The following conversation is part of our Beyond The Bio series, featuring conversations between teens and authors they love. If you're a teen who'd like to participate, please click here to find out how we can connect you with authors you love. Today's guests include high school sophomore Jennifer M. and Kip Wilson, author of White Rose.
Jennifer: Hello there, Kip! I absolutely loved your story and how you told the story in poem format! So how did you decide to write a book based on Sophie Scholl?
Kip: Thank you so much! I was hoping readers would love both the story and the format. I’ve wanted to tell Sophie’s story for quite some time (I first heard about the White Rose when I was in high school German class, and now I am Old, so it’s been many years), but it was only when I decided to try writing it in verse that everything fell into place.
Jennifer: Your title really made me want to read your book. I guess it was due to my love of roses. But as I learned it was name of an anti-Nazi group to end violence peacefully, I found it far more amazing. Was the name always “White Rose,” or did you ever have a different name in mind?
Kip: Authors often end up changing their titles—if the final version of the story is very different from their original vision, or if the editor or marketing and sales think something else would work better—but White Rose was the title from the very first draft, and I’m so glad it stuck. I love it that it brings to mind purity and innocence and beauty in an otherwise very ugly time.
Jennifer: Hans was a character who really stood out to me. On the page titled “My Big Brother,” we learn that Hans would put drawings on the wall to share it to Hitler. Can you tell us a bit about what’s going on there?
Kip: Hans really stood out to me too! (I also have a big brother.) I’m so glad you asked about this poem, because poetry can definitely be less straightforward than prose. In this case, when the Nazis came to power, Hans and his siblings truly believed that Hitler was going to save Germany, even when their father tried to get them to see the truth. Hans really did have a portrait of Hitler, and he really did hang it up again every day after their father took it down in protest. Soon enough, Hans and the others saw for themselves what the Nazis really stood for.
Jennifer: I love how you wrote Sophie. Any advice for teen writers trying to bring a historical character to life?
Kip: Thank you! I do have some advice for teen writers interested in writing about historical characters. First, it really helps to get a feel for a character’s voice and point of view if you can read documents they’ve written themselves: diaries, letters, essays etc. Then when it comes to writing, my advice is to get as specific as possible. Try to get deep in the protagonist’s head when you describe what they see, feel, and think.
Jennifer: Are you working on any other projects at the moment? And if so, will they novels-in-verse as well?
Kip: I am! I’m working on two different historicals, both set in Berlin, a city I just visited. Because historical projects tend to take a long time, I like to at least have the beginnings of a project going when I’m wrapping one up. And they are indeed both in verse! It could be that I give prose or even nonfiction a try someday in the future, but for now, poetry feels more natural to me.