15 Nov Author Nicola Pierce visits Coláiste Éanna
Nicola Pierce Third Year Author Visit
Last Wednesday, third year students took part in a workshop with acclaimed children’s historical fiction author, Nicola Pierce. The main topic of the workshop was the Battle of Stalingrad, about which Ms Pierce wrote her second novel, City of Fate. She also spoke about her other novels, Spirit of the Titanic, Kings of the Boyne and Behind the Walls. A theme common to all her novels is the impact of historical events on the children of the time.
Originally from Tallaght, Nicola Pierce now lives in Drogheda and writes from her home. Her debut novel, Spirit of the Titanic, was published in 2011 and has sold in excess of 30,000 copies. Subsequent releases have all have been critically acclaimed. After writing Spirit of the Titanic, a friend suggested that she write about the Battle of Stalingrad in her next novel. She had not heard of it before and decided to research it. What struck her about the Battle of Stalingrad was how influential it was on the outcome of the Second World War; the Nazis had not lost a battle before and their defeat at Stalingrad was a turning point in the war.
Hitler justified his invasion of Russia with the reasoning that there were valuable oil fields in Siberia, but Ms Pierce told us that he had become obsessed with Stalingrad because it was Stalin’s favourite city, having been named after him, and it had become more important to him that they capture Stalingrad than anywhere else. This led him to make misguided choices and, ultimately lose both the battle and the war. Ms Pierce also made very clear the plight of the citizens of Stalingrad, particularly the children. Stalin would not let the civilians leave during the battle because he thought their presence would spur on the soldiers’ sense of what they were fighting for and, as a result, more than a million Russians died during the battle, at least forty thousand of whom were unarmed civilians. Children were forced to fetch water from the River Volga for the Nazis and were shot dead before being able to bring the water back because the Soviets would have rather seen their own children dead than the Nazis with drinking water.
Ms Pierce stressed that, in writing about real historical figures, it is important to portray a three dimensional representation of people such as Hitler or Stalin and that it would be too easy to only write about how terrible they were, as opposed to looking into their personal relationships and why they were the way they were. She also spoke about all the research an author must do before writing a historical novel. These points were interesting from the point of view of a book reader, who would not know all the background work that goes into a book before it can even be written.
This workshop was both very informative and terrifying at the same time. The Allies are always considered the “good guys” in World War II but Joseph Stalin refused to allow his own people to leave a battlefield during a battle and it begs the question whether either side was all good or all bad. Ms Pierce conveyed her own interest in the subject perfectly, which made it even more interesting for those in attendance. I came out of the workshop having learned an awful lot about the Battle of Stalingrad and the Second World War, and I was looking forward to reading City of Fate by Nicola Pierce.
By Dónal Monahan C1