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Writer's Room => Kidlit Genres => Topic started by: Jenny Moss on March 05, 2008, 06:51 AM

Title: Author's Note
Post by: Jenny Moss on March 05, 2008, 06:51 AM
My editor has asked me to write a brief author's note for my MG historical fiction (1918 influenza epidemic). It's getting to be rather long. I did tons of research -- love digging into the past -- and it's all fascinating to me, but I know I need to delete some of it.

I've been looking at how other authors have done it. One of my favorites is FEVER, 1793 -- it's long, but very good. Do you have any you can recommend?

My teenagers gave me some input on what they'd like to see. Any teachers out there who can guide me on what appeals to their students?
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Jean Reidy on March 05, 2008, 09:45 AM
Jenny, I'm glad you posted this question because I'm sure my MG historical will also need an author's note. Did you read Elijah of Buxton? CPC's note is rather long.
Jean
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Jenny Moss on March 05, 2008, 10:07 AM
Thanks, Jean. I'll check it out.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Athena529 on March 05, 2008, 10:11 AM
I've read two books recently that had author's notes at the end. Neither book was MG or YA; however, I thought the author did a good job and might help guide you as examples. The author is Ariana Franklin, and the books were Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpent's Tale. Both novels were set in 12th century England.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: shelly on March 05, 2008, 10:20 AM
Check out LSP's note at the end of A SINGLE SHARD. Actually, I think most of her books have them--but I recently reread SHARD, so I'm certain about that one.

Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: brendao on March 05, 2008, 10:22 AM
Christopher Paul Curtis also did a long one for The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, although it may have been called an epilogue. I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: KateMessner on March 05, 2008, 10:29 AM
I've done author's notes for both of my historical novels.   Elisa Carbone's BLOOD ON THE RIVER has an excellent note at the end.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: mrh on March 05, 2008, 11:12 AM
Any Ann Rinaldi book, though she's had a long career so I'd take care to select recent books (unless a comparison of older vs. recent books shows nothing's really changed) to be sure you're modeling your author's note on what's currently being done.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Verla Kay on March 05, 2008, 11:13 AM
All of my picture books have author's notes in them.  The first one was the most difficult for me to do.  The text in Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails was 150 words long. The author's note that I sent to my editor was about 1200? words long. (I think. I've forgotten exactly how long it actually was.) She made me revise it several times until it was down to a mere 63 words.  When the book was <finally, after six years> published, she "relented" and let me "up" it to about 125 words.  I am very pleased with how it turned out.  
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: 217mom on March 05, 2008, 02:13 PM
Number the Stars has a very good Author's Note at the end. It guided me with my historic MG
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: dianebailey on March 05, 2008, 03:06 PM

Check out ecb's "A Curse Dark as Gold." She's got a good one.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: saundramitchell on March 05, 2008, 03:10 PM
I'm not a teacher, but I do read with my 14 year old son. He and I both like author's notes that not only give a general idea of the sources you used during your work, but we really enjoy it when an author explains what about the time period/issue caught their attention. It's a nice way to talk about points of view, and the ways  people can arrive at a particular story.  It's also a great entry into critical thinking about a piece, when we can discuss whether we think the author achieved her goals (which, of course, you totally have!  ;D )
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: ecb on March 05, 2008, 03:37 PM
I was going to recommend Kate's for SPITFIRE!  It's one of the longest I've ever seen, but it's COMPLETELY fascinating and entertaining.

On the other end of the spectrum, the author's note for Gillian Bradshaw's (adult novel) THE WOLF HUNT is one (brief) paragraph.

Jenny, if you email me (link on my website), I will send you a copy of the AN for CURSE (which is historical fantasy).  I think it's about three pages long (manuscript pages).
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: KateMessner on March 05, 2008, 04:08 PM
Thanks, Elizabeth!  And good idea - Jenny, I'd also be happy to email you the author's note so you get an idea of how different people handle them. Mine is in a Q & A format.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Jenny Moss on March 06, 2008, 06:47 AM
Thanks so much for the help. I'm going to the library tomorrow, so I'll print this list out and take it with me.

The author's note that I sent to my editor was about 1200? words long. (I think. I've forgotten exactly how long it actually was.) She made me revise it several times until it was down to a mere 63 words.  When the book was <finally, after six years> published, she "relented" and let me "up" it to about 125 words. 


From 1200 to 63 -- it must have been hard to let go of those words! All the details are interesting to me, so it's difficult to hit that delete key.

He and I both like author's notes that not only give a general idea of the sources you used during your work, but we really enjoy it when an author explains what about the time period/issue caught their attention.

Great idea, Saundra!

Jenny, if you email me (link on my website), I will send you a copy of the AN for CURSE (which is historical fantasy).  I think it's about three pages long (manuscript pages).


No need. I'm in the middle of reading your very wonderful book. I don't want to leap ahead to the AN just yet. :)

Thanks, Elizabeth!  And good idea - Jenny, I'd also be happy to email you the author's note so you get an idea of how different people handle them. Mine is in a Q & A format.

