Local author showcases the best and worst of history in her new YA book
For Jo Schaffer, telling stories is something that has always come naturally. Even from a young age, she remembers immersing herself in books and sharing stories with the younger kids.
It’s no surprise then that her newest book, Stanley and Hazel, published by Month9Books, has been met with so much support and appreciation.
Published in May, the story follows two characters in 1934, an orphaned newsie named Stanley and a rich debutante, Hazel. When the two met on a chance encounter, a mystery is unraveled. Together they have to work to solve it; the only problem is not everyone wants their secrets revealed.
Schaffer’s book is more than just a thrilling ride. It also touches on important social issues found both in history and today. The story specifically focuses on the history of the eugenics movement, which is a personal subject for the author.
Schaffer’s youngest son was born with Kabuki Syndrome, a disorder that causes both physical and mental complications. “He is very precious and wonderful and contributes to my family and to society by merely existing,” said Schaffer. “But he is the kind of human being that would have been disposed of in that time.”
With her oldest son, Schaffer visited the Holocaust sites in Germany and saw the evils that occurred because of racism, classicism and the pursuit of perfection.
She hopes her story will inspire young adults and teens to talk about history and the injustices that still occur in life. “The social issues that existed then are still at play now but are wearing different clothes,” she said.
“Young people of today may or may not realize that the atrocities of the past are not isolated incidences and society is perfectly capable of repeating them if we don’t learn from them.”
Even with such a great story and her personal connection, the road to publication wasn’t easy. “Being passionate about writing does not mean it doesn’t get discouraging and difficult,” said Schaffer. “There’ll be much trying and failing, writing and rewriting, and rejection on your writing adventure.”
However, despite all of the setbacks, Schaffer says it was worth it. “Getting it ‘right’ is a journey of ups and downs and the only way to learn and grow as a writer is to experience it all.”
Schaffer’s advice for future authors: find a supportive writers group and keep trying. “Someday you will be able to share your stories with others.” Schaffer is currently living in Spanish Fork and will be doing book signings and school visits around the area in the fall.
Right now, however, Schaffer is going through deadlines for the sequel to Stanley and Hazel. You can stay up to date with her and the story by following @jojo_schaffer and @month9books on Instagram.