Featured Author: Miranda Asebedo

Photo of Miranda AsebedoIn her debut novel The Deepest Roots, Miranda Asebedo introduced readers to Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, a small town where girls are born with special talents. Some always have enough of what they need, or can find what is missing. Others can fix what is broken, heal wounds, or charm men. These gifts sometimes feel like curses.

The story follows three best friends, Rome, Lux and Mercy. Each has her own struggles that their powers can’t quite ease. After a tornado blows through town, the girls discover a diary that spells out the deathbed wish of a woman who couldn’t survive in Cottonwood Hollow. She wishes strength to the girls who would be born after her death and solidarity between women. The diary then describes a hidden treasure that should only belong to a daughter of Cottonwood Hollow. As they race for the treasure, the girls depend on each other to survive.

Inspiration

Miranda Asebedo said her first novel was inspired by real women she knew growing up in rural Kansas.

“I knew women who could make a car that seemed like it was on its last legs endure another year of commuting back and forth to town for work,” she said. “Women who could throw square bales all afternoon on the farm with near super-human strength that they’d simply refer to as ‘pitching in.’ I knew women, my own mother especially, who could make a simple dinner stretch just enough to feed another couple of hungry mouths who showed up at the dinner table at the last minute. To me, these abilities seemed almost magical as I recalled them through the lens of adulthood. The talents of the girls of Cottonwood Hollow were very much inspired by these unsung women of rural America, who manage to raise families and hold lasting friendships even through the most difficult times.”

Her New Novel

book coverIn her second novel, A Constellation of Roses, Asebedo spins another tale of magical girls, and the power of love, friendship, and second chances. Trix McCabe has a gift for theft. She can pick a pocket in moments, without anyone noticing what she’s doing. After her mother leaves to buy a pack of cigarettes and doesn’t come back, Trix runs from one foster home after another. She’s finally sent to a small town to live with an aunt she didn’t know she had. In Rocksaw, Kansas, she discovers the McCabe women all have a gift. Her aunt bakes pies that affect the way people feel, and her cousin can see someone’s darkest secret with only a touch. In a farmhouse filled with family, Trix might finally find a place to put down roots.

Both books are unforgettable stories of girls empowering girls and triumph over adversity, but A Constellation of Roses isn’t a sequel, so readers can start with whichever they get their hands on first.

“It’s a companion novel to The Deepest Roots,” Asebedo said, “so clever readers might catch a few Easter Eggs pertaining to Cottonwood Hollow and its residents.”

How She Started Writing YA

Asebedo went into writing thinking she would write literary fiction for adults, but an encounter with the young adult (YA) novel The Sweet Far Thing changed her mind.

“…after I read The Sweet Far Thing, I put it down and immediately thought, ‘This is is the kind of story that I love. This is what I want to write. I want to write YA,'” Asebedo said. “My first book was published almost nine years after that “ah-ha” moment, but I always remember that as being a book that helped me define what I loved about reading and writing. I love writing for young adults because it’s such a pivotal time in a person’s life. Those teen years are when you’re figuring out who you want to be and how you want to get there. And what I love about fiction is that it allows the reader to experience different lives and different choices through story. And I’d like to think that those fictional experiences help us figure out who we want to be in reality, too.”

The Impact of Libraries

Asebedo shared some kind words and warm memories on libraries, too. Writers wouldn’t exist without readers, and many readers wouldn’t be the readers they are without libraries.

“Growing up in a rural area, my family used this amazing Mail-A-Book program where we could actually pick books from a catalog and get them mailed to our house,” Asebedo said. “When we finished with the books, we’d mail them back in the reusable bag they came in. Nothing thrilled me so much as seeing that blue bag full of new books show up in the mailbox! The librarians we worked with were so amazing, too. Occasionally there’d be a book missing from a series, or maybe just something I really wanted to read that wasn’t listed in the catalog, and I would write in a request on a postcard to see if I could get it. The librarians would always go out of their way to find it and ship it to me. Libraries (and librarians) are wonderful!”

Read on for the full interview with Asebedo, and add some of the author’s recommended reads to your list.

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An Interview with Miranda Asebedo

The Deepest Roots has a fantastic premise—the girls of a small Kansas town are gifted with certain abilities or powers that give them an edge in a world that can be harder on girls and women. In a previous interview, you mentioned being inspired to write the book while you were trapped in a storm. What gave you the idea to create characters with powers?

