Tanya Landman's first YA novel, Apache, was published by Walker Books in 2006. It was shortlisted for several awards in the UK, including the Carnegie Medal, and won the Borders Original Voices Award and a Western Writers of America 2009 Spur Award in the US where it was published by Candlewick. It was Tanya's exhaustive research for that novel, which she describes here that led her to explore further the nature of America's Civil War, and the consequences of the political and geographical decisions that were taken at the time. She acknowledges the puzzled reaction to the idea that a mother of two living in North Devon is as obsessed as she is with that period of history. But when a character takes you by the throat and demands that you write his or her story, you don't have much choice in the matter.
Buffalo Soldier was a tough novel to write. It went through several drafts, and Tanya herself would admit that there were times when she wanted to put it in a drawer and forget about it. But something kept calling her back - and fortunately, she persevered.
The response from readers of Buffalo Soldier has been hugely enthusiastic. But it bucks all the trends in YA literature at the moment - on both sides of the Atlantic - so has undoubtedly been a challenge to publish. The story is not a comfortable one - questioning stereotypes and neat historical facts and figures. It's a tough read, an unsettling read, not a pretty read. But Charley - the Buffalo Soldier of the title, a slave freed but with nowhere to go and experience of nothing but life as a slave on a plantation - demands to be heard, and her story is an extraordinary one.
I'm enormously proud of Tanya's achievement in having written this novel. I'm grateful to her editors at Walker Books for having kept the faith. It was a long and difficult road.
Which is why it is all the more gratifying to read a review of Buffalo Soldier like this one by Beth Bonini on GoodReads. I hope it'll bring many more readers to Tanya's novel.
Because Charley's story is an important one.
And to find out more about Tanya's other books, visit her website here.