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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

Novelist Patti Callahan Henry brings story about a story to Midtown Reader

APR 5, 2024

Tallahassee Democrat

Sandi Poreda

Stories have always been New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry’s foundational way of understanding the world. Henry experienced numerous moves during her childhood, but the one thing that never changed was libraries.

“I’ve always been a bookworm and I used to get in trouble for reading when I was little,” she explained. “I just didn’t think telling stories could turn into an actual profession.”

Henry had earned a master’s degree in pediatric nursing and was working in Atlanta at a children’s hospital when she decided to write one novel to prove to herself that she could. That was 18 novels ago.

Midtown Reader is hosting author Henry for a talk on her latest book at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 8.

Now, Henry specializes in historical fiction after initially writing several contemporary novels. She credits studying Latin for what she calls her “obsession with legends,” and she’s been on a runaway train with historical fiction for the past six years, notably “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” and “Surviving Savannah.”

Her newest novel, “The Secret Book of Flora Lea,” is set in Binsey, a small village in Oxfordshire, England. She chose the location because she was already familiar with it, which was fortunate because she started writing during the pandemic, when no one was traveling. Once she was able to travel, she discovered how unequivocally perfect the setting was for her story.

“I call it ‘story soaked,’” she said. “It was the perfect place to set a story about a story. It was magical.”

Magic and fairy tales play an important role in Henry’s story and help solve the central mystery in the plot. This plot line, however, wasn’t as simple as Henry initially believed it would be.

“I couldn’t solve the mystery. I had decided that I knew exactly what happened and when I got there, I was like no, this isn't right,” she said. “Everyone else loved the ending, but I wasn’t happy with it. And then it hit me that the ending was hidden inside the novel.”

Her writing process is centered around protecting her mornings for writing, which she says is sacred. Researching the time period is also a critical part of her process, as is character development.

“I don’t have to know everything about a character, but I do really have to understand their desire and their motivation for doing whatever they’re going to do in this story,” she explained. “My notebooks have notebooks!”

Motivation is something Henry would ask her younger self when she was starting out. “I was always in search of the secret key, but in the end it all came back to the basics,” she said. “What does your character want? Let’s start there. Not what type of pen, or notebook, but let’s get back to the basics.”

If you go

What: Author Pattie Callahan Henry

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 8

Where: Midtown Reader, 1123 Thomasville Road

Tickets: $20 tickets are on sale now and include a signed paperback copy of "The Secret Book of Flora Lea." Tickets are required for entry and can be purchased at



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