Today I'm chatting with my fellow Fearless Fifteener, the insanely sweet Dawn Green, author of WHEN KACEY LEFT, which is due out March 1st, by way of Red Deer Press.
Kacey and Sara have been the best of friends since grade three. They did everything together. But then Kacey left and Sara had to learn to cope with her life after that moment. She knows everyone at school is staring and whispering about her behind her back. And the "Obnoxious Counsellor" that her parents force her to meet with thinks writing letters to Kacey in a journal will help Sara deal with her grief. Her parents and teachers are trying to convince her that life needs to get back to normal — but how can anything ever be normal again? She and Kacey had plans — college together, vacations around the world, best friends together forever. But then Kacey chose to end her life and Sara was left to try to understand what it all meant.
Dawn Green's novel for young adults is an emotional and moving look at a young teenage girl's journey towards understanding after her best friend's suicide.
Is there anything in particular that gets you in the writing zone?
I am happy to be living on the West (wet) Coast because rainy grey days usually put me in the “write” mood. There is nothing better than cuddling next to the computer with a warm hoodie and tea and writing away the day while it pours outside the window. That, and music! I often make a playlist for each story that I write – kind of a soundtrack to the book. And those days when I’m not feeling particularly inspired I usually put on the playlist to get me into the story.
What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?
I originally wrote this novel to fit very specific requirements at a local publisher. They passed and so I sent it to Red Deer Press. An editor at Red Deer liked the premise but he said that his publishing house didn’t publish anything that short and asked if I could double it in length. I was so excited that anyone was showing any interest at all that I jumped at the chance to try. When you’re trying to get your first novel published you’ll pretty much say yes to anything and then figure out a way. I’m so glad that I did because, as difficult as it was, fleshing out this story gave me much more insight into my characters and showed me just how far I can go with a story if I let it take me into the pages.
Was there ever a time that you considered giving up on your aspirations to write?
A part of me has always been a storyteller. Margins of notebooks dating back to elementary school are full of sketches, characters, and story ideas. In high school I was (as most teens are) full of self-doubt about my writing abilities… I still have those days. I always felt that there were others whose writing sounded so much more “writery” than mine. I decided to go into screenplay writing because it was less writing and more story construction. I even had some minimal success with it but I grew quickly disillusioned with the film world and decided to give it up, go back to school, and pursue education. At that point, I almost gave up on my writing aspirations. And then… my first day back to university, in my first class, I had a professor give a lecture and as she went on I found myself taking less notes and writing in the margins again – story ideas were flowing. I had been ready to give up on writing but, thankfully, it was not ready to give up on me.
Did you base your characters on anyone in particular?
I work with teens almost every day. I see their struggles, their passions, their pain… I see them. It is so easy for adults to underestimate everything that a teen is going through in their life, to just say, “Get over it. How hard can your life be? Just wait until your older and have real problems, real bills to pay, real life to live…” Teens feel everything much more viscerally than adults do but they don’t have the life experience to help them deal with it all. My characters are based on all the teens I work with. I just want them to know that what they are going through, what they are thinking, is what the majority of their peers are experiencing. And, they are not alone.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“Younger me, there are things I could tell you, things that might make life easier, might help you to make better decisions, make the pain that’s coming hurt a little less, and make you cherish the victories a little more. But the truth is, you’re just going to have to live through it all the way I did. We are who we are today because of how we lived it. And, we like who we are today.”
Dawn Green graduated from the University of Victoria with degrees in languages and education. She is a high school Spanish and English teacher, basketball coach, and volunteers with Special Olympics BC. She enjoys living on the west coast, and when she is not working with youth she can be found reading a good novel in the corner of a cozy café or walking on the beach with her dog Tanner. When Kacey Left is her first (but definitely not her last) novel.
Say hi to Dawn on her website, Goodreads, and Instagram.