THE GIVER OF STARS is based on the true story of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. How did you discover this piece of history?
“I was reading an edition of the Smithsonian Magazine and came across an extraordinary series of pictures of women on horseback. They were on rough, mountainous terrain, clutching parcels of books, gazing out proudly. I read the accompanying text, about the real-life horseback librarians of Kentucky, and knew immediately that I wanted to write a book about them.”
What was your research process like?
“Oh, I love research. I don’t believe you can write effectively about a place without immersing yourself in it. I need the sights and smells and stories. I visited Kentucky three times between 2017 and 2019 and stayed in a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain, rode horses along the trails the women would have ridden, and talked to a lot of people, to try and get not just the facts, but the rhythms of the language.”
Libraries play a key role in THE GIVER OF STARS, and keen readers will notice you often include a library in your novels. Why are libraries so meaningful to you?
“I was built in a library. My parents didn’t have much money when I was growing up so the weekly visit to the local library was a key part of my education, and my love of reading. Libraries are one of the few resources where people can be sheltered, educated and entertained without having to pay, and it pains me that they are under such threat. Without knowledge, people have fewer opportunities to move upwards.”
The protagonist in THE GIVER OF STARS, Alice, is a British woman who moves to Kentucky after marrying an American man. Why did you choose to include a British character in this very American novel?
“Well, it felt pretty audacious to be writing about Appalachia, even with research. I felt that if much of it was seen through the eyes of someone unfamiliar with that world, it made everything a little more accessible. Given it was such a closed world, I also liked the tensions inherent in introducing someone “foreign” into it.”
What does the title THE GIVER OF STARS mean?
“The Giver of Stars is the title of a poem that forms a pivotal moment of the story. It’s a beautiful, tender, romantic poem that spells nothing out but leaves you a little breathless and it was written by a woman who couldn’t express what she really felt–a little like Alice and Frederick. “
What are the main themes of the book? What do you want people to take away from reading THE GIVER OF STARS?
“I wanted to write a book about women who had agency, and did worthwhile things, rather than simply existing in a romantic or domestic plotline. These women achieved epic things, and, more importantly, supported each other while doing it. I reject the constantly pushed narrative that says women must always be in competition with each other; in my experience other women have been my greatest friends and supports and i wanted to show that. Mostly, I want to entertain and transport the reader a little, to make them laugh and cry. I really hope readers enjoy reading THE GIVER OF STARS as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.”
This is a portion of a Q&A sent to me from Viking to post on my blog. I think it’s important because it gives the reader a good perspective of how and why this wonderful new novel came about. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have!!
Happy Reading. Cheers!