Release date: November 10, 2020
Genre: Young Adult
Elevator pitch: Severe loss. For 15-year-old Laurel Summers, those two words don’t cut it. She couldn’t tell you the last words she spoke to her mother and siblings if her life depended on it. But she will never forget the image of her mother’s mangled green car on the freeway, shattering the boring world Laurel had been so desperate to escape.
Laurel and her dad are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Her dad is struggling with his grief and depression, unable to cope with the loss of his family. As she struggles to hold everything together and understand who she is without her family, she must come to terms with the items on her List of Things Not to Talk About, learn to trust her dad again, and keep her heart open to love in the wake of her immense loss, eventually learning that it’s OK to not be OK.
What prompted you to write this book?
I’ve always gravitated toward stories about grief and loss. When I was growing up, I looked to stories to gain an understanding of my own grief. Something I always struggled with while reading is that, in a lot of stories about grief, the grief is seemingly resolved by a love interest or an accomplishment, as if it’s something to overcome. I wanted to write a story that was different—that shows that grief is not something to overcome, instead something to learn to live with. Finding love in spite of grief is powerful and healing, but it must coexist with grief. It doesn’t erase it. I wanted to write a story for teens that shows grief in a nuanced and complicated light, as well as love and friendship.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I did the most of my preliminary writing and outlining in the summer of 2018, just after I’d graduated college. I submitted to agents and publishers throughout the late fall of 2018 and early winter of 2019, and finally signed with Ooligan in spring of 2019. From there, it took a little over a year to get to publication. Many things changed, but the heart of the story never did. New scenes were added and characters were adjusted, but the heart always stayed the same.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
So many! The publication process has really forced me to slow down in my writing and recognize the importance of time when it comes to creating. There are so many steps that happen between writing the book and the publication date. Although I wish I could whip up a story overnight, that doesn’t happen. Sometimes, you have to let it sit, and watch as the small changes along the way make the biggest difference to the story. I was surprised by how much little changes in the story made a difference. Each round of edits, I made small, developmental changes. In the end, the story was so much fuller, all thanks to my team at Ooligan!
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Certainly—when I sat down to write this book, it came much more easily to me than any of my other projects have. The characters sort of just showed up to me, fully formed. The story came naturally and I wrote the entire first draft in three months. That’s never happened to me before. Granted, many scenes have changed since that initial first draft, but I was surprised during the writing process by how much I could accomplish.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope that readers will find comfort in this book; in particular, young readers who have or are experiencing loss, the kind of shocking, earth-shattering loss that Laurel experiences. I hope this story gives readers more empathy and understanding for the many ways grief can manifest in people of all ages.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
There’s no “right” path to becoming a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. There are so many different paths to publication—some people go the traditional route, with a degree in English or creative writing, and others (myself included!) get their degree in something entirely different, or maybe even don’t get a degree. Your experiences and your practice of the craft make you a writer—not a title, job, degree, etc. As cliche as it sounds, keep writing, and find mentors to share your work with.