By Sheila Egan, Childrenslit
"Life's lessons and universal themes conveyed in compelling fiction is the signature of extraordinary author, Laura Malone Elliott. Drawing upon her extensive experience as a journalist for the Washingtonian Magazine, Ms. Elliott begins the writing of a book with what she calls the "delicious treasure hunt of research." After laboriously constructing a detailed outline (really an oversized chart) of historical events and times of the actual historical figures that will appear in the novel, she begins the process of placing the novel in its geographical setting and time frame.
The characters that populate her novel must be able to have actually met the real people that cross their paths--Ms. Elliott's integrity as a journalist carries over into her approach to fiction. She quotes Mark Twain in saying that fiction is "obliged to stick to possibilities." Truth is not so obliged and is, indeed, often stranger than fiction. She delves into the realities to set up the possibilities for her characters; giving them the dimensions and life dilemmas/joys that resonate through time to speak to the current generation of readers.
Her themes include the obvious good vs evil but also chronicle the choices of responsibility, integrity, and truth. She demonstrates relationships with the interaction of her characters in familial, platonic, romantic, and other universal human experiences. The tension of a character's decisions concerning obligations vs their own desires, loyalty, nationalism, and responsibility are all delivered in a subtle tone. Moreover, she shows much of the characters' development through their actions rather than with long passages of philosophical discourse. Many of her characters' actions are from actual facts gleaned during her research -facts she uses to reveal the true nature of the characters she has created for her novels.
With only three novels in print at this time, Ms. Elliott, is making a mark in the world of children's literature while earning many awards. The Joan G. Sugarman Children's Book Award, a bi-annual award for a book written by an author residing in Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, was awarded to Flying South, in 2003. Set in Charlottesville in the 1960's it is an exquisite look at family, race relations, attitudes toward war (Viet Nam) and the blooming of individuality in the young girl whose story so beautifully unfolds in this important historical novel. Under a War Torn Sky (based on Ms. Elliott's own father's experiences in WWII after he was shot down behind enemy lines in France) was also an award winner garnering attention from Bank Street (Best Books List of 2002), the Jefferson Cup Award, The Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Maryland) and many other notable lists. Annie Between the States is quickly becoming a definitive study of the Civil War in the northern Virginia area and is capturing the attention of media specialists (Books for the Teen Age 2005 New York Public Library) and readers, as well as, receiving many excellent reviews. Her next novel will be set during the American Revolution and is sure to be another benchmark in the study of how America became a nation.
Obviously a writer with a deft touch, Ms. Elliott is a compassionate soul whose words will speak to the most modern reader as she exposes the universal template of existence in the very best of historical fiction."
Sheilah Egan, Children'sLit.com
Sheilah Egan, Children'sLit.com