October 1, 2012

An Author a (Mon)day: Molly Beth Griffin

I'm very honored to be able to welcome Molly Beth Griffin on to the blog today. She's kindly agreed to be my very first participant for this feature, which I'm quite pleased about as I adored her book Silhouette of a Sparrow (See my review here!). Please give her a warm welcome!


Alexa: Why did you choose this setting (place/decade) for your book? Tell us a little bit about your research, your inspiration and so on.

Molly: I grew up in Excelsior, Minnesota just after the town's amusement park was torn down, so it always intrigued me. When my graduate school advisor encouraged me to branch out from picture books and try a novel, I decided to set it there, at the amusement park, during its early years. The 1920s were a time of great upheaval, a time of big changes in social structures, women's rights, and conservation, so it felt like the perfect setting for a coming-of-age novel. Garnet's changes could be spurred on by the quickly-changing world around her. My process began with some foundational research about the place (the town, the park, the lake) and the era, and then while I was writing I ended up dipping back into research on fashion, food, music, pop culture (everything from movie stars to crossword puzzles), and of course, birds.

Alexa: What are your favorite settings in other books? Feel free to give more than one example!

Molly: I love natural settings that deeply explore the ecology of a place (like in The Long Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin). I also love culturally rich settings that are far from my own experience (like in Laurie King's O Jerusalem). And of course, anyone who can nail the setting of a regular old high school has my utmost respect. Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach and The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes are a couple of new ones that do an excellent job, and of course, there's my YA guru Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak andWintergirls).

Alexa: If we were in an alternate universe and timeline, what would your ideal setting (place/decade) be?

Molly: Well, Paris in the 20s is the easy answer. Another deeply seeded fantasy of mine is that I am mysteriously transplanted into the world of Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House (1840s on Lake Superior). But I'd be interested to try out anywhere except 1950s suburban America!


Thank you so much for sharing your answers with us Molly! It was a pleasure to hear more about the wonderful place that your book is set in, as well as the work that went into it. And I'm definitely going to have to take a look at your book suggestions too!



Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication Date: September 11, 2012

In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park--a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under the supervision of equally oppressive guardians--her father’s wealthy cousin and the matron’s stuck-up daughter. Only a liberating job an intense, secret relationship, and a deep faith in her own fierce heart can save her from the suffocating boredom of traditional femininity.

Why I loved this book
The way that Molly wrote the setting is incredible. It was so vivid, and so realistic, and I definitely wanted to pay a visit to this lake resort after I finished. Plus, I think she came up with such a great character in Garnet - she's very unique!


  1. Paris in the 20s sounds like fun... how about Garnet in Paris in the 20s?? I love it! Next book! Also, as we know, I think Molly is pretty much a genius.

    A, have you read Princesses of Iowa yet? It's a great book.


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