V for Victory

V for Victory

How did you get the idea for V for Victory?

This book is actually taken from my mother's family history. The main character is based on my uncle, Roman Talamantez, and his experiences helping in the family grocery store in San Antonio. It was fun writing the character of Miguel, because he's a little more ornery than the other characters in my books. That's because my uncle described himself that way, although he was also a very responsible and helpful child.

Incidentally, that's also my uncle featured on the front of the book. We got a picture of him when he was about Miguel's age and drew him onto the cover. The baby in the wagon is my son!

What makes V for Victory special?

There are few books of historical fiction that feature Mexican-American main characters, so that gives this book special appeal. It was important to me with the Home-Front Heroes Collection to make this a multi-cultural series. In the 1940s it was unusual for people to travel more than 50 miles from where they lived, so your neighborhood was your experience of the world. It was fun to include details of Mexican-American culture and some Spanish words for the kids.

How do you choose which WWII details will go into each book?

I had to think through most of the series before I began writing. I didn't want to repeat details, so I had to figure out which book was the best place to tell which facts. In V for Victory, for example, we get a great scene that takes place at the Saturday matinee, which was a favorite pastime for kids in that era. It's the only book that features going to the movies in detail. In each book I also try to expand a little on the understanding of the repercussions of war. In this book, Miguel is helping a wounded veteran who lost his arm in battle. I wanted to show how the war continued to affect lives long after it ended.

What is it that Miguel really wants in this book and how does that speak to young readers today?

Miguel wants to be old enough to do his part. He sees his sister and aunts and parents all helping the war effort, and he wants to be treated as more responsible. Like many kids, he longs to be older so he can play a more mature role in the world around him. It's only as the story unfolds that Miguel realizes we ALL contribute in our own way, even kids. Through his efforts in the scrap metal drive, his help of the wounded veteran, and his care for his young nephew, he actually does much more for the war effort than he gives himself credit for.

How was writing V for Victory different than writing the other books?

As with all of my books, a lot of research went into this book. I had to bone up on San Antonio history, Mexican-American culture in that city, and refresh my limited knowledge of Spanish, among other things. And the fact that this book was based on family stories made it challenging too. The character of Miguel had to develop in tandem with and apart from what I know of my uncle. The character himself is quite different from the other characters in my series. And it's no small task to make a one-year-old character hold his own in a story, but the kids love Victor. I also really wanted to do justice to the character of Alfonso, who has suffered so much in the war.