I’m so excited to interview Leah Henderson about her middle-grade novel, The Magic in Changing Your Stars, a story about a boy named, Ailey Benjamin Lane, who wants to be a star in the school production of The Wiz. But when he messes up the audition, he’s ready to give-up dancing altogether. Then his grandfather tells him a secret story about his youth and where he can find his special tap shoes. Ailey puts on the shoes and is transported into the past where he learns to never give up on his dreams and not to live with regret because of fear—something we all can be reminded of. I asked Leah about writing her novel.
MGM: How did you come up with such a creative story to deliver the message of reaching your greatest potential?
Leah Henderson: The story all started while on a walk with my dog, Boston. We were strolling through a neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia and he stopped to explore around the base of a statue of Bill Bojangles Robinson, the famous tap dancer, Broadway and movie star, who was a native of Richmond. While I was waiting for my dog to finish sniffing (he was taking his sweet time because he wanted me to open my eyes), I finally looked up at Bojangles’ tap shoes feeling they had something to say. And only then was my dog ready to continue our walk! From there, I started thinking about characters that might be part of Bojangles’ story, and then I thought up my protagonist Ailey who I wanted to be the star of the show!
MGM: How did you go about researching Harlem in 1939 and make it feel so authentic?
LH: I’ve always loved history and diving deep into it. I studied the Harlem Renaissance in college, and love that time period. Although the story takes place on the tail end of that time, that’s where I started—pulling out old books, articles, and film clips. I also was fortunate to be able to do a few interviews. Basically, I just kept exploring, and anyone who does research knows, one rabbit hole can lead to the next! Which, at times, can be dangerous, but in this instance, it was wonderful because I had so much to pull from and I was excited about it all. Probably only a tenth of what I compiled made it onto the pages, but I do hope what made it there will pique young readers’ interests.
MGM: Is your family anything like Ailey’s close-knit family?
LH: Absolutely! In so many ways. I am very close to my family and it is definitely made up of a bunch of characters, so I had material for days! J
Find out more about Leah Henderson at http://www.leahhendersonbooks.com