Submitted by Susanne Bacon.
Do you remember a time when you were “oh so above” reading young adult (YA) literature because you thought yourself finally grown up? And do you find that the more grown-up you are, the more often you grab a good young adults’ book and truly enjoy it? Well, then you simply have to meet Randall Platt, awarded author of numerous wonderful YA books at the 6th Annual Lakewood Film, Arts, and Book Festival and get some of her remarkable, brilliantly written, and carefully researched books.
Randall, born in Seattle, WA, grew up outside of Portland, OR, and today lives in Port Orchard, WA. Her novel “The Four Arrows Fe-As-Ko” was made into the movie “Promise the Moon”. Her latest novels, “Incommunicado” and – just published – “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die” present young female protagonists who resist common attitudes in their respective mother country during World War II even if it means risking their own future or their life.
Susanne Bacon: Randall, your protagonist in “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die” isn’t what you would call exemplary and easily likable or predestined to be a heroine – why did you choose such a complex character?
Randall Platt: I think most writers end up with a protagonist quite different from the one they had originally envisioned. My characters tend to take on a life of their own. My protagonist, known as the Arab of Warsaw (the original title, by the way), was a boy in earlier drafts. But I wasn’t happy with that – I’m pretty much known for my strong female characters. So I stepped back and imagined how much more difficult it would be for a female to survive the streets of Nazi occupied Warsaw. What skills would someone need in order to survive? Well, how about a street kid, a thief, a gang member? Someone who already knows the back streets, the cons, the hideouts – someone who can lie, cheat, and steal with ease? Someone who would kill to save her sister’s life?
Susanne Bacon: How did you even find such a little-known historic group such as the cigarette sellers of The Three Crosses Square? And how did you research from there?
Randall Platt: Love this question! Here’s how: Writers learn early on to live a frugal life. That means shopping the sales, using coupons, and hitting the garage sales. Usually, at every garage sale there is a free box at the end of the driveway. All writers go through the free box! About 15 years ago, a book in a free box caught my eye. It has an odd orange cover and I could tell some puppy had gnawed on one of the corners. The title also caught my eye: “The Cigarette Sellers of three Crosses Square”. I took the book home, hey it was free! and began to read the true story – complete with photos – about a gang of boys who were provided cigarettes to sell on the streets – in order to survive until underground operatives could get them out. I knew there was a terrific story in those dog-chewed pages just waiting for me to write it.
Research was grueling, to say the least. I read dozens of books, even a few novels, watched little known films, and of course, read memoirs and personal histories – always the hardest to get through, but essential. There were times I just had to walk away for a few days and let things I read, saw, digest and settle within me. But most of all, I knew I wanted to write a story about some kids who survive based on their own cunning and street skills.
Susanne Bacon: In “Incommunicado” you are presenting a world that is turned pretty much upside down. The “goodies” are the bad people, whereas the “baddies” are the good. A lot of adults behave like children whereas some children act pretty grown-up. What is the message you are giving your readers there?
Randall Platt: I think of this story as ‘patriotism smacks head-on with paranoia’. Right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the characters in my small Oregon Coast town all look to the one successful businessman – the town’s benefactor – who also happens to be a Japanese-American. Loved and respected on one day, feared and held in great suspicion on the next day. Who better to throw into the middle of this new war than a child? The eyes of an innocent? One who will stand up and protect this man when the rest of the world seems to have turned on him. Look at how anyone with Middle Eastern roots were viewed after 9-11. What happened then can and does happen now. I love finding situations kids experienced in history and associating it with things that are happening today.
Susanne Bacon: “Incommunicado” means secret as much as “in isolation”. The protagonists in both your latest novels are pretty isolated. Could they be as heroic if they were part of the crowd?
Randall Platt: No, they couldn’t. Every teen character I have ever created is isolated in some form or another. And what teen hasn’t felt different, left out, isolated at some point? What adult doesn’t remember that?
You may have even further and totally different questions for Randall Platt. The 6th Annual Lakewood Film, Arts, & Book (FAB) Festival takes place on September 28, 29, and 30, 2018 from noon to 9 pm at the Shirley McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College. The book/author section is open from noon to 6 pm. Randall Platt will be signing her novels on Saturday from noon to 4 pm. Please find further information at www.facebook.com/lakewoodfilmartsbooks/.