One of my favorite things about Frankie Worthington, the main character of my novel Somewhere Only We Know, is that she’s a reader.
Like me, her mother instilled a lifelong love of books in Frankie when she was a young girl, taking her to the library often and getting lots of books into her hands. Unlike me though, Frankie didn’t have anyone to actually buy her books and she resorted to stealing them.
When her father gives Frankie her very first book as an apology for hurting her, Frankie can’t believe that she gets to write her name inside the cover and that the book is all hers. Frankie has a deep respect for books and turns to them when her life is too difficult to bear. For Frankie, and for many readers, books are a way of escaping reality and going someplace better. When Frankie is reading, nothing can hurt her.
These are some of the books that Frankie reads that I featured in Somewhere Only We Know. Some of them I read when I was Frankie’s age. Some of them reminded me of Frankie so I chose to include them. And some of the featured books inspired and reflected themes of Somewhere Only We Know.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Frankie’s class is reading The Giver at the start of my book. I chose to include this novel because when Jonas is introduced to books his world is completely changed. This is the very first book that Frankie is given, and it shows her how important books are. The Giver is also a source of inspiration to Frankie when she attempts writing.
Esperanza Rising by Pan Munoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising was one of my favorite books when I was Frankie’s age. I figured she would also enjoy a book about hope.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
I actually read this one in college, but it’s about a thirteen year old girl who lives in a poor neighborhood that’s full of mistreated girls. I knew that Frankie would identify with Esperanza and would enjoy the poetic prose.
Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
When the Pevensie children return to Narnia in Prince Caspian, there is the feeling of both going back to someplace familiar and of everything being different. In Somewhere Only We Know, Frankie and her friends return to the tree where they used to play often. Frankie loves being able to return to this place that was once wonderful, but at the same time their lives are completely different now and something about their special place feels really different.
Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt
This last book is only mentioned briefly in Somewhere Only We Know, but this book reminds me a lot of mine. In Keeper of the Night, Isabel’s mother has killed herself and she now has to go on, acting brave and taking care of her younger siblings. Isabel reminded me a lot of Susan, and also of Frankie with their mutual love of swimming.
I just wanted to remind everyone that the Dayton Book Expo is this Saturday, April 29th!
Come on Saturday to check out this amazing event for book lovers. There’s going to be almost a hundred authors there signing books. There’s also going to be panel discussions and a Kidz Zone, and local author Sharon Short is this year’s featured author. You can learn more on their website.
I’ll be there signing copies of Somewhere Only We Know and selling my Hope Bracelets. The first 12 people to buy a book will receive a goody bag. And I’ll be giving away bookmarks, stickers, and pens. I’m so excited to participate in this awesome event for my first book signing!
See you this Saturday from 11am to 4pm at the David H. Pointz Conference Center at Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio for the 8th Annual Dayton Book Expo!
Before signing my name on copies of Somewhere Only We Know, I first write a phrase that captures one of the main messages of the book: “Write a New Story.”
Somewhere Only We Know attempts to tackle the very difficult subject of abuse. The book features four girls who experience different kinds of abuse—emotional, physical, and sexual. As a result of the violence in their lives, all of the girls have fallen into varying degrees of silence about what they’ve gone through, with one of the girls even unable to speak altogether.
However, it is through writing and stories that the girls start to find a way to communicate and find hope again. Frankie, the narrator, and Lindsey, the one who doesn’t speak, read many books throughout the course of Somewhere Only We Know, and they learn how to use writing as a way to see other possibilities for their lives.
Writing is how I get through difficult situations in my life, like my experiences with depression. Writing gives me a way to work things out and see new possibilities. Writing is how I find hope.
The one thing I wanted readers to remember when they finished reading the book is that their story isn’t over yet. No matter what you’ve gone through—whether it’s abuse like the girls in my book, or any other difficult situation like depression or an eating disorder—you can change. You can find hope again. You can overcome whatever it is you’ve gone through.
You get to decide how the story ends. You get to write a new story.
I’ve been working on a way to combine two of my passions—writing and jewelry-making—and I am so excited to announce that I will now be selling Hope Bracelets!
I’ve been making jewelry since I was twelve years old. I love all of the colorful beads and the peaceful calm I get when I’m making patters and stringing beads. I enjoy any chance I get to work with my hands and let my mind wander into my story worlds.
Ever since Somewhere Only We Know was published I had been trying to think of a way I could help spread the message of hope that the book offers and maybe raise some money for organizations that help victims of abuse. Then I found these really cute charms that say “hope” on them and I decided to make bracelets with them and give a portion of the proceeds to a local domestic violence shelter.
