Three secrets. One decision. A friendship that will change everything.
Mellie has always been the reliable friend, the good student, the doting daughter. But when an unspeakable act leads her to withdraw from everyone she loves, she is faced with a life-altering choice―a choice she must face alone.
Lise stands up―and speaks out―for what she believes in. And when she notices Mellie acting strangely, she gets caught up in trying to save her…all while trying to protect her own secret. One that might be the key to helping Mellie.
Told through Mellie and Lise’s journal entries, this powerful, emotional novel chronicles Mellie’s struggle to decide what is right for her and the unbreakable bond formed by the two girls on their journey.
In our last interview, you said, “I can’t stay away from writing fantasy.” What is it about fantasy that keeps you excited about writing it?
The first books I fell in love with as a reader were fantasy. Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, Lois Duncan (whose books were more supernatural, but still with had those fantastical elements)…to name a few. I fell in love with them because they created worlds that I wanted to escape into. And that’s what I want to do for my readers. I want to give them a place they can escape into. And selfishly, *I* want to escape into another world while I’m writing, too! I feel like when I write fantasy I’m stretching my imagination to its absolute limits. I can feel that imagination muscle working; it’s like going on a really strenuous but then you get to the top and it’s the most amazing view.
I know exactly what you mean! And I love how WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW is told through journal entries. How did you know this was how Mellie and Lise’s stories needed to be told?
I didn’t at first. I wrote more than 35,000 words over the course of six months in the more traditional narrative format, and it was crap. Every day I got up and dreaded writing. It was awful. I couldn’t figure out who exactly these girls were, and there was pages and pages of endless unnecessary dialogue.
Then one day, my husband suggested that I try writing it in journal format. That suggestion sparked a memory; in college, I’d kept a journal for one of my acting classes and had to turn it into the teacher at the end of the semester. I wrote deeply personal, intimate stuff in that journal. But clearly I felt safe to do that, knowing that my teacher would eventually read it. So I decided to try the journal format, with the idea that they’re keeping the journals as a class assignment.
Almost immediately, I knew that this was how the story needed to be told. I could access their voices so much easier. Removing the narrative barrier gave me a direct line to their thoughts and raw emotions, and it just poured out onto the page. I’m not saying that first draft was easy, but the story came out much faster and I completed that draft in about four months.
It’s amazing how stories somehow know how they want to be told. I also love the cover for WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW. What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a good cover?
I’m so glad you like it! We struggled to get to the right cover for this book, but I’m so happy where we ended up. I think a good cover gives away clues about the story contained within. It’s not enough to be pretty or striking; it has to be connected to the story. There should be meaningful details that the reader will immediately recognize once they’ve read the book. Like on this cover, Mellie is holding the journal and the pages are trailing out behind her. In the book, Mellie is very protective of her journal; she won’t let her family or friends see anything she’s writing in there because she’s keeping this terrible secret from them. But here she’s letting pages fall out–because she’s with Lise, who is the only one in the book that she trusts enough to open up to. It’s that kind of multi-layered detail that offers us insight into the book beneath the cover.
Beautiful. What are some of your current projects?
I’m very excited about my next book I’ll have out, which is a complete departure for me. It’s a nonfiction book from Lonely Planet Kids called Hidden Wonders. It’s a beautifully designed book about fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places all over the world. It was so much fun to write and I learned so much about places I’d never heard of, like the Global Seed Vault in Norway, or Snake Island off the coast of Brazil. It gave me a serious case of wanderlust! Hidden Wonders will be out October 2019…just in time for you to buy it for every 8-12yo on your holiday list. 😉
Beyond that, I’m developing a couple of ideas, probably returning to fantasy, my first love. For the first time in many years, I’m not actually under contract, which is daunting but also really freeing. So stay tuned!