NORTH SALEM, N.Y.--Deborah Rafferty Oswald has always had a love of history. And since she was a young girl, she knew she wanted to be a writer. Now, the North Salem teacher has found a way to fuse her passions.
Oswald, a fifth-grade teacher at Pequenakonck Elementary School and a member of the Mahopac High School Class of ’78, has written a book, “The Haviland Girls,” that is loosely based on actual events that transpired in neighboring Putnam County and the mid-Hudson Valley region during the early part of the 20th century.
“I started writing stories when I was 9 years old,” Oswald said. “I wrote for the school newspaper and the literary magazine at Mahopac High School. Later, I took a correspondence course after one of my daughters was born and the teacher thought I could make a go at it with historical fiction because I love history. I was writing more contemporary fiction at the time but when [the teacher] asked me about my interests, I started talking about the Victorian period and she said I should research it. A bulb went off and the idea for this story was born.”
Oswald said she became interested in the Victorian period after watching “Mary Poppins” when she was a child.
“I saw them marching around with signs for the suffragette movement,” she recalled. “But I knew my audience [for the book] would be around 13 or 14 and not have the same interests as me. I needed to write about issues that would resonate and yet put them into a different period. I didn’t want a dry historical account."
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