I am so thrilled to be posting this interview today! Many thanks to Glendy Vanderah for taking the time to write up responses to my questions!
Let’s jump in!
Who is Glendy Vanderah?
Glendy Vanderah worked as an endangered bird specialist in Illinois before she became a writer. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in rural Florida with as many birds, butterflies, and wildflowers as she can lure to her land. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is her debut novel.
Interview with Glendy Vanderah, author of Where the Forest Meets the Stars
What is your first memory of writing for fun?
I read at age 3 and loved writing at an early age. I started writing poetry in early grade school, and began my first novel in fifth grade. It was the story of Isabel the Ant who has adventures with other insects she meets. My mother had been in the hospital for a long time, and my father was busy with her and work, so I had no one to show the first chapter but my teacher. After she read it, she complimented it and said to the class, “Everyone, someday you will read a novel written by Glendy Vanderah.” That was one of the best moments of my school years, and her belief in my writing became the seedling of a dream that grew in me for decades.
As this was your debut novel, are you planning on writing another book in the future?
This was my debut, but I have quite a few novels on my computer! Most are fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian. I steered away from speculative fiction when I decided getting an agent for those genres was too tough. I’m writing in the contemporary fiction/magical realism genre now, and I hope to get more of those novels published.
What are some of your other interests outside of writing?
Nature connection, birdwatching, nature and bird photography, and gardening–especially with native plants, are favorite and necessary activities for me. For passive entertainment, I love movies.
Are you also a reader?
Yes, even the smell of books makes me happy! I was such an avid reader as a child, I became badly nearsighted by fourth grade. But I don’t read much when I’m deeply into writing a book. I don’t like other writers’ plots mixing with the story that’s playing in my mind. Also, reading while I’m writing is a distraction. I tend to be consumed by a noveI I love. I devour it fast, often staying up late to finish it, which leaves me too exhausted to write in the morning!
What genres do you reach for the most?
My reading choices are eclectic. I read poetry almost every day. In fiction, I read as the mood stirs me, mostly in the genres of fantasy, literary, and contemporary. I also read some nonfiction, either scientific or books like Women Who Run With the Wolves. I love fiction that blends reality with fantasy.
Do you have an all time favorite book or author?
I most reach for Mary Oliver’s books of poetry. I’ve been in love with her writing since I discovered her in my twenties. I frequently read poetry for inspiration even when I’m writing a book. In fiction, I couldn’t possibly choose one book or author as a favorite. But I’m like that with everything. I can’t do favorites, for colors or anything else!
Book Related Questions
In Where the Forest Meets the Stars, Jo’s study on nesting birds was so interesting! You worked as an endangered bird specialist in Illinois. Was your inspiration for the study conducted in the book based on your personal studies?
Jo’s research was more similar to my graduate thesis project and nest searching work than to the surveys for threatened and endangered birds. Her Indigo Bunting research is based on a real study that was going on near my study areas while I was working on my graduate thesis. Searching for nests is some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I found so much more than nests in the forests and fields. Even at its most frustrating, when I hadn’t found a nest all day, I had been rewarded with countless wonders of the natural world.
Did you have a favorite bird that you studied in the past or a current favorite that you love seeing out in nature?
As I said, I can’t pick favorites for anything, and for birds this is especially true! But there are two I’d like to mention. In an undergraduate class called the Natural History of Vertebrates, we were given binoculars and taught to birdwatch. One of the first birds I got into view with my crude binocular skill was an azure male Indigo Bunting. I was a city kid who’d never seen the common bird, and I was giddy with delight, as was Ursa in the novel. I decided right at that moment that I would focus on Ornithology in my studies. So you could say the Indigo Bunting changed my life. It brought me to a vocation I loved, and to my husband, an ornithologist. And that led to my three wonderful children! (And to writing this book!) The other favorite bird I have to mention is another gorgeous blue bird, the Cerulean Warbler. My graduate work was an investigation into the reasons for declines in this warbler’s populations, and it was during this study that my husband and I fell in love. For that reason alone the Cerulean will always be at the top of my long list of favorite birds!
This novel touched on a number of difficult topics such as cancer and depression. It was clear that you did a lot of research on these topics. What was that process like?
Much of the writing about depression came from personal experiences with it, and with people close to me who have battled it. For cancer research, two friends–a family practice MD and a scientist who has BRCA cancer in her family–put me in contact with a number of doctors who helped me with Jo’s medical decisions. But the emotions of writing the aftermath of breast cancer came from experiences with too many women I know who have fought or died from this disease. The most touching of these experiences was the night before my fortieth birthday, spent massaging the sore legs of a dying friend I’d met in a playgroup. She was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known. She had very aggressive breast cancer, and she passed away just weeks after that night. Shortly after, my young daughter told me she’d seen our friend out her window, sitting in the tree like a fairy. Somehow I kept myself from bursting into tears. But it was so beautiful, how she used fantasy to ease her grief and mine. These experiences were every bit as important to the story as the medical research. They brought real emotion into my writing.
The best friend relationship between Jo and Tabby was one of my all time favorite friendships I’ve read about in a book. Was the inspiration of that relationship based on someone you know?
Thank you, I’m delighted to hear that! Tabby’s character is loosely based on a friend who grew up in Chicago and went on to specialize in large animal veterinary medicine. Other than that, Tabby became who she is through my imagination. I’ve had many dear friends in my life, but I’ve never known anyone like her!
Just one last question; Where can readers find you?
I love Instagram and I’ve recently joined Facebook. My author website, glendyvanderah.com, is under construction.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to my wonderful readers. I’ve enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading!
Thank you again to Glendy for taking the time to answer these questions!
Readers, I highly recommend checking out Glendy’s debut novel, Where the Forest Meets the Stars! I absolutely adored it! Ask about this novel at your local bookshop or snag a copy through Bookshop to help support local indie bookshops: