Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Meet MG Historical Author Teresa R. Funke

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes fellow Colorado Teresa R. Funke, a writer of historical fiction for Middle Grade readers.

First, a bit about Teresa:

Teresa R. Funke is the award-winning author of six works of fiction for adults and children based on true stories from World War II, including her multi-cultural series for children, The Home-Front Heroes, and her adult books, Dancing in Combat Boots and Remember Wake. Her short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in numerous publications. Her blog, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, has led to radio appearances and speaking invitations. Teresa is also a sought-after speaker, presenter, and writer's coach, working with clients all over the country.

Why did you pick to write books for Middle Grade readers?

In a sense I didn’t choose middle grade, it chose me. As the author of two works of fiction about World War II, I started getting invited to schools to speak to the kids about writing and the war. These were mostly fifth-grade classrooms. Come to find out, these kids knew nothing about WWII. They’d never even heard of Adolph Hitler. But on two different occasions, the students opted to skip recess to hear me keep talking! At one visit, one girl said, “Mrs. Funke, this is so interesting. Why don’t you write some books for kids about the war?” That seemed like a great idea to me! So I immediately came up with the concept for The Home-Front Heroes books and knew I wanted to aim for middle grade.

What types of books do you like to read?

They always say we should write what we like to read, and I follow that advice. I read mostly historical fiction for both adults and teens and children. But I’m a pretty eclectic reader. I read all kinds of books, including fiction, nonfiction, short stories, and memoir. I used to LOVE to read books with my kids every night. My kids and I read books together until they were 14 years old. After that, we’d sometimes read the same book separately, so we could discuss.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

I’m a nationwide writer’s coach and a professional speaker, so when I’m not writing, I’m working with my clients. It’s great fun to be involved with so many projects with my clients. I’m constantly thinking about their characters and plots, and I enjoy that as much as I enjoy my own writing! I also love to travel, watch movies, go for evening walks, and spend as much time as I can with my family.

Tell us about Wave Me Good-bye and how the story came to be.

Wave Me Good-bye is the newest installment in my Home-Front Heroes series. Like all of my books, it’s based on a real woman who I interviewed. She grew up as the only Jewish girl in her Bronx neighborhood and faced the anti-Semitism that was common in our country at that time. The book touches on the Holocaust because a German-Jewish refugee comes to live with the family, so it’s a perfect introduction to the Holocaust for young readers. But what the story is really about is friendship. Miriam, the main character, befriends an English orphan boy who was sent to America for safe-keeping. Their entire friendship develops through the fence that separates them. This is fast becoming a favorite book among my fans and the teachers who teach from my books because the kids love seeing how a friendship between a boy and a girl from two such different worlds evolves.

Here's a peek at Wave Me Good-bye:

Miriam Liebler has a lot on her mind. World War II is raging and her Jewish relatives in Europe have simply disappeared. No one understands her worries— until she meets Christopher Richards, an English boy whisked to America to escape the bombings of London. Miriam and Chris exchange comic books and secrets through the iron bars of the orphanage fence. But will their friendship survive when trouble brews?

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

My first book is a novel for adults called Remember Wake. It’s based on the true story of the civilian contract workers who survived the Battle of Wake Island at the outset of World War II and were taken to horrific prison camps in Japan and China. One librarian told me recently that I wrote Unbroken before Unbroken, which was nice to hear. Though it was written for adults, it’s now gaining a following with teen readers, which is a thrill for me.

My second book is Dancing in Combat Boots: and other stories of American women in World War II. It’s a short-story collection, and each story is based on real woman. There’s an epilogue in the back that tells you what happened to each lady. It’s a very inspiring book and is also my best seller.

There are also three other books in the Home-Front Heroes collection: Doing My Part, The No-No Boys, and V for Victory. Each is popular in its own way, and each explores a different aspect of life on the home-front during the war. It’s a multi-cultural series with engaging stories and some educational back matter, so the teachers are finding that the series fits the new standards extremely well.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Mostly I’ve been focused on my blog, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, which provides inspiration once a week to people seeking to live a more true and passionate life. I’m also working on the fifth book in the H-F series, which will take place at Pearl Harbor. There will be four other books in the series following that one, and then I’ll move onto something new. My fans love to suggest what those new books should be!

What advice do you have for other authors?

Succeeding in the field of writing comes down to three things: Practice, Patience, and Persistence. Without those, you’ll never make it. As writers, we never stop learning, and we never stop practicing our craft and trying to improve. We learn early on to be patient with ourselves and our stories and this crazy business of writing and publishing. We also learn to be persistent and to never give up on the projects we care about, even if that means multiple rewrites, multiple submissions, a radically different approach to publishing or marketing, etc. We are strong people, we writers, and we love what we do. We’re lucky. I have a video on the 3 Ps of Writing success. You can find it on my YouTube channel, Teresa Funke, or check out my website: www.teresafunke.com for other suggestions and lots of resources! You can also see the real people on whom my stories are based.

Where to find Teresa and her books:

YouTube Channel: teresa funke  


  1. Great interview, and many, many thanks for the last paragraph. I know I'm not alone in my frustration at editors' comments on a 'perfect' book, but it's great to read your positive thoughts - and just get on with the rewrite!

  2. You are right to feel frustrated. It certainly does feel that way often, but as Seth Godin says, it's the people who do the hard, steady work every day who get further than the ones who try to orchestrate their "big break." If you are working hard at your writing and revision, that effort WILL pay off.

  3. I haven't read any books about Jewish refugees in America. What a great idea for a book! Thanks for sharing at the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

    1. Thank you for pointing that out! I, too, was surprised not to find much in the way of children's literature referring to the refugees. It's a touching story. Thanks for posting.