Excerpts from
correspondence about
ANGELINE

All of these letters included lively descriptions of the writers and their interests,
but I have deleted personal information as it would not be appropriate for posting
on the Internet.

TEACHER KEVIN ADAMS’ GRADE 8 CLASS
SCOTT YOUNG PUBLIC SCHOOL, OMEMEE, ONTARIO

“That book was so amazingly wonderful. When my teacher was reading it to us I really felt like I was there, in 1212 AD, standing right next to Angeline herself. I could almost smell, taste and hear everything that you were describing. Was it hard to write something so miraculous? Does it all come to you effortlessly? I really enjoyed every bit of Angeline and I have a feeling that it will linger in my mind for a long time. Are the characters in the book based on anyone you know? What inspired you to write something about the children’s crusade? Has writing been a passion of yours your whole life?”

— Emily

I did the research for Angeline in Egypt and it was exciting and interesting. That was one reason that I was able to write so authentically about how things looked, tasted and smelled. Even so, it doesn’t come effortlessly. Nothing worthwhile ever does. Writing takes a lot of work. There’s a lot of research for a historical novel such as this, and then it takes a lot of rewriting and revising until it all hangs together and works.

The characters in the book are not based on anyone I know, but Stephen really did exist and he did lead the Children’s Crusade. I write about this in a prequel to Angeline, called The Scarlet Cross. No one really knows what happened to him, so I imagined it. Many survivors of the Children’s Crusade were taken as slaves to Egypt and to the Holy Land, and he could have been one of them. Angeline is a totally made-up character.

These two books are the final (?) books in a five-book series that I have written about the crusades. I became interested in the subject when I lived in Germany, where the very first crusade of all, the so-called People’s Crusade, began in 1096. I wrote about that in my first book, There Will be Wolves. And yes, writing has been a passion of mine ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil.

“I am writing you this letter because my class has read the Angeline novel that you wrote. I really enjoyed this book. I especially liked the ending how Angeline and Stephen were both set free; it sent a chill up and down my spine. To write this book it must have taken a long time to research what kind of life Angeline would have had as a slave in the 1200s.

“When did you know that you wanted to be an author? I love writing, but I don’t think that I have the courage to go into that work because it is such a hard industry. How did you come up with the story about Angeline? Once you had an idea how long did it take to process that idea into a novel? I think that books about our past are always very interesting because not very many people know about the past. So instead of writing about a knowledgeable topic, writing about something unknown is always very interesting. I have one more question for you. Have you wanted to be a writer your whole life?”

— Laura

I’ve loved writing ever since I was young, but never really thought that I might become an author. I didn’t actually try to publish anything until I was married and had children of my own. And it is a hard industry. It takes a long time to learn to write well enough to be published. It took six years for my first book to be published, and then the editor rejected my next three books! I am pretty stubborn, though, so I just kept on writing until I started getting acceptances instead of rejections.

I became interested in the crusades while my husband and I lived in Germany. I intended to write one book, but did so much research that I couldn’t fit it all into one book, so I wrote a second, then I was hooked. I have written five books about the crusades so far and I have researched them in Germany, Israel and Egypt. Each book takes months of research and then at least a year to write and rewrite. Then I rewrite again with an editor who gives me suggestions and critiques. You can find out more about these books and others that I have written on this website.

“I am writing you this letter because my whole class has read the Angeline novel that you have written. I really liked this novel. I think that you did a fantastic job of writing it! I also think that it must have been kind of hard writing this novel without really knowing what might have really happened back then. While we were reading this book I thought that something bad was going to happen to Stephen and Angeline. After reading the end of the novel I was very surprised at how you ended it.

“How did you come up with the story line of Angeline? I know that if I was a writer I don’t think that I would ever come up with the idea to write about what went on around the 1200s. How did you find out all of your information? In your novel you explained the information you wrote extremely well. I never knew that things that happened in the 1200s would be so interesting. Can you relate to the situation that Stephen and Angeline were in or was it just made up from your imagination? How did you become such a good writer? About how long does it take to write and publish a book? How many more books do you think that you’re going to put out or have published?”

