Maren Cooper’s book Finding Grace published in July 2022. Maren grew up in the Midwest and now resides in St. Paul, Minnesota. She currently serves as a volunteer for various nonprofits and retreats frequently to the shore of Lake Superior, where she loves to hike and watch the deer devour her hosta. Her debut novel, A Better Next, was published in May of 2019 by She Writes Press.
Synopsis of Finding Grace from the publisher:
Chuck and Caroline meet in college biology lab and drift into a relationship of his design. Mesmerized by her drive, Chuck sees in Caroline, an orphan like himself, a partner who will help him face the world. Chuck couldn’t be more wrong. He wants a home, a family, roots. But Caroline, a gifted ornithologist, plans a life of travel and adventure—following her heart’s desire, and her birds, wherever they may take her. And, she expects Chuck to tag along. When Caroline gets pregnant against her wishes, Chuck assumes she will change her mind. She doesn’t. Their daughter Grace falls through the devastating schism that grows between her parents. When Grace finally runs away, everything becomes a bargaining chip in a very high stakes game...(TW: suicide attempt, birth control sabotage, addiction)
Maren answers some questions that I posed to her about Finding Grace:
1. What inspired you to start writing Finding Grace?
I had taken a class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and grew fascinated about the concept of the “unreliable narrator” and set out to try my writing hand at it. While that inspired Finding Grace, I’ll leave it to my readers to determine if I succeeded. My characters are complex, and each of the three main characters narrate the story from their POV, so have power to influence the reporting of events.
2. What kind of research did you have to do?
Research about mental illness, and the effects of a narcissistic parent were top of the list. I also did some reading about runaways, the difficulties in diagnosing various stages of mental instability and how hard it is to access care in a desperate situation.
3. What do you hope your readers take away from your book?
I hope the story of Grace’s struggle to find a safe path through the tangle between her parents is a take-away for all parents. Regardless of whether parents are judged to be mentally stable or not, all parents go through their own difficulties and sometimes the most undervalued role of a parent and first priority is to always look out for their child. That self-sacrifice can often be forgotten in the rush of their own emotional trauma, and is a costly mistake for the child.
4. What surprised you the most when writing this book?
The biggest surprise in writing this book was that once I set up the main dynamic and structural issue among the three characters, the characters each told their own story, and I found myself learning from each of them. Once unleashed, I let them run—it was exciting and fun!
5. Do you have any say in what your book cover looks like?
Oh yes, She Writes Press has a reputation for beautiful covers, and I love this one for Finding Grace. I was given six covers to review, and all were good, and it was a difficult choice; until I moved beyond how lovely each of the potential covers were to the obvious fact that this cover, showing an adolescent girl looking to the faraway horizon, pulled the right yearning emotion from me, and fit the book best.
My third novel will be published in Fall of 2023 by She Writes Press. Still untitled, I will reveal more in a few months. Right now, I’m focused on Finding Grace.
6. What are you reading now and what have you read recently that you loved?
I am currently reading The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens and Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger. I recently read and enjoyed The Spy’s Wife by Jane Elizabeth Hughes and Lemons in the Garden of Love by Ames Sheldon.
Order Finding Grace from Bookshop.org.