Local Author Spotlight

Our community is home to a large number of outstanding authors. To celebrate them, we will offer – every two months – an introduction to a different children's or adult author who resides in one of the four towns in our school district and who has published a new book within the past year. The selection shall be made by a vote of our librarians. Happy reading!

See more books by local authors
July – August 2017

Madeleine Blais



Interview



What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?

The Bike Path: where else can you get blue herons, beavers, and turtles all in one place?

Do you have a special library memory or story?

I grew up across the street from the public library in Granby. Its hours of operation were Tuesday and Friday, from two to five and seven to nine. When the librarians, Miss Winifred Fiske and Miss Gertrude Taylor, saw that I was an insatiable reader, they used to put aside the new books so I could have the honor of being the first in town to read them.

Is there a member of this community who has been instrumental to your writing?

Holly Davis deserves a shout-out for starting a book group in the early eighties and inviting me to join in around 1990. (I am still one of the new girls.) The women in the group are all brilliant and far better readers than I am: heaven!
Madeleine Blais
Why did you write your new book?

I always say writers write the book they want to read. More specifically, I find that whenever I am in turmoil about something, it usually is a subject worth pursuing. Mixed feelings = material. In the case of To the New Owners (to be published on July 4, 2017), in the summer of 2014, I felt sadness and anger at losing a house that had never actually been mine. What was that about?

What was the last book you enjoyed reading?

I am reading Alice McDermott’s new novel, The Ninth Hour (forthcoming), to review for The National Book Review, on online publication run by Liz Taylor, an MHC alum. McDermott combines seemingly simple, intensely thoughtful word choices with close-ups of the kind of people and places that might otherwise be ignored. I think she must have imbibed James Joyce’s Dubliners with her mother’s milk.

What was your favorite book growing up?

So many, but at the top of the list is The Secret Garden, featuring a cross, sallow, sullen young girl orphaned in India when cholera wipes out everyone in her orbit, including her self-absorbed parents as well as all the servants she abuses verbally, and then she is sent to live in the middle of nowhere with relatives in England who want nothing to do with her. Now that is an example of a character forced out onto the far end of a frail branch at the top of tree which is pretty much swaying in a Force Five Hurricane.

I want to add here that I didn’t start reading until the first grade when I six years old. In those days, Granby did not have a kindergarten and by the time I got to school I was raring to go. The first book I remember loving was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss, which we read in a circle and one lucky child got to wear a hat.

Recent Books by Madeleine

  (see all her books)

Madeleine's Favorite Books

  (with her comments)

"All of these books take you to obscure, easily overlooked worlds that, in the absence of the author’s insistence to the contrary, would otherwise go unnoticed. They combine some of the elements I love most in a piece of writing: forlorn or lonely landscapes, the search for identity, great emotional struggles among easily dismissed people, childhood as a time in italics, and the question of how to help someone who is struggling. I should say that despite or perhaps because of the subject matter, these books also offer from time to time a welcome dose of wry humor."

April – May 2017

Cammie McGovern



NOTE: Cammie was the recipient of the Award for Local Literary Achievement at the 2017 Samuel Minot Jones Awards!

Interview



What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?
The Jones! Because libraries have always been the most affordable place to go to find both peace and quiet and also feel like my day is full of possibilities.
Do you have a special library memory or story?
Right after my oldest son was diagnosed with autism, I repeatedly visited the “Disabilities” section of the library and read books of the floor of the basement while my son napped in his stroller. Shattered and unable to imagine entering this world, I couldn’t even bring myself to check the books out. I sat there and quietly read my way into some understanding of what this meant and what we were up against.
Why did you write your new book?
When I began writing for children and young adults, I wanted to put characters with disabilities at the center of my stories because I don’t think we see enough of them in books or popular culture (though I do think this has gotten better recently). The more we demystify this experience, I believe, the more successful inclusion education will be. I wrote Chester and Gus from the point of view of a service-dog dropout because I believe dogs have so much to teach us about communicating without words and conveying love in unspoken ways. Though I wasn’t aware of this as I wrote, I think Chester reminds me of myself after my son was diagnosed: powerless, mystified, and completely focused on a child I loved and wanted to help. Chester makes sense of Gus slowly, over time, much the way I did.
What was your favorite book growing up?
I loved books that were either very funny or very dark. So Phantom Tollbooth and Harriet the Spy were at the top of the list, but Diary of Anne Frank was right up there as well. I also (oddly enough) loved books about disabilities and disease: Flowers for Algernon, Karen, David and Lisa.
Cammie McGovern - Photo by Ellen Auergarten

Recent Books by Cammie

  (see all her books)

Cammie's Favorite Books

  (with her comments)
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr


"Haunting portrayal of war through children’s eyes"
The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate


"Best story ever told from an animal’s point of view"
(children's book)
All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven


"Stunning depiction of bi-polar disorder"
(young adult book)
The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon


"Terrific and timely book about an immigrant on the cusp of being deported, falling in love on the day before she has to leave"
(young adult book)