I’ve Got Questions for Ona Gritz

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

August or Forever by Ona Gritz
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

August Or Forever, middle-grade fiction, Regal House Publishing/Fitzroy Books, February 14, 2023.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

August Or Forever is the story of ten-year-old Molly and how a long-awaited visit from her beloved half-sister challenges her ideas of what makes a family a family.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

Realistic literary fiction.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

It’s hard to choose. So many people have had kind words for this book. The folks at the Reader’s Choice Book Awards called it “a charming and beautifully written book for young readers.” I’ll go with that since they also gave August Or Forever five stars and dressed it up with a nice medal, naming it a finalist for an upcoming award.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall was very much with me when I first conceived of this book. In my own way, I aimed to capture something of its simple beauty and the palpable longing that drives the story.

Recently, in a conversation on The Growing Readers Podcast, Bianca Schulze said my book brought to mind Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. Well, that did my heart good! Years ago, I read an essay by Katherine Paterson where she said that while a novel for adults is like a symphony orchestra, “…when I read my own Bridge to Terabithia, I hear a flute solo unaccompanied.” I never forgot that. The beautiful notion that adult fiction, with its many twists, layers, and returning themes, was comparable to a full concerto, but a book for children was this: spare, singularly focused, quietly beautiful, and brave.

  • Why this book? Why now?

With all the children’s novels that portray blended families, I’ve yet to find one that, like mine, offers the perspective of a child born after the drama of divorce into a parent’s happier second marriage. My narrator Molly loves her older half-sister, but she doesn’t really have her in the day-to-day sense that siblings who live together have each other. She was essentially born into a kind of loneliness that I’m sure many children feel. It seemed time for someone to explore that experience on the page, and having lived through something similar, I thought I might just be the writer to do it.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

The best job I’ve ever had was and is being my son’s mother. While I was raising him, I was also a children’s and young adult librarian at our local library. What a great combination that was. He and I loved sharing books together. We read piles of picture books every night, then moved on to chapter books, and even young adult novels since we kept up the ritual all the way through his middle school years. What kept me afloat once he’d outgrown being read to was that I got to lead storytimes at work, and that children’s and young adult literature stayed central to my life long after he’d moved on to adult books, podcasts, and other things.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

That they have a friend in Molly. That families come in all kinds of shapes and configurations, and that deep friendships can be familial. That if their natural state is, in part, loneliness and longing, they are not alone in this.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Molly’s favorite food is lasagna. Her sister Alison’s is chocolate. They get those favorites from me.

As for music, a flute solo (see Question 5.)

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

On my own, I’m reading Smile, a memoir by Sarah Ruhl. Together with my husband, I’m reading Molly Fisk’s new collection of essays, Everything But the Kitchen Skunk. I’m also reading books in a series of hi-lo young adult novels-in-verse put out by West 44 Books because I’m working on one of my own for them now. Among my favorites so far are Every Little Bad Idea by Caitie McKay and Listen Up by Sandi Van.

Ona Gritz

Learn more about Ona on her website.

Follow her on Amazon.

Buy the book from the publisher (Regal House/Fitzroy Books), Children’s Book World, or Bookshop.org.

About the author

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