Author creates ‘slices of history’
May 9, 2011
Kids are a tough audience. It is hard to keep them interested in current events let alone engage them in history. For Kathleen Benner Duble, this challenge has become her life’s work. Duble writes historical fiction for teens and young readers. Her latest book, “Phantoms in the Snow,” takes place right here in our own backyard, at Camp Hale.
In “Phantoms in the Snow” Duble explores the history of the Tenth Mountain Division while bringing issues of war, and adventures in wilderness survival skiing into a context that present day teens can relate to.
Duble will visit Berry Creek Middle School Tuesday to talk with local kids about her book and the local history that she explores. You can meet Duble at a public meet and greet for her at The Bookworm on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
1. Vail Daily: What inspired you to become a writer?
Kathleen Benner Duble: A teacher in the third grade read one of my stories and told me I should be a writer. That was it. From that day forward, it was what I wanted to do. The story itself was horrible though. You can find it on my website if you want a good laugh.
2. VD: Why do you write books for kids?
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KD: I stumbled my way into writing for kids. Originally I was doing adult short stories, but when my father discovered the story of my great-grandmother (times 9) who was accused of witchcraft at the age of 10, I was hooked on writing for kids.
3. VD: Have you ever thought of writing for adults?
KD: Not anymore. I love writing for students. I love inspiring them and showing them really cool slices of history.
4. VD: As a writer of historical fiction how do you go about researching your books?
KD: First, I have to get an idea that I think is unique. Historical fiction has been covered in all time periods, so as a writer, if I am going to cover that period, I want to do it from a new perspective. Once I have determined my time period, I read a ton of books. And believe it or not, I begin by reading children’s non-fiction books. They can give me an accurate and concise account of the times. Then I look at primary sources, documents, diaries, personal accounts. Only when I feel I have the time period fully mapped out in my head do I start creating characters to fill it.
5. VD: What inspired you to write about the Tenth Mountain Division?
KD: I first heard about the Tenth Mountain Division a long time ago when my husband read about the cross country skiing trail you can take over the area where they trained. I was fascinated when I heard that these skiers were called Phantoms because you couldn’t see them in the snow. Later, when I had started the story, I discovered that a very good friend of mine had been a part of that group, and through all the years of my knowing him, he had never mentioned anything about his time in the unit.
6. VD: Is the main character in the book, Noah Garrett, based on anyone you know?
KD: Noah isn’t based on anyone in particular, but his dilemma is one I have struggled with all my life. My father was a jet pilot in the reserves and my sister is a tanker pilot and served in the Gulf War. I am known to run away from anything that even remotely has to do with confrontation, so it has always been a struggle for me to reconcile my thoughts on war with my aversion to conflict. It was a bit cathartic to let Noah do the soul searching for me.
7. VD: Are you working on anything new?
KD: I am always working on something new. I just finished a book about the French Revolution and am currently doing some research on the Civil War, which I think I will approach from the point of view of Tad Lincoln’s babysitter, Julia Taft.