I had the pleasure of interviewing author Barbara Youree. Her latest book, Courageous Journey is a narrative non-fiction book about two of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Her book details how Ayuel and Beny, who were ages 7 and 9 when their villages were bombed, survived and came to America after spending 14 years in refugee camps.
MP: You began your career as a fiction writer. How difficult was it to switch to non-fiction?
BY: I find little difference in writing this type of narrative nonfiction and fiction. My fiction, which is always set in a foreign place or an historical time, has always required research. The 2 big problems in writing Courageous Journey for me: 1) getting the guys to reveal their emotions and enough detail to round out the story. The last year they told me it was just too hard at first. Then they started sharing more. 2) Two of the minor personages in the story suddenly (at the last minute!) decided they didn’t want their stories or pictures in the book. I hadn’t anticipated that and should have talked to them all along instead of just hearing their stories from Ayuel & Beny.
MP:What is your writing process?
BY: The idea for a story starts in my head and often stays there working its way to the fore for months or years. That’s where the arc of the story begins. Then when I start writing and doing research, new ideas come to me. I either write or work on publishing or marketing from 4 to 6 hours a day.
MP: How was writing this book different from your fiction books?
BY: Writing Courageous Journey was deeply personal and emotional. I’ve come to really love these guys and their friends, as well as other Americans around the country who know them. It is a very exciting adventure also.
MP:Some authors believe that belonging to a critique group is a good thing, others disagree. How do you feel about critique groups?
BY: I couldn’t write and get published without my writing critique group. They support me in every way—through all the disappointments and successes. They tell me honestly when they don’t like one of my characters (when I do), so I can change them, what works and what doesn’t. It’s important to find a group where you fit, where everyone helps each other and you all grow together. Avoid any group where you detect jealousy, where someone dominates the conversation, or people don’t take their contribution seriously.
MP: Are you planning a new project? If so, what will it be?
BY: I’ve had an idea to write a YA book set in first-century Greece about 2 young men who race in the Olympics for over 10 years. After two trips to Greece, the outline and characters started coming into focus. When I started researching the time period, I discovered Nero was about the age of my characters, the Jews had been run out of Rome by Claudius and were settled in Corinth. St. Paul just happened to spend 2 years in Corinth at that time (49-53 AD), so that’s where my characters live. I am putting all the historical folk in the mix. It will be titled Race for Glory.
If you'd like to learn more about Sudan and the Lost Boys you can check out Barbara Youree's blog Sudan Faces.
All proceeds from this book will be donated to charity.