Monday, July 27, 2020

Gretchen Anthony

Photo credit: M. Brian Hartz
Gretchen Anthony is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, which was a Midwestern Connections Pick and a best books pick by Amazon, BookBub, PopSugar, and the New York Post. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Medium, and The Write Life, among others. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Anthony's new novel is The Kids Are Gonna Ask.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I'm slightly obsessed with book titles because they're a first look into the book and they should draw you in. With The Kids Are Gonna Ask, I wasn't convinced I liked the title, but every time I said it aloud, people loved it. They found it intriguing, and that's what this book is at its heart -- it's a mystery about family, heritage, and belonging. In fact, the only reason ts secrets get uncovered is precisely because the kids, Thomas and Savannah, start asking for answers.

What's in a name?

I'm also very careful about naming my characters. Most of them just need to "feel" right, need to match the concept I have in my head for that character. But I'm strategic about main character names. I chose botanical names for the mother and daughter in my last novel, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners because that matriarch believed in symbolism and loved that her husband's family name, Baumgartner, translates as "tree gardener." In The Kids Are Gonna Ask, I named one of the twins Savannah. On the surface, it's just a pretty name. But as the book unfolds, she discovers a meaningful coincidence about her name, as well.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I was a teenager when Springsteen was first singing about his glory days, so no, my teenage self could not have conceived of the tools in this book--not the podcast or the social media that drives its popularity. I also doubt that the questions at the heart of the book, "Who is our father and where do we come from?" would have been as socially acceptable to pursue back then, especially since their mother was an unmarried college student when she got pregnant. Pursuing one's origin story isn't easy in 2020 by any measure, but I am grateful people on that journey nowadays have so much more support technically, culturally, and emotionally.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I'm terrible at both. My writer's group loves to accuse me of "pulling the punches" in my endings, and they're usually correct. I need to push myself to get an ending to its proper destination. And as for beginnings, I re-write them so often it can get ridiculous. I drafted the opening chapters to The Kids Are Gonna Ask so many times I joked I was just going to have to skip it and start the book on chapter three.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

My family is all over the pages of my books. My father, who loved nothing more than a good laugh, filled our house with people and mined every one of his guests for stories that he could later steal and re-tell. My mother, never wanting to deprive her kids of a worthwhile experience, said "yes" to our adventures far more often than "no." Material possessions weren't terribly important to my parents, but art--music, theater, storytelling, television, movies, books--were. The best way to escape chores at our house was to lay down on the couch and open a book. We kids didn't get a lot done, but my brother and I both grew up to be family- and community-minded readers, writers, thinkers. I have my parents to thank for that.
Visit Gretchen Anthony's website.

--Marshal Zeringue