Most of my story ideas come from getting a line in my head or coming up with a general concept. Then, once I figure out my character’s name and find the story’s title, I am able to build a story around that line or general concept. I’m not sure why I always need the names before I begin working on something, but that has always worked for me.
My novel Somewhere Only We Know, however, was different. The idea came to me in a nightmare. I usually don’t remember my dreams and the ones I do remember don’t usually make any sense, but I will never forget the very vivid dream that was the birth of this story.
In the dream, I was a young girl (Frankie) and I was being hurt by someone. My sister and our friends were also being hurt by this person. I wasn’t sure who he was, but he appeared to be a friend of my parents. One by one the man killed my sister and our friends, and then I was finally able to run away.
Scary, right? Maybe I had watched Criminal Minds with my parents before bed, or maybe it was just a random dream. But the second I woke up the four girls’ names came to me—Frankie, Susan, Lindsey, and Miranda—and I started writing a few pages. That was back in high school so that writing was not good and I knew it wouldn’t work as is, so I put the story aside.
Though I think that nightmare was always in the back of my head. When I got to college and took an introductory women’s studies class, I learned just how prevalent violence against women is, and I made it my mission to do something about it. I minored in the subject and whenever I was able to choose a research topic I chose violence against women and rape. I took classes on social problems, sociology and gender, feminist science fiction, and fictional representations of violence against women. I rewrote fairy tales and studied books that tackled the topic of violence against women.
Then I became a Christian and I was thrown off on how I was supposed to continue writing about such a dark topic. But I knew God needed me to bring stories like these to light. And Kiera Cass helped me understand how to be both a writer and a Christian. After talking with her, I wrote Somewhere Only We Know in only four months, and had signed with my publisher halfway through that time. The final version of the book is very different from that initial nightmare, but that dream gave me the inspiration to create a story on this topic.
Not everything I write will be overtly about violence against women. I don’t think I’d be able to handle that emotionally. Writing Somewhere Only We Know involved many tears and moments of wanting to stop and turn away. But I promise that in all of my stories you will find strong women taking a stand for themselves. Frankie does that, and so will every woman I write about.