Ann Hood Discusses Childhood Fantasies & “The Treasure Chest” Series
Ann Hood is the talented author of many bestselling novels such as The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle (soon to be an HBO film starring Katherine Heigl). Her new series of books, The Treasure Chest, about Felix and Maisie Robbins’s amazing time travel trips in which they meet historical figures is un-put-a-down-able. We talked with Ann about her childhood fantasies, destiny, and her exciting future projects.
Nicki Richesin: You’ve written some incredibly beautiful novels. Why did you decide to write for children?
Ann Hood: I have had the idea for books for middle readers in which kids time travel and meet famous people as children for a very long time. When I was in 2nd grade, I read all of the Childhoods of Famous Americans series—they were the only books I could get my hands on since my town didn’t have a library. I used to daydream about hanging out with Amelia Earhart and Clara Barton. So a good dose of the inspiration for the series stems from my own childhood fantasies.
AH: It was really important for me that my characters have contemporary problems, that they learn something from history that they can take back to the present with them. Their parents are newly divorced; they’ve relocated; they’re the new kids in school; Felix is popular and Maisie isn’t; and as the series progresses they have to deal with a death and their parents each getting involved with someone new. In Jewel of the East, they meet a young Pearl Buck as a child in China. They even have to flee to Shanghai with her family during The Boxer Rebellion.
NR: You feature historical figures Clara Barton, Alexander Hamilton, Pearl Buck (and Harry Houdini in Book # 4 Prince of Air available on August 7). Why did you choose these particular famous heroes for Felix and Maisie to encounter on their adventures?
AH: I choose the historical figures by a number of criteria. First, it has to be someone I admired as a kid. They have to be born before 1910 (Phinneas Pickworth collected all the items for the Treasure Chest by 19010). And, since Clara Barton grew up on a farm, I need other characters who have different backgrounds to avoid being dull or redundant.
NR: You contributed a touching essay on your first love to Crush. Although he believed you were much older, you were just twelve when you crushed on your older brother’s friend. Did remembering how you felt as a teenager help you write for children in The Treasure Chest series? Do you try to think like a kid would when you write for this audience?
AH: Thank you for those nice words about that essay! I have always loved writing characters who are 12 or 13. For some reason, I can still very easily and clearly tap into myself at that age. I was a giant nerve ending, everything felt so dramatic and important to me. I like thinking about my younger self then, and I like creating characters who have some of that in them themselves.
NR: Katherine Heigl has signed on to star and produce in adaptation of your bestselling autobiographical novel The Knitting Circle for HBO. How do you think it will feel to see your story in this medium with famous actors portraying your characters and saying the words that you’ve written?
AH: I think it will feel great! Knowing that the story will have to be changed somewhat to fit the medium, I’m curious how the story will be told on film.
NR: Do you have a vision for a book that you have to write before you die?
AH: No. I just kind of focus on the next one.
NR: The Red Thread is your poignant novel about a group of families who adopt babies from China. You weave a spellbinding story about both the American families waiting to adopt the children and their Chinese families who must give them up for various reasons. I loved that the book was about love, relationships and family, but also about destiny. What did you learn about yourself by writing The Red Thread?
AH: That’s an interesting question! I never think about what I learn, but rather what my characters learn about themselves and about life. And by extension, what readers might learn. I wanted everyone to think about destiny, and about the ways we create family. I also was intrigued by the idea that we often get what we need, not what we want. And do we realize that? If so, when do we get that realization?
NR: If you could be reincarnated as your favorite character from children’s literature who would it be and why?
AH: Jo March. She was my idol—a writer, independent, from a cool artsy family.
NR: Do you prefer to write short stories or novels?
NR: Which projects are you currently working on and what can we expect to read from you soon?
AH: I’m writing Book Six of The Treasure Chest, Royal Prisoner, which is about the last queen of Hawaii. And my new novel for adults, The Obituary Writer, will be out in March 2013. I’m also really excited about an anthology I’m editing of writers writing about knitting, which is coming out for Mother’s Day next year. We have an amazing line up of writers and gorgeous essays.
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies The May Queen, Because I Love Her, What I Would Tell Her, and Crush. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Daily Candy, 7×7, Red Tricycle, and San Francisco Book Review. Nicki has been reading to her daughter every day since she was born. For more information, visit: www.nickirichesin.com.