I had the delightful opportunity to spend a bit of virtual time with our Kraken finalist, Maureen Buchanan Jones, and talk about her upcoming award-winning title, Maud & Addie. I hope you enjoy this sneak-peek into the early twentieth-century fictional narrative of two girls stranded on a remote isle as much as I do! – Jaynie Royal, Editor-in-Chief
Maud & Addie was a finalist for the Kraken Book Prize for Middle Grade Fiction. Can you tell us what this has meant for you?
It brings me enormous joy to know that the Maud and Addie Campbell will share their adventures and their problem solving with young readers. These girls have been wonderful company, so it has been my wish from the moment they appeared on the page to see them out in the world entertaining others as they have entertained me. The recognition as a finalist for the Kraken Book Prize is also an affirmation that a story about girls fending for themselves has a place in today’s readership.
Can you tell us a little about what inspired Maud & Addie? About the evolution of the narrative?
I am one of six siblings, five of us are sisters. We have shared not only many traveling stories, but events of loss and difficulty. One of my younger sisters died of leukemia when she was eleven. We learned to rely on each other despite differences of temperament and learning styles. The story itself developed because I saw Maud and Addie as real people who were capable of getting themselves in trouble and finding their way out. I simply continued to follow them as I asked questions about how and why they acted and spoke as they did. They have always surprised me.
The historical details in this novel are beautifully done and really bring this place and time to life. Can you tell us a little about the research involved in planning and writing this novel?
I have dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada. Both sides of my family were Canadian; my mother was born and raised in Nova Scotia. Growing up, I spent summer months in Nova Scotia, climbing rocks, digging for clams, and breathing in the Atlantic salt air. To create an accurate place and time, I researched names of plants, birds, especially puffins, and other sea life that would be part of an island placed off the Canadian coast. My own literary education gave me a solid grounding in the time period, but for specific details I find it great fun to roam both the library and the internet to make sure my imagination and the facts of that time line up. One example is whether canned goods were available in 1910.
What lessons, if any, would you like your young readers to draw from this work?
Each reader will find their own entry into Maud & Addie, but for me, the theme of assuming we know our family members is a powerful element in the book. Families create mythologies about who each member is, and an individual can be accepted or rejected. The Campbell sisters believe they know everything about each other until they arrive on the island. And then the truth begins to emerge. We also assume we know ourselves. The strengths we have within us can only emerge if we allow them to when we are tested.
What are you working on next?
Well underway are the third and fourth books of the Maud & Addie trilogy. The second is set in 1915 and the third in 1917. They find themselves again and again in strange and difficult situations, and learn how to rise to each challenge. I am also working on an adult novel set in 1970 and am polishing a second book of poetry.
Why did you set the story in the early 20th century?
1910 is not so long ago and was a moment in history poised between enormous change. Contemporary readers can still relate to it, but it is far enough in the past to be a very different world. Two stranded girls would not have cell phones, GPS, or easy access to electronic or motorized devices. It was a time period that allowed for a particular isolation and self-exploration.
How much of the story is autobiography? Are you either Maud or Addie?
Both individually and together Maud and Addie are far more inventive, capable and tenacious than I am. What they feel in response to their adventure is true. I have been afraid, lonely, exuberant, surprised and silly. I have been both challenged by and learned to survive because of my siblings.
Maureen Buchanan Jones was the Executive Director of Amherst Writers & Artists from 2009-2018. She has led workshops with people who have experienced domestic violence, people in recovery, those who are grieving, teens, and the LGBTQ community. Her poetry has appeared in Woman in Natural Resources, 13th Moon, Peregrine, North Dakota Quarterly, Letters from Daughters to Fathers, Writer Advice, Equinox, Calyx and Chrysalis. Her prose has appeared in Orion and on WFCR-NPR.