Author Spotlight: Jennifer Swanson Talks About Spies, Lies, and Disguise

Today I’m shining the Author Spotlight on fellow Mixed-Up Files member Jennifer Swanson and her middle grade book SPIES, LIES, AND DISGUISE: THE DARING TRICKS AND DEEDS THAT WON WWII.

Author Spotlight | Jennifer Swanson Talks About Spies, Lies, and Disguise | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
Title:  Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won WWII

Genre: Middle-grade nonfiction history

 Age Range:  9- 11 years and up

 Launch Date: Out Now!

 

Please tell us a little bit about your book.

In the late 1930s, times were desperate. The world found itself at war again, less than twenty years after the first World War had ended. No one could quite believe it. And no one wanted it. The leaders of every country involved were left with no choice. They had to try to end the war as fast as possible, using whatever means they could.

That meant coming up with secret operations meant to deceive, deflect, and confuse their enemies. Poison the cattle that the Germans eat? Deliberately float a corpse dressed up as a spy across the water to have it wash up on Germany’s shore? Create a unit of top secret commandos with a license to kill? These were all real tactics attempted with the ultimate goal of defeating Hitler. In this off-center look at history, readers will be captivated by the classified and covert efforts made by each side as they tried to gain the upper hand and win the war. Restricted access is lifted to give the reader a peek into the top secret operations of the daring men and women who fought the war under a cloak of secrecy.

Spies, Lies, and Disguise  has been getting some great reviews:

“The highly readable and well-organized text is accompanied by occasional breakout panels and spreads and focuses mainly on missions conducted by the Allied powers. While each chapter is organized around a different type of spycraft or specific mission, the accounts are more or less chronologically arranged and touch on major events such as D-Day and the ­dropping of the atomic bombs, adding context that will help readers newer to the subject. The text is accompanied by a combination of period photographs and illustrations by O’Malley, whose expressive style adds to the book’s cheekiness. VERDICT A must-read for budding military historians and spies-in-training. Purchase wherever books by Alan Gratz and thrillers like Framed! by James Ponti are ­popular.”

– School Library Journal

“This book will capture your attention from the very beginning!” ―School Library Connection

“Black and white photos, O’Malley’s cartoon-style recruitment posters and illustrations, and a narrative tone free of textbook stuffiness combine to create broad appeal.” ―BCCB

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

 I wrote a book for an educational publisher a few years back that was very short, but I did a massive amount of research for it. Way more than I used in the book. I was SO fascinated with the military ops and secret missions that were executed in WWII (most likely my interest also came from the fact that I attended the U.S. Naval Academy and took classes in military strategy). When I found the format for the book, wham- it all came together very quickly. This structure just seemed the best way to convey excitement and intrigue to my readers.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

My writing process is different for every book. For this one, I spent hours devouring books on WW2, researching the Imperial War Museum’s archive files, and doing tons of photo research. I typically research as a I write, because that is most efficient for me. The writing part of this book came very easily, which was awesome. I really had tons of fun writing this book!

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

One of the big reasons why I love STEM/STEAM so much is because of my 7th grade science teacher, Mrs. Roth. She just made Science FUN! I woke up every morning excited to go to her class to learn. At the time (in the early 80s) is wasn’t that common to have a female science teacher – especially not in a very small town. She showed me that women could do science and do it WELL! I have carried that love of science my whole life.     

What makes your book  a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

I think this book is a great resource for teachers in the classroom because it talks about the military strategy that was used during World War II. The book gives young readers a glimpse into the innovative and secretive actions that each side took in an attempt to win the war. It highlights many true heroes of the war, and brings attention to some of the lesser-known missions that truly worked! The narrative is reader-friendly for the age group and invites the reader to read more about these amazing accomplishments.           

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

We have two dogs that I adore. They are Lily and Sasha. Sasha is a Great Pyrenees, which means basically, she is a giant polar bear of a dog. She is white, fluffy, and weighs 120lbs.  Lily is a beautiful, lovable golden retriever. She is “small” weighing in at only 70lbs.  We are big dog people in this house and love our fur-babies dearly.

Author Spotlight | Jennifer Swanson Talks About Spies, Lies, and Disguise | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

 

Author Spotlight | Jennifer Swanson Talks About Spies, Lies, and Disguise | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comScience Rocks! And so, do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award-winning author of over 35 nonfiction books for children. Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in in all her books, but especially her Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact, which received a Florida Book Award, a Eureka California Reading Association Gold Award and an NSTA BEST STEM book award. Her newest book, Save the Crash-test Dummies, received a starred review with Booklist and a Eureka Silver Award. Jennifer has presented at multiple SCBWI conferences, National NSTA conferences, the Highlights Foundation, the World Science Festival and the Atlanta Science Festival. You can find Jennifer through her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com or on Twitter or Instagram @JenSwanBooks

You can pick up a copy of SPIES, LIES, AND DISGUISE: THE DARING TRICKS AND DEEDS THAT WON WWII at your favorite independent bookstore or online.

