Readers’ pleas motivate local author to pen sequel to beloved historical novel

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Kirby LarsonNot one to rest on her laurels, local writer Kirby Larson has been hard at work since her last book, “The Friendship Doll,” was published in May of 2011.

The prolific author (“The Fences Between Us,” “Nubs,” “Two Bobbies” and “Hattie Big Sky”) has just completed a new book, “Hattie Ever After,” the sequel to her Newbery Honor young adult novel, “Hattie Big Sky” (2006, Delacorte/Random House).

Larson never envisioned she’d do a sequel to the engaging, historical novel. It was the last thing she envisioned at the time.

“When I wrote the last words of ‘Hattie Big Sky,’ I felt I’d finished Hattie’s story,” says Larson. “However, hundreds and hundreds of readers disagreed with me and let me know in uncertain terms! In the end, I couldn’t ignore those pleas.”

She adds, “As for the passage of time: that’s how long it took me to find a new, fresh story for Hattie.”

When she decided to move forward on the project, Larson thought she had it all figured out. Inspired by Joanne Wilke’s book, “Eight Women and Two Model Ts and the American West,” she was certain Hattie was going to take a road trip from Great Falls, Montana, (where she had last left Hattie) to Seattle.

“Little did I know,” comments Larson, “that Hattie’s heart’s desire was to be a writer and that fulfilling that dream would mean getting to San Francisco. So, I had to find a way to get her there, which turned out to involve her becoming a seamstress for a vaudeville troupe. And I had to help her get a job when she got there  –  at the San Francisco Chronicle; first as a cleaning lady, then as a reporter.” It took Larson several years to complete the sequel, as it involved countless hours of research.

Kirby Larson 2She confesses that writing the book was one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

She says, “I wanted to do something fresh and I didn’t want to disappoint readers. Those were huge pressures to operate under. At one point, I remember going into my husband’s office, plunking myself down on his lap and saying, amidst the sobs, that I’d have to give the advance back; that I couldn’t write the book. He told me to call my good friend, Mary Nethery, and she gave me a much needed kick in the keister!”

In “Hattie Ever After,” Larson explains that Hattie, the 17-year-old orphan, sets out to find the secret to her scoundrel uncle’s past and, thanks to a vaudeville troupe, a love token, a snake ball and her own stubbornness, she finds the secret to her own future. The story introduces a host of new characters, along with a few old favorites that make appearances via letters.

According to Larson, the book has already received a starred advance review. Her only expectation for the novel is that “it finds the readers it’s meant to find.”

If it’s anything like “Hattie Big Sky,” the Kenmore woman will have no problem meeting these expectations.

Readers adored the first book, which won numerous awards and accolades, and it won fans from Bellevue to Beirut and thousands of places in between.

Larson continues to keep at her craft, with no rest in sight.

She has two new books coming out from Scholastic. The first is “Duke,” due out in September 2013.

Set in World War II, it tells the story of a young boy who donates his beloved German shepherd to the Dogs for Defense program.

A companion book, tentatively titled “Love, Mitsi,” regales the tale of a young Japanese American girl who must leave her dog behind with a neighbor when her family is sent to Minidoka War Relocation Camp.

She also has a series of picture books in the works, but notes that it’s too soon to discuss them.

As for Hattie, Larson emphatically says, “The Hattie saga is done! I’ve learned something important about myself as a writer: I’m not cut out to write series!”

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