Krista Russell was back in her hometown on Thursday afternoon for a reading and booksigning at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library. The event took place hours before Russell was to receive a Massachusetts Book Award for young adult literature that evening.
Russell’s novel is set in New Bedford in the mid-1800s, as protagonist Lucky Valera – a Cape Verdean kid who has been forced to give up his whaling dreams – gets caught up in dangerous times. Lucky bravely joins the abolitionist movement and works on the Underground Railroad, leading to adventures that have left readers and critics alike spellbound.
Dozens of fans – mostly children and their parents – packed the Mattapoisett Public Library to hear Russell read from Chasing the Nightbird, and stuck around for the cookies, punch, and signing afterward. Russell fielded questions from curious readers of all ages, and said she was thrilled to be back on her old stomping grounds.
“Growing up in this area, there’s a lot of history and so many interesting stories,” she told the audience. “We used to go to the whaling museum all of the time, and it was very inspiring to walk those streets and think about the stories I could tell, what the characters would have done in the past.”
Russell said that her next book – to be released in October – will be set in 18th-century Florida, while she has already started working on the subsequent novel, taking place in ancient Rome.
Attendees marveled at the amount of research Russell undertakes for her historical fiction.
“I love that part of it,” the author said. “There are a lot of great resources out there – photographs, firsthand accounts – and sometimes I get so swept up in them that I have to remind myself I have a book to write.”
By Shawn Badgley