This is a blog post that appeared on the Queen of all She Reads Blog as part of my blog tour for “The Kid.” I think it was an excellent question which I’d thought about somewhat, but had never written down. Though the post refers to Book Two in the “Escape from the Past” time-travel series, I think this is true for all my novels. So here is what I said:
What I Hope My Time Travel Books Teach the YA Crowd
First and foremost I believe in telling a good story with a great, fast-moving plot, relatable characters in a fascinating setting/world. While I believe in people learning from reading fiction, this learning should happen as a secondary outcome and in a natural way. Otherwise it’d be like school and textbooks. Brrh!
So, provided I’ve done a good job with my story, I believe my readers come away with three different kinds of information to enrich their lives.
Entertaining and Fascinating Information about Historical Eras
The “Escape from the Past” trilogy is set in the German Middle Ages and the Wild West of 1881 New Mexico. In both settings I’m using real historical characters that lived during that time. Castle Hanstein in Thuringia, Germany was home to Knight Werner von Hanstein in the late 15th century. Readers gain a fascinating glimpse into the way nobility lived and the feuds they had with other powerful men. We gain insight into the harsh living conditions of peasants, what they ate and believed in and how unfair their lives were. Overall, we get to see a slice of medieval German life.
In “The Kid,” gamer Max meets Billy the Kid and we’re witness to Billy’s last month in Fort Sumner. We also learn about the ruthlessness of the Wild West, encounter Chief Nana, a Warm Springs Apache, who in the summer of 1881 rode a 3,000 mile vengeance war against the U.S. Army and was never caught. The fascinating thing about Nana is that he only had a dozen warriors and that he was about 80 years old and lame in one foot. We also get to live in an American Indian village, learn about rattlesnake bites and the viciousness of a “Norther.”
Max, the protagonist in the series, must make many decisions to survive. More times than not he chooses to help people at the expense of his own comfort and/or safety. While this endears him to us readers, it puts him in dangerous situations. Max makes moral decisions that if we believe in “leading by example” will leave a positive and lasting impression on us. He acts heroically.
We may ask ourselves what we’d do in the same situation. Run and save our hide or help those in need. They say a hero is somebody who choses to do the right thing in the face of adversity. Hopefully, some of that heroic behavior subconsciously sticks with the reader. And maybe one day, s/he’ll help somebody in need.
Seizing the Moment
Many people dwell on the past, hold grudges, hate what happened once upon a time and in general do not appreciate what they have… now. At the other extreme we live for the future, always charging ahead without enjoying and being present in the moment.
Max deals with a lot of adversity, including a split-up family, but in the end he learns he must embrace what he has now. Sure, it’s not perfect, but whose life is perfect, whose family is perfect? Not too many. So, being aware and present in the moment, being grateful for one’s life is a huge learning experience.
I believe that all readers, teen and adult, benefit from reading the series. Most adults would appreciate learning about history, watch a character rise above and make tough moral choices, and seize the moment. I, for one, feel that Max taught me a few things along the way.
And next time you consider playing a new computer game, you may be more careful. You never know if it’s “EarthRider.”
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