Thanks, Jennifer!

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

TrishSignatureblue

 

 

Catching Up

ponte-vecchio-bridge | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
It’s been pretty quiet here on the blog the last couple of months. The good news is all is well. My husband and I spent a good chunk of October in Italy, roaming around Rome and Florence, taking in amazing artwork, eating so much pasta, and discovering the joy of gelato. We had an incredible time – some of which you can see over on my Instagram.

 

 

But I haven’t been completely silent. I wrote a couple of blog posts over at the From The Mixed-Up Files site that you can check out below:

Books About Museums

November New Releases

And I’m back to work on the novel I’ve been struggling to finish. Here’s hoping I can bring in all together soon. Wish me luck!!

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

 

Nellie Bly

I don’t remember the first time I heard of Nellie Bly. I may have been around the same age as my character Kit in The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan, or I may have been a couple of years younger.

I’m pretty sure I discovered her in the biography section of my school library, a place a spent an inordinate amount of time reading books about a wide range of women – all of whom seemed like women who did things I might want to do when I grew up or had characteristics I wanted to grow in myself. I spent a lot of time with Amelia Earhart (bold), Carol Burnett (savvy and funny), Rosa Parks (brave) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (who at some point decided her own regular life was worth turning into a story). I’m guessing somewhere in there I read about Nellie Bly, and her spunk, determination, and down-right gutsy nature stuck with me.

I didn’t consciously or purposely put Nellie Bly in my novel. She just showed up – right at the perfect time – and gave my character the exact thing she needed to complete her story arc. Writing – when it’s working – is often part magic. Sometimes things come to you in a flash of insight and luck, and sometimes your subconscious hands you the key you didn’t even know you needed. Either way, it’s a sort of alchemy – time travel coupled with story structure sprinkled with fairy dust from the muse. And it’s awesome. 🙂

I’m working on a new book now, so my thoughts are scattered in a thousand directions and far away from the early 1900’s and news rooms. Maybe that’s why coming across this Brain Pickings article about Nellie Bly felt a little like running into an old friend. It took me back – to writing The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan and to that younger version of me reading book after book about interesting and  inspirational women.

The article is fun, plus it contains an animated documentary. Check it out. Maybe she’ll become one of your inspirations too.

 “As the most famous woman journalist of her day, as an early woman industrialist, as a humanitarian… Bly kept the same formula for success: Determine Right. Decide Fast. Apply Energy. Act with Conviction. Fight to the Finish. Accept the Consequences. Move on.”

Nellie Bly Makes the News: An Animated Documentary About the Investigative Journalism Pioneer Who Paved the Way for Women in Media

 

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comI was hiking with my husband the other evening, taking pictures of the sunset and listening to the coyotes call to one another across the sagebrush, when I notice the change in light, the shift in the particular shade of blue that defines the summer sky in this part of the country. It’s turned darker, deeper. A color that signifies the change in seasons here on the high desert. A color that, to my eye, means means the beginning of the the end of summer.

The next morning I woke to Eric Nixon’s fine poem, “Peak Summer”,  in my inbox. A little reminder to grab all the summer you can get, before it’s gone.

Peak Summer
by Eric Nixon

We’re steeped deep in summer
And everything around me
Seems to indicate it’ll never end
But still I’m spending time
Looking for the subtle signs
Trying to figure out when
We’ve reached peak summer
When the billion green trees
Start to dull ever so slightly
When the bounty of vegetables
Found at all the local farm stands
Start thinning in quantity and quality
When the Halloween candy
Appears in the supermarkets
And the Back To School! signs
Show up in the big box stores
When the sun sets a little earlier
And gets a little more noticeable
Each night, night after night
Until you start thinking about
How much daylight you’ve lost
All of the signs and all of the things
I’ve been noticing are telling me
That we’re right in the midst of
Peak summer and if I’m not careful
It’ll be completely over
And I’ll have missed it entirely
As the season folds into fall

“Peak Summer” by Eric Nixon from Equidistant. © Double Yolk Press, 2019

How do you know summer’s on the way out in your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments section.

