On Facebook, I was asked:
What role did your personal life play in shaping the book? Did you grow up with a group of people similar? Etc.
My personal life played a tremendous role in shaping the book. The adage is “write what you know,” and that’s where I started. I did grow up in a suburban-Boston town very similar in feel and location to Danborn, although I’ve changed details to suit me. (I also used details nobody would know except people who were from that town, for fun.) The Fort Collins details are disguised enough to make them timeless, but I definitely wanted to give a feel for what the city is really like—and what the attitude in Colorado is compared to the East Coast. I had never lived anywhere but Massachusetts (aside from college) until I was 29, so I definitely identified with Charlie’s sense of Boston and Massachusetts being the center of the world.
While no one character is based on anyone I know, each of them is a composite of people I know or have known. To answer your specific question, I did not have a group of friends like Charlie’s. She’s pretty lucky, I think! I was about to say that I definitely did not have a best friend like Kendra; then I realized that if any one character is like me, it’s her—although she is much cooler than I ever was or will be. I love her strength of character. I also never had a long-term boyfriend in high school; I had to wait till college for that.
I had ideals, though. Huge romantic ideals. I will admit that I never met someone like Wade; I think he is unique as far as men go and I hope I showed that. (His dad, Damon, though, reminds me of my husband!) My own father died in hospice at the same time Charlie’s did, in college, but the two men aren’t alike, and Charlie’s relationship with her father isn’t like the one I had with my own dad. With much older siblings, I did have some experience growing up a “different” father, and I’ve had friends who have told me the same thing. So I wanted to explore that phenomenon a little bit.
As I wrote over five years, though, an amazing thing happened: the story started to get away from me. I’d been told that would happen, but watching it develop under my fingertips was surprisingly exhilarating. The characters did things I didn’t know they’d do. They said things I didn’t realize they could say. That’s when things started to get exciting.
And it gets even more exciting in the sequel. The original characters have truly surprised me. I can’t wait for everyone else to find out what they’re up to!