Publishing · The After Girls · Writing

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

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

  1. I can’t wait to read it! That was beauitful what you wrote about Kim here. You’re right no matter how some goes it will leave a hole in your heart. I’m glad she could help with the idea for how the friends would feel for your book. Many good things have come from her death.. inspiration, living every day to the fullest, early pervention, and of course fulling your goals and never giving up. Ill be looking for your book. Congratulations!!!
    Stacy
    (Kims little sister)

    1. Thanks, Stacy. Kim was such an amazing person. I still think of her all the time, including when I go to the beach/listen to Weezer/eat honey mustard sauce, and about a million other things. I just know she’s chilling on a beach somewhere now 🙂

  2. Leah, I really enjoyed learning about the background for your book. I am your friend Blaire’s mom and we recently lost a close family friend’s daughter to cancer. I appreciated Stacy’s beautifully written post as well. I am ordering your book today! Hope it becomes a best seller!

    1. Hi, Carolyn. Thanks so much for your sweet note, and I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s daughter. I really appreciate your support, and I hope to meet you soon in Mt. Shasta!

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