Vintage stories and family research; a chat with Anna Rose Johnson, author of The Star That Always Stays
Today, for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, I'm so happy to welcome one of my favorite new authors for an interview! Please give a hearty welcome to Anna Rose Johnson, author of The Star that Always Stays.
FEH: The Star That Always Stays is such a beautiful, believable immersion into a time and family. How did you go about your research? Did you read through family stories first, or research the time and place separately? Or a little of both?
ARJ: Thank you so much! The writing and research were very interwoven. Between every draft, I would research and learn more and come back with more background and insight each time. I already knew a good deal about Norvia when I wrote draft one, but my further research deepened my knowledge of her family and details about her life. It was fascinating to dig deeper and come to know her better as a person while looking through her photo albums and finding newspaper articles about her. It was delightful to learn that tidbits I invented about Norvia, Dicta, and Vernon were actually surprisingly accurate. ☺
FEH: Was it hard (emotionally) to put yourself into your great-grandmother’s shoes as you wrote, knowing the difficulties she had to go through?
ARJ: I’ve definitely thought a lot about how hard this time must have been for my great-grandmother and her family. I can only imagine the difficulties that must have gone along with adjusting to a new life. That’s why it’s lovely to know how much she came to care about her stepfamily, and how they cared about her—that element was very real.
FEH: Was there anything you learned in your research that you wished you could have included but didn’t?
ARJ: I would have loved to include more about Norvia’s extended family and the stories of her ancestors—which are so fascinating—but there just wasn’t enough space in the story to explore them further. I did the best I could to include interesting research where I could!
FEH: One of my favorite things about TSTAS was how you included so many of my favorite old, vintage books. Do you know if Norvia may really have read any of them?
ARJ: Unfortunately I don’t know, but from reading Norvia’s writing, I would say she had a way with words—which might indicate that she was a reader!
FEH: If you were to recommend a book or series to a reader who wanted to dip their toes into vintage book reading, what would it be?
ARJ: I would start with one that’s light and fun and not incredibly long, like Two Little Women and Treasure House by Carolyn Wells, which I first read when I was eleven and loved so much! I really wanted to include it in TSTAS, but it wasn’t published until 1916! I’ve read several vintage mysteries by Augusta Huiell Seaman, which could be a good place to start as well--Mystery on Heron Shoals Island was especially a favorite.
FEH: What’s some of the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
ARJ: Be willing to rewrite and revise your story and make significant changes. Nothing has been more instrumental to my writing than being able to look at a project to see how it could be improved, and finding editors and mentors to help me along the way.
FEH: Thank you so much for joining me for this interview, Anna Rose. I can’t wait to read all your future stories, and I hope more and more readers find their way to this one!
ARJ: I am so grateful! Thank you!
For more Middle Grade recommendations, visit Always in the Middle!
3/6/2023 04:07:13 am
That's great advice about willing to make changes to make a manuscript stronger. And it's awesome how Anna's book is about what her great grandmother went through.
3/6/2023 07:44:32 am
I agree, Natalie! I always need to remind myself that the changes are revisions are worth every minute (and headache) they take.
3/6/2023 10:02:20 am
Love this interview, you two! And Faith, you have a new site design since I visited last. Love it!
3/6/2023 12:54:46 pm
Excellent interview. The story brought a much deeper meaning to the plot. I'm looking forward to reading this one. Happy MMGM!
3/6/2023 01:48:13 pm
I loved the interview. Such great and practical advice. I love the research you did as it gave me a deeper sense of the story. And such a lovely way to honor your great grandmother.
3/7/2023 03:22:21 pm
I have been hearing about this book and it is already high on my TBR list. I hope to get to it soon. Thanks for the interview. Very interesting.
3/8/2023 03:03:43 am
Lovely interview, and great advice, I think it is absolutely fantastic to write a story based on your great-grandmother's life, especially such an interesting story from an fascinating period of history. I've heard great things about this book, and I hope to get to hold of it.
3/15/2023 01:28:14 pm
Thank you for a wonderful interview. I esp. loved that the invented details could be very much real. And such good advice about revision.
3/16/2023 12:22:26 pm
And I forgot to say how much I loved your book, Anna. Thank you for digging deep and for persevering.
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Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!