— Heather

In order to write Angeline, I did a lot of research first about the Children’s Crusade. I found out that 7000 young people, led by a boy named Stephen, sailed from Marseilles in August of 1212 in seven ships, and were not heard of again until a young priest who had been with them came back eighteen years later and told people what had happened. As I tell in the novel, they had been tricked into thinking that the ships were going to take them to the Holy Land, but in fact they were betrayed and sold into slavery in North Africa and Jerusalem. No one knows for sure what happened to Stephen. Two of the ships sank in a storm, he might have been on one of them and drowned, or he might have been one of the young people sold into slavery in Egypt. While researching this, I found out that a lot of the young people and the priests who could read and write actually made very good lives for themselves in Egypt, and many were eventually freed. This started me thinking that this could have happened to Stephen and Angeline, and that’s how I got the idea to write the book. Stephen was a real person, but I made Angeline up.

I think that reading books about things that happened a long time ago is really interesting. Writing them is, too, and I learn a lot while I’m doing it. It usually takes a long time to research, write, and rewrite a book, at least a year or two. I would have to find it interesting, or I wouldn’t be able to keep at it for that length of time.

I don’t know how many more books I will write, but at the moment I’m in the process of working with an editor on the final edits for a third book in my fantasy trilogy, The Taun Tales, and I’m starting research on another historical novel about a girl and her family who escape slavery and come up to Canada, finally ending up in Owen Sound. I lived in Owen Sound for several years and found out that it was the northern terminus of the Underground Railroad, and that’s what got me interested in that idea. You could check out my books on the website and you might find others that would interest you. I imagine you might like The Nine Days Queen, which is a fictional biography of a young girl who really lived and was queen of England for nine days.

“Over the course of this month, my classmates and I have been reading your great historical novel, Angeline. I enjoyed it very much and I hope to read more of your fascinating novels. First of all, how did you think of the character, Angeline? I liked how you described Angeline’s lifestyle and personality. I think it made the novel more appealing to readers. Have you ever been to Egypt? Most students were horrified in my class including me, when you described the slave market in Alexandria. What most inspires you to write? I am an avid writer and I write every time I get the chance to. How long did it take to write your first novel? I would imagine a very long time.”

— Fred

Angeline just sort of walked into the prequel to this novel, called The Scarlet Cross. That novel is about the actual Children’s Crusade and, while I was writing it, the main character, Stephen, ran into this girl on the road. She was being mistreated by her uncle and he tried to help her. Then she just developed on from there.

I usually know who my main characters are when I start writing a novel, but quite often secondary characters do just walk into them and introduce themselves to me. Angeline became so important that I wanted to write the second book with her as the main character and from her point of view.

I mentioned in my other letters that I did go to Egypt to do the research. I went to Alexandria, Cairo, and took a boat trip up the Nile. It was a fantastic experience and I would love to go back. It gave me a really good idea of what the country is like. I stood on the beach where the ship would have docked and where the slave market would have been. Unfortunately, though, the lighthouse, the Pharos, which was one of the seven wonders of the world, no longer exists. I saw the point of land where it used to stand, though. I also went through the Catacombs, which gave me the idea for that part of the story. They affected me just as they affected Stephen-they are truly horrible.

I wish you joy with your own writing.

“What are some of your hobbies, besides writing books? How many books have you written? Have you ever been in cadets? I used to be in cadets but then I quit because it was so boring. All we did the first two times I was there was learn the drill and learn about the systems, it was so boring. I really enjoyed your book, Angeline. What inspired you to write books? I like writing books but I don’t really like writing them but its hard to explain. What other books have you written. My class finished reading the book, Angeline. It was very interesting, fun and sad, especially the ending, it’s really sad.”

— Meaghan

As for my hobbies, the main one, of course, is the same as every other writer I know: reading. Aside from that, I love to walk, swim, and quilt. Making a quilt satisfies the side of me that would love to be able to paint. I use fabric to try and create beautiful pictures.

I’ve written twenty-two books now, and am starting the research for another one. I’ve been publishing short stories and books for forty years! Doesn’t that sound like a long time? I’ve never been in cadets, because I didn’t go to school in Canada, but I always thought that it might be fun. I’m sorry to hear that it was boring. I would have liked to be an air force cadet, because I love flying. I got my private pilot’s license and for several years flew small planes. I loved that!

I think I know what you mean about liking to write and not liking to write. I love writing, but by the time I’m writing my 12th draft, I’m pretty sick of it. It’s hard work, but then, anything worth doing is hard work.

“I am writing because our teacher read us your book, Angeline. I thought it was very interesting. I had no idea that they would be sold as slaves. That was a surprising twist. I also didn’t think that she would become a concubine to the Emir. The ending was surprising that she was let go and allowed to get married.

