Ann’s New Book!
As an author, it's always exciting to work on a new project. Once I get started, I become completely immersed in my characters and their personalities during the many months it takes for me to tell their stories. My new book, A Corner of the Universe, will be published this October, and I'm eagerly looking forward to readers meeting the people in the little town of Millerton.
The story is set in the summer of 1960 and told through the eyes of Hattie Owen, the only child of Jonathan and Dorothy Owen. Hattie's father is an artist, and her mother is the daughter of Hayden and Harriet Mercer, the wealthiest family in town. Much to Nana Mercer's dismay, Hattie's parents own and operate a boardinghouse in Millerton. (A boardinghouse is a place where people can rent rooms for a short period of time, or they can live there for many years, like long-time boarders Miss Hagerty and Mr. Penny do in this story.) Hattie loves her safe, familiar life, and has no desire for anything to change.
But Hattie's comfortable world is rocked when her parents inform her that she has an uncle whom they have never told her about. Adam is her mother's much younger brother, and he has been away at a special school — a school for the mentally disabled — since he was twelve years old. The facility is closing, and now Adam must come home to live with Papa and Nana Mercer while they look for a new school. A Corner of the Universe explores how twelve-year-old Hattie comes to terms with the reality of an uncle she never knew she had, and the life-changing effect that their complicated and mysterious friendship has on her that summer.
Writers often draw on personal history, and as it turns out, I had an experience similar to Hattie's. When I was nine, my parents told me that I had had an uncle — my mother's younger brother — who had died before I was born. Like Adam, my uncle Stephen was also considered mentally disabled, but I remember being more shocked that Stephen's existence had been kept a secret than I was by his diagnosis of being "different."
A couple of years ago, I started thinking about my uncle in earnest. My parents had sold our home in Princeton, New Jersey, and during the packing and sorting through years of memories, I was given a box of old home movies. After having them transferred to video-format, I sat in front of my television set and watched as the little boy I knew almost nothing about came to life on the screen, romping and happily playing with his family. It was amazing to think that these movies were from the 1920s and 1930s, long before much was known about autism or schizophrenia. I tried to imagine what my relatives must have been thinking just then, how they must have been wondering about the future and what it would mean for them and their special son. A Corner of the Universe is the story that came out of that curiosity. I definitely enjoyed writing it, and I hope you have a chance to read about Hattie, Adam and their unforgettable summer.