Intervju s Glendy Vanderom, autoricom romana ‘Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde’

S autoricom razgovara Luka Pejić, prevoditelj za hrvatsko izdanje

Glendy Vanderah autorica je svjetskog bestselera Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde—priče o Ursi, osebujnoj djevojčici koja tvrdi da je došla na Zemlju sa zvijezda kako bi posvjedočila petorma čudima među ljudima te tako “diplomirala” na vlastitom planetu. Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde briljantan je, emotivan, dirljiv roman u kojemu se tragedija sudara s trijumfom, nesnošljivost s ljubavlju, svakodnevno s čudesnim, činjenično s fantastičnim. Priča je to istkana od zvjezdane prašine, koja u sebe čitatelja namami, zgrabi i goni do posljednje stranice, gdje on shvati koliko se u tu priču i likove zaljubio.

Glendyn prvijenac također je moj prevoditeljski debi. Prošla je godina dana—i čak ako nikada više ništa ne prevedem, prisjećat ću se ove čarobne avanture sa zanosom i nostalgijom, s ljubavlju. Od svih mogućih knjiga, neću žaliti što mi je dodijeljena čast prevođenja ovoga remek-djela.

“Dirnuli ste me”, rekao sam joj kada je vratila pitanja s odgovorima. “Nisam ovo očekivao—tako intimno, jer rijetko se autori otvaraju tek tako… Čitatelji će morati osjetiti povezanost s Vama i Vašim likovima nakon što pročitaju odgovore na ova pitanja, kao i ja sâm.”
“Da, iskrena sam o svojoj pozadini u intervjuima”, vratila je. “Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde usko je povezana s emocijama i sjećanjima iz mojega djetinjstva. Kada bih skrivala da sam se borila s nedaćama kao dijete i depresijom kao odrasla osoba, kako bi to pomoglo mojim čitateljima da vide bolju budućnost?”
Hrvatsko izdanje knjige Where the Forest Meets the Stars (Stilus, Zagreb, 2019)

Gospođo Vanderah: ponajprije, moram reći da sam oduševljen što razgovaram s Vama i da sam Vam beskrajno zahvalan što ste pristali odgovoriti na nekoliko pitanja za svoje hrvatske čitatelje.

Hvala na sjajnom uvodu, Luka, i što si mi pružio priliku da razgovaram sa svojim čitateljima iz Hrvatske.

Počet ću s najjednostavnijim pitanjem—vjerojatno prvim od svakoga: Što Vas je inspiriralo da napišete roman Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde? Kako Vam je ideja došla? Možda lukavo, tako da kažem, prilazeći Vam malo po malo, ili je bila iznenadna, odjednom Vas preplavljujući?

Priča mi je došla u dijelovima. Nekoliko sam godina pisala fantastiku (najprije “za zabavu”, a onda u nastojanju da je objavim), da bih potom isprobala suvremenu prozu. Moram reći da mi je mjesto radnje prvo sinulo. Uvijek sam željela napisati knjigu smještenu u izoliranoj istraživačkoj kući u kojoj sam živjela nekoliko godina dok sam radila na ptičjim istraživačkim projektima. Prava je kuća bila slična svom opisu u knjizi. Bila je u šumi pokraj potoka na kraju seoske ceste. Čak je pored kuće bilo i staro groblje. Glavna ideja za knjigu sinula mi je nakon što sam vidjela film fantastike Panov labirint redatelja Guillerma del Tora. Osjetila sam afinitet prema ideji u kojoj dijete koristi fantaziju ne bi li pobjeglo od nasilja i zala rata. Kao dijete koje je odrastalo u nestabilnom domu, koristila sam prirodu svojega samoniklog stražnjeg dvorišta ne bih li pobjegla traumatičnim događajima koji su mi se zbivali u obitelji—za mene je ono bilo gotovo poput svijeta fantastike. Kada sam osjetila te duboke veze, knjiga je počela navirati iz mene!

