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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Chasing North Star

Jon McCrary

Heidi McCrary’s first book – Chasing North Star (She Writes Press, 2020) – began as a memoir but ended as a novel.

Although she kept tight ties to her own history of a deeply dysfunctional family living in the small town of Alamo, Michigan, McCrary allowed herself the freedom that comes with writing fiction to explore the inner lives of four free-ranging siblings and their troubled mother. In doing so, she gained a new level of understanding of, and forgiveness for, her mother’s complex life story.

A conversation with Heidi McCrary

“The first few drafts were definitely a memoir,” McCrary says. “But I was very young when many of the events I wrote about happened. So, I only had snapshots of memories. I had to fill in the gaps, and that’s when I shifted to a novel.”

Credit She Writes Press
She Writes Press

Chasing North Star is the story of four siblings roaming the streets of Alamo, mostly to escape their gun-toting, mentally ill mother. The story is written with two narratives, moving back and forth across two time periods.

“My mother, she played a key role in the book,” McCrary says. “And because I wanted to explain her actions, I included a back story of her time in Germany. It helps explain why a mother would treat her children in such a harmful way. The book is dual narrative, which I think makes for a more interesting read. The majority of the book is set in 1970.”

McCrary says that was a time when mental illness was not openly addressed in society and doctors didn’t know how to treat it well. She set the second narrative, that tells the mother’s story, in the 1940s.

“While the book is about mental illness, the focus is really on the children of someone suffering from mental illness and how that affects them and how they can take it to the next generation — or stop it,” McCrary says.

Heidi McCrary has worked in the media world much of her life, many of those years with WWMT TV3, the CBS Television affiliate in West Michigan. She's currently in the advertising and marketing industry. McCrary is a contributing writer for Moxie, a regional women’s magazine. Chasing North Star is her first novel.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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