Many authors use real life experiences in their books. Oftentimes a character’s name or even a pet’s name has special significance to the author, but the reader would have no way of knowing that just by reading the book.
Most readers know that I write Amish fiction, but they may not know that I also write contemporary young adult novels. My newest contemporary young adult book, Destination Unknown, hit bookstores in February. I poured a lot of myself in this novel series, and I used many significant names and references in that book.
In Destination Unknown, the sequel to Roadside Assistance, it’s senior year, and Whitney Richards is tired of the constant pressures to be perfect. When she gets a D in Calculus, her mother immediately hires a tutor, worried Whitney won’t get into the “right” college—her alma mater—with imperfect grades. Her tutor, Taylor, is a quiet, mysterious boy who is unlike anyone Whitney has met before. But Taylor’s rougher upbringing has her mother and friends discouraging any type of relationship.
Tired of having to play a part for everyone else, Whitney quits the cheerleading squad that once defined her social identity, and begins spending more time with Taylor. Her mom and friends worry Whitney is making a huge mistake, and even Taylor begins to show concern for some of her choices. But for the first time, Whitney is in the driver’s seat.
The neighborhood names in Roadside Assistance and Destination Unknown are significant to me. Rock Creek, which is where Whitney’s friend Chelsea’s lives, is the name of the neighborhood where my husband and I bought our first house in Virginia Beach. Whitney lives in Castleton, which is the neighborhood where we lived before me moved to North Carolina.
There are streets named after streets from Virginia Beach and also Ridgewood, NJ, where I grew up, including: Glen Avenue, Rock Lake Loop, Holland Road, and Radcliff Road.
Whitney is a cheerleader, and her school’s colors, maroon and white, are the same colors as my high school’s colors in New Jersey. Her cheerleading uniform is maroon, white, and yellow, which are the colors the cheerleaders at my school wore.
Chelsea’s car, a sliver 1985 Nissan Sentra, is same as my first car, and Emily’s father’s Suburban is modeled after my husband’s first Suburban. Also, Zander has a green Jeep Wrangler, similar to one we once owned. And Emily’s dream car, from Roadside Assistance, a 1969 Camaro, is actually my dream car. (I’m hoping my husband will build one for me someday.)
Emily, Whitney’s cousin, is named after my grandmother. The hair stylist who has to fix Whitney’s hair after she dyes it is named after my awesome hair stylist, Casey. My hair stylist was thrilled when I featured her in my new book.
I have really enjoyed writing the books in the Roadside Assistance series. I hope readers enjoy reading them too!