Last Friday I posted a review of Breaker Boys. There are two reasons I think I enjoyed Breaker Boys so much. Nate and Johnny (the main characters) are interesting and easy to root for. The second reason I liked it so much was it introduced me to a world I had never considered before–coal mining. The history of coal mining is amazingly interesting. Today Pat Hughes, the author of Breaker Boys, is here to answer a few questions. Thank you, Pat!
What gave you the idea for this story?
After I had been married to my husband, Sam, for a few years, I learned that his family had owned coal mines in the Hazleton, Pa., area back in the 1800s and early 1900s. It seemed to be something that the family was almost ashamed of in the present day, because of the stereotype that the coal operators had exploited the poor immigrants. As I began to research, I found that there was a lot more to it than that. The more I learned about the miners and the owners, the more I needed to write the story. It became important to me to tell all three sides – “yours, mine, and the truth,” as Mary tells Nate in the book.
What are some of the challenges you face being an author?
The biggest challenge for me as an author continues to be how to get my books into the public eye. I’m not a self-promoter; never have been. I love to sit alone in a room and write. I hate to go to conferences and shmooze, I hate to bang my own drum all over the Internet, I hate to call/email people and beg them to write about my books. Yet it’s the writers who consistently do those things whose books get noticed. I don’t aim to be a big commercial success a la JK Rowling or the authors of the “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” series. I would hate being famous! But I would like my books to be better known. And that is very hard to do.
What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?
1) Read a lot and write a lot. That’s how you develop a style and it’s how you improve.
2) Only write a story because you have to, not because you merely want to, or think you should for some reason. When I write it’s never “I want to write a book about a boy whose family owns coal mines,” it’s “OMG, I have no choice but to write a book about a boy whose family owns coal mines.”
3) View self-publishing options as your last resort. I think too many people today just want to see themselves published any way they can without working hard enough to be really good. Your goal should be to get so good that somebody pays YOU for the stuff you write … not that you pay somebody else to publish you.
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I love historical fiction so much, and I just wish more people, especially young people, shared this passion. It’s distressing to me that most young people only seem to want to read about wizards, fairies, elves, vampires, werewolves … and depressing dystopian future societies! But there are so many rich, colorful, fascinating stories in the past. That’s why it’s especially exciting to me when a young person like you contacts me about one of my books. It’s great to know there are some kids out there who keep their minds open to historical novels. So thank you for letting me know how much you like “The Breaker Boys,” and thanks for having me on your blog.
Thank you for joining me on my blog!