When her editor asked Budge Wilson to consider penning a prequel to Anne of Green Gables, "it was like being asked to do a prequel to the Bible," said the award-winning Canadian children's author.
It took Wilson "a full two months" to agree to the "very daunting" gig.
The result, released Monday, is Wilson's Before Green Gables, which explores the background of Lucy Maud Montgomery's plucky, red-headed heroine Anne Shirley before she famously steps off a train to begin a new life in Prince Edward Island.
"I was very concerned that L.M. Montgomery might not want this done," the Nova Scotian author told CBC News in an interview Monday.
Though the Montgomery family is pleased with her final product, Wilson admitted that she would not want someone "to do something like this" with one of her own characters or books.
Nevertheless, "what drew me in [to the prequel project] was the puzzle as to who [Anne] was in the early years and how she became who she is when she met Matthew off that train."
In the original book, Anne makes just a few short references to her difficult background, Wilson said. Readers only learn that she had lived a hard life in two foster homes and an orphanage before travelling to P.E.I.
"I knew if I was going to do this book, it was my job to fill in the gaps and explain how she could go through all that and still emerge in P.E.I. as a feisty and mentally healthy and articulate, forward-looking person," Wilson said.
Montgomery released Anne of Green Gables in 1908 and the story has become one of Canada's most successful fictional tales ever — translated into 36 languages, read by millions around the globe, adapted into a hit TV series, films and several musicals.
The release of Wilson's book is among a host of events related to the book's 100th anniversary, including the publication of a special edition of the original tome and a letter-writing contest.