Author’s Note: Under Shifting Stars

I’m extremely honored that UNDER SHIFTING STARS is a Junior Library Guild gold standard selection! This means it will be in school libraries in the USA and Canada.

Writers of fiction are often asked if the stories they write are based on their own lives. Laurie Frankel explained it better than I ever could when she wrote, “Writing a novel is like making soup. The base is a broth we make up wholesale… Then, to that entirely made-up broth, we add a sprinkling of research, some chunks of childhood memories, a handful of sautéed morsels overheard at the playground, a few diced bits we weren’t planning on but turned out to need for depth of flavor, and some finely chopped pieces of our own lives.”

While Audrey and Clare are fictional characters, I would say I sprinkled aspects of myself into both Audrey and Clare, and some of my life experiences into their story. Audrey was inspired by the part of me that sometimes felt different from other kids growing up because I was happiest while creating art–in my case, writing. Clare was inspired by the part of me that would only wear dresses in early elementary, felt like a tomboy as a pre-teen, gender-neutral as a teen, and now feels more feminine than I have in years after carrying and birthing my children. Someone else might describe it differently, but this is my experience.

During the Alberta Flood of 2013, my childhood home was flooded and my family lost a variety of items, but the hardest part was losing objects of sentimental value: boxes of photographs; childhood stuffed animals, clothes, school assignments and crafts; a dollhouse built by my parents’ hands; my wedding dress. Having Audrey save these precious items for her family was a very healing process for me.

I’m very aware that UNDER SHIFTING STARS deals with sensitive issues, as these are issues that I care about very deeply–which is exactly why I wrote this book. I want teens to know that it’s not only okay to be different, it’s a good thing! As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Life is too short to pretend to be someone you’re not. You don’t have to diminish yourself to please someone else. I know there are many teens out there who don’t have a lot of support or don’t feel safe being their true selves, and I hope my book does a small part in helping them feel less alone.

UNDER SHIFTING STARS started as a short story focusing on Audrey and her desire to be reunited with her twin at public school, but it quickly became apparent that the story wasn’t complete without Clare’s perspective, and it grew into a novel. In addition to my own experiences, the writing (and editing) process involved interviews/conversations with psychologists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, lots of research, and hiring sensitivity readers with my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. So many people contributed to the creation of this novel, and I am thankful to each and every one.