Today, I’m thrilled to welcome middle-grade author, Shannon Hitchcock, to the Mixed-Up Files to talk about her latest novel, ONE TRUE WAY, which hits bookstores tomorrow, February 27, 2018. But first, here’s a little bit about Shannon and her fabulous novel.
The ALAN Review hailed Shannon Hitchcock as, “A New Voice in Historical Fiction.” She’s the author of the Crystal Kite award-winning novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, and a second novel, RUBY LEE & ME, a nominee for the 2017-18 Nebraska Chapter Book Golden Sower Award, Pennsylvania’s Keystone Award, an Iowa Children’s Choice Award, and Japan’s Sakura Medal. ONE TRUE WAY, which received a starred review from KIRKUS REVIEWS, is her third novel.
ONE TRUE WAY is about two middle-school girls growing up in the seventies who develop feelings for each other. You mention in the Author’s Note about how you got the idea. Why was it so important to you to write this particular novel?
I grew up in a conservative church that taught homosexuality is a sin. I had never really questioned those teachings until a person I love came out to me. I wrote ONE TRUE WAY to make sense of it all.
All three of your published novels are historical. What is it about that genre that appeals to you?
I grew up on a hundred-acre farm in a family of storytellers. I loved hearing my grandparents and uncles talk about the times before I was born. All of my favorite books were historical too. I loved Little House on the Prairie, Heidi, Caddie Woodlawn, and the biographies of women like Annie Oakley, Nancy Todd Lincoln, Lucretia Mott, and Betsy Ross. I have a theory that the type of books you loved as a child are probably the kind you’d enjoy writing as an adult.
The characters in ONE TRUE WAY are so richly developed. Are any of them based on people you’ve known?
Probably the best example is Reverend Walker. She’s based on my real-life minister, Vicki Walker, who helped with the theological aspects of my book.
I love the period details in the book. Can you tell us about some of the research you had to do?
I started with my yearbook from 1977. I looked at our hairstyles and clothes. I googled songs from 1976 and 77 to fact check my memories. I watched a lot of YouTube clips of Anita Bryant and her Save Our Children campaign. Probably the most important research was reading every LGBTQ themed YA book I could get my hands on. I made note of what content would be appropriate and inappropriate for a MG audience.
In the book, you do a wonderful job with a few characters who have to reconcile their religious teachings with the notion of homosexuality. Can you tell us how you came to formulating those ideas presented?
Three books were invaluable to me: Defrocked: How A Father’s Act of Love Shook the United Methodist Church by Franklyn Schaefer, Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South by Connie Griffin, and When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton. Once I had formulated my own opinions, I discussed my beliefs with the Reverend Vicki Walker. I knew I was on to something when she said, “You have no idea how many parents have sat where you are, struggling to accept their gay children, and how many children have sat in the same seat, afraid of disappointing their parents.” If ONE TRUE WAY can help those families in any way, I will consider it a success.
For those who would like to read more middle-grade LGBTQ-themed books, do you have any recommendations?
I’ve actually compiled a list which is on my website here.
Thanks, Shannon! And thanks for offering a free signed copy of your book to a lucky winner (U.S. and Canada only). To be eligible to win, leave a comment below. I’ll pick a winner at random Wednesday night at 9 p.m. and announce who won on Thursday.