Jeste li znali kakav će roman biti dok je ideja još uvijek bila u stadiju embrija ili se mijenjala dok ste ju pisali? Kako je izgledala u svome začetku? Što je bilo u njenom središtu? Što je bilo prvo—teme i sjena priče koja će uskoro biti napisana ili pak likovi koji će ju nastanjivati?

Nikada ne znam precizno kakva će mi priča biti na kraju. Ne koristim detaljne nacrte. Kada mi na pamet padne ideja za priču, prvo kreiram likove i njihove motivacije, potom zamislim događaj koji bi mi stimulirao radnju. Na početku samo skiciram zaplet, iako uglavnom znam svršetak. Dok pišem, radnja se obično mijenja—ponekad dramatično. A kako mi likovi postaju stvarnijima u glavi, razviju osobine i pozadinske priče koje često iznenade čak i mene! Primjera radi, dijelovi Gabeove pozadine iznenadili su i mene dok sam pisala. U početku je za mene ova priča ponajprije bila o tome kako se djeca nose s nedaćama, ali je postala mnogo više od toga kako je napredovala. Dualnost u Ursinoj izvanzemaljskoj/ljudskoj predodžbi o samoj sebi odražava Joine identitete prije/poslije raka, kao i Gabeovo stanje prije/poslije otkrića o vlastitom ocu. Te su teme evoluirale kako je priča napredovala.

Što možete reći hrvatskim čitateljima o Ursinom postanku? Je li naša mala genijalna izvanzemaljka temeljena ili inspirirana stvarnom osobom? Nekime koga poznajete? Ili Vam se samo pojavila u glavi takva kako je napisana?

Ursa je definitivno izdanak mojega vlastitog djetinjstva onakva kakvoga ga se sjećam. Odlučila sam da je njezina predodžba sebe kao izvanzemaljke u ljudskome tijelu zanimljiv način za prikazati kako se djeca često osjećaju kada dožive traumu ili zlostavljanje: osamljenost, osjećaj da su odijeljeni od “normalnoga” ljudskog svijeta kojemu se ne mogu pridružiti. Neki od mojih čitatelja vide Ursu kao istinsku izvanzemaljku, neki vide njezinu alijenaciju kao metaforu.

Mnoge ideje za Ursine osobine došle su mi od troje moje djece. Primjerice, jedan od mojih sinova čita riječi unatrag od mlade dobi kao način nošenja s viškom mentalne energije. Djeca su puno svjesnija o onomu što se zbiva nego što mnogi odrasli shvaćaju. Znam da će ovo zvučati pristrano, ali nikada me nije prestala začuđivati briljantnost koju sam viđala kod vlastite djece od ranih godina! Ursa je slitina sve djece koju sam ikada poznavala, uključujući mene samu.

Koji su autori utjecali na Vas kao spisateljicu? Koja su djela utjecala na Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde? Također, ne mogu ne pitati… William Shakespeare je Ursin omiljeni pisac. Postoji li poseban razlog što je to on? Koja Vam je Shakespeareova drama omiljena i zašto?

Još otkad sam bila dijete čitam eklektično—fantastiku i znanstvenu-fantastiku, suvremenu prozu, stručnu literaturu—i ne mogu baš reći da jedan ili nekoliko autora snažno utječe na moje pisanje. Ustvari, to i ne želim!

Što se tiče Shakespearea, smatram da mu je rad briljantan, posebice za njegovo vrijeme. Volim u svoje priče umetati aluzije na njegove drame, jer njegovi zapleti često ovise o čudesnim i slabo vjerojatnim hirovima sudbine, i to me intrigira: kako jedna odluka, ili nekoliko sekundi sreće ili nesreće (nezgoda, zločin, sastanak), može osobi promijeniti čitav život. Umetanje Shakespeareovih drama u priču odgovaralo mi je zato što se Šuma vrti oko te teme sudbine, oko toga koliko kontrole nad njom imamo i imamo li snage nadvladati teške sudbine nakon što su nam dodijeljene.

