Monday, August 29, 2016

#MGGetsReal--A Conversation With Joyce Moyer Hostetter

I first read Joyce Moyer Hostetter's book, BLUE in 2006. I was especially drawn to BLUE because of its setting--rural North Carolina, near where I grew up. In BLUE, Ann Fay's daddy has gone off to fight Hitler during WWII, and while he's gone, Ann Fay is stricken with polio.

When I heard Joyce was writing a sequel, I couldn't wait to read it. COMFORT is one of those books that stays with you for a long time. Ann Fay was lucky enough to survive polio, but her recovery was a struggle. And while her daddy was lucky enough to live through WWII, he came back home a changed man, suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Joyce's books have become perennial favorites among North Carolina school children, and now, nearly ten years after BLUE, Joyce has written a prequel. AIM is told from the viewpoint of Ann Fay's neighbor, Junior Bledsoe.

If you loved Joyce's prior two novels, I recommend pre-ordering AIM. And if you haven't read BLUE and COMFORT, then I recommend starting with AIM, and moving on to them. To celebrate Joyce's new book, I asked her a couple of questions that she's answered for my blog.

Hi Joyce, what book or books from your childhood left a lasting impression and why?

Blue Willow by Doris Gates  - This story of Janey Larkin, a migrant child, gave me a window into a world of poverty that I knew nothing about. The blue willow china plate which symbolized hope for Janey’s family captured my imagination and my sense of romance. For decades, I’ve collected blue willow dishes.

Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley –  The Elsie books are set on a southern plantation during The Civil War era.  Even as a child I had a love/hate affair with those books. I loved Elsie herself but I also thought she was impossibly perfect and that her moral standards were way too adult and unrealistic. But that did not stop me from devouring the books and I feel certain they had much to do with instilling in me a love of historical novels and a desire for authentic characters.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - From Anne, I learned about life during one of the world’s darkest periods in history.  I recognized in her an authenticity that I wanted for myself.  She was petty at times, feisty, earthy, and truth telling.  Maybe I learned from her that I could have a tender conscience as Elsie did while still being true to myself.  And while Anne was a Jew, I like to think she gave me insights into being an authentic Christian.

What book or books served as mentor texts when you were writing your own book?

I know that I was influenced by Sheri Reynold’s writing. The Rapture of Canaan and Bitteroot Landing are two novels (adult)  that come quickly to mind.  I love them for their spiritual themes and especially for their imagery and symbolism.

And then there are Sudie and Alice – two southern novels by Sara Flanigan. I love their heartfelt first person narratives and I wanted to tell a story by a compelling character who reached into readers’ hearts the way those narrators reached into mine.  Sadly, those books appear to be out-of-print and little known. But they represent some powerful storytelling and they deal with important themes of compassion, ignorance, abuse, and racism.  Those things are important to me also.

Thanks, Joyce, for sharing books that have influenced who you are as a writer! You can enter to win a copy of Joyce's book COMFORT and four other Middle Grade Novels by following this link and scrolling to the bottom of the page. #MGGetsReal

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