Monday, October 4, 2010

Interview With Vicky Alvear Shecter

I'm delighted to have Vicky Alvear Shecter here today to talk about her new nonfiction book, Cleopatra Rules. Vicky has a knack for giving her readers "history with a twist." Check out her blog when you leave this post. Vicky's conversational style and her irreverent tone has kids asking to read ancient history. That's an accomplishment.

DoriReads: Let's talk about ancient history. Well, maybe not so ancient. Who was Vicky Alvear Shecter before she was a famous children's author?

Vicky: I didn’t know there was another Vicky Alvear Shecter out there who is famous! I’ll have to meet her one day. ;-) As for me, I’ve always been involved with writing one way or another. I wrote for businesses as a hired hack for years.

DoriReads:The tone/voice of your first book, Alexander the Great Who Rocked the World, was distinctly sassy. One reviewer went so far as to label it a "smart-aleck" tone. Another called it "irreverent." Does Cleopatra Rules radiate that same tone?

Vicky: I’m glad you asked about this because I have learned that not everyone is completely comfortable with the tone. The “old guard” especially (Kirkus BCCB, etc.) never fail to make some sort of dig about it—one saying that it sounded like it came straight out of a gossipy blog (which was, of course, the intention!). Thankfully, the research, documentation and vetting process is so thorough, they usually end up praising that instead.

I have found, however, that teachers, librarians and parents often thank me for using a voice that speaks directly to their tweens and teens. I often get comments like, “This is the first history book my kid ever wanted to read.”

DoriReads:Tell us a little about your journey developing that voice. Is it your unique voice or is it a persona narrator you, as an author, created to tell the history of these characters?

Vicky: The development of the voice came from the fact that, when I started researching these characters, I often found myself chuckling at their antics. Really, if you dig far enough, history is hysterical! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who found the funny and absurd so enjoyable. I incorporated the playfulness with which I approach history and the voice just took off from there.

DoriReads: So were you a smart aleck as a teen?

Vicky: Ha, not in the least! I was shy and accommodating (though my parents may have a different view, of course).

DoriReads: Reviewers of Alexander speak highly of your extensive research. I'm sure you've done your work on Cleopatra, as well. How long did it take you to research Cleopatra? On a subject like this, you could probably spend your life researching. How did you limit the research?

Vicky: You’re absolutely right—you could spend your whole life researching these fascinating characters and some academics do! In my case, the boundaries of writing for children is what limited me. After all, I couldn’t go on and on or I would lose my readers. So I stayed focused on the most pertinent facts. But because of the voice, I knew I would have to balance it with research that backed up my assertions.

As a defense mechanism, I find that I don’t continue reading too many books about my subjects after mine come out because I end up driving myself crazy by finding yet another fact or tidbit I could have used. Research never ends but at some point you have enough to back-up/prove your claims and that has to be enough.

My thanks to Vicky for talking with me. And thanks to my readers for stopping in. Come by again tomorrow when Vicky will talk about her upcoming YA novel set in the same time period.


  1. Fun interview! I can't wait to read Cleopatra!

  2. Thanks, Dori and Vicky! I'm enjoying CLEOPATRA RULES as we speak - even brought it up at dinner last night. :0)

  3. Vicky is easy to interview. So fun and interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I LOVE the voice in CLEOPATRA RULES!! It makes the history relevant to kids today, because it SOUNDS like kids today! :) e

  5. Great interview, Doraine! I can hardly wait to see you and Vicky at WIK (and get her to sign my book!)

  6. Fun interview, Doraine and Vicky! Thank you. I'm all for books that get kids excited about history. Congrats, Vicky, on accomplishing that.