Friday, June 7, 2024

Q&A with Anne Shaw Heinrich





Anne Shaw Heinrich is the author of the new novel God Bless the Child. She is also a journalist, columnist, blogger, and nonprofit communications professional. 


Q: What inspired you to write God Bless the Child, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: I have loved writing since high school but was inspired to write God Bless the Child after an essay of mine was selected for and published in The New York Times bestseller The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn (Atria 2006). The essay was about discovering that my grandmother was a lingerie model!


Through this project, the editors really encouraged me to get serious about writing in general. It was the push I needed to start this book. I am so thankful.


The characters are not technically based on real people, but I must confess that I do love watching people and imagining where they have been and where they are headed next.


This comes out when I develop characters. I really do believe that most people are complex. It is fascinating to unpack what moves us as humans as we navigate what we’re given.


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: There are many themes throughout the book, but there is one that kept rising to the surface for me. Readers are asked to think about the ways we define motherhood. What makes a good mother? A real mother?


As adults, we spend a lot of time and energy pondering, even agonizing about this role, but it is important to give just as much space and grace to how it is experienced by children, who land in this world not choosing their place in it.


The circumstances we come swaddled in upon entry are random, even capricious. If we are fortunate enough to become adults who are blessed to have choices, it is essential that we acknowledge the consequences our decisions can have on children who are powerless.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope readers finish this story believing in redemption. I hope they are ready to consider what it means to need so fiercely that it hurts, and to extend empathy toward those in their own lives who make choices that are hard to understand. I want readers to think about gray areas where hate and fear are tucked in tight with grace, love, and hope.


Q: This is the first in a series--can you tell us what's next?


A: Yes. God Bless the Child is the first of three books in The Women of Paradise County Series, published by Speaking Volumes.


I am knee-deep in writing the second book, Violet Is Blue, which delves more deeply into some of the minor characters from the first book, but takes place during the same period, in the small Midwestern town of Poulson.


Violet Is Blue explores even more deeply the stark ways that privilege and a lack of it divides us. In this book, the haves and the have nots intertwine in ways that are at once heartbreaking and hopeful.


Book Three, House of Teeth, also takes place in Poulson, with one or two recognizable characters from Violet Is Blue, who are making sense of their place in the world, but manage to reconcile dark, light, and that wide expanse of gray space where most of us recognize ourselves.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: This book took a long time from first draft to actual publication, but I would not change a thing about the way things have unfolded. I have done a lot of growing and learning and becoming a better writer during those 18 years. The universe has a way of letting us know when to retreat, when to tread water, and when to just go for it!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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