...In addition to her journalism career, Rinaldi also returned to writing fiction, at night when her children were in bed and in the mornings before work. She had been working on a contemporary story inspired by the relationships and experiences in her
own life, from the viewpoint of a 14-year-old girl. She had a good friend who was experiencing success writing young adult novels and Rinaldi realized that’s where her story might fit, marketing-wise. The result was the novel Term Paper, which was
published by Walker & Co. in 1980. The sequel, Promises Are for Keeping, followed in 1982. It wasn’t until a few years later, inspired by her own family, that Rinaldi would turn her fiction focus to history.
Rinaldi’s son Ronald Rinaldi II had been an American history buff from a young age and she noted that through her newspaper coverage of the bicentennial events in Trenton and Princeton in 1976, he became especially interested in the American Revolution,
joining a local re-enactment group. His passion for the era grew and his sister Marcella became a re-enactor too, prompting the entire family to travel to living history events all over the East Coast. “My son dragged us to every battlefield, monument,
fort, and battleground, north and south, from Saratoga to Yorktown,” she recalled to SATA. This immersive experience, involving learning the food, crafts, and lifestyle of the period, led Rinaldi to write a YA novel on the American Revolution set in
Trenton. “It was rejected by 10 publishers who wouldn’t touch it because it was history,” she said. That novel was Time Enough for Drums, which was published by Holiday House in 1986. Rinaldi had called the book “close to my heart, my favorite—
the one everyone told me not to write!” She has always credited her son with sparking her historical writing career.
Rinaldi left her position as feature and editorial writer at the Trentonian in 1991 to work on her books full-time. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, she wrote prolifically, sometimes publishing several novels per year. In all, she created 49 YA novels,
most of them historical fiction focused on U.S. history. She also lectured on journalism at schools and educational conferences around the country.
"Time Enough for Drums, The Last Silk Dress, A Break with Charity, and Wolf by the Ears were named American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults."
About "Time Enough for Drums":
"Sixteen-year-old Jem struggles to maintain the status quo at home in Trenton, New Jersey, when the family men join the war for independence.
"There are signs of rebellion in the Emerson household several years before the actual American Revolution hits in 1776! Brought up in a relatively liberal household, Jemima Emerson is quite a challenge for her tutor, John Reid, who is known as a Tory
with strong ties to England. How could Jem's parents be friends with a man who opposes American freedom? Jem longs for freedom on every level, in the home and her homeland--and John represents the forces that restrict her.
"Jem and her family soon find themselves fighting for freedom in whatever ways they can in the Revolutionary War. Before long, Jem discovers that there is much more to Mr. Reid than she ever imagined. Her feelings about him change when Jem realizes that
John shares her love of freedom--and will risk his life to defend it."