. Did you know that the world’s greatest pirate was a Chinese woman? She commanded 70,000 pirates in her hey-day, the largest confederation of pirates the world has ever seen. So it’s incredibly fun. I also keep at least two novels in my back pocket to work on during weekends. They’re both middle grade and reflect my favorite genres: fantasy and historical fiction.
Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
If you hated history in school, give it one more chance. It’s so much more than dates, battles, and dead people. It’s living and breathing all around us. And all those dead people were once actual human beings with the same emotions, drives, and desires. I believe that when famous people are given this glossy sheen and treated as super heroes (hello, George Washington), we’re doing a disservice to them as a person as well as to the kids who are forced to learn the sanitized version.