Shakespeareov stih je krasan, ali mislim da čitanje drame ne izvlači iz nje magiju kao kada je se gleda u predstavi. Dvije omiljene izvedbe: čarobna produkcija Sna Ivanjske noći koju sam pogledala prije mnogo godina i nedavna izvedba Na Tri kralja ili kako hoćete u malenom kazalištu gdje je publika bitno postala dio predstave.

U Vašemu romanu mentalna bolest ima jednaku ulogu kao tjelesna. Imate li savjet za ljude—naročito mlade—koji se bore s depresijom i tjeskobom, ili mentalnom bolešću općenito? Nadalje, s obzirom na Jo—koja pobijedi rak dojke—imate li kakav savjet za žene, mlađe i starije?

Depresija se odvija na spektru od blage do teške. Definitivno znam kako izgleda teška depresija—moja majka alkoholičarka ju je imala. Moja je bila manje teška, vjerojatno više situacijska nego klinička. Iako sam Gabeovu depresiju napisala tako da sliči mojim vlastitim iskustvima, od nekih sam čitatelja, koji nisu smatrali da je bolest napisana “realistično”, primila kritike. Mislim da je tužno što neki ljudi misle da je sva depresija teška i nepobjediva. Htjela sam da priča prikaže drugu stranu. Depresija, naročito u blažim oblicima, može se poboljšati. Pronalazak radosti u biologiji, prirodi i pisanju te stabilnosti u ljubavlju prožetom odnosu s mojim mužem pomogli su mi prevladati više nego što sam sanjala da je moguće kada sam bila dijete. Možda ne postoji “savršen” sretni završetak, ali postoji izobilje nade i potencijala za iscjeljenje. To je poruka koju želim prenijeti čitateljima.

Kao većina nas, vidjela sam kako previše članova obitelji, prijateljica i poznanica podliježe raku dojke. Vidjela sam i mnoge koje su ga pobijedile. Nemam osobit savjet osim onoga vezanoga uz preventivne mjere, jer svaki je slučaj različit, kakve su i sasvim osobne odluke žena nakon dijagnoze.

Vaš roman također upućuje na druge ozbiljne probleme, kao što su obiteljsko nasilje i nasilje nad djecom. Imate li poruku za ljude koji se bore s takvim poteškoćama?

Svaka je situacija drukčija. Vjerujem da su me problemi iz moga djetinjstva učinili snažnijom osobom, ali znam da to ne može biti slučaj za svakoga. Jedna voljena, stabilna osoba—rođak, prijatelj, učitelj, susjed—može napraviti ogromnu razliku u životu djeteta sa smetnjama. Nađite te dobre ljude i vjerujte im. Bitno je osjećati se manje osamljenim. Ako nemate nikoga kome možete vjerovati, morate vjerovati sebi. Volite sebe. Ne preuzimajte krivnju koja ne pripada vama. Ne okrećite se destruktivnom ponašanju koje će vam život učiniti još jadnijim (kao što sam ja radila nekoliko godina). Možete se probiti kroz teške dane, i oporaviti, i živjeti ispunjen život. Nikada ne puštajte nadu. Ursa je utjelovila ideju da čak i osmogodišnjakinja, čistom silom volje, može promijeniti vlastitu budućnost nabolje.

(spoiler alert) Sada samo za one koji su pročitali! Možete li nam reći što se desi s Ursom, Jo i Gabeom nakon završetka? Neki od nas su očajni za još!

Ne vidim nastavak kao neposrednu sreću i sunčev sjaj. Mislim da Ursa, Gabe i Jo imaju još izazova pred sobom. Ali snaga koju su pronašli u ljubavi jedni za druge bit će bitna za svladavanje tih problema. Pitali su me zamišljam li vjenčanje Jo i Gabea u budućnosti. Moj odgovor je “da”—a tko ne zamišlja?

Koliko Vam je trebalo da napišete ovaj naizgled jednostavan, no zapravo kompleksan roman?

Nisam sigurna koliko dugo, jer je pisanje često bilo prekidano. Znala sam završiti knjigu za manje od sedam tjedana, no za ovu je trebalo mnogo duže zbog raznih problema. Tata mi je umirao od uznapredovale Parkinsonove bolesti i trebalo mu je dosta njege. Partnerica mu je imala demenciju. Također sam smrskala ruku u nesreći i dugo vremena nisam mogla pisati.