“I really enjoyed reading the book and I hope I can read the previous book. One of my favourite parts was when they found the picture of the three other slaves that Angeline drew. What was your favourite part? I think that it is good that we read this book because we learned a bit about what happened to the children that went on the crusade. It must have taken a really long time to find the information about the crusade. How long does it take to write a book? What kinds of books have you written before or after Angeline? Did it take any long to write Angeline than other books?”

— Skye

While I was doing the research for this novel, I found out that many of the young people who were sold into slavery in Egypt managed to make good lives for themselves. Those who could read and write were used as tutors and teachers. The Egyptian society of this time was extremely well-educated and cultured. and the Sultan, al-Adil, was anxious that his nobles and their children learn the western language. Muslims also treated their slaves well and freeing a slave was an act of faith. I did have a problem because I knew that Stephen, as a poor shepherd, would not be able to read or write and would not therefore be given any special privileges, so that’s why I invented Father Martin, who would ask for Stephen to be his assistant.

I also found out that many women were expert copyists, so I decided to make Zahra a copyist and have her teach Angeline. I had originally planned to have Angeline earn her freedom that way. I didn’t really plan to have her become the Emir’s concubine and get pregnant and I must admit that my editor was a little startled when I did that, but it seemed to follow naturally in the story. Sometimes stories take on a life of their own and the writer can only follow along as best as she can. :-)

I’ve been writing about the crusades since my first book about them, There Will be Wolves, was published in 1986. Of course, I have written many other books about other topics as well, including three fantasy books and a picture book for little kids, but I have always had a real interest in this topic. I think Angeline is the last in this series, but who knows? There was one more crusade that invaded Egypt in 1218. Angeline and Stephen would have been in their early 20s then-I wonder how they would have reacted to that.....?

“I really enjoyed your book. It must be awesome getting all of these compliments and stuff from thousands of people. I loved how descriptive you were like when Angeline was on the auction block and you described how hot, itchy and smelly it would be.

“It must have taken you a while to write the book. How long did it take you to make the book? How much do you make? Money wise not percentage, just wondering. It sounds boring to write a book. Do you have fun writing books? Why did you write the book?”

— Stephen

It took me a long time to write that book, because I made several false starts before I found the way I wanted to write it. There is a prequel to it, called The Scarlet Cross. When I first wrote the book, that prequel and Angeline were all one book. I wrote it first from Stephen’s point of view, then I wrote it again alternating Stephen and Angeline’s point of view, then my editor suggested I cut it in two and make two books out of it. When I did that, I found that it worked better to have the first book from Stephen’s point of view, and Angeline from her point of view. All in all it took over two years to finally get it right. That’s not counting the research, which took several months before I even got started. It was very hard work, but it wasn’t boring. I am usually so interested in what I’m writing, and what I’m learning from the research, that it isn’t boring at all. Having said that, though, I have to admit that by the time I’m doing the final draft I am really tired of it and am really, really glad to get it done :-)

As for money. The way it works is that when a publisher accepts an author’s book they sign a contract and give the author an advance. This can be a few hundred dollars for a new writer, or several thousand dollars for a more well-known writer. Then, when the book is published, the author gets what’s called royalties. That’s usually about 10% of the price that each book sells for. So if a book sells for $10, an author gets $1 for each book sold. You can see that you have to sell a lot of books to make very much money. Some of my books sell more than others, but I don’t get rich from it. So, to answer your question, why do I write books, it’s obviously not for the money. I write books because I have stories in my head that I want to tell, and because it gives me a lot of joy to write them. It’s fun, too, to receive letters from people like you and the others in your class and know that they have read my books and have enjoyed them.

“I’m writing this to tell you what I think of the book, Angeline and ask you some questions about it. I thought the book was very good. It was interesting and the end kept me guessing.

“I enjoyed the book. What inspired you to write about the crusades? I was also wondering if you have another job on the side? I couldn’t stand the thought of being a concubine. Having no choices in your life. I don’t know how women could live their lives that way. The book made me think of how women were treated back then and about not being able to choose your husband or who you live with. This year I am doing my speech on famous Canadian women and how they fought for their rights. I think it should be good.”

— Jess

I felt the same way that you do about the way women were treated in other times. That was part of the reason why I wanted to write about it. I also wanted to show, however, that women could make good lives for themselves and be independent. We often think of women in the middle ages as not having careers or interesting lives, but that wasn’t always the case. There were many women musicians and artists, and many women practiced a trade. In my first crusade book, There Will be Wolves, the heroine, Ursula, is learning to be an apothecary-what we would call now a pharmacist. Copyists like Zahra were well respected and could earn their living by their work.

