Thursday, June 24, 2021

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Peggy Wirgau

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Peggy Wirgau

Linda: Welcome and thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your debut YA novel, The Stars in April. The book was inspired by the real story of Titanic survivor Ruth Becker. What led you to write the story, and why did you choose to write YA rather than adult fiction? 

Peggy: Thank you, Linda! Back in April of 2012, the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, I was looking through a list of the survivors and discovered that Ruth Becker and her family had been on their way from India to Michigan, my home state. When I read that twelve-year-old Ruth was separated from her family in the lifeboats yet managed to share her blankets and help the strangers in her boat, I wanted to know more. How could a young girl do such things when she must have been terrified? It wasn’t long before I couldn’t wait to write her story. The Stars in April is written from Ruth’s point of view, so it naturally fit with middle grade/YA historical fiction, although it’s enjoyable for adults as well, especially those interested in the Titanic. It’s the first Titanic novel told from a young person’s perspective and based on a real passenger. 

LM: Research is an important part of writing, especially historic fiction. What sort of research did you do for The Stars in April? Was there any sort of “aha” tidbit you found that you knew needed to be included? 

Peggy: The research covered everything from train travel in India in 1912 to what stars were visible in the sky over the north Atlantic on the night of the sinking. The Beckers were missionaries serving in India when they left for America, so I needed to incorporate details from that culture, plus the current world events, food, fashions, and more. Then came the Titanic—the ship’s layout, room descriptions, passengers and crew members Ruth may have met, the menus, what took place during the sinking—it all had to be perfect. 

The best part of the research came from a personal friend of Ruth who shared stories with me that she
had told him. One involved an outdoor tea party in India that her mother had planned for other missionaries and a troupe of monkeys that showed up to eat the sandwiches! I knew I had to include that story. He told me others, better than any I could have invented myself. That kind of first-hand knowledge is priceless. 

LM: What is your writing process? (e.g., Do you come up with the plotline first? Characters? Do you outline the entire story before beginning or just sit down and start) 

Peggy: I began the novel with a rough plot outline, something like—here are all the true events that need to happen in the beginning, middle, and the end. From there, I added fictional and non-fictional characters and subplots, and I started moving things around or tossing them overboard 😊 I’m in the middle of a rough draft for another novel, and I’m using a very similar process. 

LM: You have written for publications such as Appleseeds, Insight, and Learning Through History. How is that different than writing full-length fiction? The same? 

Peggy: The articles for those publications involved a great deal of research, so I gained experience in digging for facts and organizing what was important that I later put to use with the novel. Of course, they didn’t have characters and motivations and all the development and emotion that goes into fiction. But they were excellent learning opportunities for me and helped to strengthen my writing skills. 

LM: Tell us about your journey to publication of The Stars in April. 

Peggy: After I wrote the first draft in 2012, I did quite a bit of editing and polishing, then began to pitch it at writers’ conferences. Nearly everyone found the premise interesting, and many asked me to submit the full manuscript. Then came the rejections, with very little feedback. I finally reached out to an editor who helped me make some big improvements. She eventually became my agent and submitted it to dozens of publishing houses. Then I did another big edit on my own, and it was accepted! It was a very long wait, but God brought it about in His timing. The story is so much better and richer now than when I first wrote it, and everyone at Iron Stream Media has been so enthusiastic and supportive. 

LM: What is your idea of the perfect vacation? 

Peggy: I can think of many locations, but anywhere near water for starters. It would have to include my family, some great sightseeing, long walks, time to read, really good food, and a fabulous AirB&B. That would be perfect! 

LM: What is your next project? 
Peggy: My Work In Progress is based on another true story, set in New York City during the American Revolution. It’s told through the eyes of the only female member of George Washington’s citizen spy ring. Again, the amount of research needed is astounding, but I want to have every detail as accurate as possible. My plan is to get back to work on it this summer and have it near submission-ready by the end of the year. 

LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 


 Instagram: (@peggywirgau) 


About The Stars in April

The year is 1912. When doctors in India are unable to treat her baby brother’s illness, Ruth’s missionary parents decide there is one solution: move her mother and the children across the world—to Michigan. 
But India is the only home Ruth knows. In a matter of days, she must leave Papa and all she loves behind, abandon her dream of one day playing violin in the Calcutta Orchestra, and embark on a four-week journey to England, followed by the voyage to New York aboard the luxurious, ill-fated RMS Titanic. 
Ruth’s story is one of courage and self-sacrifice as she earns her sea legs and faces the unknown, culminating in a desperate, tragic night she will never forget.

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