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Fall 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Laurie Halse Anderson

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Photo courtesy of Laurie Halse Anderson

Photo courtesy of Laurie Halse Anderson

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s Ashes, Isabel and Curzon rescue Isabel’s younger sister, Ruth, from a southern plantation. This story of their harrowing journey — with fugitive-slave hunters on their trail and the Revolutionary War raging around them — brings the Seeds of America trilogy to a close.

1. Isabel’s reunion with Ruth is not what she expected. Were you surprised?

LHA: Yes! I thought the reunion would create major happiness and joy — until I looked at it from Ruth’s perspective. She is being uprooted from her heartkin, the people who became her family. That changed everything for the story.

2. Each chapter begins with an epigraph; did they always follow the story or did they ever suggest something to it?

LHA: Some of the epigraphs are a direct reflection of the chapter’s content, like the celebration when George Washington and the army arrived in Williamsburg. Others support the larger theme of a chapter such as the petition for freedom written by enslaved men in Massachusetts.

anderson_ashes3. How visible today is the landscape your characters traverse?

LHA: Much of the land from Charlestown to the Virginia Peninsula has been developed, of course, but readers can get a good feel for part of the journey by visiting Colonial Williamsburg and the national park at Yorktown.

4. Has the increased attention to racial diversity in children’s literature changed how you wrote about Isabel and Curzon?

LHA: Not at all. When Chains came out, I had a few white adults tell me they’d never read it because the main characters in the book were black. I hope that the important conversations about diversity will help open their minds.

5. What is the greatest difference between writing your historical fiction for middle-graders and your contemporary novels for older teens?

LHA: Years of research and the need to verify when many words came into use. Thank you, Oxford English Dictionary!

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