January 7, 2013

Author Interview: Amy Timberlake Author of One Came Home +GIVEAWAY

Today I'm very excited to welcome Amy Timberlake to The O.W.L. Amy is the author of the book One Came Home just being released this week!

About the book

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

I was able to read and advanced copy of the book.  In short - love it!  Watch for my full review tomorrow.

But for now let's get to the interview.

Welcome Amy!

Let's start with the easy questions:

What Point of View -1st or 3rd:  First
Boy or Girl main character (or both!): Girl

Ha! You’re going to have to answer this one because I don’t know. Here’s the facts: I was strongly influenced by the western. I also love mysteries, as well as big epic adventures like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And then there are the passenger pigeons. Having them as part of the story means the book is set in the past, so historical fiction. But wait! That enormous nesting and all those birds make for an eerie setting that to me almost seemed like science fiction. So what do you think? 

Middle Grade or Young Adult:
The publisher is saying older middle grade, some people are thinking it’s YA. 

More boy or girl book (stereotypically):
Another one for you to decide! 

Now the Serious Questions! 

For One Came Home what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about? I love Georgie’s voice. It’s first person so you can really hear her speak, and she’s actually speaking to the reader, telling you her story. Once I got her voice down, I liked her way of directly addressing her readers a lot. 

One Came Home is set in 1871 – can you talk about what that was like? Why that time? What research, if any, did you do? 1871 became the setting because I was reading The Passenger Pigeon by a historian named A. W. Schorger. While reading, I came upon a passage about a nesting that Mr. Schorger said was probably the last great passenger pigeon nesting. Now this was no ordinary nesting—the nesting was estimated to have covered 850 square miles (over half the size of Rhode Island). Because of the size, Schorger made an educated guess that nearly every passenger pigeon in North America may have taken part in this nesting. How many birds is that? Thousands? Or a million or more birds? Unfortunately, no one knows. 

But imagine living next door to this nesting. When those birds flew they could block out the sun. All day, there would be the noise from the nesting, along with a pungent smell. When they flew overhead (which they did in great flocks at least two times a day) there would be a sort of “sleet” that fell. (People in 1871 called this “pigeon lime.”) Add to this, the fact that hunters (called “pigeoners”) followed passenger pigeons wherever they went, and now, you’ve got two invasions happening in short order: birds and then thousands of pigeon hunters.

And all of this happened in my home state of Wisconsin and I didn’t know a thing about it! How was this possible? So I did what I do in cases like these: I started writing about a small, fictional town that neighbored the nesting.

Research? I did a lot—most of which did not make it in the book, but that’s the way it often goes (so I’ve heard). 

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write One Came Home from idea to finish? Please tell about revision if you can! My students just did NaNoWriMo, so they are very curious about revision. 

The book took about three years to write. Another year (or so) after it sold, as I worked through edits suggested by my editor, Alison Wortche at Knopf. 

I do rewrite a lot. My best writing comes out of the rewriting process. I don’t keep track of how many drafts I do, but I’ll guess that it’s not uncommon for me to have over twenty drafts of a book—and I mean, literally re-workings from beginning to end. It’s a long process for me. When I am working on a book length work, I work (or try to work) about four hours a day.

Revision—for me—is doing anything I need to do to get the story better. I’ll try anything too. I’ve been known to cut 60 pages down to 12 so I can have a tighter plot arc in say, the first chapter. Sometimes I make an outline from a finished piece of writing to see, in the outline’s shortened form, what I’ve written. Then I’ll re-arrange and re-write. I’ve been known to cover doors with Post-Its. (This didn’t work well for me—but I sure looked productive.) I’ve tossed out ten pages and kept a line that somehow speaks to me. I’ve also tossed a lot of backstory too.

The first draft is wonderful because you have a glimpse of the story you’re going to tell and it’s so nice to be done with the blank white page. So the first draft is worthy of celebration, but for me, the first draft is only a glimpse of the final book because revision is the source of almost all of my writing. 

When you were in middle school kind of student were you? Did you write then? Did anything from this time show up in One Came Home?
If you read my first novel, That Girl Lucy Moon, you’ll get a sense of who I was as a middle school student. Lucy feels injustice acutely. There’s also a lot of me in Georgie Burkhardt—she’s fierce, strong, determined and she gets things done. I wasn’t as brave as either Lucy or Georgie, but they do represent the person I wished I was at the time. 

Otherwise, I’d describe myself as a middle of the road student who occasionally took on the odd project. One of these projects was a newspaper called “The Birch Bark Press,” which contained all sorts of middle school news—so I guess yes, I did write in middle school. But I didn’t consider the newspaper “writing” per se, I thought of myself as an entrepreneur starting up a newspaper business. (It fell apart in a matter of months, but I did try it.) 

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? OR WHOOO do you like to read or really enjoyed in HS or middle school?
You’ve got so many great writers writing for people in middle school—it’s impossible to name everyone I admire, but I will say that Polly Horvath is one my all-time favorites. 

The Fun Questions! (based on what middle school students do!) 

Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind?
Not a lot. This is because I forget I’m chewing and then hours later, my jaw cramps up. But my family has a favorite chewing gum—Big Red cinnamon gum. Growing up, my mom chewed it by the handfuls, so it was always around. When I think “gum,” I think “cinnamon.” 

Do you text? 

Yes but I’m new at it. I joined the rest of the world and I got my first cell phone two years ago. (Sort of proud of that. Can you tell?) 

Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?! 

Actually, I didn’t mind it. But I remember choosing when I ate school lunch (mostly I ate bagged lunches). My favorite school lunch? Hamburger and tater tots. Who knows what made up the meat in those burgers, but I still get cravings for tater tots. That’s from school lunch. Thanks, lunch ladies!

Thank you so much for sharing all this Amy.  I have to say that all the information about the pigeons was amazing.  I want to learn mroe about them, and I plan on telling my students all about them as well! Especially because we live in Minnesota, so it would've been really close to us.  

To learn more about Amy and passanger pigeons check out the links below:
Amy's Pintrest board on Passenger Pigeons

Now the Giveaway
Blueslip Media has given a copy of One Came Home for a giveway
Fill out the Rafflecopter Form
Must be US resident
Must be at least 13

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hey! Just wanted to say that I'm so glad to be asked to do this! I'll be checking back in, so if you'd like to ask more questions I'll be reading them. Yay!

    Beautiful blog Jill!

  2. I think this sounds like an absolutely fascinating book. I love historical fiction, mysteries, and adventures. Thanks for the interesting interview and the giveaway. (Pick me! Pick me!)

    1. Make sure to fill out the Rafflecopter if you want to enter!

  3. Thanks for featuring this book - I hadn't heard of it before but it sounds like a good story.

  4. Thanks Rosi & Andrea! I hope you enjoy it!