I loved Joel’s attitude and adventurousness. How difficult was it for you to fit his personality into 1941?
I created Joel specifically for that year, so it wasn’t difficult at all. I didn’t want my protagonist to be ignorant and condescending of his grandparents’ time but rather knowledgeable and respectful of it. Even though Joel was born in 1978, he knew a lot about the 1940s through books, movies, old radio shows, and many conversations with his grandparents, including grandfathers who had fought in World War II. The challenge wasn’t preparing Joel for 1941 but rather preparing 1941 for him. Yet even with all his knowledge of the past, Joel stumbles on several occasions. He oversteps his bounds. He misspeaks. But he learns from his mistakes. One of the best things about The Mine is that readers get to see a cocky, self-absorbed boy grow into a thoughtful man in a little over six months.
Why did you choose 1941? Did this have anything to do with Joel’s family history, or was it your own interest in the time period that informed the rest of the book?
I choose 1941 because I’ve always been fascinated by that year. When most people think of 1941, they think of Pearl Harbor. They think of war. They forget that America was at peace for 341 days and was very much divided on everything from entering World War II to the military draft. It was also an interesting year to portray because it was a transitional year between the thirties and forties where everything from music to public attitudes and social customs underwent change. I wanted to write a book that reminded people of what America was like before we went to war, while not losing sight of Pearl Harbor’s significance. One of the best ways to do that was to write a time travel story. Only in this story I wanted to approach 1941 from a different angle. I wanted to cover the months leading up to December 7 from the perspective of a civilian time traveler who knew war was coming and wasn’t all that thrilled about jumping into it. My protagonist wrestles with difficult decisions, the kind that can only confront someone with knowledge of things to come, including things that will affect his own family.
What do you think would have happened if Joel had been honest with [Japanese-American character] Katie Kobayashi about the internment camps?
My guess is that Katie would have encouraged her family in Portland to move east. President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans, affected mostly those living on the West Coast. Katie was a fighter, though. If she believed she there was a chance she could have successfully resisted the order, she might have fought it in court to the bitter end. It’s an interesting question, but one that is not explored in either The Mine or its sequel, The Show.
Do you think Grace will make it in the 21st century?
The long answer to that can be found in The Show. The reader sees how Grace adjusts to the year 2000 in the three weeks before she meets Joel and before she has a clear understanding of how her life in the 21st century will turn out. For the most part, she adapts quite well, but she has her ups and downs. They are chronicled in great detail in The Show, even though much of the sequel is set in 1918 and 1919.
What do you have planned for the future?
I should first note that I have published two novels since The Mine’s release in February 2012. The Journey, the second book in my Northwest Passage series, is a largely unrelated coming-of-age-story that features a 49-year-old widow traveling back to the time (1979-80) and place (eastern Oregon) of her senior year in high school. And The Show, as noted earlier, is the sequel to The Mine and a story told primarily from the viewpoint of Grace Vandenberg. As for future projects, I have just started writing The Fire, the fourth part of the series and the sequel to The Journey. In this book, Kevin Johnson, the 22-year-old son of Shelly Preston Johnson, one of two protagonists in The Journey, travels from 2013 to Wallace, Idaho in 1910. He will see Halley’s Comet, fall in love, and experiences the Big Burn, the largest wildfire in U.S. history. I hope to have the book out this fall. Then I’ll close out the series with Joel and Grace’s twin daughters in a still untitled fifth book. The girls will travel from 2019 to 1964 and see everything from the Civil Rights movement to the Beatles in concert to their great-grandmother. Virginia “Ginny” Gillette Jorgenson, one of the most popular characters in The Mine, will do an encore in the finale. I should also note that even though the Smith-Vandenberg stories and the Johnson stories are mostly unrelated, they share common themes and some common characters. Joel Smith will appear in all five books. Readers who know him as a college senior in The Mine will also see him as a two-year-old, a young husband, a doting father, and a middle-aged college professor. The series will begin and end with him.
And don’t forget to check it out on Goodreads!
John A. Heldt is a reference librarian who lives and works in Montana. The former award-winning sportswriter and newspaper editor has loved reading and writing since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of both the University of Oregon and University of Iowa, he is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. Heldt is the author of THE MINE and THE JOURNEY. He will publish THE SHOW, the sequel to THE MINE, in early 2013.
AUTHOR BLOG: http://johnheldt.blogspot.com
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