I’m a huge fan of Shannon Hitchcock’s work so when our mutual friend, Augusta Scattergood, suggested I invite Shannon to be a Friend Friday, I jumped at the chance. And Shannon graciously agreed! Today we shine the spotlight on Shannon’s latest book, One True Way (Scholastic Press), especially appropriate given that this is Pride Month.
For me to write a book, an idea has to grab me by the heart. I get an excited buzz that means this is my story to tell, even if I’m not exactly sure what the story is just yet. I got that buzz at the 2014 NCTE Convention. I had gotten up early to hear my editor, Andrea Pinkney speak on a diversity panel. The librarian/moderator said what she really needed were more middle grade books that dealt with homosexuality. She went on to say that’s the age when same sex feelings emerge, but there were very few books available. The buzzing started. The moderator went on to praise Tim Federle’s BETTER NATE THAN EVER, and I made a note to read that book ASAP.
There is just one problem with BETTER NATE THAN EVER—Tim Federle is hysterically funny. I knew right away his approach wouldn’t work for me, so I looked at my two prior books, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL (namelos) and RUBY LEE & ME (Scholastic Press). My modus operandi is to use history and write about a girl who lived in that time period, to explore how history affected her. I chose to set ONE TRUE WAY in 1977, the year Anita Bryant launched her Save Our Children campaign. Ms. Bryant’s campaign spread from Dade County, Florida across the United States, denying equal rights to homosexuals.
1977 was a tough time to develop a crush on someone of the same sex, but that’s exactly what happens in ONE TRUE WAY—Allie and Sam like each other. And while falling in like should be a really wonderful experience, it brings a lot of problems for both girls.
Those problems are compounded by religion. While religion is not often a part of mainstream middle grade fiction, I felt compelled to include it. I grew up in the rural south during the 70s, and knew most of the prejudice stems from religion. I explore both sides of the equation in ONE TRUE WAY. Sam attends a conservative church that teaches homosexuality is a sin, while Allie attends a more accepting church.
Like the character, Sam, I grew up in a conservative church, so when someone I love came out to me, I struggled to accept her sexuality. I asked lots of the same questions that Sam and Allie ask in the book.
I don’t identify as lesbian, but I took the responsibility of writing from that viewpoint seriously. Prior to publication, ONE TRUE WAY, was reviewed by a minister, a lesbian, a gay man, and the mother of a gay son. All of those people helped shape Sam and Allie’s story. My hope is ONE TRUE Way will help kids who don’t identify as LGBT understand those who do a little better, and that it reminds gay kids they’re not alone, that God loves them just the way they are.
The ALAN Review hailed Shannon Hitchcock as, “A New Voice in Historical Fiction.” She’s the author of the Crystal Kite award-winning novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, and a second novel, RUBY LEE & ME, a nominee for the 2017-18 Nebraska Chapter Book Golden Sower Award, Pennsylvania’s Keystone Award, an Iowa Children’s Choice Award, and Japan’s Sakura Medal. Her third novel, ONE TRUE WAY (Scholastic Press) was published on February 27th, 2018.