Interview: Tucker Shaw (Author of Anxious Hearts!)

Please welcome Tucker Shaw, author of ANXIOUS HEARTS! This newly released novel is a lyrical retelling of Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline.” Shaw’s other novels include THE GIRLS and FLAVOR OF THE WEEK

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THE INTERVIEW

Give a short description or statement describing ANXIOUS HEARTS.

This part is true: In 1755, the British Army invaded Nova Scotia and expelled the French-speaking Acadian community. Families were ruthlessly torn apart and dispersed across the globe; many never reconnected.

This part might be true: On the verge of being married, Acadians Evangeline and Gabriel were violently separated. Determined to find Gabriel, Evangeline spends the rest of her life crossing back and forth across North America, searching.
This part isn’t true: Eva and Gabe, two teenagers in modern-day Maine (across the bay from Nova Scotia) are separated by circumstance, stubbornness and fear. Determined, Eva resolves to find and reconnect with Gabe, against great odds.
In Anxious Hearts, I tried to tell each of these stories, one atop the other, to show that love is never static; it is a journey – sometimes a literal journey, sometimes an internal journey. Sometimes a desperate journey. You can be sitting at the same table as your soulmate and still have to search. But finding love, real love, is worth any effort.


ANXIOUS HEARTS is very different from your previous novels. What motivated you to write this particular story?
There was an afternoon, maybe three years ago now, one of those magical Colorado afternoons when it’s both sunny and snowy, when the light sneaks around the clouds and pokes through the falling flakes, and I had three hours to kill while I waited for an experiment – a green chile pork roast – to finish up in the oven. I was between books so, scanning my shelves, I came upon “Evangeline,” a Longfellow epic I’d all but forgotten about. I’d last read it in college, when I was forced to, and had forgotten whether or not I’d liked it. It was an ancient edition, perhaps a hundred years old, with woodcut illustrations on delicate pages.
Three hours later, I found myself slumped in my club chair, exhausted and energized all at once. I’d changed: I’d found the most evocative, luxurious love story in the world.
Over the course of the next year, I read and re-read the poem probably twenty times, finding new words, new thoughts, new cadences and rhythms that I would have dismissed as impossible if they weren’t there before me on the page. I tried to talk myself out of trying to revive the story; after all, Longfellow is perhaps the greatest there ever was. How dare someone like me, a middling storyteller with questionable craftsmanship, take it on? And yet, Evangeline and Gabriel would not fade from my thoughts. And so I sat down to write. I don’t think I looked up from my laptop, except to go to work, for a year. In other words, I was compelled.

Why did you choose to write ANXIOUS HEARTS from Gabriel and Eva’s point of view, not Gabe and Evangeline’s?

Longfellow’s poem was told almost exclusively from the point of view of Evangeline – throughout much of the poem, Gabriel is absent. I wondered where he’d been, what he’d seen, whether he’d tried as hard as she had to re-connect. I wanted to re-think his story, I wanted to imagine his words, his thoughts, his experiences. Not enough stories are told about young men who fall as deeply in love as Gabriel did. Boys love incredibly deeply, but these feelings are rarely articulated. As with Gabriel, sometimes this love borders on obsession, and I wanted to explore his mind and imagine his feelings of love as he struggled to make sense of them, struggled to prove his worthiness to have them, struggled to make them productive, not destructive.

 As for Eva, I knew her before I started to write her. I imagined a girl, a smart, capable, thoughtful, determined girl who was wise enough to know that boys are not disposable, that love is not replaceable, that connecting is what matters most. Her friends and family do not understand her feelings for Gabe, but her self-awareness and clarity of purpose fuel her resolve to find him, and in doing so, find herself.


Before reading the novel, I assumed that Eva and Evangeline would be very similar, as would Gabe and Gabriel, but quickly discovered that this is not the case. Does this serve a specific purpose in regard to the novel’s message?
Wow, good question. I don’t know. I think each is a product of her time, in a way. In Evangeline’s era, the greatest achievement a young woman could hope for would be to get married. She’d sacrifice anything for it. In Eva’s time, our time, the world is so much broader, the options so much more numerous. Eva is on track to become a doctor. To choose to search for love, to sacrifice for love, is a radical choice. Both Evangeline and Eva are brave, but Evangeline had fewer viable options. This makes Eva’s choice – to stick to her Gabe-loving guns – bolder, I think.


I’ve read that in addition to writing YA novels, you are also a food editor for the Denver Post. Did you always intend to become a novelist or is it more of a hobby for you?
Food is a lifelong obsession with me – all aspects of it. Cooking. Restaurants. Shopping. Food writing. All of it. Storytelling, or more specifically, spending time in my imagination, in the worlds that bounce around in my brain, is another obsession. If I had to choose between writing about food and writing fiction, I don’t know what I’d do. I shudder.


Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel?
I have a few ideas in mind. But to be completely honest, I’m having a very difficult time letting go of Gabriel and Evangeline the world of Pré-du-sel. I blame Longfellow for this:


“Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
Peace seemed to reign upon earth, and the restless heart of the ocean
Was for a moment consoled. All sounds were in harmony blended.”


Who would want to leave?


This blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where is your hiding spot?
The kitchen. Nothing makes me happier than returning home from the farmers market with an armful of colorful stuff, then setting to cooking for my friends. If you can’t find me, I’m probably standing over the stove.

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Thank you, Tucker!
Be sure to check out my review of ANXIOUS HEARTS, which can be found here.
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17 thoughts on “Interview: Tucker Shaw (Author of Anxious Hearts!)

  1. Thanks so much for doing this interview, Sara! Gotta love a man who likes to cook…lol. I love author interviews because it makes them seem more real I guess. 🙂

  2. This was a fantastic review. Your questions were great and Tucker's answers were fantastic. He has a strong voice that came out in his responses. Thanks for introducing me to him and his book

  3. I really want to read this book. I saw him at the Colorado Teen Lit Conference and I knew I would have to get his book. Great interview and thanks for the giveaway!

  4. I haven't read any of his previous books before, but Anxious Hearts sounds really interesting. And I loved that this is based off of a poem. It's so cool that he was a previous food editor too. Thanks for the interview! 😀

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