5 things I’ve learnt about writing historical novels for young adults: Michelle Morgan

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a blog post for Michelle Morgan’s new book,


Michelle is going to tell us the 5 things she has learnt about writing historical novels for young adults:

 1.      Inspiration is the starting point – I was inspired to write Flying through Clouds by two historical events – the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in March 1932, and the landing and take-off of Southern Cross by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith on Seven Mile Beach in January 1933.

2.      Do lots of research before you even start to write – Before writing a word, I immersed myself in research. I read books about aviators, the Depression and Australia in the 1930s. I watched videos, listened to podcasts, visited museums and searched for old photographs and newspaper articles. I had to understand how people lived in the 1930s and become familiar with that world before developing my characters and narrative. The most difficult research was learning how to fly a 1930 de Havilland Gypsy Moth. I needed to understand the steps involved and the terminology that was used. I read books about flying adventures and watched technical videos on how to fly a Gypsy Moth plane. I also interrogated everyone I knew who had flown before. Research is vital to developing a sense of place, and can also inspire the narrative and character development as it did with me.

3.      Develop multi-dimensional characters who appeal to readers today – When writing for teenagers, the main character is usually a teenager, although there are exceptions. A support cast of interesting secondary characters is also vital. I had to develop personalities and behaviours for all my characters. I often use dialogue to reveal and develop characters, and I keep physical description of characters to a minimum, concentrating more on what they say and do.

4.      Build a strong narrative with tension and conflict – I make it clear in the first chapter of Flying through Clouds that Joe’s dream is to become an aviator. I then put obstacles in his way and explore his reactions. But Joe also has agency and initiates some of the action. He devises a plan and makes choices, sometimes bad choices, which inevitably lead to conflict with other characters. And there’s no story without conflict. Teenage readers also like elements of surprise incorporated into the narrative.

5.      Develop a distinctive voice –  I chose to write Flying through Clouds in the first person from Joe’s point of view. I wanted readers to be able to experience the world of the 1930s through Joe’s eyes, to be accomplices in all his well-intentioned but poor choices. But the first person also has its limitations because the narrator can’t possibly know everything that’s going on around them or get inside the heads of other characters. It was challenging to develop the voice, behaviour and personality of a teenage boy growing up in the 1930s. I read widely but also observed significant males in my life, and dug deep to find the rebellious teenager within.

I hope that Flying through Clouds engages readers with its compelling blend of humour, drama and historical detail.

Flying through Clouds is available now at bookshops, educational and library suppliers, and can be ordered on my website: www.michellejmorgan.com.au

 AUTHOR: Michelle Morgan

 Thank you Michelle. They are all valuable lessons for us all to learn. Good luck with your book.

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