Kirby, thank you so much for hosting the first stop of the blog tour for Rory’s Promise! Your comments on the manuscript made Rory a stronger book – so I think you for that too.
I’ve always been drawn to historical fiction because I’ve found that the strange and wonderful stories in real life have an extra “oomph” because they are true. Maybe you could make this stuff up – but you don’t have to! Rory’s Promise is the first book in a series for Calkins Creeks called Hidden Histories. Each book illuminates some baffling event in America’s past from a kid’s point of view. But in the breadth of big stories –you need a place to start. Some little detail that intrigues you and leads by the hand into the story you’re going to tell. Rory’s Promise was no exception – there was a nugget!
Rory’s Promise is about the orphan trains that relocated a quarter million children from the East Coast to rural areas in the west 1853 – 1929. Most of the kids were Irish, victims of the great Irish migration to flee the famines.
My fictional heroine, Rory, is a 12 year old orphan who lives with the Sisters of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital.
She should have aged out of their orphanage by now, but she uses every wile she’s got to stay with her little sister Violet. When Violet is sent to the far off Arizona Territory, Rory must risk everything to go with her.
In real life the Sisters sent 40 young children to an inhospitable mining town in Clifton Arizona in 1904.
They had never ventured so far west, or to such a remote location, but the local priest assured them that he had wonderful homes for them. When their train arrived, they discovered the kids were assigned to Mexican families – devout Catholics -- but not the Sisters’ idea of appropriate parents. To make matters worse, the Anglos in town assumed the kids were available for them to adopt. When they found out that the kids were destined to go to Mexican homes, the white families caused a riot, ran the priest out of town and kidnapped half the children. The Sisters sued to get the kids back, but every judge decided that the children had been rescued by the white families, because "everyone" knows that Mexicans aren’t suitable parents for white children. Amazing, right?
It’s a great story, but I needed a hook. I found it in an article about the event that appeared in the local paper a century after the event. The kidnapped children were given new names and assimilated into the community – there’s no trace of them today. But the reporter mentioned one rumor of a Mexican family that came back to town a decade later, with a red-haired daughter in tow. That was my “in”. What if not all the children were kidnapped? It also turned out that there was a discrepancy in the lists of children. A “Violet” appears on one list – but not the final one. And that was the seed of Rory’s Promise.
Today we’re unveiling the trailer for Rory too – I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to visit my website and you can follow my blog tour this coming week:
Mon 9/22 Middle Grade Mafioso
Tue 9/23 Mother/Daughter Book Club
Wed 9/24 Middle Grade Minded
Thu 9/25 KidLit Frenzy
Fri 9/26 Unleashing Readers
Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Rory’s Promise (Calkins Creek, 2014) is her fifth book and the first entry of the Hidden Histories Series. She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats.