Meet the authors and illustrators of our Pauline Kids editions. Sometimes quirky and always fun, these are the people whose passion inspires us to see things from a fresh and creative point of view.

Meet Carol A. Grund!
Meet Carol A. Grund!
Posted by Brittany on January 31, 2012 15:09 Article Rating

Happy Catholic Schools Week! For the next couple posts, I’ll introduce you to the minds behind some of our favorite Catholic students. Today we hear from Carol Grund, author of the Anna Mei series. As a public middle school student, Anna Mei Anderson shows tweens how one’s faith can transform everyday experiences.

1. Tell us how the character of Anna Mei came about.

I had published several short stories for pre-teens, and felt ready to take on the challenge of a longer piece. I knew my story would center on identity and self-image—for me, these are the central issues for that age group. But I didn’t know exactly what shape it would take until I was inspired by a picture of my blond-haired, blue-eyed brother with the two daughters he and his wife had adopted from China. I started wondering what kind of challenges their family would face that were different from my own or those of my kids. I realized I had found the framework for my story. I would write about a girl who had never given much thought to how her family came to be, and then is forced to do so by circumstances beyond her control. I called her Anna Mei because I liked the pun—it sounds like the word anime, which kids know is a cartoon style.

2. You really know how to get at the heart of a tween girl today – how she thinks, acts, speaks. What helped you in your writing process as you got inside the head of a girl in middle school?

People who have read the Anna Mei books are surprised to learn that I have three sons…and no daughters! But I found I didn’t need to live with a tween girl in order to impersonate one. I still remember exactly how it felt to hit adolescence and suddenly feel insecure about myself and my choices. Who would I sit with at lunchtime? What if I said something stupid and everyone laughed? Could I really trust my friends? Basically I put my own 11-year-old thoughts and feelings into Anna Mei’s head, adding bits of dialogue I gleaned from eavesdropping on real tweens.

3. How does Anna Mei’s Catholic faith play into her choices and character?

I think at first she doesn’t give it much thought. Like being adopted, being Catholic is something she’s taken for granted. But when she’s uprooted from the life she’s known for 11 years, she realizes that her faith is there for her—she finds herself praying for guidance without even making a conscious decision to do so. That realization gives her courage, so that little by little, she’s able to find her way. 

4. We love her friends – Danny, Zandra, and Luis – and how friendship is an important theme in the book. What should pre-teens look for in a true friend?

I’m so glad readers have embraced Anna Mei’s friends—I love them, too! I think what makes them special is that she chose them for herself. Although she obviously had friends in Boston, there’s a sense that those relationships were formed before she was old enough to examine the concept. And when she’s forced to start over again, she stumbles, thinking she can fake a friendship with the Ponytail girls. I think she gets it exactly right when she tells Danny what she figures out—that true friends are in it for the long haul, standing by your side even when times are bad. Maybe especially when times are bad.

5. You work in marketing for a library system and get to read many books (jealous!) What speaks to you as a parent and writer?

I know! I feel so lucky to be surrounded by shelves full of wonderful books, and by people who value them as much as I do. I think my favorite stories have always been about families and the love that binds them together. I’ve been inspired by books like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Amazing books like these have made me a better writer, and on some level, a better parent. They’ve shown me that even with all their heartache and struggles, families are a treasure to be cherished.

6a. If you could be a girl in a cartoon, which would it be?

What an interesting question! I don’t think I could relate to a superhero. I think I’d want to be someone like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She loved to read, was a loyal friend, and managed to look past the beast’s rough exterior to the tender heart underneath.

b. How have you been an escape artist?

Sometimes the worries and cares of life have felt overwhelming. I’ve found temporary escapes in things like watching a movie, reading a book or indulging in something chocolate. Ultimately, though, I’ve relied on faith, family and hard work to get me through. It’s a strategy I tried to pass on to Anna Mei.

c. What is one blessing in disguise in your life?

I’ve had lots of those, but one that stands out for me has to do with a job I didn’t get. It was very disappointing at the time, and instead I took a lesser-paying job I wasn’t very interested in. I figured it would be very temporary, until something better came along. Many years later I was still there—the job I thought I didn’t want had nurtured and sustained me, taught me important skills and led to enduring friendships. Who would have guessed?

7. What is a funny memory from your time in middle school?

At that age I used to love having sleepovers with my girlfriends. It was so much fun to sit around in our PJs, eating snacks and talking about the boys we had crushes on. I remember one night when someone suggested that we pretend to be famous singers. We stood in front of the mirror lip-synching to our favorite records (remember those?) and laughing until our sides hurt. The memory still makes me smile.

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