Kojih biste, recimo, pet knjiga preporučili ljubiteljima svojega djela? Neki uspoređuju Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde s The Snow Child Eowyn Ivey—bi li ono bilo među Vašim preporukama? Je li možda ta knjiga imala utjecaj na Vaše pisanje?

Kao što rekoh, del Torov Panov labirint—film, ne knjiga—imao je velik utjecaj. Pročitala sam The Snow Child Eowyn Ivey nakon što sam napisala Šumu—ybog komentara autora Christophera Meadesa na prednjoj korici moje knjige. Vidim povezanosti između te dvije priče, ali mislim da se i dosta razlikuju. Pročitala sam Jezik cvijeća Vanesse Diffenbaugh (Znanje) nedugo nakon publikacije vlastite knjige, i osjećam da ta knjiga ima više sličnosti s mojom nego Iveyna. Tajnovit život pčela Sue Monk Kidd (Mozak knjiga) bi mogla biti knjiga u kojoj bi ljudi uživali ako im se svidjela moja priča. Mnogi čitatelji uspoređuju moju knjigu s Djevojkom iz močvare Delije Owens (Vorto Palabra), stoga bi to bila još jedna knjiga koju mogu preporučiti. Također ću spomenuti Svjetlo koje ne vidimo Anthonyja Doerra (Profil), priču o dvoje mladih koji se bore protiv nedaća za vrijeme Drugog svjetskog rata.

Vi ste ptičja biologinja, poput Jo. Kada ste znali da želite postati spisateljica?

Obožavala sam pisati pjesme i priče kao dijete. Moja učiteljica iz petog razreda jednom je rekla razredu, “Jednoga dana, svi ćete čitati knjigu koju je napisala Glendy.” Bio je to za mene inspirativan trenutak. No, moja ljubav prema prirodi i životinjama jače me vukla, pa sam na koledžu odlučila studirati ekologiju umjesto engleskoga jezika. Nakon što sam stekla diplomu poslije preddiplomskog studija, dok sam radila kao biologinja, upisala sam se na tečaje iz pisanja i književnosti. Ali upisala sam diplomski studij iz biologije. Potom sam upoznala svojeg supruga, također ornitologa, i rodila troje djece. U to sam vrijeme bila prezauzeta da bih se mnogo bavila znanošću. Čim su djeca pošla u školu, umjesto da se vratim znanosti (osjećala sam se kao da sam predugo bila udaljena od istraživanja), počela sam pisati. Iskreno sam se iznenadila što mi od prve ide pisanje fikcije.

Još jedno veliko pitanje: možemo li očekivati filmsku adaptaciju u skoroj budućnosti?

Knjigu je zapazio predstavnik iz Hollywooda, ali zasad ni riječi o filmu. Morat ćemo razaslati nekoliko dobrih kvarkova kako bi se desilo!

Što nam možete reći o svojem sljedećem romanu? Je li u sličnom stilu kao vaš prvijenac ili možemo očekivati nešto sasvim drugačije? Pišete li ga još uvijek ili ste završili?

Završen je i ima sličnih tema. Izlazi na proljeće 2021.

Vjerujem da je većina čitatelja rumana Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde mislila da je u pitanju znanstvena fantastika do samoga kraja; možemo li tako nešto očekivati u sljedećoj knjizi? Ima li naslov? Ako ima, možete li ga podijeliti s nama? (Obećavamo da ćemo šutjeti. 😉)

Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde različito su čitatelji opisivali kao djelo suvremene, umjetničke, obiteljske proze, znanstvene fantastike i magičnog realizma. Mislim da je fascinantno što priča može djelovati kao “mjenjolik” unutar različitih žanrova! Moj izdavač svrstava knjigu u suvremenu prozu, a moja sljedeća knjiga, The Light Through the Leaves, u istome je žanru.

Konačno, želite li nešto poručiti hrvatskim fanovima?

