The Last April by Belinda Kroll

Spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen vows to help heal the nation from the recently ended Civil War. On the morning of President Lincoln’s death, Gretchen finds an amnesiac Confederate in her garden and believes this is her chance for civic goodwill.

But reconciliation is not as simple as Gretchen assumed. When her mother returns from the market with news that a Confederate murdered the president, Gretchen wonders if she caught the killer. Tensions between her aunt and mother rise as Gretchen nurses her Confederate prisoner, revealing secrets from their past that make Gretchen question everything she knows about loyalty, honor, and trust.

The Last April is an entertaining, thoughtful novella of Ohio after the Civil War, meant to encourage readers to reflect on themes of fear and hope in uncertain political times.

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Belinda Kroll is the author of Victorian fiction for kids and teens. She grew up in a home where reading was encouraged and Jeopardy! was on every weeknight. Both activities fostered her love of history. Some of her titles include Catching the Rose, Haunting Miss Trentwood, short story Haunting Miss Trentwood: The Seance, and contemporary short story Mad Maxine. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two step-dogs. Go Bucks!

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Interview with author Belinda Kroll

State a random fact about yourself that would surprise your readers.

I teach swing dancing for the local social swing dancing club, SwingColumbus. I’ve competed with the dance troupe and socially with dance partners. I started swing dancing to strengthen my back after an injury in undergrad, and kind of never stopped.

Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

Yes! I have a special journal where I keep track of every book I’ve read since 2006, I think. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s basically a themed bullet journal of sorts. I write down the title, author, and format (print book or eBook) when I start reading. Then I have a collection of symbols I draw on that row to let my future self know whether I quit or finished the book, and whether I loved, liked, felt meh about, disliked, or hated it.

I used to write reviews in my blog about why a writer in particular would want to read the book, as I strongly feel everything we read in turn informs our writing, but once my production timeline picked up, I fell out of the habit.

Who is your favorite character in your new release?

In The Last April, my favorite character is Tante Klegg. She’s pragmatic and knows who she is. She doesn’t let anyone take advantage of her, yet she lets others make their own mistakes in order to learn from them. She’s so much fun.

Did you know the title before you started writing?

Nope, the title was the last thing I decided for the book, and it was a very angst-ridden decision. In a final panic because my cover artist needed a title, I asked my teacher-friend whether she would be willing to let me poll her 5th grade classroom. We asked the students which title was the “best” and why, and what they thought the book would be about. Halfway through the poll, the title “The Last April” came to mind, and it was clearly the winner.

How did you come up with your premise for your books?

I was shocked to discover that my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, had the largest Confederate cemetery outside of the Confederacy. As much as we learned about the Civil War in school (it’s the majority of our history lessons in Ohio since, as President Lincoln said, “Ohio helped win the war”), I didn’t learn about Camp Chase until I was an adult. It was fascinating to think that at the beginning of the war, Confederate officers walked Columbus streets freely… but midway, the climate changed.  The era is so interesting to me, because it changed so much about our national identity. It was the Civil War that changed the perception from a federation of states, to a nation. In this current political climate, I felt compelled to write about another time in our history where we citizens were deeply divided… and we managed to make it through.

Which genres do you prefer to read?

Young adult historical fiction. I think it’s because I grew up watching PBS, so I’m just conditioned to seek edutainment to fill my free time. I want to be entertained and escape the everyday, but I better learn something along the way!

How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

I really do read everything. I have many projects that I juggle, so sometimes it takes me a couple days to respond, but I really do read every comment on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and I do my darndest to respond to everything, even if it’s just to like it!

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

Honestly, any place with a balcony to people-watch, good tea, and a spot to put up my feet while reading a book.

Are you working on any other projects except writing, right now?

I make custom and pre-drawn bullet journals for writers in my Etsy shop, Bright Bird Press. While I’ve been on Etsy since 2012, I didn’t do much with my shop and only recently revamped the entire store concept to focus on journals and other materials for writers. It’s cathartic to draw out these minimalist and functional layouts, knowing that I’m helping another writer somewhere in the world organize their writing projects!


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