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Between the flu, floods and fiscal disaster, it’s easy to get depressed about the times in which we now live. In Jenny Moss’ debut novel Winnie’s War, twelve-year old Winnie is struggling with many of the same problems as we are today. Except for her, the year is 1918 and her small Texas town is trying to escape the ravages of the Spanish influenza. Texans, and those who wish they were, will enjoy the southern flavor of this historical novel. I caught up recently with Houston resident Jenny Moss and spoke to her about her new novel.
Winnie’s War is set in the town of Coward Creek. Is it based on a real town or community in the Houston area?
Coward Creek is a very fictionalized version of League City, Texas. None of the characters in the book are modeled after actual League City residents. But I spent quite a bit of time roaming around League City studying historical records or family files at the library and the old schoolhouse, walking around the cemetery or the parks or visiting with people associated with the historical society or the library. I wanted to realistically depict a 1918 Galveston County town. There is much about Coward Creek, such as its businesses, the layout of the town, and the ethnicity of its people that is similar to what would have been found in League City during that time.
You have a science background. What led you to writing for children and young adults?
My love of writing actually came first! I’ve loved books and writing since I was a kid. Even when I was an engineer at NASA, I was taking writing classes in the evenings. I began working on novels for tweens and teens after I started reading to my own children.
How did you get interested in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918?
A few years ago, stories about the avian flu appeared in the papers. In the articles I read, there was mention of the 1918 influenza pandemic. It made me think about the movie 1918, which was written by the Texas writer Horton Foote and was a fictionalized account of the impact of the influenza on his parents and grandparents. I began to get very curious then.
Do you see any similarities between the Spanish flu then and the H1N1 virus now?
Like everyone else, I’ve been following news released by the CDC and WHO. It looks they are still attempting to define the characteristics of the H1N1 virus.
Jenny Moss’ next book Shadow is coming out next year. She is appearing at various schools and libraries in the next few months. If you would like to attend one of her events, or schedule your own, check out her website at www.jenny-moss.com.
This interview was previously printed in The Examiner newspaper on May 21, 2009.