Mary Knight has always enjoyed the power of a good story, whether it’s been as a children’s librarian, a freelance writer or a writer-in-residence teaching kids how to write.
Of all the things she appreciates in life, she believes empathy--the ability to see the world through another person’s eyes--is the key both to being a good friend and a good writer. “I must first step into the minds and hearts of my characters to discover their viewpoints,” she says. "In turn, empathy is what inspires my readers to care about my characters and to keep turning the page!"
Speaking of the world, Mary has lived in many beautiful places—among them, northern Michigan where it once snowed on May Day and on an island in the Northwest where she often saw whales, eagles, and great blue herons. Now she lives in Lexington, Kentucky where she enjoys the rolling green hills of horse country, watching college basketball, and spending time with friends and family who add great wonder to her life.
Author photo by Lee Thomas
"Mary Knight is masterful as she weaves a moving and important story with gentle humor and huge consequences."
- Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Newberry Honor author
Having lost most of his family to coal mining accidents as a little boy, Curley Hines lives with his grandfather in the Appalachian Mountains of Wonder Gap, Kentucky. Ever since Curley can remember, Papaw has been giving him a word each week to learn and live.
When a new coal boss takes over the local mining company, life as Curley knows it is turned upside down. Suddenly, his best friend, Jules, has a crush on the coal boss’s son, and worse, the mining company threatens to destroy Curley and Papaw’s mountain. Now Curley faces a difficult choice. Does he use his words to speak out against Big Coal and save his mountain, or does he remain silent and save his way of life? With everything changing, Curley doesn’t even know if there will be anything left to save.
From debut author Mary Knight comes a rich, lyrical, and utterly transporting tale about friendship, the power of words, and the difficult hurdles we must overcome for the people and places we love.
“A remarkable debut novel
from an author to watch.”
School Library Journal
“…Inspirational.” Publisher’s Weekly
2017 Green Earth Book Award
Parents' Choice Award
Notable Book for Social Studies
Children's Book Council
Where do you get your ideas?
All novels come out of a writer’s experiences in one way or another—whether it’s through research or their own life. Once the seed of an idea is planted, it tends to take on a life of its own. I love it when that happens!
Here are a few of the seeds that became SAVING WONDER . . .
Papaw and his love for words
The character of Papaw was inspired by my own grandfather who used to give my mom and her three sisters a word to learn every night at the dinner table. They would use that word as many times as they could during the rest of the evening. It became a game the whole family played.
Mom passed her love for words down to me, which is one of the reasons I became a writer. I believe the words we speak and think shape our experience of the world.
I feel the spirit of my own grandfather in Papaw. Although he died before I was born, I hear that he was a very kind, wise, and loving man.
My grandfather’s desk where I sometimes write.
While researching another novel that took place in Cincinnati where I was born, I discovered a beautiful old gazebo. Around its stone base, people had carved their initials and left little messages—some of them dating as far back as the early 1900s. As I ran my hand over these engravings of friendship and love, I came upon one that had an unexpected effect. Someone had carved, “I love Curly Hines.”
In that instant, I knew who that boy was. I knew he was tall and thin; he had curly hair, of course, and he was inquisitive and kind. I also knew he came from the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Sometimes I say that Curley Hines “haunted” me, but what I really mean is that the idea of this character wouldn’t let me go until I wrote down his story.
The Elk Tour
When I moved to Lexington, Kentucky, I began missing the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, so I decided to explore the mountains and surrounding countryside here in Kentucky. When I discovered a state park was offering elk tours in the Appalachian Mountains, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to fall in love with the beauty of my new home!
Although I saw a lot of natural beauty during that tour, it was also my first exposure to mountaintop removal mining. Like the tour in my novel, this one took us to an active mining site in order to view the resident elk herd. I couldn't believe my eyes! The landscape was stripped of every living thing. Much of what my readers find in the elk tour scene was like what I experienced that early February morning.
So those are just three sources of inspiration for my novel, SAVING WONDER. Some ideas come from my life, what I already know and have experienced. Other ideas come from my curiosity—my research of people, places and things I want to know more about.
All ideas are gifts.