Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
My novel is The Sky We Shared, Lee & Low Books, June 7, 2022.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Based on a true story, The Sky We Shared follows Nellie and Tamiko, two girls on opposite sides of the world, on opposite sides of World War II, whose lives become inextricably linked through a shared tragedy. They learn that hatred can’t cure their losses, but hope and resilience can help heal them.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
This is an historical novel geared for middle-grade and early YA readers.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
“Combining rich historical detail and urgent emotional drama, Vernick has created a unique and powerful coming-of-age story set against a complex and little-known chapter in America’s war with Japan.”
––Robert Sharenow, Emmy-winning producer and Sydney Taylor Award-winning author of The Berlin Boxing Club
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
The Sky We Shared is part Huckleberry Finn, part The War Outside (Monica Hesse), and a touch of The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien).
- Why this book? Why now?
Intolerance is rampant in our country and in the wider world. I wanted to write a compellingly entertaining story, based on true events, that would illustrate the dangers of this.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I mentor aspiring novelists who are currently serving prison sentences. These individuals are motivated to tell stories that can both captivate and inspire future readers, and it’s an honor to be part of their process.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I hope readers will understand that propaganda ≠ objective facts, that the truth is always worth learning (although not always fully discoverable), and that individuals can’t be understood simply on the basis of their nationality, race or other pigeonholing factors.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
Since there were food scarcities during the time The Sky We Shared takes place, I think of ersatz foods, like pies without flour and meat dishes without meat. For music, I hear the Andrews Sisters, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and others of that era.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I like to alternate between fiction and nonfiction. Currently, I’m reading the novel The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter. Next up is the science book The Soul of an Octopus – A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness.
Learn more about Shirley at her website.