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Interview: Kirby Larson, Author of HATTIE EVER AFTER

HATTIE BIG SKY, the much beloved story by Kirby Larson, is about 16-year-old Hattie, who leaves her life in Iowa proves up on her uncle's Montana homestead. Now, Hattie is back for another adventure in HATTIE EVER AFTER, in which she moves to San Francisco to persue her dream to be a journalist. In this interview, Kirby Larson shares why she decided to write another adventure for Hattie, discusses her favorite historical figure that she learned about while researching the story and reveals what else we can expect to see from her soon.

Hattie Brooks had a great adventure in HATTIE BIG SKY, and here she is in another quest to find a connection to her family. Why did you want to revisit Hattie and bring her to San Francisco?

I had no intention of revisiting Hattie! I thought I'd completed her story with HATTIE BIG SKY; however, a stampede of readers did not agree with me and wrote to tell me so. I'm a first born and hate to disappoint people. So after getting all of those letters and emails, I began to think about what might make me want to write more about Hattie. Several summers ago, I re-read HATTIE BIG SKY and found I really enjoyed Hattie's company. And I saw where I'd (unintentionally) left myself a little story breadcrumb in the guise of Hattie's "scoundrel" uncle, Chester. And why San Francisco? Because Hattie was ready for Adventure, with a capital A.

What were the feathers that Hattie picks up around San Francisco supposed to mean for her?

I'm an amateur bird watcher but a professional bird appreciater. At our beach cabin, I watch huge eagles circling above the bay, tiny kingfishers diving for dinner and all sizes of birds in between. I am in awe of birds' ability to do something that it took mankind thousands of years to imitate: to fly. In my mind, those feathers signaled an affirmation of Hattie's decision to spread her wings, and to soar where others couldn't or wouldn't.

Female relationships are especially important for Hattie. What makes relationships between girls and women so special?

I was lucky to have been supported and mentored from a young age (youth groups, Campfire Girls, etc.) by caring women. Female friendships have made a huge difference in my life, so I suppose it's not surprising they make a difference in Hattie's.

What interests you about this time period after WWI, when women were unwilling to leave the work force?

To be accurate, we should point out that some women were happy to get back to their pre-WWI lives. However, I am especially intrigued by the women who found something new and surprising in themselves because they'd stepped out and taken a risk by working as mechanics or in hospitals or even department stores. Frankly, stick-in-the-muds don't make for interesting reading.

Hattie took quite a number of risks: she moved to San Francisco almost on a whim and even played baseball to win a story for The Chronicle. Is there something about Hattie's personality that makes her successful in taking these risks?

Like her creator, Hattie is a terminal optimist; what else is there to say?

What is the biggest risk you ever took?

Four big risks: getting married, having kids, daring to write and going to Beirut in 2009 to speak to students at the International College (middle/high school).

What I really appreciated about HATTIE EVER AFTER is that although women were support systems for Hattie, not all were to be trusted. Why did you choose a woman to become Hattie's threat instead of a man?

What a great question! It wasn't a deliberate decision on my part as I sat down to write this book. Elements converged: Uncle Chester's mysterious love interest; my learning about women con artists of that time period; and Hattie's longing for a true friend like Perilee there in San Francisco. Novels are all about conflict and what better conflict than a threat from a trusted source?

Many of the characters in HATTIE EVER AFTER were based on real people, whether they were reporters or thieves. Who is your favorite historical person that you found in your research for this book?

I knew very little about President Wilson before this book and came to admire his grit and determination --- can you imagine traveling by train around this entire country, trying to win folks over to your way of thinking? The man was a saint! But, I have to be honest, I most admire the people who don't end up in the history books: the women like Hattie and Tinny and Perilee, who did their very best to make a difference in their own small ways.

What do you want people to take from this story?

I want them to take away whatever means most to them.

Will there be any more adventures for Hattie?

I hope this doesn't sound cruel or that I don't love Hattie, because I do, but this book is the end of the adventures I will create for Hattie. Readers are welcome to take her wherever they care to!

Are we to expect something new from you soon? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Is there no rest for the wicked? ;-) Truth to tell, I have been at work on two middle grade novels set in WWII. The first, DUKE, will be published in September 2013; it tells the story of young boy who donates his beloved German shepherd to the Dogs for Defense program. The second novel, not yet titled, also features a dog and will be published in 2014.