The Right Writer at the Right Time

A local mom and teacher pens her first young adult novel on her iPhone

Photos by Luke Christopher

Anna Maranto has been a creative writer for over fifteen years, and recently published her first book, Letting Go of Normal, a young adult novel about the devastating effects of COVID-19 on teens.

Maranto, who moved to Warrenton with her husband and three children from Bristow in 2015 for a more tranquil, less congested life, is a former teacher by profession, holding an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a graduate degree from George Mason University. Since their youngest children graduated from Kettle Run, she and her husband are now empty nesters, except for their Australian Cattle Dog, Biscuit.

It was a combination of these experiences as a middle school teacher and as a mother that led to the genesis of this book. When COVID-19 hit after she had started it, its impact altered its course.

She explained, “I initially planned to write a young adult novel that delved into the complexity of teenage familial, platonic, and romantic relationships. I was halfway through the book when COVID-19 hit the United States. My youngest child was a junior in high school and my daughter was a sophomore in college, and I observed how the pandemic completely uprooted their social and academic lives. Letting Go of Normal is set during the 2019-2020 school year, so it made sense to shift gears and incorporate COVID and the impact it had on students, though the themes of friendship, love, and loss remained the same.”

Maranto sat down with Warrenton Lifestyle and answered more of our questions.

 

Letting Go of Normal Set in Ithaca, New York, the author’s childhood home, Maranto’s main characters are life-long best friends navigating their stressful, though normal, senior year of high school. When COVID-19 strikes, life as they know it ceases to exist, and this ultimately leads to a sequence of events that ends in tragedy.

How long have you been writing? What encouraged you to start Letting Go of Normal?

I started sharing short stories on writers’ forums over fifteen years ago as a creative outlet while I was a stay-at-home mom. Once my children were older, I began taking writing more seriously and anonymously published several works online, using only my phone to compose full-length novels. I received overwhelmingly positive feedback from readers, and they encouraged me to write a “real” book. I also had huge support from my mother and family, which is why I took Letting Go of Normal to a new level by publishing it through amazon.com.

Why young adult fiction?

When I taught sixth grade, my students enthusiastically shared books they loved with me. The same thing happened later with my own children, and through these recommendations, I discovered many great young adult authors. These writers, along with those I loved when I was young, inspired me to write a book geared towards teens. Additionally, I find this age group fascinating because of the exciting, challenging, and often scary progression from childhood to adulthood. In my book, I wanted to capture how difficult this period can be while showing how young people grow through the choices they make, even when those choices turn out to be mistakes.

Tell me about your writing style (first person, inside head of characters) Why did you present the book this way?

Each chapter opens with a short journal entry and then shifts to narrative storytelling. The transition between these two elements felt more natural when first person was used. The chapters alternate between the two main characters’ points of view, so it was important to have a distinct voice for both of them, and being in their heads helped accomplish this. To give the book a feeling of immediacy, it’s written in the present verb tense.

Tell me about your main characters.

As an author, I like to include female protagonists who are strong, smart, independent, and motivated. V fits this description. She’s driven academically but is also a caring person and incredibly loyal to her friends. Smyth is more laid back about school, but he’s still a strong student. He’s a sensitive young man who uses various works of poetry for his journal entries instead of writing out his own thoughts. V and Smyth’s families are as different as night and day in terms of politics and their daily lives, but this brings the teens together rather than pushing them apart.

Which influenced you more in writing this book, being a mother or being a teacher?

My time as an English teacher gave me both the technical tools needed to write proficiently and an understanding of the education system. Being a mother provided me with insight into the teenage brain and made me empathetic to what students struggled with during that first year of COVID-19. It was a combination of these experiences that made me the right person to tell a story about this age group and subject.

What was the most satisfactory part about the experience?

Two things have given me great satisfaction. One is seeing my book through to completion and being able to hold a copy of it in my hands. The other is getting feedback from those who read it, especially people who enjoyed it even though they don’t usually read young adult fiction.

Future plans? More books?

I’m writing a sequel to Letting Go of Normal that follows V and Smyth as they go off to college. I am also in the planning stage of an adult suspense novel that is set in Warrenton. Even though I’ve previously written my initial drafts on my phone using only my right index finger, I’m determined to use a computer for my future books.

Instagram: @annacmaranto

Pam Kamphuis
About Pam Kamphuis 139 Articles
Pam Kamphuis is an editor and writer for Piedmont Virginian Magazine and Piedmont Lifestyle Magazines.

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