It is my pleasure to welcome Rhiannon Navin to Book Reviews & More by Kathy.
Kathy: Ms. Navin, what was your inspiration for Only Child?
Ms. Navin: Hi Kathy, thank you so much for having me. It was a very personal experience in my life that inspired me to write this story. Shortly after my twins started kindergarten two years ago they experienced their first lockdown drill at school. That same afternoon, I found my son hiding underneath our dining room table. When I asked him, “Hey, buddy, what are you doing down there?” he answered, “Hiding from the bad guy, Mama.” He cowered underneath the table, refusing to come out, so I crawled under there with him and held him tight. My little boy was petrified. And I was petrified with him; for him. So I began to wonder, what would it be like for a little boy his age to actually have to live through a terrifying event like a school shooting and its aftermath?
Kathy: Only Child is written from the perspective of six-year old Zach. How did you manage to so perfectly capture his observations, worldview and perceptions of the events happening around him?
Ms. Navin: While writing Only Child I used my three kids as my focus group for how Zach might act or speak. In a way, the process of discovering Zach’s character and writing his story brought me closer to them because I paid more attention and watched them intently for clues: What are they thinking right now? How are they processing, expressing themselves? I call my kids by the wrong name all the time—even the cats’ and dog’s names sometimes—and because I hung out with Zach so much while they were at school, I even called them Zach once or twice. They were very confused.
Kathy: Which of the characters in the novel were the easiest to write? The most difficult?
Ms. Navin: Zach’s character came to me very easily. I heard his voice loud and clear from the very beginning. I think it helped that I had children the same age as him when I wrote the story and that I felt very in-tune with them. I kind of just hung out with Zach and even though accompanying him on his journey was incredibly tough sometimes— I was scared for him; I was devastated for him; I was mad for him and wanted to defend him—I really enjoyed spending time with him. The character of Zach’s mom, Melissa, was the most difficult for me to write. In order to bring her to life, I had to put myself in her shoes; I had to feel her grief. In many ways, she grieved the way I imagined I would if God forbid I was ever in her situation. And in other ways, I didn’t always understand why she acted the way she did. But I felt her pain and I felt an overwhelming amount of empathy towards her.
Kathy: Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to the novel?
Ms. Navin: I’m absolutely blown away by the responses I’ve been getting. When I began writing Only Child, it was without any kind of agenda. It was my first foray into the world of writing and really only intended to process my own emotions about the subject. I didn’t imagine, at first, ever showing my writing to anyone, let alone that I would publish it and that so many readers would react to it in such a positive way. Every compliment and favorable review still feels completely surreal to me.
Kathy: Would you consider writing a sequel to Only Child? Or do you feel like his story is complete?
Ms. Navin: I think I left Zach, his family, and his community in a place of hope. Their story is far from over, of course, and they are only beginning to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. But they have started down a path towards healing and forgiveness, and instead of trying to walk it alone, they have come together and will lean on each other. I think Zach got it from here.
Kathy: I absolutely loved Only Child so I am dying to know what project(s) you are currently working on. Do you have any novels in the works?
Ms. Navin: I have begun working on another story. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much, but like Only Child, it’s a story that deals with a family in peril, although an entirely different kind of peril. It’s a deep-dive into the kind of darker side within me—my fears and worries—but at the same time reconciles the amount of hope I carry.
Kathy: I am so intrigued! And I can hardly wait to read it.
Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Ms. Navin. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Zach and Only Child.
Ms. Navin: Thank you, Kathy.
Title: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 304 pages
For fans of Room and the novels of Jodi Picoult, a dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children, narrated by a six-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts, and the quietest voices speak the loudest.
Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.
Read my A (5 star) review HERE.
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Rhiannon Navin’s Bio
I grew up in Bremen, Germany, in a family of book-crazy women. My career in advertising brought me to New York City in my early twenties. After working for several large ad agencies in the city, I left the rat race to be home with my three spirited (read: loud and strong-willed) children. Being a full-time mom is the best job in the world. It’s also the hardest and not always the most fulfilling. Then a magical thing happened: I discovered my love for writing. And over the course of a couple of life-changing years, I wrote my first novel, Only Child.
I am giving away ONE PRINT copy of Only Child (contest open to US Addresses ONLY). To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form below by 5 PM Mountain Time Monday February 26th:
Please Note: Prize courtesy of Knopf. Giveaway open to US Addresses ONLY. Winner will be selected by random.org. The novel will be sent to the winner by the publisher. Not responsible for lost or misdirected mail/package.