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Call Me Kate + Author Interview!!!

Welcome to the Bibliophile Support Group, Molly! Molly is the author of the YA historical fiction novel Call Me Kate (which I thought was a great read, for more details on what I thought read my review below).

Call Me Kate seemed very authentic and full of period details - how much research did you have to do?

I researched for several years, but it was not all for the book. I’ve been doing family history research since 1998. That was the year I realized how wonderful the internet could be for genealogists. The census and other records fascinated me, especially things like the employment and the death indices. Those records included occupations I’d never encountered and diseases/causes of death that were strange and terrifying. I also began to read old newspapers to get the flavor of the time period.

How much of Call Me Kate (percentage wise) was true to life?

I would say 80% of the book is true to life. The dates of events were factual, and the mining information was as close to 100% as I could get it, but Kate’s movements and dialog were totally fictional. The only information the family actually has about my great-grandmother is that she came to the US to earn money working as a domestic in a “big house.”

Did Kate's narrative voice come easily to you? It was so convincing that she was from the 1860s that I couldn't help but wonder how someone from the 21st Century could inhabit that so well.

Thank you! I picked up on phrases that the older folks used when they’d share stories on summer evenings on the porch. In fact, I was surprised to learn that some of the words came directly from Irish Gaelic - that even after so many generations, those expressions had survived. Kate’s “voice” also reflected the way newspapers and ads read in those days. I purchased microfilm of local papers from the nineteenth century. The language was pretty formal back then. Finally, when in doubt, I went back to books written in that era, like Little Women and mimicked period authors at times.

Have you ever spouted off your historical knowledge to people in order to impress? Be honest, now! ;)

Actually, I try to be low key unless people show an interest in history. I know my family has gotten weary of my stories and facts, so I hesitate spouting off to keep from boring others. But beware, if you show an interest ...!

In your digging, did you find out any fact or tidbit about life in the 1860s that you never thought you'd know?

I was surprised about a lot of things - how often people moved back then, how far they walked on a daily basis, and how difficult things were for my ancestors. One family is recorded as landing in Canada in one of the coffin ships and walking the 300 miles to Pennsylvania!

Ever been challenged about the accuracy of a detail? If so, who was right?

I’ve been challenged about the involvement of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) in the Molly Maguires. It’s a very controversial topic in some quarters. In my novel, I tried to convey that even the people involved did not know exactly what was real and what was propaganda. Some readers/reviewers have taken offense, believing that I stereotyped the Irish and the AOH. That was definitely not my intent; I meant to give as accurate a perspective as I could. After all, my own relatives were in the Ancient Order of Hibernians and labeled as Molly Maguires, including my Gerrity great-grandfather who was a bodymaster of the organization. The heroine of my novel, Great-grandmother Catharine McCafferty, lost a nephew by marriage to the gallows and suffered along with her sister and niece. So who is “right” is a matter of perspective, I guess.

What audience did you write Call Me Kate for? All ages? A specific age group? I found that was easily riveting and enjoyable for me, a bibliophile of the age of 23.

I write for the age I teach -12 to 15 year olds. The fact that MUCH older people have loved the book was a big bonus for me. Many eighty-year-olds have contacted me to reminisce about the time when “coal was king.” I’m so pleased that you as a “twenty-something” enjoyed it.

On the back cover of Call Me Kate it mentions that you have a planned trilogy of historical YA novels - Can you give us any details? What are you working on now? When will it come out?

Each of the McCafferty sisters will eventually have a voice. The second book is Sarah’s story. She’s the middle sister who graduates and goes to work for a well-know mine superintendent in the town of Centralia. Murder and a curse placed on the Molly Maguires fuels the plot of this work in progress. I am currently revising the manuscript. The youngest sister, Maymie, will be the main character in the third book , which will be set in Philadelphia. Maymie’s story will follow the trials of the Mollies, many of whom were innocent.

Is there any chance of a sequel for Call Me Kate?

I’ll definitely have to do a sequel, or my friends and colleagues will badger me unmercifully. I hoped to combine the sequel with Sarah’s story but it was too much information for one novel.

Do you read a lot of historical fiction?

I read a variety of genres including historical fiction. I also like mysteries, especially those set in the past.

Do you have any recommendations for us book hungry youngin's?

I recommend the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The final book, Mockingjay, came out in August. I think it will eventually join the ranks of Harry Potter and Twilight for the YA crowd.

As an aspiring author (and knowing that most book lovers are), do you have any advice for those who'd like to write historical fictions but find the research needed daunting?

Historicals are the most time intensive of the fiction genre, but if you love the era you choose, the research won’t be a labor. I now have an excuse to read (in the name of research) instead of doing housework!

Is there anything else you'd like to say, Molly, before you leave us here at the Bibliophile Support Group gazing at our bookshelves with an unhealthy amount of adoration?

