Q&A with Patti Callahan Henry

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Q&A With Patti Callahan Henry 

Hello everyone! I’m doing a Q&A with New York Times Bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry. Many of you probably read her books “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” “Surviving Savannah,” and “Once Upon A Wardrobe”. 


Q: The first time I read from you was in 2021 shortly after “Once Upon  A Wardrobe,” came out. It was such a beautiful story about family, love and the magic of storytelling and how it changes us. Which scenes did you have the most fun writing? Which scenes were difficult to write? 


A: I had the most fun writing…well…all of it. This novel was inspiring to me and I loved diving into the pieces of C. S. Lewis’ life that I could see in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. But if you’re going to make me choose, I will say that every scene with Megs and Padraig was so much fun to write. The scene that was the most difficult to write was the last one…for obvious reasons. 


Q; Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels? I would definitely love to see “Once Upon a Wardrobe,” become a movie. 


A: No rights have been sold yet! Loads of interest but fingers crossed. 


Q: Can you spoil a little bit about the book you are writing now? I know you posted a few snippets here and there on instagram. Back in the spring the name of your novel was “The River Child” but then a week or two ago in your stories you posted a title “The Secret Book of Flora Lea.” Did you change the title or are they two separate books? 


A: Ah, it is the same book. The River Child was my working title but when Simon & Schuster, Atria bought the book we came up with a new title: The Secret Book of Flora Lea. I am so thrilled about this novel. I loved writing it. The story begins in September 1939 when fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated from their home in Bloomsbury, London during Operation Pied Piper. They find a haven in a village near Oxford. There, to allay their fear and loneliness, Hazel creates a magical storybook land for her small sister, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own: Whisperwood. Then in the fall of 1940, at the height of the Blitz, Flora goes missing on the banks of the Thames. Everyone is under suspicion, and lives are shattered. Flora is never found, and Hazel blames herself, her innocence lost. In March 1960, Hazel lives in London and works at the cozy, family-run Hogan’s Book Shoppe where she unwraps a parcel from the United States containing an illustrated children’s book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. She has never told anyone about her and Flora’s secret story, and now it exists in a collection of fairy tales written by an American author.

Could the survival of the story mean the survival of her sister?


Q: What were your favorite novels you read this year? 

A: I read so many I loved. Among my favorites are of course from my Friends and Fiction Cohort: The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel; The Wedding Veil by Kristy Woodson Harvey and The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews. I loved Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, Circe by Madeline Miller and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. 


Q: Since you have two books around the subject of C.S. Lewis and Narnia, would you ever write about his best friend J.R.R. Tolkien?  


A: I never say never, but I don’t have a story I’d want to tell right now! 


Q: What advice would you give to anyone who is an aspiring writer? Especially someone who wants to write in your field of Historical Fiction? 


A: Write and read and read and write and read. I know that sounds simplistic but the more you love the art of storytelling, the better you can try and find your own voice. Don’t write to impress; write to enchant.