A young reader named Breanna once asked me a wonderful question: “When you write one of the American Girl stories, do you try to remember what it was like when you were a kid?” I explained that I do indeed try to remember experiences I had when I was a young girl.
I grew up in the 1950s. It might seem as if my childhood would have little or nothing in common with the historical characters I’ve written about. And it is certainly true that one of the things I love about being an author is researching times I know little or nothing about.
But once I’ve gained some understanding of past events, the next step in writing any historical novel is creating a main character. And creating Caroline Abbott, the new American Girl who will be introduced in September, was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Caroline’s stories begin in 1812. The research I did about that era gave me lots of plot ideas. But exciting plots aren’t enough to make a satisfying story. Readers need to care about a character, too.
How can an author make that happen?
I think the secret lies in creating a character with authentic emotions. In the six-book series, Caroline sometimes feels happy and sometimes feel sad. She has moments of anger and fear, and of joy and celebration. She has cherished dreams tucked away in her heart, and she does everything she can to make them come true.
Does any of that sound familiar?
I hope so. Many things have changed in the two hundred years since Caroline’s time, but human emotions have stayed the same. Caroline reminds me a little bit of me, when I was young.
And once you have a chance to get to know Caroline, I hope you’ll come to care about her as much as I do.
Next month, I’ll tell you more about creating Caroline. Stop back then!