friendship

The After Girls is officially out! A little on how it all began

the-after-girls So The After Girls is out today. I could talk about how nervous I am, but I already did that to excess yesterday. So I thought I'd share a little on how I got from an idea to a book that's out in the world and that I really hope you all love.

Around three years ago, I had an idea for a title--The After Girls--it came to me out of the blue, and I loved it. I immediately saw it as about friends, and I started to think about what would take a group of friends from before to after in an instant. The answer was suicide. And the story began to unfold from there.

I didn't start working on it in earnest then. I was finishing up another project, and I still wasn't sure how it would all pan out. Instead, I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to write an outline and started talking about the idea with any friends who would listen (a big thanks to my NY friends for listening to my ever-changing plotlines). I took a writing class in New York and shared my idea with my classmates and soon-to-be friends. I still wasn't sure where exactly the story was going.

I wanted to set it in the mountains of North Carolina, because, honestly, what setting is more fun or creepy than that? I had only been to the mountains a few times there, but I had it all laid out in my head. And the summer after I got the idea, I visited my sister in Boone, NC (in the picture above), and everything was exactly as I had imagined--only better. It was the perfect setting, the one that would become the fictional Falling Rock, NC.

I began to write, following Ella and Sydney, two best friends as they mourned and  tried to understand their friend, Astrid's, suicide. I probably knocked out about a hundred pages. Slowly but surely I was making progress.

It was around this time that I got a call at 4 a.m., learning that a friend from college had passed away. She'd had cancer for two years, and it was very progressed, but none of that matters. When someone dies at 26, someone who is strong and beautiful and full of life, it's a shock. It's horrible.

My roommate at the time and I flew down to North Carolina to attend the funeral with the rest of our college friends. We spent the weekend crying and laughing and getting sunburned or tipsy on the beach. Our friend would have wanted it that way. She was one of the most happy and fun-loving people I've ever met in life.

It was also that Spring that I met and fell in love with my boyfriend. And it was only about a month before I would leave my job and travel to California and decide that I wanted to make the move to the West Coast.

There were a lot of changes in my life, but more than anything, highs and lows, grief and joy were more real to me than they'd ever been before. The story I had thought up a year before became more than just a story. I'd seen how much friends mean to each other, especially during times of loss. I'd seen how sometimes the most wonderful and inspiring person in the world dies way before they should. I'd seen the hole that they leave when they go, all the people they affect, all the people that miss them and remember them and still think of them all the time.

These are the things I was thinking about while I was writing it. And that's what I want to share with all of you.

As always, thanks for the support.

Leah

Book Deal!!!

I've been meaning to announce this for awhile, but between being superstitious/paranoid about telling too early and the little matter of driving across the country, moving into a sublet, and setting to work finding a new apartment, I've been a little preoccupied.

That said, the contracts are signed, the revisions (which I completed--I kid you not--in the passenger seat of a 16-foot Budget truck) are in and accepted, and my first official novel, The After Girls, will be coming out from Adams Media/Merit Press Books in hardcover in spring 2013!

Even after getting and accepting the offer, talking to my editor, the talented Jacquelyn Mitchard (of The Deep End of the Ocean fame--good book, if you haven't read it already), and embarking on a light revision, I don't think the news really hit me until I saw the cover, which was the exact thing I never knew I wanted, and I will share it here as soon as it's ready and I'm allowed to. As my editor said, seeing the cover of your book for the first time is like meeting a child--you feel like you've known them forever even though you're seeing them for the first time.

Well, all I can say was that she was right. I'm thrilled that this thing I've created is going to be real and on paper, but mostly I'm just thrilled that so many people decided to take a chance on my story, from my amazing agent, Danielle Chiotti, to my friends, family, and boyfriend  who supported me the whole time I was writing it, to my Mediabistro writing group who gave me amazing notes, to the editor and publishing team who are putting it on the shelves.

More than that, I'm blessed to be embarking on this new phase of my writing life in a beautiful new city with my wonderful boyfriend, and in a new apartment (we sign a lease next week)--I only have to figure out the little matter of finding a new job.

It's weird how the good and the bad always seem to come together. My boyfriend and I moved out of NYC literally two days before Hurricane Sandy hit. And even though the coverage has waned in the wake of the election, there are still so many without power, without homes, mourning loved ones, eager to get back to work, having two-hour commutes each morning. I've been hesitant to talk about all the good things happening to me during this time, but all I can say is, I'm incredibly blessed--and incredibly grateful--and I'm thinking of the brave people of New York every day.

My Last Weekend in New York: Karaoke, Gossip Girl, and 4 out of 5 Boroughs

I'm sitting here, it's nearing one a.m., and I'm trying to finish a revision before I move to San Francisco in just three days. I'm surrounded by packed boxes, bubble wrap, blank-looking walls, odds and ends, and what looks like too much work to do in the time alloted. It will get done, though--it always does. I'm not worried about that. I not even worried about moving somewhere new with no definite job--or driving 10 hours a day for six days--or fitting two people's lives into a Budget moving truck.

I'm not worried--but I will miss New York. And my last weekend here didn't help with that. My wonderful friends--the same ones who've always supported my writing, who've helped me find jobs and finish bottles of wine, who've danced and picnicked and been generally far too silly with me for the last five years--threw me a surprise karaoke party. It began with a sake-soaked sushi dinner that led to a private karaoke room in midtown. We started with Mariah Carey and ended--I kid you not--with a group rendition of "Don't Stop Believing." My boyfriend jumped up with my best friend from high school's older brother to belt out "Lady in Red." My fellow North Carolina friends stood with me to indulge our country roots with "Friends in Low Places." It was a dream of a night and one I'll never forget.

Saturday was spent recovering and packing, eating pizza, and then heading to the Palace Hotel in Manhattan for the Gossip Girl series finale wrap party. It's the show my boyfriend has worked on for six years, the same one that serendipitously stopped shooting for good the week we'd planned over a year ago to move. The Palace Hotel is a beautiful place (that's one of the rooms in the photo above), the champagne was flowing, there was a PHOTO BOOTH, and my boyfriend had the chance to say goodbye to the crew he's worked with day in and day out. Everyone wished us well, many expressed hints of jealousy, and most had one story or another of a winery or must-see locale in Northern California. When we'd had enough glitz for one evening, we took a taxi over the 59th street bridge into Queens and down into Brooklyn--the driver, who'd at first given us a hard time about going into Williamsburg, shared his strategies for getting the most customers in any given night (he likes to go against the crowd).

Sunday--in all its mild, sunny fall beauty--was spent taking the train over the Manhattan Bridge into Bay Ridge, having lunch with my boyfriend's grandmother, and then heading to Staten Island to see the rest of his family. It was a day of amazing food and company, and we topped it off by driving by the new Brooklyn Nets stadium on the way home.

There's a lot to love about this place--and it's not just the glamour of New York (which is never as glamorous as it seems on TV, though the GG party did come close)--more than anything, it's the people who somehow manage to make you feel at home in a city of 8 million. It's them I'll miss the most.