All of the bracelets are green to tie in with the nature elements of Somewhere Only We Know. Each bracelet is handmade and one-of-a-kind. I’ll be selling them for $10.00 each and donating half of the proceeds to a local shelter.
Get a bracelet. Wear it. Spread hope. And know that part of your purchase is going toward a great cause.
When I started writing Somewhere Only We Know, without making the conscious decision to do it, I made all of the first-person narrator’s pronouns lowercase (i, me, my). Frankie, the narrator, is a very young girl and has already been abused for several months when the book begins. Because of her youth and the fact that she has already been a victim for some time and hasn’t been able to do anything about it, I knew that Frankie would feel powerless in her situation. And I made the unconscious decision to show this by not capitalizing her pronouns.
Likewise, whenever Frankie refers to her father—her abuser—his pronouns are always capitalized (He, Him, His). Frankie only refers to him as “Daddy” when her sister makes her, and she only tells us his actual name once—Carl. The rest of the time he is merely “He” or “Him.”
As I wrote about here, my crazy capitalization was a nightmare when it came to proofreading the book. I got so used to typing the incorrect capitalization that I had used lowercase “i”s when other characters were speaking and uppercase “H”s both when other characters talked about the father and when referring to any other male character throughout the book. It’s been almost a year since I finished writing Somewhere Only We Know, and I only just recently stopped typing lowercase “i”s in everything I write.
However, even though I had to read the book many many times to catch all of the capitalization errors, I am so glad that I wrote Somewhere Only We Know this way. I believe the capitalization has a profound effect on how you read the book.
When a book is written in first-person, readers get to almost become that character, seeing everything they see and doing everything they do. I believe that the lowercase pronouns help readers to really feel what Frankie feels when they become her through reading the book. When you constantly see lowercase pronouns, you begin to think of yourself as a little bit “less than,” which is exactly how Frankie views herself because of her abuse.
She feels powerless in her situation, and she shows this by referring to herself in lowercase letters. At one point in the book Frankie is writing a story and her friend asks why she writes her “i”s lowercase. Frankie responds, “i shrug. i never really thought about it before. i guess i just think i don’t deserve a capital. Maybe in some ways… i view myself as worthless too. Or if not worthless, at least unworthy.”
Because Frankie feels powerless, her father has all of the power, and so that’s why his pronouns are all capitalized. A couple months ago my husband said to me, “I like how you made the dad faceless.” Faceless? I hadn’t even realized I’d done that. We don’t really get to see what the father looks like in the book. Frankie refers to him as a “bear,” big and strong. We know he works in a factory and that he has dark hair. And we only get to hear his name once. He is just Him, with a capital “H.” The father has become this big scary monster, faceless and hidden behind the mask of his capitalized pronouns. Frankie has no power against him, no way to fight him. When we constantly see his capitalized pronouns, he becomes this unknown, powerful thing that no one can fight against.
The best part of the book is when Frankie finds a way to gain some power, but I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll have to read the book to see what happens.
I don’t recommend trying to mess with capitalization with your writing, because it took a lot of work to make sure it was done right, but I am so glad I did it for Somewhere Only We Know. I love the way it makes you read the book.
Want some more Somewhere Only We Know? Here’s an extra scene from the novel, told from Susan’s point of view. I hope you enjoy it!
SPOILER ALERT: This scene takes place near the halfway point of the book and contains a major spoiler if you haven’t read the book yet.
I bought the test yesterday. So simple, the box says. One line means no. Two means yes.
I put it in the grocery cart after checking that no one could see me doing it. Apples for Frankie. Chips for Daddy. And a pregnancy test for me.
I didn’t tell Frankie yet, won’t tell her until I’m absolutely sure. I’m only a couple days late. That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe I won’t have to take the test after all. Maybe this problem will just go away.
No. It’s not a problem, and I shouldn’t call it that.
I look at Frankie now, sound asleep in her bed, and I think about how much not a problem it would be. I love children. Back when I wasn’t afraid to leave Frankie at the house, I used to babysit all the time. It was nice to have my own money. And the babies were so cute. I could do this, I think.
Frankie winces in her sleep.
She is blessed. She doesn’t remember her nightmares when she wakes. She tells me that she doesn’t dream, all she remembers is the blackness of sleep. But I see her dreams. I see her shake and I hear her murmur. She tells him no in her sleep. Even if she doesn’t remember the pain, her body feels it.
I remember the nightmares. Every one of them.
He hurt her bad last night. Worse than normal. But I don’t think that’s the pain she’s feeling.
I see her book on the floor. He tore the cover off. I wonder if he knew that that would be a worse thing to her than taking her.
