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Once A Queen by Sarah Arthur: Q&A and GIVEAWAY!

Friday, September 29, 2023

An American teenager discovers that her estranged English grandmother was once a queen in another world in the debut novel from bestselling author and speaker Sarah Arthur.

When fourteen-year-old Eva Joyce unexpectedly finds herself spending the summer at the mysterious manor house of the English grandmother she's never met, troubling questions arise. Why the estrangement? What's with the house's employees and their guarded secrets? Why must Eva never mention trains, her father, or her favorite childhood fairy tales?

After strange things start happening in the gardens at night, Eva turns to the elderly housekeeper, gardener, and the gardener's great-grandson, Frankie, for answers. Astonishingly, they all seem to believe the fairy tales are true--that portals to other worlds still exist, though hidden and steadily disappearing. They suspect that Eva's grandmother was once a queen in one of those worlds.

But Eva's grandmother denies it all. After a horrific family tragedy when she was young, her heart is closed to the beauty and pain of her past. It's up to Eva, with Frankie's help, to discover what really happened, whether family relationships can be restored, and if the portals are closed forever. As she unravels generational secrets, Eva wrestles with the grief of a vanishing childhood--and the fear that growing up means giving up fairy tales forever.

Goodreads Summary

Author Q&A with Sarah Arthur


What’s the story behind the story of this book?

About twenty years ago, I stumbled across an obscure article about the British rail crash of October 8, 1952, which killed 112 people and wounded 340— to this day, the worst peacetime rail accident in British history. I began to think about the victims. Where were they going? Who did they leave behind? How did the survivors feel, knowing they’d lived through World War II only to suffer tremendous loss in peacetime?

As often happens with me, a story began to take shape in my head. Let’s suppose a young woman experienced a series of tragedies, including losing someone in that crash. What would it do to her as a survivor? It became clear that this kind of trauma likely would have a profound effect on her mental health, on her trust in a good and just universe, and on her relationships with family and friends— including her children and grandchildren— for the rest of her life.

I began writing. And along the way I realized that the story was partly about my own grandmother, who died of cancer when I was fourteen. Born in 1913, she had a tough childhood. She lost her father to the flu epidemic of 1918. Her stepfather wasn’t a good man (my great- grandmother divorced him, which, at the time, was un-heard of). My grandmother’s family lost everything in a fire. So they relocated to land in northern Michigan that the government promised was good for farming— but it wasn’t. Later, my grandmother’s husband died of a heart attack when my mom was seventeen.

My grandmother carried those wounds, including a refusal to believe in a good God, into my own childhood, when she went into rehab for alcohol addiction and suicidal ideation. Then, after her cancer diagnosis, she came to live with us during the last weeks of her life. Her morphine- induced psychic breaks gave us a window into even more pain, which was both scary and heartbreaking. But in the end, there was a moment when she seemed to turn back to faith in a very childlike way, which gave me hope that the trauma she’d experienced wouldn’t have the last word in her story— or ours.

In Once a Queen, the fallout of generational trauma continues into the summer of 1995, when my story begins and the survivor’s only granddaughter— American teenager Eva Joyce— travels to England to meet her grandmother for the first time. But generational trauma doesn’t get the last word in this story either. We can trust that the Author is ultimately good and just.


Tell us about the influences on your writing.

I grew up reading authors like Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), George MacDonald (At the Back of the North Wind), C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia), Elizabeth Goudge (The Little White Horse), and Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), among others. I suppose all my fiction echoes these stories in some way. Once a Queen, in particular, echoes classic fairy tales, so I decided to invent my own fictional world with its own origin story.

The key metaphor in my tales is that of weaving: There’s a World- Weaver, who creates worlds on a cosmic loom, and the storytellers of those worlds are known as Loomkeepers, who weave the stories into tapestries with images that sometimes come to life. For the weaving imagery and terminology, I’ve relied on the incredible artistry of my sister, Abigail Deloria, who is a master weaver based in northern Michigan.


What’s your purpose in writing this book?

I once heard Newbery- winning author Katherine Paterson deliver a keynote in which she said, “I want to be a spy for hope.” That’s the purpose of all my writing: to inspire young people like my main character, Eva, to hold on to the hopes, dreams, stories, creative play, and imaginative worlds they inhabited as children, even as they turn their faces toward adulthood with all its pain. What if those childhood things actually are glimpses of the true joy, the true hope, that holds up the world?

I want to show how joy is a living thread that runs through the warp and weft of the universe. That’s the hope I’ve built into this book.

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