In my behind the scenes post on Somewhere Only We Know’s setting, I wrote about how the clearing in the forest’s inspiration came from a classroom rather than nature. Even so, nature has a huge role in my book. Like Frankie, I feel closer to God in nature, and so when I was trying to create a space for all of the girls to come together, a clearing with a tree came to mind.
I know very little about trees, so I didn’t have a specific tree in mind when I first wrote the book. I just pictured it to be big and leafy. I chose which type of tree it was later on when I discovered what the name of one of the main characters— Lindsey—meant: “from the island of linden trees.” I learned that linden trees are large and deciduous, with a sturdy trunk and lots of leaves. A linden tree was the perfect, shady tree I needed for the girls.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak was a huge influence on me when writing Somewhere Only We Know. Speak is about a young girl starting high school with everyone hating her because she called the cops at the big party over the summer. What no one knows is that she called because she had been just been raped. And no one knows this because she can’t speak about it. Melinda has trouble talking at all. After her rape, she fell into silence. But then her art teacher assigns her a subject to make art with for the entire school year—trees. Melinda has trouble creating art about trees at first, but she is inspired by her teacher’s words that became the epigraph of my novel, and she finally starts to heal:
Trees are powerful. Trees are a beautiful part of nature. They are not perfect. They have their scars. But they also provide comfort and shade and homes for animals. Trees show me God, and, in my novel, they show Frankie God as well.
I recently got the chance to do an awesome interview with my publisher, GenZ Publishing, and they just put it up on their website.
If you’d like to get another behind the scenes look at my debut novel, check it out! I talk about everything from my writing process and my favorite authors to Somewhere Only We Know‘s capitalization and my Hope Bracelets. You can find the interview here. I hope you like it!
Here are some fun facts about the making of my debut novel, Somewhere Only We Know:
I usually refer to my books by their acronyms, both when taking notes and when talking about them with my husband. Somewhere Only We Know—which was a long title to begin with—became SOWK, which I pronounce “soak.”
The book was in the back of my mind for about five years before I ever tried to write it.
Once I actually started writing the book, I wrote it in only three months.
Because I have trouble remembering faces, I always have trouble creating what characters look like. I usually cast actors as my characters when I’m writing to help me picture them, but I never did that with SOWK. I never really saw the girls’ faces in my head.
I knew Somewhere Only We Know would be the title of the story as soon as I had the nightmare that prompted the idea back in high school. I had just discovered the song “Somewhere Only We Know” and my gut was telling me it was perfect, but I never realized just how well it would fit into the story until I started writing it five or so years later.
The notebook that contains all of my notes pertaining to Somewhere Only We Know has bright and colorful flowers on the cover. Even though it is a dark story, I wanted to focus on the hope. However, I made all of my section headings a dark, scratchy print.
Somewhere Only We Know’s notebook
A page from my story notebook
I signed with my publisher when the book was only about a third complete at 20,000 words.
I got the email that GenZ Publishing wanted to sign with me while sitting in the food court at the mall on my lunch break. I was probably eating a Lunchable and was definitely crying.
On May 31st of last year, I published my first post about reading the Selection series and how meeting Kiera Cass helped me to finally write and publish my first novel.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like blogging. Writers learn to write in other’s voices. We write as our characters and we tell their stories. It was an interesting experience to start writing as myself and to tell my own story. I’m really happy with how my blog and website have evolved over the last year, and I really enjoy posting about my writing, books I’m reading, and anything else that affects my life as a writer.
To celebrate my blog’s anniversary, I wanted to look back on some of my favorite posts from the past year. Help me celebrate by checking out some of my old posts!
Being a “Real” Writer: In this post I reflect on making writing my job and give my view on what makes someone a real writer.
Why Write?: Here I talk about an important lesson I learned back in college-that everyone has something important to say.
Reading Your Own Writing: When I read through my novel for the first time after it’s publication, I had both a negative and positive feeling about it. Here I write about trying to focus on the positive.
Finding Motivation: In this post I talk about having the right mindset to write and how I created a reward system to keep myself motivated.
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.
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.
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.