Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Susan’s Scene

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.

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Susan’s Extra Scene from Somewhere Only We Know

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.

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: The Title

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.

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Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

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.

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The epigraph of Somewhere Only We Know, from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak

 

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.

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: The Cover

I’m pretty picky about book covers. And even though the phrase is “don’t judge a book by its cover,” I know I’m not the only person who does judge books based on their covers.

The cover of a book is your first impression of it. The cover gives you an idea of what’s inside. It can convey a mood or tone, display the subject matter, or present a symbol that’s used in the book. The last is my favorite. I’m not a fan when covers feature people. I’ll find out what the characters look like as I read the books. I’d rather the cover be a picture of some symbol in the book, one that reflects the true message of the book. When I see a really interesting image on a cover, I’m more likely to pick the book up.

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Some of my favorite book covers

With Somewhere Only We Know, I knew that symbol on the cover had to be a tree. The tree in the book means so much to each of the girls, and it is what connects them all together. So when my publisher asked what I was thinking for the cover, I told her it needed a tree on it.

I also sent her pictures of both my hand-drawn and typed covers I had made for the book. I knew how I wanted the text laid out on the page. I wanted it all to be lowercase and flushed left. I played with capitalization a lot in the book, which I’ll talk about in a future Behind the Scenes blog post, and I wanted the cover to reflect that.

 

I’m so happy with how the cover turned out. My publisher did a fantastic job taking my idea out of my head and making a beautiful picture. I love the font she used and the green overlay on the tree. The green frames the text of the title but it doesn’t cover the whole picture. I like that some of the tree is left dark, almost black and white. It reflects how Frankie has trouble letting the light in.

If this wasn’t my book but I saw it somewhere, I would definitely pick it up. The lowercase title and picture of the tree are interesting, and they would make me want to see what was inside the book.

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The paperback cover

 

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Setting

The setting of a story is so much more than just where the story takes place. If done well, setting can help create the mood and tone of the story and can even act as a character itself. Setting is not just the physical space in which the story takes place, but the time period and culture. And as Cheryl St.John explained in Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict, when characters react to their setting, we can learn about both it and the characters themselves in how the interpret what they see.

As I lean towards science fiction and dystopian stories, I’ve always had a particular interest in setting as world building is so important in those stories. I love it when a book can take me to a different place and make it feel real.

Somewhere Only We Know is a contemporary young adult novel, so there were no different worlds or societies to explore. It was just a simple small town, and, though I didn’t say where in the book, I always imagined it to be in northwest Ohio as I lived there for many years. A lot of readers are familiar with this kind of simple small town. However, setting is just as important in this book as it is in any science fiction tale.

There are only three main settings in Somewhere Only We Know: Frankie and Susan’s house, Frankie’s school, and the clearing in the forest. Each of these settings are extremely important in creating the tone of the story.

Frankie and Susan’s house is a simple two-story with an attic. The downstairs is plain, with the living room to the right of the front door and the eating area and kitchen to the left. The garage connects through the kitchen. The stairs are in the middle, which leads to the two bedrooms upstairs—Frankie and Susan’s on the right and their father’s on the left—with a bathroom in the hallway and stairs leading to the attic. The attic has a wood floor and low ceilings, and it is the only part of the house that is impeccably organized, thanks to their deceased mother. Frankie and Susan’s room is particularly messy and disorganized, which reflects the disorder in their lives.

All of the scenes including violence take place in the house, which makes it the most depressing of the three settings. Frankie does not think of it as a safe place, and so she doesn’t feel a lot of attachment towards the house. The exception of this is the attic, as that was her mother’s space. Her mother kept the attic perfectly organized and had a rocking chair up there where she would read from her Bible and look at old pictures. Frankie can feel a connection to her mother in this space, so she goes there often and several important scenes take place there.

The school is also the site of a few important scenes. Frankie gets to sit next to her best friend Lindsey in Mrs. Miller’s homeroom and language arts class, so a lot of their interaction takes place there. The fact that it is their language arts class is important because both girls feel a deep connection towards books. The other important room in the school is the office, where Frankie has multiple interactions with Principal Berry and the counselor, Mr. Lukeman. Frankie doesn’t like the office very much. She thinks the secretary doesn’t like her and the chairs in the waiting room and the offices make Frankie uncomfortable. But at the end of the book the school becomes a place of comfort and something very important takes place there.

The clearing in the forest is by far the most important setting in the book. The clearing is peaceful and beautiful. Yet its inspiration came not from nature, but from a classroom. When I was a freshman in college, I took an introductory women’s studies class to fulfill a general education requirement, and my life was forever changed. In the acknowledgements of Somewhere Only We Know I thank the teacher of this course and every student in it for creating something very special and powerful. In that classroom we shared our stories. We overcame everything that kept us in silence, and were able to share stories of violence we had encountered. Even the teacher had a story to tell about violence in her life. And with that sharing came power. We found healing by sharing what happened to us. We put a name on it and learned that it wasn’t our fault. This is the kind of environment I tried to create in the clearing for Frankie and the other girls.

I tend to feel a greater connection to God in nature, like Frankie, which is why I chose to make this magical place a clearing in the forest. The song “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane also influenced the story and gave me my title, so that is why I chose the beautiful tree to be in the middle of it. I love that the clearing becomes a safe place for Frankie and the girls to try to share their stories, and I hope that victims of abuse reading my book are able to find a place like this of their own. Because of its power, the clearing acts as a character of its own in the story, and it draws all of the girls together.

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Trees and nature were a huge inspiration for Somewhere Only We Know

When writing a story, setting can often seem like it’s just in the background since it is the background of the story. But when you consciously think about the setting of a story and what it can do for your story, you can make it have a significant impact.

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Inspiration

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.

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One of my favorite passages from Somewhere Only We Know