Stephanie: I’m so delighted to introduce Barbara Hacha, author of, “Line by Line and BRAG Medallion Honoree. Barbara, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion! I’ve heard wonderful things about, “Line by Line.” Please tell me about your book and what inspired you to write this story.
Barbara: Thank you! I feel very honored that my book was awarded the BRAG Medallion.
Line by Line is a story of Maddy Skobel, a young woman growing up in central Ohio during the Great Depression. Her family is disintegrating right along with the economy, and when her home life becomes impossible, she decides to leave town–by freight train–and try to survive on her own terms. She becomes a hobo, and as she faces hardship, danger, and violence, she must discover her own resourcefulness and strengths.
My inspiration actually came out of a garage sale find! I picked up a copy of a video called Riding the Rails at a sale and brought it home, thinking it might be like a PBS Great Train Trips adventure. But it turned out to be a documentary about people who rode the rails in the Great Depression, and much to my surprise, I found that women rode! I wondered what it would have been like to be a young woman in the 1930s and riding the rails. So I created a character and decided to find out!
Stephanie: It’s truly fascinating where one can find an idea for a story. What an intriguing premise for your story. How did your characters voices come to you?
Barbara: That’s hard to describe. I think it’s important to really get to know and understand your characters, and then their voices come through. I really believe that character drives plot, because we all make choices and decisions based on who we are and how we perceive things to be.
Stephanie: I agree with you. I believe characterization is the most important part to the story. Where there any challenges you faced while writing it?
Barbara: Sure–lots of challenges! Probably the biggest was trying to carve out time to write while juggling my day job, which is editing books. There’s always deadline pressure. And when you write historical fiction, the challenge is to do all the needed research so you get it right. Fortunately, I love researching, but it is time consuming.
Stephanie: What research was involved for your story and did you learn anything new about the Great Depression you didn’t know before?
Barbara: When I started Line by Line, I first tried to get an overview of what was happening in the Depression economically and especially culturally. What were people like back then? How did they face adversity? I looked at many books and newspaper clippings from the time, as well as photographs that showed what people wore–and even of restaurant signboards that showed what people ate and how much meals cost. I also drew on some family history. My grandparents lived through the Depression, and they talked about what it was like.
I definitely learned things I didn’t know before! One of the biggest things I learned was about the Bonus March in Washington, D.C. In 1932, about 45,000 WWI veterans camped in Washington for two hot summer months trying to get Congress to award their promised bonus. When I discovered that demonstration in some news clippings, I knew Maddy would have to go there. I’ve since discovered that most people don’t know about the Bonus March, either. It’s not being taught in schools.
Stephanie: Wow, I have never heard of the Bonus March. I wish our children could learn about that in their schools. So much is left out. If there is a lesson a reader can come away with having read your story. What would it be?
Barbara: I think there’s two things, which are kind of intertwined. First, we can’t always control what happens to us–we can only control how we react to those things and the choices we make. Second, I think it’s important to learn from history. When I was writing Line by Line, I was a bit unnerved at the similarities between the Great Depression and our most recent Great Recession. Politicians and other people in power make decisions that seriously impact on people’s lives–from the failure of the banking system to home foreclosures to unemployment. Some of these life events will forever leave their mark, and those in power should not make their decisions without understanding all the ramifications.
Stephanie: That is really interesting and so true. What is your writing process?
Barbara: I try to use my time whenever I can get it. Even small increments can be productive. And I try to separate the writing process from the editing process. I write first and go back later to edit. I don’t agonize over every word until the writing is done. I think it’s also important to belong to a writer’s critique group, with people whose ideas and opinions you trust. Mine has been so helpful! We’ve been meeting monthly for about 10 years, and my writing is definitely better because of them.
Stephanie: Tell me about National Hobo Convention you attended in Britt, Iowa.
Barbara: I found out about this convention while I was researching Line by Line, so my husband and I decided to go. It was their 111th Convention, and we met hobos of all ages and from all walks of life. It was fascinating. So I decided to write a book about the hobo culture that includes interviews with many of the hobos we met in Britt. The book also describes their traditions, such as their campfire ceremony, their ceremony to honor those who have “caught the Westbound,” which means hobos who have passed away, and their election of a national Hobo King and Queen. I hope to release this book by the end of summer.
Stephanie: What advice would you give when writing Historical Fiction?
Barbara: Get the details right! Even the little things are important. I made small adjustments as I wrote: from deciding to use string instead of duct tape for Maddy’s box in the pantry, to using old railroad maps to chart Maddy’s possible course.
Stephanie: Where do you see the self-publishing market in five to ten years?
Barbara: I think self-publishing will continue to grow. Even well-established authors are now trying it out. I think one big advantage is that self-publishing can be primarily about the literature–not about whether a book can make a profit for a big publishing house. I think as authors, we have the responsibility to make sure the stories are as good as they can be, and well edited, so that self-published titles are recognized as being as good or better than “traditionally published” titles. And organizations like BRAG and sites like Layered Pages contribute by providing independent recommendations for readers–and help get the word out!
How did you discover BRAG?
I discovered them when they emailed me to tell me of the BRAG medallion award! I was familiar with Goodreads, but hadn’t heard about indieBrag. I’m very happy that they found me!
Stephanie: What is your favorite genre to read?
Well, I love historical fiction, but I read books in lots of genres. I just appreciate really good writing, no matter the genre.
Stephanie: What are you currently reading right now?
I just finished Astray, by Emma Donohue. It’s a collection of short stories that are each based on a snippet of a newspaper item. Some of the stories are set in the 19th century. Now I’m reading Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, by Lee Smith, and House of Earth, the newly discovered novel by Woody Guthrie.
Stephanie: Barbara, thank you so much for chatting with me today!
Barbara: My pleasure! And thank you for supporting and promoting independent authors!
Barbara Hacha’s historical novel, Line by Line, was published in March 2011. She writes both fiction and nonfiction and is a freelance editor of textbooks in the humanities, computer books, and works of fiction. She is also a photographer who occasionally exhibits in the Cleveland area. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, Jim. This is her debut novel.
A Message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Barbara Hacha who is the author of, Line by Line, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Line by Line merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.