I am a full-time writer. I used to be a social worker, working with young people in after school programs with the YWCA in West Toronto, but when my husband took a job that involved travelling a lot, to different countries, I couldn’t keep that up. That’s when I began writing seriously and trying to get published. Being a writer is a good, portable job.

I wish you well with your speech. I’m sure it will be good and very interesting.

“I was reading your book and I was wondering what inspired you to write something on that topic? I was also wondering where you came up with all those weird names? I think you have done a great job with writing Angeline and the prequel.”

— Dan

When I write a historical novel I also research what names are in use in the time or the place that I am writing about. Stephen and Angeline are French names because they were French. The Egyptian names are all authentic Muslim names from that period that would have been used in Cairo at that time. Many of them are still used today. I just read an article in the newspaper the other day about a woman named Zahra.

I have tried to be accurate in each of my crusades books. The first book, There Will be Wolves, involves young people from Germany, and the main characters names are Ursula and Bruno. The second book, Shadows on a Sword, involves two young French knights, their names are Theobald and Almaric. The third book, Lionheart’s Scribe, is narrated by a boy who has an English mother and a French father, so his name is Matthew, which can be both English and French. Finding the proper names is sometimes a real challenge!

Of course, when I write fantasy, as in my Taun series, I get to make up my own names for my characters and that’s fun.

“I enjoyed your book Angeline very much. What inspired you to write this book? I thought that this book was going to have a sad ending, but I was very happy that it ended up with a happy ending. If I were Angeline I would have died! It was a very terrible time. I wonder how Angeline’s mother would have felt about Angeline being gone forever.

“Are any of the characters in your book based on anyone you know in real life? When and how did you get into writing? I enjoy writing myself, but I can’t imagine writing an entire novel, and a good one at that.

“Well you are a very good author. Your book was way better than I had expected. I think that it’s really cool that you actually respond to our letter. It must take a very long time. I hope that you continue to write many more books.”

— Erin

How interesting that you said that you wondered how Angeline’s mother would have felt about Angeline being gone forever. No one has ever mentioned that to me before. Of course, in the book, Angeline’s mother died before Angeline joined Stephen on his crusade, but if she had still been alive I’m sure Angeline would have wanted to return to her and she would have wanted her daughter back.

The only characters in the novel that are based on real people are Stephen and the Sultan, al-Adil. I made up all of the others, but based them on characters that I learned about during my research.

I’ve always loved writing. I didn’t try to get published until I was grown-up, married and had children, though. I wrote and published short stories for a few years, then finally published my first book in 1977. I’ve been writing and publishing ever since.

It is taking a long time to respond to your letters, as you imagined, but they were such good letters, and it was obvious that you all put a lot of thought and work into them, so I am enjoying answering them.

“I love reading. I enjoyed the Harry Potter series and I am now working on Jane Austen’s novels. What are some of your favourite books?

“I’m writing this letter as a school assignment that my whole class has to do, but I’m also writing to hear some of your thoughts on your book. I found it quite interesting although some parts for me were hard to believe. Like the concubines. It would be awful to know that that was to be your destiny.

“I had no idea the book would end like it did. When you wrote the book did you want your readers to learn something from the story as well as enjoy it? Did you always know how you were going to end the book? What do you think was the best part? Your book taught me a lot about the children’s crusade which I didn’t even know about. When I read I usually read for long periods of time so it was hard for me when my teacher would only read so much in a day.

“I hope you write back and answer some of my questions. Your book was very enjoyable and easy to get into. I found much delight in your book.”

— Elsa

I love the Jane Austen novels as well. And I thought the Harry Potter books were lots of fun, but I prefer Philip Pullman’s. I’ve read a lot of his books as well as the series that starts with The Golden Compass. Just saw the movie, but didn’t like it as well as the book. It seemed to jump along much too fast, but it was good, anyway. Loved the armoured bear, Iorek!

It seems that most girls are like you-and me-in that they think being a concubine would be a horrible fate. There was no way I was going to let Angeline get stuck with that kind of life, but for a while I couldn’t figure out how to get her out of it. Sometimes we writers write ourselves into a real corner and it takes a lot of work to figure out how we’re going to get out of it.