The characters’ powers were inspired by the many amazing women I knew growing up in rural Kansas. I knew women who could make a car that seemed like it was on its last legs endure another year of commuting back and forth to town for work. Women who could throw square bales all afternoon on the farm with near super-human strength that they’d simply refer to as “pitching in.” I knew women, my own mother especially, who could make a simple dinner stretch just enough to feed another couple of hungry mouths who showed up at the dinner table at the last minute. To me, these abilities seemed almost magical as I recalled them through the lens of adulthood. The talents of the girls of Cottonwood Hollow were very much inspired by these unsung women of rural America, who manage to raise families and hold lasting friendships even through the most difficult times. 

What writers have had the greatest impact on your life and work? (in no particular order)

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables portrayed a small-town world with humor and grace, and Anne was a spunky, dreamy bookworm after my own heart.

Libba Bray’s The Sweet Far Thing was the book that made me realize I really wanted to write for Young Adults.

My grandfather once showed me a short story he’d written when he was young. But after he served in World War II, he came back home to raise a family doing various jobs from digging ditches and basements to running a bar. His story always reminds me that writing is a gift and a privilege, and I try to honor that.

What is the last really great book that you read? What did you love about it?

The last really great book that I read was Amanda Sellet’s By The Book: A Novel of Prose and Cons. It’s a Contemporary YA that comes out next May, and it’s so delightfully funny and sweet. It combines everything I love about YA and that coming-of-age time of life with all the bookish Austen references my little heart could desire. It will have you asking yourself the most important question of all: What Would Jane Austen Do?

Do you ever re-read books? Are there books that you’ve read more than twice? If so, why?

Yes! I love to reread books. As an adult, I’ve reread lots of books from my childhood, and it’s so interesting to see the elements of the story that I focus on now as opposed to when I was younger. As a young girl, I identified a lot with Jo March and Anne Shirley, but now as an adult I really empathize with Marmee and Marilla Cuthbert! They both definitely had their hands full. But there are several more modern books that I’ve reread quite a few times, like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series. Oh, and I’ve definitely reread the Harry Potter series at least three times.  There’s something so comforting about a familiar story that you love!

Can you recommend 3 great titles published in 2019?

This is really tough because there are so many good books out this year! Here are some of my favorites in a range of YA genres:

  • The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
  • Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
  • The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

What’s coming up next? Can you give us a teaser for the next book?

My sophomore YA novel, A Constellation of Roses, just came out in November. It’s a companion novel to The Deepest Roots, so clever readers might catch a few Easter Eggs pertaining to Cottonwood Hollow and its residents. And of course, I hope there are more books to share in the future! 

Last, a bonus question on libraries. Do you use the library? Any good memories of the library to share? In your own words, why are libraries still valuable in the digital age?

I have always used the library, and this question reminds me that I need to return some books this weekend! Growing up in a rural area, my family used this amazing Mail-A-Book program where we could actually pick books from a catalog and get them mailed to our house. When we finished with the books, we’d mail them back in the reusable bag they came in. Nothing thrilled me so much as seeing that blue bag full of new books show up in the mailbox! The librarians we worked with were so amazing, too. Occasionally there’d be a book missing from a series, or maybe just something I really wanted to read that wasn’t listed in the catalog, and I would write in a request on a postcard to see if I could get it. The librarians would always go out of their way to find it and ship it to me. Libraries (and librarians) are wonderful!

Follow up Question: You said that The Sweet Far Thing is the book that made you realize you wanted to write for young adults. Can you expand on that? Why do you enjoy writing for young adults? What do you hope that readers will take away from your books?

I bought a copy of THE SWEET FAR THING when I was in grad school trying to make myself write literary fiction. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was what was expected of me at the time. But after I read THE SWEET FAR THING, I put it down and immediately thought, “This is is the kind of story that I love. This is what I want to write. I want to write YA.” My first book was published almost nine years after that “ah-ha” moment, but I always remember that as being a book that helped me define what I loved about reading and writing.

I love writing for young adults because it’s such a pivotal time in a person’s life. Those teen years are when you’re figuring out who you want to be and how you want to get there. And what I love about fiction is that it allows the reader to experience different lives and different choices through story. And I’d like to think that those fictional experiences help us figure out who we want to be in reality, too.

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda is your Readers Librarian. She loves to talk books, and to connect readers with their next great reads. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.