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Author Q & A: Kaia Alderson

Cindy Burnett
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Sisters in Arms

Sisters in Arms is a fascinating World War 2 tale. 

As most of my readers know, I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and one of my favorite historical fiction subgenres is World War 2. This month a fabulous book about a group of overlooked heroes published entitled Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson. I loved this book and have included it in a Page Turners column on Recent World War 2 historical fiction, and I selected it as a Buzz Reads Top 5 Pick for August. I highly recommend it.

I have been so intrigued by this book that I decided to also do a Q & A with Kaia to learn a little bit more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the book and how she decided to write about these courageous women. I hope you enjoy it.

What inspired you to start writing Sisters in Arms

Kaia Alderson

Author Kaia Alderson brings the story of the women of Postal Battalion 6888 to life. (Photo: Jillisa Hope Milner) 

I saw a World War II-era picture of Black women in military uniforms on Twitter. I did a Google search and found out that they were from the 6888th Postal Battalion. When I learned the story behind the picture, I knew I had to write a “soldier girl’s last night in town before shipping out” story.

What kind of research did you have to do? 
My initial research was reading the existing academic literature written about them and locating memoirs that the women had written themselves. Later, I was able to visit the Fort Des Moines Museum – the site of the Women’s Army Corps First Training Center – and Orangeburg, NY where Camp Shanks which appears in the book is located.

Can you share something with me about your book that is not in the blurb? 
My two main geek outs are African-American Women’s history and the history of American popular music. My love of music history is on full display in this book.

What do you hope your readers take away from your book? 
I was inspired by the resilience, creativity, and gumption of the African-American women who served during World War II. I hope readers will learn to admire them too.

What surprised you the most while writing this book? 
I’m surprised by the fact that I have completed a novel. Sisters In Arms is approximately 104,000 words long. Before this, the longest thing I had ever written was 28,000 words. Writing novels is definitely a marathon.

Tell me how your book cover came about. 
I pulled screenshots of several book covers that I liked and sent them to my publisher. I knew that I wanted the women’s faces to be prominent. I also wanted the Air Mail elements to be a major theme as well. The Art Department at William Morrow nailed it on the first try. (Thank you, William Morrow Art Department!)

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? 
Finding the time to think through the story and/or the scene I’m working on. I still have a day job outside of writing and a toddler. I was also caring for my mother while working on Sisters In Arms. Now, I have an office space outside of the house that I use when I need quiet time alone with the story.

What was your favorite part and least favorite part of the publishing journey? 
My favorite part was the reading and traveling for the research. My least favorite part finishing up the last round of revisions during that chaotic first week of January 2021 leading up to the Presidential Inauguration. Talk about distracting! LOL.

Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you. 
I did a lot of bicycling as a teenager. I’ve ridden across the state of New Jersey (North-South) three times. Each time over the course of the week.

What are you reading now and what have you recently read and loved? 
I just finished a sneak peek of The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo. It was so good. It’s about a Nigerian-American woman who meets her father’s family for the first time at his funeral. I’m currently reading Pie Academy by Ken Haedrich because I am determined to master the art of making pie crust from scratch.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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