Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of Maureen Doyle McQuerry’s Between Before & After! As one of the co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the privilege of organizing this blog tour and interviewing Maureen!
Interview with Maureen Doyle McQuerry
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
1. Your website says, “Writers are like crows. They collect shiny objects that capture their attention and hide them away.” What little treasures have you found to add to your collection over the years?
I keep an idea folder on my computer and a notebook in my pocket. Some of the shiny things that end up there are what I call scraps: scraps of conversations, a line that pops into my head, a cool setting or idea. For example, I read about the real Mr. Walker’s library before I wrote The Peculiars. It was so amazing I cut out pictures of it and tucked them away. It became the seed for Mr.Beasely’s library.
2. What’s been the most thought-provoking question you’d been asked as a presenter at a writer’s conference?
How you know what your characters want.
3. Which books or authors do you look to for inspiration?
Here’s a very random list: Joan Didion, Neil Gaiman, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Mary Oliver, T.S.Elliot, James Agee, Emily St John Mandell’s Station Eleven, Pete Hamill, Denise Levertov, Kate DiCamillo, Madeline L’Engle
4. What are you reading right now?
Transcription by Kate Atkinson, just finished The Changling and will soon start The Gilded Wolves.
5. What are you up to when you’re not writing?
Visiting with friends, hiking, traveling, playing with my grandson, visiting with students and talking about writing and life.
ABOUT THE BOOK
1. You’ve said that there’s a library in every one of your books. Is there one in this book? Tell us about it!
Yes! The 1955 San Jose public library is where Molly and her friend, Ari, go to research old New York. Molly’s looking for information about Woodward School and discovers it was a home for delinquent girls. In 1955, the San Jose library was housed in the old Post Office building that was built in 1892. It’s built from sandstone blocks and with its round turret and clock tower, it looks like a fancy sandcastle. The building is now the San Jose Museum of Art.
There was another library in a deleted scene. The Santa Clara Valley bookmobile! When I was little a pink bookmobile came to our neighborhood twice a month. I had a scene where Molly and brother visit their neighborhood bookmobile, but it slowed down the story and I cut the scene, even though I hated to lose the bookmobile!
2. What’s your favorite quote from the book?
I had to pick two:
“Every story should leave a little room for miracles.”
“The words came out small and feeble, a new born revelation finding its legs.”
3. It is mentioned that a retelling of Hansel and Gretel can be found in this book. What inspired you to retell this story?
The Hansel and Gretel fairy tale is the archetypal story of abandoned children who against all odds survive the darkest forest and eventually find home. It’s a story of resiliency and redemption.
4. If you wrote yourself into this book, what kind of character would you be?
I’d like to be a friend for Elaine when she had none. Someone she could talk to and laugh with because for many years her life had very little joy.
5. What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
That wonder is possible. That you can’t know the ending of the story just because you know the beginning, and that you can’t know how people will change either. I want readers to know that they can survive the darkest part of the woods and still find home.
“The carnage began with the roses. She hacked at their ruffled blooms until they dropped into monstrous drifts of red on the parched yellow lawn … Only two things kept my mother grounded to us: my uncle Stephen and stories.”
Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions.
Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future.
About Maureen Dole McQuerry
All of my books have an element of mystery and magic, even the realistic stories. And as a friend pointed out, there is a library in every one of them. It must be because libraries have always been magical places for me.
Maureen McQuerry is an award winning poet, novelist and teacher. Her YA novel, The Peculiars (Abrams/Amulet 2012) is an ALA Best Book for Young Adult Readers 2013, Bank Street and Horne Book recommended book, and a winner of the Westchester Award. Her most recent book is Beyond the Door (Abrams/Amulet), a Booklist top Ten Fantasy/SciFi for Youth. It is the first in a MG duo that combines, Celtic myth, shapeshifters and a secret code in a coming of age story. The adventure continues in The Telling Stone. Beyond the Door is a current finalist for the WA State Book awards.