Historical Novelist Kip Wilson On History As Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.


Today's guest for the WHAT is Kip Wilson author of White Rose, is a historical about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature, is the poetry editor at YARN (Young Adult Review Network).

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I actually had two specific origin points for this book. The first came when I first heard about the White Rose resistance group in high school German class. I was inspired by the group’s bravery and determined to learn more about its members. I wasn’t a writer yet at the time, but I remained interested in Sophie Scholl and the group for years, ordering new books about them as they were published and even taking a trip to Munich and Ulm, Germany to find out more. I first tried to write the book as nonfiction, but it just wasn’t working, and I set the project aside. Only years later did I hit the second origin point. During a chat with two verse novelists, I figured out that writing the story in verse might be the very thing it needed. I got to work on it the very next day.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I kept as close as possible to the known historical facts about the group, so the plot was already there, with plenty of conflict, twists, and stakes built in. The challenge was more about deciding which facts, which details to include and how exactly to present the story.

I do work best alone with only the sounds of nature outside my window, so I get my best work done at #5amwritersclub..png

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

In the case of White Rose, the plot was predetermined by the history, but the way I presented the timeline of events changed during revision. I originally told the story in reverse order, but through revision I settled on a version with two timelines, one close to the original ending and one starting years before that.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Ideas come all the time, but unfortunately an idea isn’t enough to decide for me to decide if the story has mettle. I have to spend some time with the idea, do some research, get to know the characters, and above all, dive in to that time and setting to see if it’s something I simply must explore.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

It is hard to choose! Because I write historical fiction, a lot of the work (and the fun!) is in the research, so I’m often doing background research on one project while drafting another or doing some fact-checking on one while revising another. But if I’m passionate about the time period and setting, I’ll definitely at least place it on my back burner for someday.

I have many cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

I have ten-year-old twins, and they both love to read and write, so sometimes we do those things together. We all share one computer, so I sometimes end up in my notebook instead of at the keyboard when they’re around. Still, I do work best alone with only the sounds of nature outside my window, so I get my best work done at #5amwritersclub.