In Paris, art seeps into your feet and drips from your fingertips. Dark-eyed buskers in berets squeeze out sweet accordion songs, and the birds trill along. The air tastes like crème brûlée; the light is melted butter. Or so I’ve heard. In two weeks, I’ll find out for myself.
I can see it all now: In the golden mornings, Mum and I will set up matching easels on the banks of the Seine and paint side-by-side. She’ll be too excited to sleep till noon, too inspired to stare blankly at the wall. Her sadness will fall away like a too-heavy coat, and she’ll once again fill canvas after canvas with works of aching beauty.
Description: Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.
But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.
Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?
Hi Laurel! It's great to have you visit the Alleyway. Gosh, this story sounds fantastic. What inspired you to write it?
My story ideas come from curiosity ("what if?" questions) followed by research (discovering numerous solid answers to those "what if?" questions), which are then sifted and stitched together. Research is truly the most central part of my process, helping me not only discover essential details, but also plot ideas and thematic threads.
Give us a peek inside the world you created.
Much of the story takes place in rural north central Pennsylvania, where I grew up. It's mountainous, with old deciduous forests and some truly magical state parks with waterfall-dotted hiking trails. My city-girl protagonist Dani finds nature both intriguing and a bit scary. For example, she describes summer night sounds as "a billion crickets chirp a threatening cacophony."
Dani's grandparents' home is something of a character in itself. Her widower grandfather has filled the house with collections to make living alone bearable. There's a mysterious outbuilding on his property that Dani will discover holds key pieces of her family's deepest secrets.
What about your main characters? How do they fit (or not) into this world?
Dani is an arty, imaginative high school junior with a strong sarcastic streak. Despite being deeply rooted in her faith, she has a tendency to worry and catastrophize. Since losing her dad when she was 15, she has become fiercely protective of her mother, worried she'll end up an orphan.
Dani's boyfriend Theo is a sweet, funny guy who rows crew and hopes to one day become a psychiatrist. Weathering his parents' messy divorce has made him empathetic and insightful on the one hand, and a bit self-protective on the other.
In the course of the story, Dani meets a new guy, Laughlin O'Donnell, her grandfather's neighbor. He's a gruff, rifle-toting, chain-smoking country boy who helps support his single mom doing landscaping, odd jobs, and working as a groom at a horse farm. He's the least likely person a girl like Dani would ever befriend, let alone seek for help. But he needs her help as much as she needs his.
Playlist or favorite songs of inspiration?
Mad World (Tears for Fears / Gary Jules)
Fix You (Coldplay)
Kingdom Come (Civil Wars)
Home (Phillip Phillips)
Burn (Ellie Goulding)
Ho Hey (Lumineers)
A few common themes here--broken relationships, a sense of displacement, and ultimately reconciliation and finding a sense of belonging
Yes, I can see that. But you've chosen some great gut-wrenching tunes! What can your fans expect from you next?
I'm currently working on a Christmas novella that fits between Never Gone and Almost There, told in alternating points of view from both Dani's and Theo's perpsectives. It's their first Christmas as a couple--and the first anniversary of Dani's father's death--so the pressure is on for Theo to find the perfect gift.
YAY! More Dani & Theo and in alternating POVs. Nice! We'll all be on the lookout for its release. Thank you for sharing yourself and your work with us.
Laurel Garver is an editor, professor’s wife, and mom to an arty teenager. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile, she enjoys geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who, playing word games, singing in church choir, and taking long walks in Philly's Fairmount Park.
Laurel has been generous enough to offer up a paperback copy of the prequel, Never Gone to one lucky visitor. So leave your thoughts below. (If your email is not attached to your blogger profile please leave it in your comment.)