Meet the Newbies: Emily France
Meet the Newbies is a blog event hosted by Rachel at A Perfection Called Books dedicated to introducing you to the “newbie” published debut authors. In this event, expect to learn more about the authors, their books, and silly fun facts!
Author Most Likely to… have to get back to you because she’s on the phone with her sister.
1. How would you describe your book?
Soon after 16-year- old Riley Strout touches a relic from a 16th century mystic, she catches a glimpse of her mother shopping in a grocery store . . . two years after her mother’s death. Riley runs to catch her but as she reaches for her, the woman stops and turns, and it isn’t Riley’s mother. Riley starts to question everything: Is her mom alive? Is Riley losing her mind? Did she see a ghost? SIGNS OF YOU is rooted in this mystery about what Riley saw that day and in the days that follow. Kirkus Reviews calls it, “The Sixth Sense meets the Da Vinci Code for teen readers.” There’s also an emotional arc to the story that’s about guilt, grief, and forgiveness. That’s really the heart of the book.
2. Loss and grief are important themes in your book, what was the inspiration behind that?
This book was inspired by loved ones I’ve lost. Sometimes, when I’m walking through a store and I catch a glimpse of a person who reminds me of someone I’ve lost, I’ll let myself imagine for just a moment that I’ve spotted him or her. That maybe they aren’t really gone, but that they’re out there somewhere living a wonderful, carefree and happy secret life. That inspired the opening scene of the book: Riley thinks she spots her mom in a store two years after her mother’s funeral. The big difference is that for me, it’s just a fantasy, but for Riley… Well, I won’t say more. I don’t want to give anything away!
3. What was the hardest part about writing Signs of You?
This may sound strange, but the hardest part was not writing it. In other words, I tried to quit writing multiple times while drafting this book. I had a high-powered job as an attorney in a large Chicago law firm. I just didn’t have the time or energy for this story, but it literally haunted my dreams. I would attend creative writing classes at night after work and fall asleep right in front of the teacher. So I told myself to give up and that I just couldn’t do it. But this story wouldn’t leave me alone; I felt miserable when I was away from it. Miserable! Finally, when we decided to relocate for my husband’s job, I left the law entirely so that I could finish this book. I went from lawyering in high heels in a Chicago law firm to writing in ripped-up jeans in the Boulder public library for eight hours a day. It was one of the most difficult and grandest adventures of my life.
4. What kind of research did you do for grief support groups?
Oh, the research! I spent countless hours conducting research for this book. First, my personal motto in times of grief or trouble: Reach out! Ask for help! I’ve attended many support groups for various reasons over the years, and they’ve enabled me to come through challenges (mostly) whole on the other side. So from my own experience, I know these types of groups intimately. Second, I researched the many ways we deal with grief and, in particular, how we make decisions in difficult times. I think sadness can steer us in the wrong direction; it’s so easy to make bad choices when we’re hurting. This led me to the writings of a 16th century mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who wrote about this very thing. His relics and history are laced throughout the story. I am fascinated by all faith traditions and what perspectives those bring to grief and healing.
5. What does your writing process look like?
There are roughly seven steps to my writing process:
1. Avoid writing.
2. Start to feel miserable.
3. Continue to avoid writing. Clean things! Organize things! Buy things!
4. Notice a rising level of existential angst. Battle big life questions like, “What does it all mean?!”
5. Hit bottom.
6. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. Five to six pages a day!
7. Feel connected to the universe once more and know that everything is going to be okay because I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, which is and has always been . . . writing.
6. What do you hope your readers walk away with?
First and foremost, my biggest aspiration is to be a great storyteller, so I hope readers are thrilled by the story. I hope they can’t stop turning pages. I hope they are engaged by the core mystery in the book. I hope they love the history and the clues that are laced throughout. Second, for readers who have suffered loss, or have ever felt lost and directionless, I hope that like Riley, they catch a moment of lightness, a moment of clarity, like seeing a flock of birds tearing across a bright blue sky.
Thanks so much for having me. ~Emily
About the Book
Signs of You
by Emily France
Since sixteen-year-old Riley Strout lost her mother two years ago, her saving grace has been her quirky little family in the grief support group she joined as a freshman. Jay, Kate, and Noah understand her pain; each lost a loved one, and they’ve stuck together in spite of their differences, united by tragedies only they understand.
When Riley thinks she spots her mother shopping in a grocery store, she fears she is suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress. Then Jay and Kate report similar experiences. Only Noah hasn’t had some kind of vision, which is perhaps why he’s become so skeptical and distant.
When Noah disappears, Riley fears she’s lost another loved one. As they frantically search for him, she, Kate, and Jay are drawn into the mystery surrounding a relic that belonged to Jay’s dead father and contains clues about the afterlife. Riley finds herself wrestling with her feelings for both Noah and Jay—which have become clear only in Noah’s absence. If Riley is to help those she loves, and herself, she must set things right with the one she’s lost.
ABOUT the author
Emily France graduated from Brown University before going on to law school, where she was the editor-in-chief of the law review. She finds creative inspiration in all things spiritual, from sitting with Benedictine monks for 4 a.m. vigils in a Rocky Mountain monastery to trekking to Buddhist and Hindu temples in India. Now she writes full-time and lives with her husband and their fearless Tibetan Spaniel in sunny Colorado—the closest place to Nirvana she’s found. Signs of You is her debut novel. Visit Emily online at www.emilyfrancebooks.com and follow her on Twitter @EmilyFranceBook.
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