Poruka za moje čitatelje iz Hrvatske: Nadam se da ste uživali u knjizi Gdje šuma susreće zvijezde. Bilo je ostvarenje sna vidjeti svoj prvijenac preveden na dvadeset jedan jezik. Oduševljena sam što Hrvati imaju priliku pročitati knjigu. Što bi još autorica mogla poželjeti uz to da zna da njezine priče mogu dodirnuti srca toliko ljudi širom svijeta? Nadam se da ću vam uskoro moći pružiti prijevod svojega sljedećeg romana! Sretno čitanje!

(Poveznica za verziju intervjua na engleskome: https://bibliopolis.home.blog/2020/09/14/glendy-vanderah-interview/)

Glendy Vanderah, author of ‘Where the Forest Meets the Stars’, and Luka Pejić, translator for the Croatian edition — Q&A (original English version)

Glendy Vanderah is the author of the bestselling novel Where the Forest Meets the Stars—the story of Ursa, a peculiar girl who claims to have come to Earth from the stars to witness five miracles amongst humans so she can “graduate” on her own planet. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is a brilliant, heart-warming, poignant novel in which tragedy collides with triumph, intolerance with love, the mundane with the magical, factual with fantastic. It is a stardust-woven story that lures the reader in, grabs them, and drives them to the last page, where they realise how much they’ve fallen in love with the story and its characters.

Glendy’s debut novel is also my translational debut: Stilus, the publishing house, kindly offered me the job of translating from English to Croatian. It’s been a year since—and even if I never translate anything again, I will remember this magical adventure with starry eyes and nostalgia, with love. Of all possible books, I will not regret being given the honour of translating this masterpiece.

“I’m touched,” I wrote to her when I received the answers. “I didn’t expect this to be so… heart-to-heart, because rarely does an author open up like this. The readers will have to feel the connection with you and your characters once they’ve read the novel and all this, like I do—now even more.”

“Yes, I’m honest about my background in interviews”, she replied. “Where the Forest Meets the Stars was closely tied to the emotions and memories of my childhood. If I hid that I’ve struggled with adversity as a child and depression as an adult, how would that help my readers see a better future?”

Croatian edition of Where the Forest Meets the Stars (Stilus, Zagreb, 2019)

Ms Vanderah: firstly, I must say that I’m thrilled to be speaking with you, and I’m immensely grateful to you for agreeing to answer a few questions for your Croatian readers.

Thank you for that great introduction, Luka, and for providing this opportunity to talk to my Croatian readers.

I’ll start with the simplest—probably the first from everyone: What inspired you to write Where the Forest Meets the Stars? How did the idea come to you? Was it cunning, so to speak, approaching you little by little, or was it a surprise, overwhelming you all at once?

The story came to me in parts. I had been writing fantasy for a few years (first for ‘fun,’ then trying to get published) when I decided to try contemporary fiction. I’d have to say the setting came first. I’d always wanted to write a book set in an isolated research house I lived in for a few years while I was working on avian research projects. The real house was similar to its description in the book. It was in the woods, next to a creek, and at the end of a rural road. There was even an old graveyard next to the house. The main idea for the book came to me after I saw director Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth. I felt affinity with the idea of a child using fantasy to escape the violence and evils of war. As a child growing up in an unstable home, I used the nature of my wild-grown backyard to escape the traumatic events that were happening in my family—it was almost like a fantasy world for me. When I felt those deep connections, the book started to burst out of me!

Did you know what the novel would be like when the idea was still in the embryonic stage, or did it change as you wrote? What did it look like at its conception? What was at its centre? What came first—themes, and the shadow of the story that would soon be written, or the characters that would inhabit it?

I never know precisely what my story will be like at the end. I don’t use detailed outlines. When I get a story idea, I first create characters and their motivations, then I imagine what event would stimulate my plot. At first, I only rough out the storyline, though I generally know the ending. As I write, the plot usually changes—sometimes dramatically. And as the characters become real in my mind, they develop personality traits and backstories that are often a surprise even to me! For example, some of Gabe’s background surprised me as I wrote. For me, this story started out very much about how children deal with adversity, but it became so much more as the story progressed. The duality in Ursa’s alien/human self-perception mirrors Jo’s before/after cancer identities, as well as Gabe’s pre/post discoveries about his father. Those themes evolved as the story progressed.

