Escape from the Past: The Kid
by Annette Oppenlander
GENRE: YA historical/sci-fi
Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey through the Wild West of 1881! After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn’t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid’s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy.
INTERVIEW WITH ANNETTE OPPENLANDER
1. How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
In “The Kid,” book two in the “Escape from the Past” trilogy, time-traveling gamer, Max, intends to return to his friends in medieval Germany, but mistakenly lands in the Wild West of 1881 New Mexico where he must overcome many horrific challenges.
Growing up in Germany, I’ve always been fascinated with the Wild West. I remember watching westerns with my father and reading books about pioneers, Native Americans and the gold rush. After I moved to the U.S. I continued reading historical fiction set in the eighteen and nineteen hundreds.
I chose Billy the Kid because I see him as a tragic character who encountered a string of bad luck and was basically set up to fail. He isn’t much older than Max and you can easily see how any young man could’ve had Billy’s fate. The second important character is Chief Nana, a Warm Springs Apache warrior, who in the summer of 1881 rode a 3,000 mile vengeance war against the U.S. Army. He was never caught nor were his fifteen or so warriors. The amazing thing about him was his age. He was around eighty years old then and lame in one leg.
2. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
First and foremost I believe in telling a good story with a great, fast-moving plot, relatable characters in a fascinating setting/world. While I believe in people learning from reading fiction, this learning should happen as a secondary outcome and in a natural way. Otherwise it’d be like school and textbooks. Brrh!
So, provided I’ve done a good job with my story, I believe my readers come away with three different kinds of information to enrich their lives.
Entertaining and Fascinating Information about Historical Eras
In “The Kid,” gamer Max meets Billy the Kid and we’re witness to Billy’s last month in Fort Sumner. We also learn about the ruthlessness of the Wild West, encounter Chief Nana, a Warm Springs Apache, who in the summer of 1881 rode a 3,000 mile vengeance war against the U.S. Army and was never caught. The fascinating thing about Nana is that he only had a dozen warriors and that he was about 80 years old and lame in one foot. We also get to live in an American Indian village, learn about rattlesnake bites and the viciousness of a “Norther.”
Max, the protagonist in the series, must make many decisions to survive. More times than not he chooses to help people at the expense of his own comfort and/or safety. While this endears him to us readers, it puts him in dangerous situations. Max makes moral decisions that if we believe in “leading by example” will leave a positive and lasting impression on us. He acts heroically.
We may ask ourselves what we’d do in the same situation. Run and save our hide or help those in need. They say a hero is somebody who choses to do the right thing in the face of adversity. Hopefully, some of that heroic behavior subconsciously sticks with the reader. And maybe one day, s/he’ll help somebody in need.
Seizing the Moment
Many people dwell on the past, hold grudges, hate what happened once upon a time and in general do not appreciate what they have… now. At the other extreme we live for the future, always charging ahead without enjoying and being present in the moment.
Max deals with a lot of adversity, including a split-up family, but in the end he learns he must embrace what he has now. Sure, it’s not perfect, but whose life is perfect, whose family is perfect? Not too many. So, being aware and present in the moment, being grateful for one’s life is a huge learning experience.
I believe that all readers, teen and adult, benefit from reading the series. Most adults would appreciate learning about history, watch a character rise above and make tough moral choices, and seize the moment. I, for one, feel that Max taught me a few things along the way.
And next time you consider playing a new computer game, you may be more careful. You never know if it’s “EarthRider.”
3. How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
Becoming a writer/author was a process that took several years. In the beginning–the late 90s–I wrote children’s stories for early readers. I didn’t know anything about writing for children, the market nor the submission process, so this went nowhere. In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their lives during WW2 in Germany which led to a number of short stories. I didn’t really imagine writing a novel, let alone several, I merely wanted to preserve the memories for my family.
But I grew aware how much I enjoy the writing process. How I felt while I did it. I worked for a PR agency and did lots of business-related writing. I’d go home at night and write some more, spent my weekends writing fiction. I grew more and more invested, took classes, read books on craft, attended conferences and joined a critique group. In 2009 I attended a short story class at Indiana University and that’s when the light bulb turned on fully. I’ve known ever since that writing is my passion and I must do it even if publication is light years away. I finished the first manuscript in 2010. The first two books were published in 2015.
Thank you very much for having me!
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