I am very happy to share with my readers my interview with Janet Fox, author of Faithful, which was published on May 13. Faithful is a young adult historical novel set in the early 1900s in Yellowstone.
In 1904 Margaret Bennet has it all – money, position, and an elegant family home in Newport, Rhode Island. But just as she is to enter society, her mother ruins everything, first with public displays, and finally by disappearing. Maggie’s confusion and loss are compounded when her father drags her to Yellowstone National Park, where he informs her that they will remain. At first Maggie’s only desire is to return to Newport. But the mystical beauty of the Yellowstone landscape, and the presence of young Tom Rowland, a boy unlike the others she has known, conspire to change Maggie from a spoiled girl willing to be constrained by society to a free-thinking and brave young woman living in a romantic landscape at the threshold of a new century.
Faithful has a rather unique setting for a young adult historical novel. What inspired you to tell this story, and in this place and time?
My family has a cabin in the mountains of Montana and we’d visited Yellowstone a number of times; I’d always thought it would make a fantastic setting for a novel. I had just started writing for children, and was on a search for new ideas. On a hike near the cabin one morning, I said to my husband – who is my first reader – “what if I told a story about a girl in historical times who visited Yellowstone?” And the germ of the idea was born. This was not long after I’d lost my own mom; so I wanted to tell a story about a relationship between a mother and daughter. Once I began writing and researching and learned that the Old Faithful Inn was opened in June 1904, I decided that that time period and place had much to offer: the birth of a new century, women’s rights, a spectacular hotel in a spectacular setting. It all fit together perfectly.
What kind of research did you do for the novel?
Quite a bit. I visited every museum I could in the region. I spent time in the Park gathering information – the rangers were wonderful resources, and there are lectures almost every night. There’s also a new Research Center in Gardiner, and the curators allowed me access to some of the archival material (I was able to read the log book from the Superintendent in 1904, for example.) But the internet, too, is a treasure. You just have to be picky and careful and make sure that the information you gather there can be documented.
What do you hope readers will learn from Maggie's story?
Maggie learns to discover who she is by accepting who she is – and who her mother was. For teens, that’s at the heart of finding yourself, of becoming comfortable in your own skin: you have to accept yourself. And Maggie faced hurdles that girls today don’t have to deal with – enforced marriage, corsets, expectations of behavior. I hope readers realize how lucky we all are not to have those constraints; but also I hope they realize that being different is okay. You don’t have to conform to others’ expectations.
Were any of the characters in Faithful inspired by real people?
Not really. Well, maybe Kitty. I had a girlfriend in high school who snaked my boyfriend. I wonder if she’ll know who she is…
If you could go back in time for a day and be guaranteed safety, what place and time would you like to visit?
I’d love to see my mom again…but if it was an historical time, I think I’d like to see life in Elizabethan England. Just for a day. I’d love to walk around in London and see and hear and smell (well, maybe not smell) the city. I’d especially love to examine the clothing as worn by the upper classes. I bet the clothes of the upper classes were gorgeous.
What will your next book be?
My next book is FORGIVEN, due out in June 2011. It’s set in 1906 in San Francisco, at the time of the great earthquake and fires. And the novel follows a secondary character from FAITHFUL, but if I tell which character, I might give away some secrets.
When you aren't writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?
I love to garden. I’ve grown everything from vegetables to flowers. We’ve been living in Texas for 15 years and that’s been something of a challenge: I’ve learned all about xeriscape and desert plants. I’m looking forward to our next chapter, when we move back north – we want to live in Montana year round – and I can grow real northern flowers again. Oh – I also love to hike. Hiking clears my mind of all the debris and allows me space to imagine.
What is your favorite book/author?
I would have to admit Jane Austin is my favorite, and it’s a toss-up between Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Sure! Please come visit me on my blog, http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com/