I did want my readers to learn something from the story as well as enjoy it, you’re quite right. I wanted them to know that there was a time when Christians, Muslims and Jews could coexist in a good, working harmony. When I was in Cairo I explored around the old section of the city and found that in those days there were mosques next to Christian churches, and Jewish temples next to them. All three religions lived side by side in peace. There is so much conflict in our world today that I think we need to know that’s possible. I also wanted people to know that the Muslim culture of the middle ages was rich and far more advanced than western culture. They invented paper, for example, and plaster casts for broken legs. The library at Alexandria was an incredible achievement. Salah-ud-Din, the Muslim leader in my third crusades book, Lionheart’s Scribe, was a man of very sophisticated accomplishments. He was a poet and a musician as well as a soldier. Very much like his adversary, King Richard the Lionheart of England. In fact, he was probably better educated than Richard who, by the way, was a Norman from what is now France and who couldn’t even speak English!

I’m never sure of how my books are going to end until I get there, and then I often rewrite them many times until I get them right. I knew I wanted Stephen and Angeline to get their freedom and be able to marry, but it took a while before I could figure out how to make that happen.

It’s hard for me to say which I think is the best part. I did enjoy writing about Angeline being able to forgive the other girls and draw beautiful portraits of them, though. And I’m just like you-when I’m reading a book that I enjoy, I hate having to stop!

“I have just completed reading your book, Angeline, with the class. I enjoyed reading it. I think that it is a wonderful fiction book, yet very educational for young or older readers. Someone who has never heard or knows little about the children’s crusade, like me, will learn so much. Someone who already knows about it would still learn plenty of small, important facts. I think that your novel is very descriptive. Throughout the book I had images in my mind of what Angeline and all the other characters and settings are like. Is there ever going to be a sequel, Angeline #2 or movie?

“While writing this novel you must have needed a lot of information and know what Egypt is really like. Have you ever been to Egypt before? What do you think was your favourite part of the book? I think the ending of the book was very surprising and leaves everyone thinking about Angeline’s future. What have you thought about her further expectations? Have you ever considered bringing your thoughts about this out in another novel for the whole world to see? I have heard about your other books that you have written and am anxious to read them. Is there another book in progress?”

— Cassandra

I hadn’t planned a sequel, but in my mind I deep thinking about Angeline and Stephen and wondering what would happen to them. There was another crusade, the fifth one, that actually did invade Egypt and captured the town of Damietta, not too far from Cairo. I wonder what Stephen would have done then? Would he be tempted to throw away the life he had made for himself and go back to the Christian crusaders? What would Angeline do? What would happen to her child that she had with the Emir? And on and on. So.......You never know. A young boy once asked me how many books I was going to write before I died. Obviously, I couldn’t answer him, I just said that I didn’t know, but I would probably keep on writing them until I did. So who knows what will come next. At the moment I’m finishing up a third book in my fantasy trilogy, then I have another historical novel in mind. After that...who knows? You can find out about other books I’ve written on the website, and I will be announcing new ones there as well.

As for a movie, I wish! Unfortunately, I don’t have any control over that.

“My thoughts on your book are very good. I could tell you took your time with your work. It was a very relaxing book and did not seem to be rushed. I found it very interesting to hear about a child crusade. Only faith; seems incredible to me. I have never heard about it but I definitely believe that Catholics would have that much faith.

“My questions about this book are mainly why it wasn’t longer. I was just getting into it and it ended. I hope you write a sequel. I want to know if she and Stephen live a happy life, or maybe you could do a sequel on Angeline’s child. I also can’t figure out how she got pregnant with the Emir. The Emir wouldn’t go near a slave and she was only a concubine for a few days if that before her accident. It was at least on the same page that she became a concubine and fell, which broke her leg.”

— Byron

It seems that every religion has people within it who interpret things in such a way that they often cause harm. Fortunately, there are also believers who “practice what they preach” and are loving, compassionate people. Stephen had to go through a very bad time after his crusade failed and so many of his followers died or were taken into slavery. He lost his faith and it took him a long while to find his way again, and that only with the help of others who loved him.

Unfortunately, although Angeline was only with the Emir for one night before she fell and broke her leg, that was enough time for her to get pregnant. I also wonder in my mind what would happen to the child. That’s why when people ask me if I am going to write a sequel I never say definitely that I’m not going to. I didn’t intend to, but then when I started writing about the crusades away back in 1986 (before you were born!), I only intended to write one book and now there are five.

