Welcome to Middle Grade Mafia’s Author 411.  Today, we welcome Shannon Hitchcock, author of THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL (2013) and RUBY LEE & ME (2016). Her new book, ONE TRUE WAY, has a release date of February 27, 2018.

Middle Grade Mafia:  What is the inspiration for ONE TRUE WAY?

Shannon Hitchcock: The seeds of this book were sewn in 1984 when my best friend came out to me. I have never been more shocked in my life. I wondered how someone I knew so well had kept such a big secret. Because I had grown up in a conservative church, it took months of soul searching for me to accept my friend’s true self. I wanted to write a book that explored religion and homosexuality, but that was appropriate for a middle grade audience.

MGM: What is your writing process?

SH: Because I write historical fiction, my process starts with research. I spend several months reading everything I can get my hands on, conducting interviews, and taking field trips. Once I have a firm grasp of the subject, I outline using Blake Snyder’s, SAVE THE CAT! THE LAST BOOK ON SCREENWRITING YOU’LL EVER NEED. With a firm outline in place, I get up every morning and write from 5:00-8:00 am because that’s when I’m most productive. If I’m particularly inspired, I’ll write a couple more hours in the afternoon. When I have a first draft, my critique partners weigh in and I start revising.

 MGM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?

SH: Everybody’s journey is different—don’t compare. It’ll only make you feel inferior and take the joy out of the process.

MGM: How long from when you started writing the featured book until it was published? SH: Three years. Did I mention publishing moves at a snail’s pace?!

MGM: With “Ruby Lee & Me” and now “One True Way” you’ve chosen to write about controversial topics of that time period. Why?

SH: All of my books have an equality theme. My first book, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, is set two years after women got the right to vote, and it’s about Jessie’s right to an education. Ruby Lee & Me has a Civil Rights sub-plot, One True Way tackles LGBTQ issues, and I have two completed manuscripts which my agent is currently shopping. One deals with immigrant rights, and the other is about the current political climate in our country. I’m an activist at heart, and the way I choose to protest is through my stories.

MGM: Can you share a fun photo?

SH:  Here’s me in my Sunday best.

  More about ONE TRUE WAY:  

Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.


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