Once again the Friends of the Blanco Library will host four diverse Texas writers at its annual Celebration of Texas Authors. This year’s celebration will be held on Saturday, March 8, at the Gem of the Hills Community Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each author will speak on her latest work, then be available to sell books and chat with attendees.
Austin novelist Marci Henna actually has the closest ties to Blanco County, having attended high school in Johnson City. Her mother, Carolyn Gipson, still lives there. Fireside, Texas, the mythical setting of her novel, Ruby and the Stargazers, is what Henna calls “a protected world,” which she created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Set in the Vietnam era, the novel deals with two orphaned sisters, Juliet and Evangeline, who go to live with their grandparents, Walt and Ruby Cranbourne, in a community of eccentrics such as Selma Davis, the store manager who can remember what she had to eat on any particular date in history. As adults Juliet and Evangeline fit right into Fireside’s cast of eccentrics—Juliet by her unique writing style in the local newspaper and the creation of “homemaker’s helpers” and Evangeline as a scientist who conducts experiments on the electrical energy emitted by ferns. Ruby’s Thunderbird was actually a gift from Elvis in response to a rum cake she sent him because she heard he was having “A Blue, Blue Christmas.”
Henna has drawn upon her own experiences, she admits, in the creation of her novel, including her love of cooking. She says that she “comes from a long line of women who spent many hours in the kitchen preparing meals for their loved ones and guests” and that in her mind, “mealtimes have traditionally been centerpieces of family life throughout the year.” In fact, the rum cake featured in the novel is her own recipe. The childhood sibling rivalry of Juliet and Evangeline was inspired by Henna’s own experiences with her sister Kit, although she asserts that they get along quite well as adults. Finally, the book was written in honor of her grandparents, Opal and Max Gipson, who inspired the characters of Ruby and Walt Cranbourne. Henna, who wrote her first story in fourth grade, has always wanted to be a writer. She is already at work on her second novel in the Firside series, The Fireside Gem Society.