I’m sure he does. The bastard gets off on hurting us. But he doesn’t understand the books themselves. At least I’ve never seen him read before. He doesn’t know what they can mean. And they mean so much to Frankie. Even more than the books I used to read meant to me.
Frankie starts tossing in her sleep. She rocks back and forth, hitting her fists on the wall. Then the moans start, like they always do.
I run to her, shake her. “Frankie, Frankie,” I call. It usually takes a couple hard shakes to wake her. This time it takes five.
She stops tossing. She opens her eyes slowly and smiles when she sees me standing over her. “Good morning, Susie,” she says. Then she coughs. Her throat sounds swollen.
I sigh. Nothing. She always remembers nothing.
She sits up in bed and her smile falters when she sees her torn book on the floor. Her happiness lasts only moments. I need to get her happy again.
I think for a moment, pursing my lips. How can I get her happy again?
“I’ve decided you need a walk, to clear your head,” I say to her.
She looks at me confused. “Okay,” she says after a moment.
She gets dressed, moving slowly from the physical pain she’s in. I have to remind her where the pads are when she finds blood in her underwear again.
I told Daddy she’s started her period. I track them for him so he doesn’t have to. He’s at least careful with her. It’s okay not to be careful with me. I don’t matter.
Daddy is still asleep, so we go quietly downstairs and I help Frankie into the car. I don’t really know where I’m going as I start driving. Frankie’s the one who used to go out to parks all the time so she could exercise. I remember the park nearby where she used to have softball games, and I drive there. The place reminds me of Mama.
Frankie doesn’t want to get out of the car. She doesn’t move when I close my door, so I have to walk around and opens hers and pull her out. She can’t stay in this funk. She needs to keep moving. “One lap,” I whisper to her.
We walk towards the sun. The softball field is this way, at the bottom of the hill. I can hear cheers. A game is going on. I remember walking this path with Mama. When we got to the park, Frankie would always run ahead of us and join her team in the dugout, but Mama and I would take our time. She liked to walk slowly, and look at the grass and trees and children playing on the playground.
It’s still early this morning, but I can see a few mothers with their children on the playground.
I feel the ache again. The desire for a child and the desire to not have a child. I feel both. I don’t want to feel anything.
Frankie walks slowly. She is in pain. She keeps her arms wrapped around herself. I don’t know if the pain’s from him or her period. Probably both.
When she looks up she unwraps herself halfway so that she can use a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. I should’ve remembered to bring her sunglasses. She probably left them on her dresser at home. I’m supposed to remind her of such things. I’m supposed to take care of her.
We head down the hill. I don’t say anything to her. I can’t think of what to say. She probably wants me to talk, to comfort her, to be the mother she needs because her real one is gone.
But I don’t know what to say.
I don’t know what I can say. I don’t know how to make this better.
The softball field comes into view as we reach the bottom of the hill. Frankie stares at the field. I know she’s remembering how things used to be. How Mama and I would always come to her games, even though Mama would just sit there frozen most of the time. I remember all of the orange slices I would cut up, and how I would let Mama carry them out to the field like she’s the good mom who got them ready.
I wonder if Frankie is thinking the same thing. How Mama pretended. Because she looks back down at her feet and picks up her pace as she turns away from the field.
“Why didn’t you try out for school this year?” I ask her.
She looks up at me. The sun is warm on my back and she shields her eyes against it.
“I just haven’t wanted to since Mama died,” she tells me. She’s blaming Mama, because that’s what’s easy.
We turn the corner around the softball field and take the path back up the hill. We’re over halfway done since I promised her we’d only do one lap, and she still won’t talk to me, won’t get out of her head. I keep trying to ask her questions, about how school’s going and how Lindsey is doing. I try to distract her with little, everyday questions. She can’t keep thinking about Daddy. She can’t focus on that if she wants to move on, if she wants to keep walking.
But she just gives me short, clipped answers. School’s fine. Lindsey’s fine. Her grades are good. Nothing important. Nothing that means anything.
I give up when we come up by the playground again at the end of the path. The ache in my stomach stops me. I feel nauseous.
I watch the moms playing with their kids. I keep my hand flat on my stomach. Is there something in there?
“You know, Mama let me pick out your name,” I say to Frankie.
Seeing the children playing brings this memory back to me. I can see Mama, very pregnant and looking through her baby name book. She couldn’t decide, couldn’t find just the right name for the baby in her belly. She didn’t think she could do it right, so she asked me.
“What?” Frankie asks. She’s surprised; she’s never heard this story before.