Stephan and Angeline are very real people to me, although Stephen was just a figure in history and Angeline was a figment of my imagination. I often think about them and wonder what they’re doing :-)

“My opinion about the books is: I thought it was a very good book. I like how you decided to write it on the crusade. But I was wondering in the beginning of the book it said that Stephen had a dream/vision that God told him to go to the Holy Land. Why did he want Stephen to go to the Holy Land and did that really happen or did he make it up?

“That’s all I really have to say for now. Thanks for everything. Oh and I was thinking about writing my own book, do you think you could give me some advice”

— Tamara

There are a lot of questions in the history books about what really happened to Stephen and we obviously don’t know the answers for certain. What we do know is that a shepherd boy in France, named Stephen, believed that a man came to him while he was tending his sheep and gave him a letter. This man, who Stephen believed was Jesus, told him that the letter was from God and he was to take it to the King. It ordered Stephen to preach to the children of France and lead them in a new crusade to restore Jerusalem to Christianity.

At the time, the crusading fervour had died out. The Muslims had reconquered Jerusalem and were governing there. (Quite peacefully, actually) A lot of people were unhappy with this and wanted the crusades to resume, but these wars had been going on for over 200 years and had caused a lot of grief and destruction. People were tired of fighting. One suggestion that has been made is that it was a priest who came to Stephen and gave him the letter, hoping that if Stephen could lead a crusade of innocent children to the Holy Land, God would let them triumph over the Muslims. Stephen himself seems to have been a very charismatic character, rather like Joan of Arc. Even though he was a simple peasant, he could preach so fervently that children, and adults, too, flocked to follow him. The crusade that he organized, though, was a disaster. Children starved, were beaten or abused, and many of them died before they reached Marseilles. There, as I recounted, the remainder of the crusade set forth in ships which they thought were going to take them to the Holy Land, but instead they were sold into slavery. No one knows what happened to Stephen.

That is where the history books end. I told the story of the crusade as accurately as I could in The Scarlet Cross, then let my imagination take over as to what might have happened to Stephen and Angeline in the novel, Angeline.

As for advice on writing. The best advice I can give to someone who wants to write a book is just to write and write and write. The more you write, the better you will get at it. Don’t worry about trying to get published at this point. Just write all kinds of stuff and see what you like to write about best and, most importantly of all, enjoy it! Experiment around and have fun with it. Writing a book is pretty hard work and if you don’t find joy in it you’ll never manage to get it done. The second best piece of advice I can give you is to read and read and read. I don’t know a writer who isn’t a voracious reader. When you read a book that you love, reread it and find out what the author did to make the book so interesting. If you read a book that’s boring or that you hate, reread it, too, and find out where the author went wrong. But read as much as you can.

“I am writing to discuss your novel “Angeline”. I liked Angeline, no offence but did you ever consider reading your book over a couple times? When I read your book...it scared me. What would it be like if you were in Angeline’s position? What would it feel like? At this point in time I am reading The Scarlet Cross. However it may help me understand the second book a little bit more. Are you going to write a continued series of Angeline? If you do, are you going to put in a chapter about Stephen and Angeline getting married? I like the setting of your book, so it has inspired me to write a book similar to yours.”

— Katie

You might think this is odd, but I’m pleased that my novel scared you. It’s clear that the book made a big impression on you, and nothing could please a writer more than hearing that. It means that all the hard work I put into the book has worked. Believe me, I did try to imagine as well as I could how Angeline would be feeling. I know that this very kind of thing happened to many young girls, in fact in many parts of the world similar things are still happening, and I wanted to show my readers how terrible it must be for them. I get so involved with my characters that it is often hard for me to come back to “real life” after writing for several hours.

I’m glad to hear that you are reading The Scarlet Cross. In my mind, these two books are really one story. That’s how I originally wrote them. I don’t know if I will write a sequel to them or not. I know that Stephen and Angeline will get married, but I’m not sure of what will happen to them after that and it would be interesting to find out.

I wish you the best with your own writing.

“For some reason I don’t believe that kids were sold to be slaves. What made you want to be a writer? How long did it take you to write the book before Angeline?

“How long did it take you to write Angeline? Is it true that some Muslims had that many wives? Did the children’s crusade actually happen or did you make that up?

“I think that the book was good and I will read the book that you wrote before Angeline.”

