Wednesday, June 8, 2016

YA in the Alleyway! ALMOST THERE by Laurel Garver

YA in the Alleyway is my revised meme to give young adult literature the spotlight it deserves. It also gives YA authors the opportunity to share their signature with the world! 
Feel free to join me any Wednesday. 

This week's featured author and book:

by Laurel Garver

Genre: YA inspirational
Release date: May 26, 2016
Pages: 309

Fave passage:
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) 
Pompeii (Bastille)
Atlas (Coldplay)
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. 
Find her: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads

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.) 

What's the last contemporary book you read? 
 photo Sheri2.png


  1. I like that the character has strong faith.

    1. It's funny you mention that because I was thinking the same thing. Although I have a strong faith, I've veered away from directly using the theme in a book. I hint to the idea and it being a motivation factor in a life, but never used it full-on in a plot, etc... I'd love to try it soon.

    2. Writing faith can be tricky. I strive to make it a natural part of a character's life and thought process, and I hope as a result don't sound preachy or agenda-driven.

  2. This is going on my TBR list. I'm always drawn to the 'what ifs' in life too, especially during my writing. Congratulations to Laurel.

    1. Thanks, Nicola! Staying curious always leads to cool places!

  3. I hadn't heard of Laurel's book. Thanks for telling us about it. Loved the passage. It took me back to Paris for a moment.

    1. Thanks so much, Lee! Dani is prone to wax poetic now and then, though the story moves along at a good clip. Conflict galore!

  4. Thanks again for having me, Sheri! You ask great questions.

  5. Love the premise. Sounds like a great read!

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I know intergenerational stories aren't that common in YA, but I see it a lot in real life and thought it would be an interesting direction to go.

  6. Great interview, ladies. Looks like a wonderful story. Congratulations, Laurel. Best of luck to you. Neat cover too.

    1. Thanks, Beverly. The piles of letters on the cover are as much part of the story as the Eiffel Tower memento. You never know what you'll find hidden at a grandparent's house!

  7. Congrats to Laurel! This book does sound fantastic! I love that passage you shared—the words were so descriptive. I especially loved the part about crème brûlée—I LOVE crème brûlée!!

    1. Thanks, Kristin. There are other delicious descriptions tucked in the book, as well as pacy story with mystery and romance.

  8. i'm in north central PA for a sci fi con right now! and i love the playlist - must be a great book!

    and sheri - i know how you feel about slow writing and feeling the need to get the next book done! some events need you to have a new book out to be able to attend. keep working it girl! and let me know if you want me to give your new one a shout!

    1. Hi Tara. Hope you're having a good time in my old stomping grounds. Lots of natural beauty, but also a universe away from my protagonist's NYC life. Glad you liked the playlist--I think it gives a pretty good sense of the emotions at play in Almost There.

  9. Who doesn't love a character with a strong sarcastic streak? :) This one sounds quite interesting, ladies, thanks. Great interview!

    1. I'm such a well-mannered and highly dignified author, I wouldn't dream of giving a sarcastic reply to that response. :-) Thanks for coming by!

  10. I haven't read a lot of YA contemporaries. I just haven't found one that seemed enticing enough. I recently started The Unexpected Everything but it really didn't grab my attention.

    1. I've set aside a few in my reading days too, mostly characters who I didn't want to hang out with for 200+ pages, so I hear you. Maybe it's a pacing thing? Some contemporaries are a bit more thin on plot and very heavy on characterization and relationships. I write somewhat more complex plots than many YA authors, and try to move the story along at a pretty good clip, though not as fast as a thriller or fantasy might move.

  11. I haven't read a lot of YA contemporaries. I just haven't found one that seemed enticing enough. I recently started The Unexpected Everything but it really didn't grab my attention.

  12. I love the description of this book. I think the last YA contemp I read was Dumplin.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

  13. AND...we have a winner! Laurel used and Kristen Smith's name was chosen. Kristen come up and get your prize!!! (No, really. We'll email you.)


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