Goodreads, David Kay
Release Date: July, 2015
When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that:
1) He’s been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player.
2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And
3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough.
To fail means to stay in the past—forever. Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott.
Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
Thank you, Mrs. Annette Oppenlander
1. Why young adult and why historical settings?
My teen years at an all-girls high school were pretty rough and I think I’m still trying to come to terms with the insecurities, failed loves and misdirected friendships. I also raised two boys and learned a lot from them. Young adult just speaks to me.
In high school I loathed history, found it sooo boring. What I did discover was that I enjoyed historical fiction. I spent many hours reading stories set in the Old West, the American Civil War and war-torn Europe. Humans are so outrageous and nowhere is this as obvious as in what happened in the past.
2. There is a “recipe” for a great story? If such a recipe would exist, what will be in your opinion, the mandatory ingredients and why so?
I believe most stories follow a recipe. No matter how different their plots and characters, a good story must have a number of ingredients. If we compare it to cooking recipes we need the right combination of ingredients to make a tasty dish.
So the recipe for a great story starts with at least one protagonist, the main guy/girl who is likeable despite his faults. To make a story interesting, we must throw our guy under the bus, in other words he must agonize and yearn, internally and through the external challenges he faces. Part of the external world is a great antagonist, the mean guy who makes our character suffer. But there also has to be a love interest, somebody our character falls for. And finally, an authentic setting determines how real the story feels.
I didn’t touch on dialogue which must be short and to the point as well as represent the characters well. There are many additional ingredients we could call the herbs and spices of what makes for an entertaining read. These may include things like voice, interesting side characters, sensory descriptions and a tempting first sentence, first page and first chapter.
Combine with care, treat with love and voila, you have a great story.
3. What and how did you highlight the differences between the hero and the characters of the past?
I used a number of methods to set apart Max who’s from present day and the medieval characters he meets. For instance, Max meets Bero, a pig herder who lives in a shack with his mother. Aside from the obvious differences in their clothes, Max in t-shirt, jeans and Nikes, and Bero barefoot in a shift and torn, dirty pants, they have a hard time communicating.
Bero’s world consists of tending pigs, a stinky hut with an outhouse, scraping by day-by-day. Max comes from a modern place with tiled bathrooms, Coke in the fridge and the Internet. Max likes daily showers. Bero couldn’t care less about getting wet. Just imagine the assault on your nose being around people who never wash. On a deeper level, Bero is afraid of the nobility’s power. Max, on the other hand, has a lot fewer qualms about the lords and makes himself heard.
In short, the differences include externals such as behaviors, clothes and word choice. These stem from the internal and often clashing worldview, the way they see things and what they’re familiar with.
4. You very precisely set the year and society in which the story takes place. How important is for a story to respect the attributes of that time and how much liberty the author has to change those?
Max lands in the year 1471 for a reason. Because the story deals with a real German knight, Werner, who lived during this time at Castle Hanstein, I was stuck with the time period. Through my research I learned that Werner began a nasty feud with a powerful Duke over a beautiful woman.
Because the actual historic data is limited, I was able to take quite a bit of liberty weaving the story around the facts. I feel comfortable as long as the story represents the historic time accurately, including the way people ate, slept and worked—as long as it feels authentic.
5. Having in view that you write “historical YA” stories, what advise you would give to the – young – readers?
First and foremost readers should enjoy what they read. If you don’t, pick up a different book. School dictates enough reading material that isn’t fun, so go for what you like. And if you do, tell others about it. Share your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Visit author Facebook pages and share your thoughts. I’m always tickled to hear from my readers.
About the author:
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”