Anna Rose Johnson’s debut novel The Star That Always Stays is an NPR Best Book of 2022, 2023 Michigan Notable Book Award, Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, Parnassus Books Spark Book Club Selection, and a Cybils Award Middle Grade Fiction Nominee. You can visit her on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.
1. If you could travel back in time, (assuming there’d be no risk to yourself or changing the course of history) where and when and why would you go?
I would travel back to 1910s Michigan to get a little glimpse of my great-grandmother Norvia’s life and her family at the time I wrote about in The Star That Always Stays!
2. The Star That Always Stays is set during 1914. What fascinates you most about this time period?
I have always loved the Edwardian era and was drawn to it as a child, mainly because I loved all the gorgeous costumes in period films. When I began to write The Star That Always Stays, I grew especially interested in the 1910s as a time that felt both old and new.
3. What elements of this time period are still with us today?
This era is fun because despite the obvious major differences in lifestyles, fashion, careers, and major events, so many of the things that the kids do in my book are still normal activities: going to the movies, looking forward to holidays, eating cereal for breakfast, keeping up with the news of the world, and reading L.M. Montgomery novels (🙂)!
4. Is there an historical tidbit that didn’t make it in the book, but is super interesting?
I really would have liked 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!
5. Your book is partially based on the experiences of your great-grandmother. What was it like to write historical fiction based on family history?
It was such a remarkable experience. There is something incredibly special about your beloved characters also being your ancestors! It was always a delight to try and incorporate real-life details into the story, but it was also challenging because I had to alter other things to make the plot work. The result is a blending of fact and fiction that I’m proud of.
6. What’s your favorite historical fiction (any age!)
Two historical novels I love are Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes (a dual timeline adult novel), and Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant (a middle grade set in the 1970s). I’m also a huge fan of the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, which were written mainly in the 1940s but were set at the turn of the century.
7. What are you working on right now?
I’m actually working on several projects in various stages, but I can’t reveal anything more than that at the moment!