Monday, October 6, 2014

Author Stop: Caroline Tung Richmond

I'm a huge fan of alternate histories, so I'm hugely excited to welcome Caroline to the blog today! As always, our first question is an important one.

1. You are a professed cookie lover. Give me two of your can't-live-without favs:

Oh, tough question! Maybe this is boring but I do love the classic chocolate chip cookie—and they're even better if you sprinkle sea salt on top of them before you bake them. That little bit of saltiness makes a big difference! And when it comes to boxed cookies, you can't beat Girl Scout do-si-dos. OMG. I know thin mints get a lot of love, but have you tried do-si-dos?! Two peanut butter cookies with delicious peanut butter cream smooshed in the middle? I can eat an entire box in one sitting!

2. What was it that drew you to writing an alternate version of the outcome of WWII?

Is it okay if I have a longwinded answer? Haha.

Back in 2010, I was interested in learning more about North Korea and my husband—who spent a few years living in South Korea—recommended a memoir by a North Korean refugee called The Aquariums of PyongYang. It was a terrifying yet eye-opening read, and after I finished it I got a new idea for a book—about a girl living under a harsh regime who's determined to overthrow her country's dictator. (Oh, she also has these secret superpowers!) Originally I toyed with setting the novel in North Korea but then I let my mind wander. I've always loved alternate history and so I thought: what if I set the book in an alternate US? What if Hitler won WWII and conquered the States? I ran the idea past my agent and he gave me the thumbs up and I got crackin'!

I'd like to say that it was smooth sailing from there on out—that I banged out the draft and the book sold in days at auction—but it took me years of revising before I got this novel right. Then it was on sub for months before it finally sold. I suppose my publishing story is a lesson in Never give up! Never surrender! :)

3. Stripes or polka dots? Black or white? 

Polka dots, hands down! Funny story: just a few days ago I looked down at what I was wearing and then at what the baby was wearing and most of our clothing were covered in polka dots! Ha!

And I'll have to go with white. I love the crispness of it. It reminds me of summer too.

4. The need for diversity in kidlit has been a much talked about subject lately. Your mc, Zara, is of mixed heritage. Do you feel like THE ONLY THING TO FEAR would appeal to young adults(and the not-so-young) who are looking for more diversity in their characters?

Yes, that is my humble hope! Growing up, I yearned to find books with Asian-American characters but often came up empty. And so, I try to include diverse characters in all of my novels, like Zara in THE ONLY THING TO FEAR. I wanted her to be biracial in particular because my little daughter is biracial too. She's far too young to tackle TOTtF anytime soon but one day I'd love to hand her the book and tell her, "I wrote this for you, even before you were born."

5. What is one of your fav line(s) from TOTTF? 

I actually haven't looked at TOTtF in months because every time I peek at its pages I just want to start editing all over again but I'll look through it for you, Leandra! Aren't I a dedicated interviewee? Haha. Let's see... One line that I've always liked takes place in a scene where Zara reminisces about her mother, who died when Zara was a young girl. Zara really looked up to her mom, and she thinks to herself: "The ache of missing her never went away." This is a line that has personal meaning to me too because my sister-in-law passed away in 2011. She was the best person I knew—bright and funny and with the kindest heart—and the ache of missing her never goes away either.

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I love what Caroline plans to tell her daughter someday. What a special gift! And speaking of gifts, if you'd like to be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card, just leave a comment and please follow Caroline at one or more of her social media links. Winner will be announced in the comments and via Twitter on 10/9.

Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the BALTIMORE SUN, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN, and, among other publications. The THE ONLY THING TO FEAR is her debut novel.

A self-proclaimed history nerd and cookie connoisseur, Caroline lives in the Washington, DC, area with her husband; their daughter; and the family dog, Otto von Bismarck named for the German chancellor (naturally).

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In a stunning reimagining of history, debut author Caroline Tung Richmond weaves an incredible story of secrets and honor in a world where Hitler won World War II.

It's been nearly 80 years since the Allies lost WWII in a crushing defeat against Hitler's genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the victors, and 16-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern America Territories. Under the iron rule of the Nazis, the government strives to maintain a master race, controlling everything from jobs to genetics. Despite her mixed heritage and hopeless social standing, Zara dreams of the free America she's only read about in banned books. A revolution is growing, and a rogue rebel group is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might hold the key to taking down the F├╝hrer for good, but it also might be the very thing that destroys her. Because what she has to offer the rebels is something she's spent her entire life hiding, under threat of immediate execution by the Nazis.

In this action-packed, heart-stopping novel of a terrifying reality that could have been, Zara must decide just how far she'll go for freedom.

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Congratulations, Caroline! I hope you and THE ONLY THING TO FEAR take the book world by storm!


  1. I love that cover - so great at setting the atmosphere!

  2. Wow, Hitler winning the war is a scary thought!

  3. Congratulations, Caroline, and good luck with your debut novel! It's such an intriguing, unique and original concept! Can I also say, I love reading about authors who took years to perfect their project. Makes me feel better about not being one of those authors who can rush the creative process. Also, I am so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. *hugs*

  4. yay Caroline! best of luck with your book :) and I'm always so excited to meet a fellow cookie lover. I love all sweets, but I've never craved ice cream or cake the way I crave a good, unique cookie. I'm just so happy Mallomars are being sold year-round now. Used to hate waiting for fall to eat them!

  5. Wow! What a great premise for a book. Congratulations!!!
    I am sorry about your SIL. I am offering a prayer for her and all her loved ones.

  6. I didn't know alternate histories existed. That sounds awesome. I'm going to have to learn more about this genre!

  7. Wow, that sounds terrifying actually. Still, it's a powerful premise, and it sounds like you tackled it well. Best of luck with the book!

  8. I love alternative histories. This reminds me of Fatherland and The Plot Against America.

  9. Oh my goodness, I'm totally having book grabby-hands right now! Sounds like an amazing read! And that is just beyond adorable about giving the book to her daughter.

  10. Sounds like an amazing read! I'm looking forward to adding this one to my TBR!

  11. Interesting premise. Years of revisions though. Whoa.
    And anything peanut butter is awesome.

  12. WOW. I really love this premise, Caroline. I see so many WWII stories but this is unique. Congratulations!! I will definitely check it out!

  13. Another great interview, Leandra! And the book sounds THRILLING! I can't wait to check it out!

  14. TOTTF sounds like an awesome read! Congrats to Caroline! And what a great interview, Leandra! I especially love your first question—got to get the important ones out of the way. Lol.

  15. And the winner of the $5 Amazon gift card is...Gisele! Congrats! And thank you for all the great comments everyone!

  16. I've been hearing all about this book and it sounds so, so interesting! I've never read an alternate
    history before. There's this computer game I LOVED when I was younger, and it was based on the Titanic, and in it you could alter the course of WWII by saving a painting that Hitler made so he'd become an artist and not a dictator. (Totally plausible, right?...) I'm intrigued by the book's premise and excited to pick it up! Thanks both for the great interview.


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