— Peter

Unfortunately, it is really true that children were sold to be slaves. Children were also sold as slaves in England, Canada and the United States, and slavery wasn’t totally abolished in these countries until the 1800s. The crusades really did happen, too. I did a lot of research to make sure that I could write the books as accurately as possible. It took months to do the research for The Scarlet Cross and Angeline, and then over two years to write the books. Stephen was a real person, but I made Angeline up. Muslims used to have many wives, as did other religions. Customs were different in olden times.

I’ve always loved writing, although when I was young I didn’t really think that I would be a published writer. I just wrote for the fun of it. I still enjoy it. I like telling stories and I like doing the research that lets me find out so many things that I didn’t know. Doing research is sort of like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, or following the clues to solve a mystery. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, “I can’t wait to get back to that book that I’m reading and find out what happens,” then I think, “Oh, wait, I’m not reading that book, I’m writing it!” It’s lots of fun.

“My opinion of your novel is that I learned a lot about how it was back in 1212 AD. Angeline the novel was a great book to read with my class. We did several assignments about the novel. We are writing a letter so that you can learn more about us and how we liked your book. We are also writing so we can learn more about you.

“How did you like writing the novel Angeline and other books? I have one comment, this was an amazing book. Do you have any more books that are similar to Angeline or is there a sequel to Angeline? Do you only write books for a living or do you enjoy sitting down on your own time and putting your opinions down on paper? I have one more question, why did you decide to become an author?

“I really enjoyed listening to my teacher read this novel to my class. I learned a lot of information while listening to this book and it was truly interesting.”

— Rachel

I loved writing Angeline. I loved doing the research for it-what’s not to love about going to Egypt?-and I found it really interesting. I became very fond of Angeline. She’s a strong character. I wish I had been as strong as she when I was a teenager. There isn’t a sequel-yet-but there may be. I have a couple more books in my head that I have to write first, but I do have ideas for a sequel running around in there. In the meantime, you might like the first book in the series, There Will be Wolves. The heroine, Ursula, is another strong-willed character. You might also enjoy The Nine Days Queen, which is about a girl who really lived and who was Queen of England for nine days when she was 15 years old. You can read about these books on the website.

I am a full-time writer and that is my job now. I could only write part-time when my children were young, but now that they are grown-up I can write as much as I want. I didn’t actually decide to become an author, I just always loved to write. When my own children were young I thought that I might try to get some of my stories published. It took a long time, but finally I did manage to start selling short stories and then, finally, a full-length book. I have been writing and publishing now for about 40 years.

“I am writing about one of your books we just finished reading, Angeline. I found it to be an amazing and historical novel. I also found it interesting how they were slaves and concubines. I have never heard of a concubine before. The auction block was weird though. How they had the power to sell slaves to wealthy people.

“I have many questions about your novel but I will keep this letter short.

“To start, what inspired you to write? What inspired you to write about history? Have you ever been through Omemee? Could you make a healthy living off the novels already out in publication?

“How did you choose this setting? How did you choose such unique names and characters? About how long did it take you to write this novel? What kinds of strategies do you use to help you write? What helps you write like music or Television? Who is your favourite author growing up and presently?

“Well, I really enjoyed your novel and I look forward to reading another one. I hope you make your next novel just as interesting and exciting as Angeline.”

— Brett

I’ve always loved to write, mostly just for the fun of creating stories. Strangely enough, I didn’t much like history in school, but when I was young it wasn’t taught in a very interesting way. It mostly consisted of learning about dates and dead people. It wasn’t until I actually started writing historical novels and doing the research for them that I began to realize how fascinating it was to learn about people and events that happened so long ago, and to think about how those events have influenced what is happening in our world today.

I have been through Omemee many times. Love that part of Ontario. As for making a healthy living by writing-it’s not easy. I teach adults in evening classes and I always tell them not to give up their day jobs. Unless you are one of the very few very lucky people who strike it big, books do not make much money for their authors. Authors get about 10% of the price of each book in royalties. If a book costs $10, for example, an author will get $1. If it costs $6.99, the author gets .69 cents. You can see that you have to sell a lot of books in order to make a good living. I make a fairly good living now, but I have been writing for around 40 years and I’ve sold 22 books. Authors also make money by doing school visits and library readings, and that helps out a lot, in some cases the school visits and readings earn more for the author than their books do.

I wanted to write about the Children’s Crusade, so that is why I chose the setting. I also chose names that would have been used in those times, either French or Muslim. It took several months to do the research, and then about two years to write Angeline and The Scarlet Cross, which is the prequel. As for strategies, the best strategy a writer can use is to just sit down and write. Even when you don’t really want to :-) I don’t listen to music or have the television on because I like it to be quiet when I’m working.

