Writing Girl of the Year for American Girl

Secrets are hard to keep! But finally, I get to share my latest American Girl® news and everything about creating three books for GRACE, the “Girl of the Year” for 2015.

Grace series by Mary Casanova

When my editor at American Girl approached me in 2013 about this project, she explained that they were thinking of a character who would travel to Paris, and return with an idea for starting a small French baking business. Given that I love to bake and travel, especially to France, this one was a no-brainer. “Oui, oui!” I couldn’t wait to jump into the research and writing!

French bakingWith every novel, I research and travel extensively. For Grace, I returned to Paris—this time with my grown daughter, Kate. I’d been to France three times previously for research and to speak. This time, my research meant simply being a tourist. We rented bikes, walked along the Seine, explored parks and famous sites, sipped coffee at outdoor cafès, sampled pastries—such a tough job!—and took a baking class in the home of a French chef. Ah, Paris. What a wonderful place to do research!

The first time I told my husband, Charlie, that I needed to travel to France for book research, he laughed and said, “Admit it, Mary, that you just want to take a vacation there.” My resulting novel, however, Curse of a Winter Moon, set in 1500s Provence (and since translated into French) led to my first invitation to write for American Girl. On my second trip, I returned to research the Palace of Versailles in 1711, and wrote Cecile: Gates of Gold, part of an earlier series called “Girls of Many Lands.” When I next returned, it was to speak at an International School and at a writer’s conference in Paris.

Though Grace is my fourth “Girl of the Year,” I couldn’t be more excited about this character. Grace is a girl who is full of ideas, and she never stops trying to find a way to turn her ideas into reality. She turns something she loves (baking), into something unique, and enlists the help of family and friends to help overcome obstacles and to make her small business dream come true.

Book 1 & 2 launch on January 1st, with Book 3 released sometime in May. A movie from Universal will release next summer, and just as with my earlier “Girl of the Year” characters, McKenna and Chrissa, the movie for Grace will be based on my stories.

Like Grace (when I’m not writing, reading, horseback riding, or traveling,) I enjoy baking. She comes from a family of bakers, and I do, too. My grandmothers baked fragrant breads—from Finnish flat bread to Slavic potica bread; despite raising ten children, my mother made the “world’s best” caramel rolls and cinnamon rolls; and I, too, love to bake breads, cakes, and cookies. And just like Grace, I’m full of ideas!

My hope is that through Grace’s stories, girls will be inspired to do what they love, to be their best, and to reach for the stars!

– Mary