You could say that Margaret J. Anderson was well ahead of her time: The Corvallis author was writing books for young adults in the 1970s, well before authors like John Green and J.K. Rowling transformed the genre into the hot thing in fiction.
Now, the 85-year-old is enjoying a resurgence: A local publishing house, Lychgate Press, has issued new editions of two of Anderson's novels for young adults, and has just published a new book, "From a Place Far Away," a memoir of her days growing up in Scotland during World War II.
She'll read from the memoir and sign books during an appearance 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Grass Roots Books and Music, 227 SW Second St. in Corvallis.
Anderson has written 26 books in a variety of genres, but her fiction for young adults, published by Alfred A. Knopf and other big-name houses in the 1970s, won her fans worldwide and praise from reviewers, including The New York Times, which listed her novel "To Nowhere and Back" as one of its outstanding books of 1975.
The books were translated into a number of different languages (copies of some of the translated volumes line the shelves of her north Corvallis home) and she said she's received fan letters from around the world.
The novels inevitably fell out of print. But a chance encounter between Anderson and Wendy Madar led to the reissued books.
Four years ago, Madar, a Corvallis author in her own right and the retired associate director of Oregon State University's Center for the Humanities, launched Lychgate Press. It was fueled by Madar's increasing frustration with the publishing business: "Too many writer friends were seeing their earlier books go out of print, and my own mystery publisher was taking up to two years to bring out a new book," she said in an email.
The encounter with Anderson jogged Madar's memory about the young-adult novels: "My children loved her books so of course I read them and was delighted by the unexpected but believable child worlds she created," Madar said. "There is always some surprise, something a reader does not foresee. These stories have kept their readability for decades now — my grandchildren are just discovering them. I am very happy to be part of ensuring that they endure to continue finding readers."
There's another family connection as well: Anderson's granddaughter Jana Anderson has designed the covers for the new editions of the novels. (The first two novels reprinted are "To Nowhere and Back" and "In the Keep of Time.")
Madar didn't originally plan to publish the memoir, but when Anderson mentioned that she had written it, Madar pounced on it: "We loved it."
For Anderson's part, she didn't intend to write a memoir: The project started as episodes she wrote for her Thursday night writers' group — but the response to her stories from other members of the group persuaded her to keep going. She'll read portions of "From a Place Far Away" during her Tuesday night appearance at Grass Roots.
Anderson eventually left Scotland, that place far away, in search of adventure: "I was actually going to travel all over the world," she said, and she worked as a biologist and statistician.
She met her husband, Norman, in western Canada, and the two came to Corvallis when he started work on an entomology degree at OSU. They returned when Norman got a job offer from OSU. It's probably not a coincidence that insects figure in several of Margaret Anderson's books.
Lychgate is working to reissue another Anderson novel, "Searching for Shona," and Anderson herself is grateful for the opportunity for her works to reach a new audience — even if it meant, in some cases, that she had to retype the manuscript for the new publications.
"I have outlasted all my contacts" in the publishing world, Anderson said. "It was very lucky that I met up with Wendy."