What can you tell your Croatian readers about Ursa’s genesis? Is our genius little alien girl based on or inspired by a real person? Someone you know? Or did she just pop in your head the way she is written?

Ursa is certainly an outgrowth of how I remember my own difficult childhood. I decided her self-perception as an alien in a human body was an interesting way to show how children often feel when they experience trauma or abuse: the isolation, the sensation that they are standing apart from a ‘normal’ human world they can’t join. Some of my readers see Ursa as an actual alien, some see her alienation as a metaphor.

Many ideas for Ursa’s traits came from my three children. For example, one of my sons read words backward from a young age as a way of dealing with an excess of mental energy. Children are a lot more aware of what’s going on than many adults realize. I know this will sound biased, but I never ceased to be amazed by the brilliance I saw in my kids at young ages! Ursa is an amalgamation of all children I’ve ever known, including myself.

Which authors have influenced you as a writer? Which works have impacted Where the Forest Meets the Stars? Also, I can’t help but ask… William Shakespeare is Ursa’s favourite writer. Is there any special reason it’s him? Which Shakespearean play is your favourite and why?

Since I was a child, I’ve read eclectically—fantasy and sci-fi, contemporary fiction, scientific nonfiction—and I can’t really say one or a few authors strongly influence my writing. In fact, I don’t want them to!

As for Shakespeare, I think his writing is brilliant, especially for his time. I like to put references to his plays in my stories because his plots often hinge on strange or unlikely quirks of fate, and I’m intrigued by that: how one decision, or a few seconds of good or bad luck (an accident, a crime, a meeting) can change a person’s whole life. Putting Shakespeare’s plays in the story resonated with me because Forest pivots on this theme of fate, on how much control we have over it, and whether we have the strength to overcome tough fates once they’ve been dealt to us.

Shakespeare’s verse is gorgeous, but I think reading the plays doesn’t bring out the magic like seeing them performed. Two favourite performances: a magical production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw many years ago, and a recent showing of Twelfth Night at a tiny playhouse where the audience essentially became part of the play.

In your novel, mental illness plays as important a role as physical. Do you have advice for people—especially youths—who are struggling with depression and anxiety, or mental illness in general? Furthermore, regarding Jo—who beat breast cancer—do you have advice for women, young and old?

Depression occurs on a spectrum from mild to severe. I certainly know what severe depression looks like—my alcoholic mother had it. Mine was less severe, probably more ‘situational’ than ‘clinical.’ Though I wrote Gabe’s depression to be like my own experiences, I received criticism from some readers who felt his illness wasn’t written ‘realistically.’ I think it’s sad some people think all depression is severe and unbeatable. I wanted the story to show another side. Depression, especially milder forms, can improve. Finding joy in biology, nature, and writing, and stability in a loving relationship with my husband, helped me overcome more than I ever dreamed possible when I was child. Perhaps there is no ‘perfect’ happy ending, but there is plenty of hope and potential for healing. That’s the message I want to give my readers.

Like most of us, I’ve seen too many family members, friends, and acquaintances succumb to breast cancer. I’ve seen many beat it, too. I don’t have specific advice, other than preventive measures, because every case is different, as are the very personal decisions women make after diagnosis.

Your novel also addresses other serious issues, such as domestic- and child abuse. Do you have a message for the people struggling with such difficulties?

Every circumstance will be different. I believe the troubles of my childhood made me a stronger person, but I know that can’t be the case for everyone. One loving, stable person—a relative, a friend, a teacher, a neighbour—can make a huge difference in a troubled child’s life. Find those good people and trust them. Feeling less isolated is important. If you don’t have anyone you can trust, you must trust yourself. Love yourself. Don’t take on guilt that isn’t yours. Don’t turn to destructive behaviours that will only make your life more miserable (I did that for a few years). You can get through the bad days, and recover, and have a fulfilling life. Don’t ever give up hope. Ursa embodied this idea, that even an eight-year-old, through sheer force of will, can change her future for the better.

