When an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.
Here, to help celebrate her book birthday this week for Of Scars and Stardust, I have Andrea Hannah sharing the deep heartache that inspired her book…
Guest post by Andrea Hannah
Tomorrow, the book of my heart releases into the world. I’m thrilled and emotional and blissful and a whole bunch of other things that I expected to be when I’ve imagined seeing Of Scars and Stardust on the shelves. What I didn’t expect is the sheer terror.
Writing this book saved me from self-destruction in the same way Goosebumps saved me in fifth grade, and Speak saved me my senior year of high school. The only difference is I wrote this one. And now everyone can see it. Everyone can see me.
Growing up, my childhood was the definition of chaotic. My parents split when I was four, and my mom and I moved around a lot. As an adult, I can see my mom’s dependence on me was pretty unhealthy, but at the time I thought that this intense pressure to be what she needed—what everyone needed—was normal. Past Andrea didn’t yet realize that she spent hours and hours every single day devouring stories that were so unlike her own life so that she could escape the pressure of the one she already had. So in flooded the talking Chucky dolls and aliens and a team of rag-tag teen entrepreneurs documenting their adventures in babysitting.
In high school, my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. A different kind of pressure, this time to figure out how to navigate the world without my primary parent. More books, only these ones laced with themes of loss and guilt and grief and confusion and all those you’re supposed to feel when someone you love is about to die.
The thing is, I didn’t feel anything. Not yet. So while books gave me permission to feel terrified and heartbroken, I just…couldn’t. There’s a paragraph in Of Scars and Stardust that actually talks about this delayed reaction, right after Claire finds out her sister is missing. She says, “I waited. And I felt nothing.” That was true for me, too.
All of those things came years later, as a newly-married adult, and the guardian of my little brother. Only they didn’t show up right after I signed those custody papers when my mom got too sick to care for my brother and quietly passed away; they came about a year after that. Everything had been settled; my brother was stable, and everyone else in my family had done their grieving while I held space for them. That’s when I let myself lose it.
Only I didn’t have the emotional tools or supports to deal with the unexpected grief. I imploded, which translated into exploding all over everything I’d built up around me. I was angry, and I made sure everyone knew it. After a particularly horrible day, I sat down at my computer and began angry-typing out a story. No one was home for me to be furious with, so my only relief were the keys.
I wrote about two sisters, one who loved the other so fiercely that she would follow her into the mouths of wolves and past the depths of her own understanding and sanity. Claire wanted her sister back so badly that she would put herself and everyone else she loved in danger to do it. Her desperation was palpable in those first few pages, her sadness cutting. I cried for the first time in years. Then I kept going.
I fought through every ounce of grief to figure out how to live without my mom while I was writing this book. And at the end, I was less angry. Somehow more stitched together than I was before. It’s weird that a book about sisters was actually about processing my relationship with my mom, but Claire’s feelings of grief and undying hope all mixed together are what I imagine are part of the human experience when they lose someone they love, whether it’s through death or mythical wolves with snapping, yellow teeth.
This book will always own my heart because it’s the story that put it back together, that helped me figure out who I actually was when I wasn’t my mother’s daughter anymore, at least not in the physical sense. I don’t know if I’ll ever write anything that I cherish as much as this story (I haven’t yet), but I’m extremely thrilled this is the first one on the shelves. And even though I feel incredibly transparent and naked and terrified about letting the mass public in on Claire’s progression through her grief, I’m grateful that this story is out there for anyone who needs it, whenever they’re ready for it.
Andrea Hannah lives in the Midwest, where there are plenty of dark nights and creepy cornfields as fodder for her next thriller. She graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in special education. When she’s not teaching or writing, she spends her time chasing her sweet children and ornery pug, running, and dreaming up her next adventure.
Thank you, Andrea, for sharing the touching, emotional story of the Book of Your Heart with my readers. Happy Book Birthday to Of Scars and Stardust!
The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Camille DeAngelis
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Tessa Gratton
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Brandy Colbert
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Dahlia Adler
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Corey Ann Haydu
- The Book of Your Heart Series: Justina Chen
- And about my own Book of My Heart: Imaginary Girls