Keep reading, respect your ancestors, and never stop learning!

Thank you so much for coming by the Bibliophile Support Group and answering these questions! I think everybody should check out Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires - and I heartily look forward to whatever you might have coming next! Now for my review:

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires is a YA historical fiction, written by Molly Roe (pen name of Mary Garrity Slaby).

As the beginning rumbles of the Civil War are mere rumors to those McCafferty family, Katie spends every day wondering if another coal mining accident will occur. In her hometown, almost every able-bodied male works in the coal mine, which is dirty, hard work. The mines are dangerous and often tragic, but since the boss' provide the housing, the families don't complain about the shoddy safety concerns.

But when Kate's father becomes victim of one of these accidents, even though he is one of the lucky ones in still being alive, he no longer has use of his legs. Which means the McCafferty family's primary breadwinner is no longer able to provide for them, throwing the family of five into poverty.

In the meantime, drafts are being called by President Lincoln for all the mining men, stirring up a risky rebellion as many are Irish miners that are the only ones keeping their families alive. Nobody has the $300 requested to stay out of the war - and nobody is happy about being forced into the war. But some are starting to get a bit more violent about their dissent, and one of the groups leading the way is secret Irish organization the Molly Maguires.

Right away, Kate's first person voice feels genuine to me, easily believable that she is from this different time period and cultures - alive with personality. The mine collapse in the very first chapter is an immediate disturbance, showing history along with plot development.

At the beginning, the story is more domestic than I expected. More emphasis is placed on Kate's family issues, daily life, and light plot advancement. But there is charm in this. And the pages do fly by, especially when Kate has to begin working full-time as a servant in a mansion as war times begin, to help to provide for her ailing family. The resonance of a 14-year-old girl having to work so hard is powerful, and causes Katie to shine as courageous heroine who sacrifices for her family - a great example for all of us in this generation.

Call Me Kate starts to take compelling shape, becoming increasingly tense as the disorder and revolts gain steam and she watches it happen, away from home. I came to care deeply for Katie, and I really felt like I was in the early 1860's. The accidents and illnesses have the echo of the true pain experienced in life, not watered down for younger readers. It is touching and inspiring, and the political intrigue causes true suspense.

Irish culture manages to be centerstage, yet never overplayed. The fiery issues of the draft are presented but are written with less of a point of view, more of an objective observer more concerned for the safety of her family, friends, and home. When Kate does finally go undercover (no details for you - read it!), it is nailbiting and I had absolutely no understanding of how it could end well.

But what was to say it would?

At the end of Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires there are some special features, like Literature Circle Questions, Extension Activities, and a Glossary of Terms (in which I learned that I might just be a blatherskite - don't know what that is? Neither did I.). This sounds cheesy, but these features and the novel itself honestly manages to make learning fun!

I was really impressed with Call Me Kate, and am eagerly anticipating the other two novels in the supposed trilogy of historical fiction Molly Roe is apparently going to be writing.

For more information check out: Molly Roe's blog, Molly Roe's Facebook page, an excerpt of the book, the publisher Tribute Book's website, Facebook, and Twitter page, and the Amazon page for Call Me Kate here.


Tribute Books said…
Angie, thanks for interviewing Molly and reviewing 'Call Me Kate' on your blog. We appreciate your support of the book.

I'm grateful that you highlighted just how much research goes into the creation of a historical fiction novel. The level of detail Molly achieved took a great deal of time and effort. So I'm so glad that you took to Katie as a character and want to read more from Molly.

Best wishes,
Tribute Books
j said…
Unfortunately, Molly Roe's book "Call Me Kate" is not a trustworthy history of the anthracite mining era.

Some of the more serious misrepresentations include repeating the coal owners' libels and slanders against ethnic groups, in this case the Irish, calling them "Mollies" (and worse) in order to bust the coal unions. This ultimately led to a trial in which many of the union leaders were executed. Coal owners killed many other unionists, while no coal owners were killed by miners--a fact easily ascertained by even a brief investigation into history.

In fact, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp posthumously pardoned the alleged "Mollies" a hundred years later. He said they were "heroes" and union leaders and that their trial was a mockery of justice.

And there is absolutely no merit in the book's representation of the miners as Civil War draft dodgers. The reverse is true--many Irish from the anthracite region served in the Civil War with merit--and there are no records of any draft riots in the anthracite region.

These facts are easily accessible and verifiable. That Roe chooses to ignore and completely misrepresent the true history of Pennsylvania's anthracite region in favor of a fable originating in the union-busting tactics of the mine owners is very disappointing. And the facts are not in dispute as Roe claims in her interview here.

Any teacher or person interested in history would be well advised to search out books with a more fair and accurate picture of this important and valuable time in American history.

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