“Yeah,” I say. I quickly think of a lie. “I was really nervous about getting a new sister. And she thought it would help me if I could name you.” Frankie doesn’t need to know that Mama couldn’t do it. She doesn’t need to know she was broken way back then.
“Why were you nervous?”
“I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t know what was going to happen when I wasn’t the only kid anymore.” I shrug, trying to get her off this topic. I don’t like lying to her, even though I have to do it, have to protect her.
Frankie stays quiet. I stare at the little kids on the playground, laughing and jumping and climbing, before I keep talking. I let the memory keep playing in my head, the part that I can tell Frankie about.
“Mama showed me this big book of baby names that she bought when they were expecting me. She had all of these names and their meanings in a list. I was going to be Nicholas if I was a boy. It means ‘of the victorious people.’” We both laugh. “But then they found out I was a girl and chose Susan: ‘resembling a graceful white lily.’”
“I like that,” Frankie says.
“I do too. So I had to make sure my new baby sister had just as good of a name and name meaning.” I rub my stomach, still keeping my palm flat and thinking about what might be inside. “And when I saw what the name Frances meant, I knew it was perfect for my sister.”
“What does it mean?” Frankie asks quietly.
I can feel tears start to form. I remember how I felt when I saw the name Frances. I remember how bad it already was back then, though Daddy was still really good at hiding it. Excellent even. You can look at pictures and can’t even see it. But I saw. I was only five but I saw it starting. And my sister needed something different.
“‘One who is free,’” I say.
We are both quiet when I finish my story. We both look out on the families playing together. But she’s not seeing the same thing I’m seeing.
She’s seeing happy families, probably wishing that our family was like that.
I wish that too, when I see families like that. But today I see the future. I see what could be.
And I make a decision.
“When I’m a parent, I’m going to be good to my kids. I’m going to treat them right.”
I nod to myself. If I am pregnant, then I’m going to do this right. I’m not going to get sad or angry or curse Daddy for doing this to me. I’m going to be the best parent I possibly can be. Because that’s what any child needs.
I’m not going to lie to my child, like I do to Frankie. I’m not going to shut down on him or her like Mama did on us. I’m not going to call the child names or beat them or do the unspeakable things Daddy does. I’m going to be a good parent. I have to be a good parent.
Tears fall down my cheeks. I must be confusing Frankie, or scaring her, because she asks, “Is something wrong, Susie?”
I stop rubbing my stomach and instead clench my fists at my sides. My pinky that was broken throbs, but I don’t care.
“I’m not sure yet,” I say to Frankie. I’ll take the test tomorrow, but nothing could be wrong now. A child isn’t wrong. And I’m determined to do this right.
Frankie starts walking toward the car without me. I look at the families on the playground a moment longer. I nod to myself again, sure of the decision I’ve made, and then I go and join my sister.
There were two sources of inspiration that floated around in my head for a long time before I got around to writing Somewhere Only We Know. The first was the nightmare I wrote about here that gave me the initial conflict of the novel. The second was the song “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I first heard the song in the trailer for the Winnie the Pooh movie that came out in 2011. I wasn’t even a fan of Winnie the Pooh, but I watched that trailer so many times because the song entranced me. It was so wonderful to think about going back to a beloved place where you could connect with someone, like audiences could with the Winnie the Pooh stories.
When I had my nightmare, I immediately knew that Somewhere Only We Know was the perfect title. I realized the girls needed a place where they could connect with one another, which became the clearing with the linden tree. I included a tree because of the line in the song about a fallen tree.
The song talks about going back to a familiar place. In my book, Frankie and the girls used to go to this tree all the time to play, but they haven’t in a while—not since their abuse began. The place feels different to them when they finally go back, like in the song when the speaker questions if that is the place they used to love. But it is still a special place that only they know. The song also asks when “you” are going to let the speaker in. In the book, Frankie has trouble getting the other girls to open up about what they are going through.
I also chose this song to obtain my title because “somewhere only we know” can also refer to the place of violence that only victims of abuse truly understand. Abuse is something you can only really understand if you are a victim yourself or if you’ve talked openly with those who have experienced it. Frankie has trouble talking to people who have not experienced what she has because she doesn’t think they understand. Because of her difficulty, the clearing becomes the only place where she can share what happens to her and try to find healing.
I love the song “Somewhere Only We Know” so much, and I wanted to use a verse of it as the epigraph for my book, but I couldn’t because of rights. I chose instead a quote from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a book that inspired me while writing Somewhere Only We Know.
Even though I couldn’t use the song as my epigraph, I’m glad I was still able to share its title with my book. I hope that people will think about this beautiful song as they read my book.