Thanks, Kate! I'll PM you.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Marissa Doyle on March 06, 2008, 06:17 PM
You always have the option of turning in a shorter one to go inside your book and posting a longer/more detailed version on your website.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Sarah Miller on March 07, 2008, 06:04 AM
I had a whole little series of notes and stuff at the end of Miss Spitfire:

About Annie & Helen: 3 pages

photos: approx 6 pages

About this book: 1 page

Further reading: 2 pages

Sources consulted: 2-3 pages

I can also email any or all of that to you.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Sarah Miller on March 07, 2008, 07:59 AM
Almost forgot -- I had a two-page timeline in there, too!
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: SimplyFi on March 07, 2008, 09:12 AM
"Almost forgot -- I had a two-page timeline in there, too!"

See, now this is where I get confused as to what folks are talking about when they say "Author's Note".  To me, elements such as a timeline, photos, extra interesting content info, further reading, sources, bibliography etc, are backmatter, and an Author's Note is backstory -- an actual note from the author written in a more personal way, where the author steps outside of the authorial book voice and speaks as the writer who created the work, talking about the research and/or writing processes, perhaps putting these elements in context. ...like on DVD bonus material, the difference between finding deleted scenes (backmatter) and a director's commentary about how he chose the cast, filmed tricky bits, and funny/sad anecdotes about the making of the movie (backstory).

I *love* backmatter, especially timelines for historical work.  Verla has a fabulous double-spread timeline in ROUGH, TOUGH CHARLEY that not only puts the story in historical context, but also includes additional details and new quirky cool info for which there isn't room in the main story (in which she's already skillfully packed a ton of anecdotes and great information...it's amazing what she can fit into 32 pages!). I loved this timeline...it enriches the reading experience beautifully and I'm really glad it's there, but it stands on its own, so I would call it "backmatter", not an "Author's Note" because we're getting additional content info, but nothing about the process of acquiring or using the content. 

Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Barbara Etlin on March 07, 2008, 09:31 AM
I don't know whether this is relevant to your story or not, Jenny. But sometimes in historical novels, there are plot elements or language that are true to the period, but need placing in context because they may be racist or politically incorrect. Also I like to see a short list of books For Further Reading.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Melody on March 07, 2008, 09:35 AM
Katherine Paterson does them in her historicals and she also lists her non-fiction resources.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Sarah Miller on March 07, 2008, 10:14 AM
SimplyFi --

I think you've made an important distinction. So out of my 15-16 pages of backmatter, only one page qualifies as an Author's Note. That's the only place where I step back and talk specifically about my frame of mind and perspective as the author. Everything else is more info or context on the characters and resources.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: ecb on March 07, 2008, 12:54 PM
I guess I'm not seeing the *point* in making the distinction, especially since an author's note is typically considered part of the backmatter.

Backstory, on the other hand, is part of the fiction of the novel itself--what happened in the characters' lives before the book started, which carries through and affects the present story (Arwen and Aragorn's romance, or the death of Harry Potter's parents).
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Jenny Moss on March 07, 2008, 07:17 PM
I can also email any or all of that to you.

Thanks so much, Sarah! I'll send you a PM.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Sarah Miller on March 08, 2008, 05:55 AM
I guess I'm not seeing the *point* in making the distinction, especially since an author's note is typically considered part of the backmatter.

Other than the fact that I'm a legendary hair-splitter?  ;D

I guess if you're a first-timer, it's good to know that the author's note isn't necessarily the whole kit and caboodle -- you probably still have room for stuff like a chronology, afterword/epilogue, recommended reading....
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Jenny Moss on March 09, 2008, 07:51 AM
You always have the option of turning in a shorter one to go inside your book and posting a longer/more detailed version on your website.

Love this!

Katherine Paterson does them in her historicals and she also lists her non-fiction resources.

I've been wanting to read BREAD AND ROSES, TOO. I'll check that one out.

I don't know whether this is relevant to your story or not, Jenny. But sometimes in historical novels, there are plot elements or language that are true to the period, but need placing in context because they may be racist or politically incorrect. Also I like to see a short list of books For Further Reading.

Good suggestions, Barb!


Thanks to the BB --  :love -- for all the help.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: SimplyFi on March 10, 2008, 10:25 AM
Sorry, ecb, my using the word "backstory" was a poor choice...muddies the water.  I'd forgotten fiction writers use it to refer to "part of the fiction of the novel itself--what happened in the characters' lives before the book started, which carries through and affects the present story"  That's not what I was thinking of when I said "backstory". Instead, what I meant was the author's backstory---tales of the research and writing process told in the author's personal voice as the creator of the book.  A better way to describe "Author's Note" would probably have been something like "behind the scenes stories on the making of the story" or maybe there's a literary term for talking about writing a story? ...maybe something with "meta" as a prefix? 

I agree..an author's note is often one kind of backmatter.  My point is that while all backmatter may be "Notes from the Author", the label "Author's Note" carries a specific meaning distinct from that...personal comments on process. 
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: Stef on March 11, 2008, 09:41 AM
The extra info in my second book is called a Historical Note.
Title: Re: Author's Note
Post by: gretchenlaskas on March 20, 2008, 03:00 PM
We divided my author note in two -- in the front of the book is the "acknowledgements" and in the back are the resources for the reader.  This worked well.