(spoiler alert) Now, for those who have read the novel only! Can you tell us what happens with Ursa, Jo and Gabe after the ending? We are desperate for more!

I don’t see the continuation as immediate happiness and sunshine. I think Ursa, Gabe, and Jo still have challenges ahead. But the strength they’ve found in their love for each other will be important for conquering those problems. I’ve been asked if I imagine Jo and Gabe’s wedding in the future. My answer is, yes—and who doesn’t?  

How long did it take to write this seemingly simple yet rather complex novel?

I’m not sure how long because the writing was often interrupted. I have written books in less than 7 weeks, but this one took much longer because I had many issues going on. My dad was dying of advanced Parkinson’s disease and needed lots of care. His partner had dementia. Also, I shattered my arm in an accident and couldn’t write for a long while.

Which, say, five books would you recommend to fans of your work? Some compare Where the Forest Meets the Stars with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey—would that be among your recommendations? As a guess, did it perhaps influence your writing?

As I’ve said, del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth—a screenplay, not a book—had a big influence. I read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey after I wrote Forest—because of the blurb by author Christopher Meades on the front cover of my book. I see the connections between the two stories, but I think they are quite different, too. I read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh shortly after my book was published, and I feel that book has more similarities than Ivey’s. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is possibly a book people would enjoy if they liked this story. Many readers compare my book to Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdads Sing, so that would be another story I can recommend. I’ll also mention All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story about two youths who battle adversity during World War II.

You are a bird biologist, like Jo. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I loved writing poems and stories as a child. My fifth grade teacher once told the class, “Someday you will all read a novel written by Glendy.” That was an inspiring moment for me. Yet my love for nature and animals had a stronger pull, and I chose to study ecology instead of English in college. After I received an undergraduate degree, while I worked as a biologist, I took some writing and literature classes. But I went on to get my Master’s degree in biology. Then I met my husband, also an ornithologist, and we had three kids. I was too busy to do much science during that time. Once the kids were in school, rather than go back to science (I felt I’d been away from research for too long), I began writing. I was honestly surprised that I could write fiction when I first started!

Another big question: Can we expect a film adaptation in the near future? Please say “yes”! Ursa’s fans, including me, would be overjoyed!

The book has had some attention from a Hollywood representative, but so far no word of a movie. We’ll all have to send out some good quarks to make it happen!

What can you tell us about your next novel? Is it in a similar vein to your debut, or should we expect something entirely different? Are you still writing it, or have you finished?

It’s finished, and it has similar themes. It’s coming out in the spring of 2021.

 I believe most readers of Where the Forest Meets the Stars thought it to be science fiction throughout; is that something we can expect in the next book? Does it have a title? If so, can you share it with us? (We promise not to tell. 😉)

Where the Forest Meets the Stars has been variously described by readers as contemporary fiction, literary fiction, domestic fiction, science fiction, and magical realism. I think it’s fascinating that the story ‘shape-shifts’ to different genres! My publisher lists the book’s genre as contemporary fiction, and my next book, The Light Through the Leaves is the same genre.

Phew, so many questions… but that’s on you for writing such a beautiful novel!

Finally, would you like to say something to your Croatian fans?

A message for my Croatian readers: I hope you enjoy Where the Forest Meets the Stars. I’m certain it must have been expertly translated from the original English, because the translator, Luka Pejić, has written these thought-provoking questions and a beautiful, perceptive review of the book. Thank you, Luka, for all the hard work you have put into bringing this story to Croatian readers.

It’s been a dream come true to see my first published novel translated into twenty-one languages. I’m thrilled that the people of Croatia will have the opportunity to read Where the Forest Meets the Stars. What more could an author want than to know her stories might touch the hearts of many people around the world? I hope to bring a translation of my next novel to you soon! Happy reading!