Favourite author? I have so many it would take pages to list them. And I’m finding more every day. I read all the time when I’m not writing, and the library and local bookstore are my favourite places. I’ve just finished reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and I really liked it. Probably my all-time favourite book, though, is Lord of the Rings. I read it when it was first published and have read it twice more since then.

“I was reading your novel and I wondered who your favourite author is? How do you get your settings? How much do you get paid and how is it being an author? Do you have any plans for creating any other books? When Mr. Adams was reading the book I noticed it was well written and had lots of detail and described the area. I liked that.”

— Trai

My favourite author has been J.R.R. Tolkien, with Lord of the Rings, but I have a lot more. Have you read any of Arthur Slade’s books? He wrote Dust and Megiddo’s Shadow and I really liked them. I think you might, too. As I explained, authors get paid royalties for each book sold, usually around 10%. That means that most authors don’t expect to get rich and they write mostly because it’s just something they love to do, or they have to do. I have so many stories running around in my head that I have to write them down. Sometimes characters won’t let me alone until I write their stories. As for settings, I usually try and go to see the place where my novel is set so that I can write accurately about it.

I’m in the process of doing final edits on a book with my editor now, and starting research for a historical novel. Then I have a couple more ideas floating around. It seems that I will probably be writing for quite a bit longer.

“Some of my questions that I wanted to ask you are, how did you think of the idea for the book, Angeline? Also, why did you want to write this book. I really enjoyed this book because it really made me think of what life would have been like back then and how hard it would be to be a slave. In class my teacher gave us a question to answer and the question was ‘what would you want to be, a poor free person or a well kept slave?’ I chose a well kept slave because what I read from your book I know that free people just had enough to live on and no more. What would you choose? I also learned that the medics back then were terrible and that they didn’t know how to give someone a cast and after their broken leg they would limp for the rest of their life.

“In my opinion I really think that your book is a good influence for people to look back and really realize how lucky they really are to live in this time in history. I think this is a good book to read because it has a good meaning and it is really interesting. I have one more question of your career and it is, do you make enough money to live off writing books or do you have to have another job to back you up?

“I really enjoy talking to authors after finishing reading their books so I got the chance this time so can you please write back. I really hope that you enjoy reading this letter.”

— Malcolm

What an interesting question your teacher asked, and what an interesting answer you gave. I can imagine that gave rise to quite a spirited discussion. And yet, for Angeline and Stephen, they wanted their freedom more than anything else. I am an incurable optimist, and I think I also would opt for freedom, and be hopeful that I could find some way to make a better life for myself. But-maybe not. One thing I’ve found out is that until something actually happens to you, you don’t really know how you’re going to behave.

Actually, for the time, the doctors were very advanced. The Egyptian doctors invented plaster casts. Until that time broken bones were just left to heal on their own any old way. Angeline was lucky that she had a doctor who could mend her leg well enough so that she could walk again, even if it left her with a limp.

As I’ve mentioned in other letters, most writers have to have another job in order to support them. I was a social worker for several years, then my husband joined the Foreign Service of Canada and we spent the next 34 years abroad in different countries. Back in those days, wives of Foreign Service Officers weren’t allowed to work, so that’s when I started writing seriously. I managed to squeeze my writing in between taking care of my kids and doing stuff I had to do as a Foreign Service Officer’s wife. (Boring stuff, like hosting dinners and cocktail parties. I usually did my best, was polite, and plotted stories in my mind while making small talk.)

“I am writing because I enjoyed the book that you wrote called Angeline. I liked it because it was different than other books that I usually read. I would like to know if you made enough money from the book to survive for the rest of the year?? I have heard that if you are an author you will need another job to fall back to if it doesn’t work out. I really like to talk to authors after I read the book. I will be very happy if you write back.”

— Jordan

One of the hard things about being a writer is that you never do know if you are going to make enough money to “survive for the rest of the year”. You might have a great year when one of your books sells like crazy and you make a lot of money, then a couple of years later you might not. And when you do make a lot of money in one year, you have to pay a lot of income tax on it. A writer’s life is very precarious. That’s why most writers write for the love of writing, not with the idea of making a pile of money. Not all, of course, and some writers do make lots of money. I sure wish I was J. K. Rowling. (Not really. I’m happy being who I am :-)

© Copyright Karleen Bradford and the Grade Eight students of Scott Young Public School