Artist Nan Rossiter, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, created art for internationally recognized companies such as Viking, MasterCard, and UPS. Eventually, she opted to pursue her love of writing and combined that passion with her art to become an author-illustrator. She quickly gained national attention with “Rugby & Rosie,” an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists and winner of Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award, “The Way Home,” one of Smithsonian Magazine’s Notable Books for Children, and “Sugar on Snow.”
Not yet content, this housewife and mother of two sons made the decision to spread her literary wings and penned the heralded fiction novel “The Gin and Chowder Club.” Don’t let the title fool you. The story is a deeply moving tale of family, surrendering to temptation, and the emotional canyons and bridges only a family can create.
Nan’s second novel is “Words Get in the Way,” the story of Callie, the single mother of an autistic child, and her return to the small New Hampshire community she was raised in. The tribulations Callie once left behind in New Hampshire remain, and she has to face her past as well as build a future for her son who refuses to speak.
“Words Get in the Way” is a story of humble, everyday people caught up in decisions with lingering effects and the curveball changes life throws at us. This is also a romantic story of hope, love, and how answers can be found where we least expect them. Uplifting and yet at times dramatic, “Words” is a journey through life and all its sadness and laughter. And, I have to admit, the author kept me guessing to the final pages whether the love interests would come together or not.
Refusing to turn her back on her love of illustration and children’s books, Nan’s new children's book, The Fo'c'sle, Henry Beston's "Outermost House", will be published in May, 2012.
Q) With your children’s books receiving such high praise and popularity, why write adult fiction as well?
A) Before I dreamed of being a writer, I was an illustrator. I worked in the freelance field for several years before I decided to try to write a children’s book. Between 1997 and 2002, I was blessed to have three children’s books published, but after sales of my third book were disappointing, I had trouble selling another story and, to make matters worse, one by one, all of my books went out of print. I struggled for several years and received countless rejections after that but I’m a firm believer in perseverance, patience and prayer and I refused to give up!
In 2005 I jumped in with both feet and started writing the novel that had been in my head for several years. Around the same time, a small publisher in Boston expressed interest in reprinting one of my children’s books in paperback. My relationship with that publisher blossomed and I approached him with an idea for a new children’s book. Soon, I was painting illustrations for a new children’s books and writing a novel at the same time. In the end, I endured nine long years without publishing any books…but now my cup overflows!
Q) I have to ask this question. Why did you decide to create an autistic character, and where, or who, did the inspiration come from?
A) Autism has become much better understood in recent years and it seems to be in the news all the time, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was inspired to create a character with autism because I wanted to help raise awareness and I also wanted to understand autism better myself. Oftentimes, we see kids misbehaving in a store and we immediately think it’s a parenting/discipline issue but maybe there’s something else going on – maybe we’re too quick to judge. Parents of kids with autism struggle on so many levels and perception is one of them. I wanted not only to help raise awareness but also to reach out to those overwhelmed parents and write a story that’s uplifting.
Q) What I find encouraging and important is the fact mothers of autistic children have been praising not just your attention to the child, but your capture of the true emotional rollercoaster, struggles, and joys that befall and hearten parents of autistic children. How did you come to so accurately portray Callie?
A) I’m thrilled by the positive feedback the book has received from moms who struggle with kids that have autism. When I was writing, it was very important to me to be as accurate as possible; I think I was able to portray Callie’s feelings accurately simply from being a mom and knowing how a mom feels. Every parent hopes their child will be happy, successful, and accepted - and if anything threatens those hopes and dreams, a parent’s heart breaks for their child.
Q) “The Gin and Chowder Club” has sequel written all over it. Can we look forward to a sequel or series?
A) There are no immediate plans for a full length sequel to The Gin & Chowder Club (although there is already a short sequel in the Fern Michaels Christmas anthology, Making Spirits Bright, 2011). My contribution, Christmas on Cape Cod, focuses on several of the characters from G&C and tells about Asa’s first Christmas being a dad. Readers who are familiar with these characters will also discover that they make cameos in Words Get in the Way - and that the cabin in Words is the cabin Asa built at the end of Gin & Chowder!
Q) Two very different novels revolving around family. What’s next?
A) Currently, I’m writing another novel that revolves around family! It’s about three sisters whose mom – stricken with Alzheimer’s – has passed away. The sisters return home to New Hampshire to begin the sad task of planning her service and the overwhelming business of sifting through her cherished belongings - trying to decide what can be discarded and what should be saved. In the process, they discover a surprising secret that their mom kept for many years.
In addition, my aforementioned new children’s book, The Fo’c’sle, will be available this June!
Q) Any parting comments for those who have yet to read your books?
A) As I wrote on the acknowledgement page for Words Get in the Way, when I first began writing my novel - and praying that it would be published - I promised God I would always try to write uplifting stories that make a difference. I’ve been blessed with that wonderful opportunity and that’s just what I hope to do. I also hope readers will find their way to my books (through interviews like this one!) and come away with a positive message and a good feeling.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/