Publishers' Preview: Fall 2020: Five Questions for Amanda McCrina

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Fall 2020, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Traitor follows the intersecting fortunes of two young men at two different times in WWII as Polish, Soviet, Ukrainian, and German forces fight for control of Lwów (now Lviv).

1. How does a writer imagine herself into a firefight?

A basic familiarity with firearms; YouTube tutorials on operating and maintaining weapons; and war movies! Knowing how firefights are choreographed for film helped me get a handle on describing them immersively. Band of Brothers does a great job capturing the chaos and franticness of firefights.

2. Did you find it difficult to keep track of the factions?

Mostly the difficulty was figuring out how to explain the factions and ideologies coherently for a reader coming to the book with no knowledge of this conflict. All the factions in Traitor are simplified, monolithic versions of the actual groups; any time you try to simplify history, you risk misrepresenting it. Personally, I think part of the point of the story is how hard it is to keep track!

3. From whence cometh your interest in military history?

When we were kids, my older brother — now retired from the National Guard — was deeply into WWII history, and I was into anything he was into. The interest stuck, and later broadened: my focus through undergrad and part of a grad degree was Roman military history. I’m fascinated by war stories because they’re often the most effective at revealing who we are — which is why we study history.

4. What from your reading would you recommend to fans of Traitor?

Marsha Skrypuch has several great middle-grade novels about the Ukrainian experience during WWII. Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea, Gwen C. Katz’s Among the Red Stars, and Michelle Barker’s My Long List of Impossible Things are intense, complex YA novels set on the Eastern Front during and after the war. And Elizabeth Wein’s breathtaking Code Name Verity is about another neglected side of the war — women’s roles.

5. Have you been to Lviv? If not, what there would you like most to experience?

I haven’t yet. When I do, my first stop will probably be the historic Viennese Coffee House.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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