I am excited to have author Deborah Hopkinson on Laura's Reviews today to help honor Charles Dickens by talking about her new book, A Boy Called Dickens. And without further ado . . . our interview.
LAG: What inspired you to write historical fiction books for children?
DH: I love history and remember as a girl that I had hard time finding books on women in history. So I began with historical fiction about women that intrigued me – astronomer Maria Mitchell, Fannie Merritt Farmer, and Jubilee singer Ella Sheppard Moore, to name a few. And then the more I wrote the more I became immersed in history.
LAG: Why did you choose Charles Dickens for your subject on your latest book?
DH: I loved reading Dickens as a child. I think I was probably only ten or eleven when I stumbled on Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield that I’ve had forever. I probably read them long before I was actually ready for the material. But that’s one great thing about Dickens – you can read and enjoy his work on many levels.
I’ve just started listening to Great Expectations on audio and I understand there is a new adaptation coming to PBS in April.
LAG: Did you find out any new and interesting facts about Dickens in your research?
DH: I knew Dickens had worked in a blacking factory as a boy, but what fascinated me most in researching this book was realizing how that experience haunted him throughout his life. He never told his children about it but kept it a secret.
LAG: What is your favorite Charles Dickens novel?
DH: It’s a tossup between Great Expectations and David Copperfield. I may have to back and read them all to make a decision!
How do you take the life of a real person and tell the story in a way that sparks an interest in the mind of a child? I know – complicated question!
A Boy Called Dickens is definitely historical fiction. I tell young people when I do school visits that whenever we put words in someone’s mouth that they didn’t say, we are writing fiction, even if it is close to the truth or based on fact. What I try to do, though, is not necessarily write a biography but to tell a story that illuminates something important in the real person’s life.
In the case of Dickens, we can see that his childhood experiences had a profound influence on his life and work. Kids may not be ready to read Little Dorrit yet, but maybe someday when they do, they will recall this story and it will provide context and richness for their later reading.
LAG: What are you currently working on?
DH: I have two books coming out this year, TITANIC: Voices from the Disaster and Annie and Helen, and I’m also working on a middle grade novel based on Dr. John Snow and the cholera epidemic of 1854
For more information about my books and historical thinking, I hope readers will visit my website: http://www.deborahhopkinson.com/.
LAG: Thank-you for the great interview Deborah Hopkinson!