Anna Rose Johnson is the author of the new middle grade historical novel The Star That Always Stays. She is a gymnastics blogger and journalist, and is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Q: You’ve noted that your own family history inspired you to write The Star That Always Stays. Can you say more about that?
A: Yes, the basis of this story was inspired by my great-grandmother’s early teen years—a girl of Ojibwe heritage navigating her mother’s divorce and remarriage at the dawn of World War I.
Once I began doing genealogy research, I was fascinated by her story and felt I could use it as the plot for a middle grade novel. This was one of the most fun aspects of drafting.
Q: How did you balance the historical with the fictional as you wrote the book?
A: I feel like there is a fine line between inserting the historical details that make a time period come alive, and not letting them overpower the characters and scenes. So while I did a great deal of research and had fun doing that world-building, I ultimately let the characters and story take central stage.
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book said, in part, “Struggling between embracing her heritage and attempting to fit in at her new high school, Norvia channels heroines from her favorite novels, including Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, to navigate shifting family dynamics, community gossip over her parents’ divorce, prejudice, and first love.” What do you think of that description?
A: I love this description because I think it beautifully captures the feel of the story. One of things I enjoyed most about writing The Star That Always Stays was juggling the different subplots, and I was pleased with the way that they all come together in the end.
And the fact that the review mentions Anne and Little Women is a joy, because I love those books so much!
Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: I considered many titles early on, and in the end decided that I wanted one that had a dual meaning. The title actually refers to three things: the North Star itself; Norvia’s new home; and the faith that she comes to embrace at the end of the story.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on some more middle grade novels that I’m super excited about!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I will have some fun news to announce this fall!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb