Interview With Hope Jahren (ADVENTURES OF MARY JANE)

Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Hope Jahren (Adventures of Mary Jane)!




Meet the Author: Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is a teacher, scientist, and book lover living in Oslo, Norway. Recognized as one Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Jahren is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and was named one of the Brilliant 10 by Popular Science magazine in 2005. She is the author of two works of nonfiction: The Story of More and Lab Girl, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. Adventures of Mary Jane is her first work of fiction.

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About the Book: Adventures of Mary Jane

In this brand new reimagining, Mary Jane—the red-headed spark from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, who stole Huck’s heart in just 30 pages—comes to life with her own story of adventuring down the Mississippi River in the 1840s.

Meet Mary Jane Guild — she’s on a dangerous and unpredictable adventure down the Mississippi River — and she’ll steal Huck Finn’s heart along the way.

 In his classic work Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain briefly introduces “Mary Jane, the red-headed one.” In no time Mary Jane becomes the girl Huck thinks about “a many and a many million times.” Now author Hope Jahren has created for Mary Jane a life as vivid and compelling as Huck’s.

These pages will show you the real Mary Jane. A girl on her own dangerous, unpredictable journey down the Mississippi River in pre-Civil War America. Equipped with an uncanny ability for mathematics, a talent for sewing, and a bale of beaver skins, Mary Jane navigates deadly illnesses, angry mobs, treacherous landowners, outright thieves and swindlers, and more than a thousand miles of muddy water. What’s more, she thrives in the face of these challenges, thanks to support from strangers who become friends. Traveling solo requires Mary Jane to grow up fast, but it ultimately leads her to a new resilience, a love of adventure, deep and enduring sisterhood, and a blue-eyed, ponytailed boy she can’t stop thinking about.

Jahren offers a wealth of layered characters and deeply researched, authentic details of changing times in the North and South. Using the language and style of Twain and shifting the point of view to a smart and determined young woman, she explores timeless themes of duty, family, romance, and betrayal, with grit and courage at the core.





~Author Chat~


YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

When my son a kid, we listened to the audiotape of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn during a long car ride – he loved it so much that he wanted to hear it again and again!  I thought a lot about why he loved the book so much.  He loved the fast-paced action of Huck escaping from his pa, who was a really bad guy.  I was more interested in the scams and lies and pretending that the various characters did, and why they did it.  Then, near the end, appeared Mary Jane – a complete mystery.  I decided I’d set out to solve it for myself, and figure out she really is and what she was up to, while making sure the action of her story was just as fast-paced as Huck’s.

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

Cherry, the dog.  He’s the hero of the story!


YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?

The title, of course!  I knew that Mary Jane was going to travel the same path (literally!) as Huck had, and so the title was naturally the same as Twain’s book “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” – only with Mary Jane’s name to signify her adventure!

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

The description of the telegraph that Eddie sets up in the latter part of the story.  I’d read all about how the first telegraphs worked, including Samuel Morse’s original patent from April of 1846.  I think I did a pretty good job of describing it for the reader.


YABC:  How did you decide which elements of the original story to use?

I knew Mary Jane’s live had to feed into and out of Huck’s story as Twain wrote it, perfectly and seamlessly.  Twain’s words were my starting point, and they’re preserved in my story just as he wrote them.  Mary Jane’s story grew up and out from there.

YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I like that it features the places, things and animals that were important to Mary Jane.  I like that a reader can point to the cover and identify each of them in order to answer the age-old question “What’s the book about?” And I love that it’s red, the color I always dreamed it would be.

YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2024?

I’m excited about a book coming out in September called THE MONSTROUS KIND by Lydia Gregovic.  It’s a retelling of Jane Austen’s SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

Mary Jane has two cousins, Susan and Joanna.  They are very different in personality, but they both live lives full of extraordinary adventures.  I’d love to write their stories, too.

YABC:   Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

Peter Wilks’s death, hands down.  I cried the whole time that I was writing it, and it still makes me cry every time I read it.

YABC:    What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?

That everyone has their own story.  This includes not just the people you know well, but everyone you meet, every stranger that you walk by.  Every person in the whole world has a history and a future of unique joys, challenges, hurts and triumphs.  Respecting and cherishing that knowledge is what it means to live with empathy.

YABC:     Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief & Rescue ( finds homes for dogs like Cherry who need someone to love them and take care of them.

YABC:   What advice do you have for new writers? 

Write about something that made you laugh!  Think of the funniest thing that ever happened to you – something that made you absolutely lose it with laughter – and share it with your reader.  Perhaps have one of your characters experience it – get it on the page!  People love to laugh – it feels good, after all.  In other parts of your story you can relate sad or scary or angry thoughts, but do give the reader a gift of laughter wherever it fits.  Life is hard enough, and we owe it to each other to pass on any happiness we possibly can.





Author: Hope Jahren

Release Date: June 25, 2024

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Age Range: 12 and up

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