Author of The Last April and Haunting Miss Trentwood.
Joining me to talk about her Teen/YA historical fiction and fantasy novels is the author Belinda Kroll, author of The Last April and Haunting Miss Trentwood. Welcome Belinda and thank you for joining me. Tell us a little about your novels.
Belinda: The Last April is about spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen, who 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. Read this award-winning book if you enjoy sassy and resourceful young women, books about Civil War civilian life, or snippets from newspapers of the era.
Haunting Miss Trentwood is about witty, secluded Mary, who is adjusting to life with her aunt after her father, Trentwood, passes away and returns in ghostly form. Despite the urging of her spectral father, Mary continues to live in their aging home with only her aunt and their servants for company. But their quiet manor house carries secrets even from Mary and Trentwood. When Hartwell, a London lawyer, arrives at their doorstep claiming someone in the house is blackmailing his sister, Mary stumbles into a mystery that forces her to revisit memories and rethink her future. As Mary and Hartwell seek the blackmailer, each learns about the importance of opening one’s heart to trust and betrayal.
Haunting Miss Trentwood is a cozy gothic written from varied perspectives. Readers will be entertained by bright dialogue and encouraged to reflect on the universal themes of dealing with parents and disappointing relationships, and learning to love again. Read this if you enjoy ghosts with an attitude, sheltered young women finding their place in the world, charming Beta heroes, and characters who write letters to each other.
Helen: Your books sound really interesting. I love novels that teach us something about the time period it is set in, and then to add a little fantasy into the mix as well, magical! How did you come up with the titles of your books?
Belinda: The Last April was my first attempt at historical fiction with the tiniest splash of mystery for kids who haven’t gotten to their Civil War history units yet. I gave the book this title after asking a friend’s 5th grade classroom to vote on a couple different options. They chose this title because it felt mysterious and hinted at something disastrous. I like the title because it’s the “last” April for many reasons: the last month of President Lincoln’s life; the last April of the Civil War; the last April where Gretchen felt like a child.
Haunting Miss Trentwood is pretty straightforward. Gideon Trentwood is haunting his daughter, Mary Trentwood. It’s set in 1873, so she would be referred to as Miss Trentwood, sometimes even by her own family.
Helen: I love them fact that the kids contributed to picking the title. The best way to make sure your book resonates with your target audience. It is obvious you love writing about history, so I suppose it’s not stretch that you chose to write historical fiction, but you added a fantasy twist as well. Tell us why?
Belinda: I write historical fiction and historical fantasy. When I say fantasy, right now that means paranormal, but I hope to release a magical fantasy novel in the next couple years. Historical fiction has always held my attention because so much of what we deal with today, people were dealing with back then, too. It allows me to make commentary on contemporary issues through the added benefit of teaching a little something about history, even if my story is made up. The ghosts and magic are just for fun, and boy are they fun.
Helen: I love writing fantasy as well. Let’s talk about your writing process. Do you plan your stories or do you let your characters lead the way?
Belinda: I’m a plantser, ha. I write to discover the plot and characters as I go along. I usually handwrite draft zero, and when I type it into the computer, I’m doing light editing and keeping track of the scenes in a separate document. These scenes become my outline and allow me to look at the big picture to determine where the gaps and inconsistency exists.
Helen: How does writing fit into your daily life? How often are you able to write? Do you write everyday?
Belinda: I bite off tiny chunks, as close to daily as possible. I work full-time and have two small children, so the only way I’m able to get any writing done is by focusing on small, frequent writing sessions. I recently gave myself a goal to write three sentences a day. I stole this idea from Mary Robinette Kowal, and so far, it’s worked for me. I almost always go beyond the three sentences when I do put pen to paper, and even if I don’t physically write that day, the point is that I’m keeping the story top of mind so when I do get back to it, I don’t have to invest so much time with reacquainting myself with where I left it.
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you all the best with your next book. Just to close us out, can you tell us what your are currently reading?
Belinda: I’ve been rereading a lot of favorites because of the pandemic, I think. with so much out of my control, I wanted to go back to fiction that I knew I liked and would satisfy my reading craves. Emerald House Rising by Peg Kerr is one of the first fantasy books I read as a teen and I loved (and still love) it for a couple reasons. The book follows a Heroine’s Journey arc where the main character is ripped from everything familiar, builds a new support network and develops a sense of strength and power through teamwork and delegation, and returns to reclaim her place in her family through masterful compromise and seeking a resolution for the greater good. The heroine and hero have a purely platonic relationship with no expectation of romance because they have their own relationships. The magic system is unique and a great commentary on the benefits of seeking out people who think and feel differently from you. It ends with a promise of a changed future, but doesn’t spell it out for the reader, so you’re left to imagine it for yourself, which I also love. This author is unique as well; she wrote this super tight narrative which won awards and got great blurbs from some big name authors at the time, and then stopped writing to focus on her family. I noticed she’s begun blogging again, so I hope she’ll release another book someday, having benefited from living what seems like a full and rewarding life out of the public eye.
About the Author:
Belinda Kroll writes YA historicals about secrets and the strong females who unearth them. In addition to being an author, she is a user experience design professional, hobbyist photographer, and lindy hopper. She is obsessed with eyeglasses, Korean dramas, home renovation and cooking shows, and petting every dog that allows her to do so. She lives with her family in Ohio. Visit her website at https://worderella.com.
Kroll is also the author of non-fiction and children’s storybooks under the name Binaebi Akah. She releases journals and planners for creatives and caregivers at her Etsy shop, Bright Bird Press, which is also the name of her publishing company under Embark Enterprises, LLC.
Social Media Links:
You can purchase Belinda’s novels from Amazon:
The Last April
The Haunting of Miss Trentwood