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

Friendship

Laura | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
My beautiful friend Laura is in the process of leaving this life. The news is both not completely unexpected, and, still, surprisingly sudden. Laura’s  been my writing buddy, my cheerleader, and my regular Wednesday coffee date for years now, and I’m going to miss her wit, her energy, her smile, and her writing more than I can pretend to know.

We took this picture last summer as part of a project she was doing. She photographed a day in her life – a day that consisted of breakfast and writing talk with me, a quiet memoir writing session on her beautiful deck, meditation group, and a glass of wine before dinner. Her days were the kind you dream about. A perfect mix of friends and family, of extroversion and introversion, of good wine, and good books, and deep conversation. The kind of day that comes from a lifetime of figuring yourself out and knowing what matters.

That’s Laura. Funny and smart. And forever herself. She has been my believing mirror – the person Julie Cameron says help us see ourselves and our dreams in the most positive light. The person who cheers us on when we are most doubtful of our abilities.

I only hope I have been that for her, too.

<3

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

An Update and a Link to A Revision Resource

I’ve been a little MIA here at the blog the last two months. Between work, revising my novel, and dealing with an illness it’s been a little chaotic in my world. But things are finally moving out of stuck mode, which means, I should be back to blogging – and writing – regularly again.

Fingers crossed 🙂

I have managed to keep up with my posing duties over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, so check out my last post over there – Writing Books: A Revision Resource Round-Up.

I also came across some fun mentions of Kit on other blogs and books lists – including the always amazing A Mighty Girl site. You can find links to them here.

Thanks for sticking around.

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

 

Camp NanoWriMo

CampNanoWriMo | campnanowrimo-badge | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s April – long past time for me to put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard and get serious about revising my work in progress. I’ve let it sit. I’ve had a friend read a good chunk of it and offer feedback. I’ve studied story and plot, opening scenes and endings. I’ve taken a ton of notes. And I’ve had a few hopeful moments where it has seemed that there is a story in there worth resurrecting.

And I’m not one to discount hopeful moments.
All of this is to say that I should be ready. Ready to rework and tighten, toss and rewrite.

Maybe I am.

April first is the start of Camp Nanowrimo, a 30 day writing challenge from the folks who bring us writers Nanowrimo – only this time with more flexibility. Do what you want for 30 days and track it by word count, time, lines, pages – whatever works for you.

The point is to the use the community energy and the public accountability to get you moving. To get you writing. Or, as in my case, revising.

And it works. I know it works because I’ve written two full novels (one of which became my debut) by participating in Nanowrimo’s 30 day challenge.

Still, I’m not sure if I want to do this. I used to be really great at sticking to things under all kinds of circumstances. I used to be great at finishing what I’ve started. But lately, I’ve been really bad at it. So bad that the thought of trying and failing feels scary. Way scary. You’ll never ever be able to do this scary.

I really don’t want one more example of how my normally great ability to persevere has waned in the last year or so. But I also kind of want to test it. To challenge it. To see if I can build it back up – like a misused and injured muscle.

Which is a drawn-out way to say that I guess I’m going to try it. Why not? April is all about resurrection and rebirth after all. And maybe Camp Nanowrimo will be just the thing to bring this novel to life. I fully intend to give it my best try.

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it went at the end of the month.

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue

 

 

Renewal

Renewal | Crocus | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Some years, L.M. Montgomery’s truth is hard to believe. Some years, it feels like winter will never end, the sun will never shine, and the books will never be finished.

I started every day this month standing on my front porch, searching my flower bed for the promise of Spring – the purple crocus I planted that never fails to bring me my first glimmer of hope that the winter will end, the sun will shine, and life will be renewed.

This year that search took on a different quality – a desperate quality – as if not just Spring, but everything – me, my writing, my career, all of it – depended on a glimpse of purple blossoms in a muddy, snow-lined patch of dirt.

I checked every day, and every day, the flower bed was empty.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I stopped looking in the usual place, right next to the porch, and let my eyes wander the entire length of the front flower bed. And there it was. Not the one tiny crocus I was expecting, but two big plants – one lavender, one purple, both full and open and smiling in the sun.

Renewal | Crocus 2 | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

Spring had arrived – just not in the exact place I had expected.

I’m hoping I will be able to say the same for myself – and for my writing.

Today, I launch into revising a novel that has taken me too long to write. A novel that has struggled to live underground as I wandered through a two-year long winter of my own. I know it won’t be the same book I expected it to be when I jotted the baby beginnings of the idea on an index card, but that’s okay.

It will be something different. Something fresh. Something new – springing out of all that those two years have taught.

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comTrishSignatureblue