Thursday, April 11, 2019

Q&A with Heidi Daniele

Heidi Daniele is the author of the new young adult historical novel The House Children. It takes place in mid-20th-century Ireland and focuses on a young girl who lives in an industrial school. Daniele lives in the Hudson Valley. 

Q: Your novel The House Children is based on actual events. What inspired you to write the novel?

A: After reading Patrick Touher’s book Fear of the Collar, I was both fascinated and appalled that industrial schools existed. My intrigue by this topic led me to believe others may also be interested.

Q: What kind of research did you conduct, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: My research involved scouring the internet to find anything about industrial schools including articles, blogs, old photos, and maps. I also read an extensive government-funded report on industrial schools during the era I was focused on. Reading old newspapers provided me with a sense of the cultural, religious, and political climate of that time. 

I was fortunate to connect with former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial school in Ballinasloe. They told me about life in the school, and living under the care and supervision of the Sisters of Mercy. Their stories became the foundation for The House Children

I also spent 10 days in Ireland going to the sites referenced in my book and met with the Sisters of Mercy, who provided yet another perspective.

It was a sad surprise to learn that many of the former residents of these institutions still carry the shame of being committed to an industrial school.

Q: How common were the experiences that your character Peg experiences in the novel?

A: Peg’s life in foster care and the industrial school system was common and experienced by over 100,000 children in Ireland. However, Peg’s experience of interacting with her mother was rare. During that era women bearing a child out of wedlock would have been ostracized by their family and community. It was common for these women to keep the birth a secret and then feel their only option was to cut all ties with the child.  

Q: What do you hope readers take away from Peg’s story? 

A: I hope every reader will take something of value for themselves from Peg’s story. It could be inspiration, hope, family values or historical insight.  

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I feel as if I’m still working on The House Children. Talking to people about my story and the research behind it is an important and rewarding part of the process of publishing this book.  

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: If The House Children is well received, I have a prequel and a sequel in mind. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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