Thursday, April 28, 2016

Q&A with Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Kathy Cannon Wiechman and her husband, Jim Wiechman
Kathy Cannon Wiechman is the author of Empty Places, a new novel for young readers. It takes place in Harlan County, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. She also has written Like A River: A Civil War Novel. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Empty Places, and for your main character, Adabel?

A: I wanted to write a story about how Hard Times impacted people who had always experienced hard times. Adabel came into my mind almost fully formed. She seemed to speak to me and tell her story. 

Q: How did you research Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1932, and how did you recreate the dialect your characters speak?

A: I visited Harlan County numerous times and listened and learned. I spent time in museums and talked to residents. I lined up a coal mine expert, who answered all my questions. I read a lot of books about life during the Great Depression.

Q: Adabel is seeking answers to questions she has about her mother, who disappeared many years earlier. Did you know how the book would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I went into it with an idea where it could go, but I changed my mind a few times when new ideas came to me. I even added a new character long after I had thought the book was finished. I used my husband's family as models for some aspects of the story.

Q: Adabel is 13. Why did you select that age for her, and what age do you think is right for the readers of the novel?

A: At first, I envisioned Adabel as 14, but when I discussed her with my editor, we decided she needed to be 13. Anyone eight years old or older is a good reader for Empty Places.

I recently did a radio interview, and the interviewer was given a copy of the book in advance. He read it cover to cover and enjoyed it without knowing it was intended for younger readers. I think no one is too old to like the book.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am currently working on a novel about the 1937 Flood in the Ohio River Valley.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Empty Places is my second published novel. My first is Like A River, A Civil War Novel.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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