The Long Way Home
Hi, readers! As a writer, it's always fun to take on projects that offer new challenges. So when my editor at Scholastic, David Levithan, suggested that I write a four-book intergenerational family story, I was intrigued by the possibilities. I particularly liked his idea that the eldest daughter of the previous narrator should narrate each successive book. I eagerly set about creating the characters, their stories, and the settings in a series spanning almost one hundred years.
Better To Wish, the first book in the Family Tree series, gave me the opportunity to write about an era that was before my time, something I'd never done before. Beginning in 1930 and set in a small town in Maine, the story is narrated by Abby Nichols, who's eight years old at the start of the book. It was important to me that I carefully research this time period to accurately portray Abby's life for my readers. It's been many years since I've been a student, and I was happy to realize how much I enjoyed digging into a topic and immersing myself in the research process.
I'm pleased to announce the publication of book two in the Family Tree series. The Long Way Home is narrated by Dana Burley, the daughter of Zander and Abby (Nichols) Burley. The setting changes from small-town Maine to big-city life in New York, and begins on the day in 1955 that Dana and her twin sister Julia turn seven. Just as in Better To Wish, Dana's story is written over the course of many years, with each chapter describing one single, but significant day, in her life. Chapter by chapter, the reader learns more about the Dana's life, as if turning the pages in a photo album.
Dana's life could not be more different from her mother Abby's. While Abby grew up in a small town, and for much of her young life had very little money, Dana's father Zander is a rich and famous author. The Burleys live a charmed life, attending Broadway shows, eating at famous restaurants, and mingling at parties with the New York elite. Dana, a budding artist who loves the vibrancy, character, and pace of city life, is first and foremost her father's daughter and number-one supporter. She is thrilled when he asks her to illustrate his latest book, which becomes a big success. But tragedy, heartbreak, and the struggles that come with these challenges affect Dana's family, forcing changes that she does not want to accept. Dana is torn between following her dreams, while still wanting to stay close to the people who mean the most to her.
The time period Dana lived in felt familiar to me, since I was born just a decade after Dana was. As a result, I was able to conduct most of my research on the Internet. It was fun looking up which shows were playing on Broadway during Dana's years in the city, as well as what the popular restaurants were. My research included reading articles about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination for historical accuracy. I was very young when President Kennedy was killed, but I have vivid memories of the reactions of the adults around me, which I incorporated into the book.
Family Tree will continue with books narrated by Dana's daughter Francie, and finally, her granddaughter Georgia. Four generations of women, each with different challenges, dreams, and aspirations. And each with secrets. For now, the story belongs to Dana, as she struggles to find where she belongs within her family.
P.S. Create your own family tree on the Scholastic Family Tree web page!