Since sixteen-year-old Riley Strout lost her mother two years ago, her saving grace has been her quirky little family in the grief support group she joined as a freshman. Jay, Kate, and Noah understand her pain; each lost a loved one, and they’ve stuck together in spite of their differences, united by tragedies only they understand.
When Riley thinks she spots her mother shopping in a grocery store, she fears she is suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress. Then Jay and Kate report similar experiences. Only Noah hasn’t had some kind of vision, which is perhaps why he’s become so skeptical and distant.
When Noah disappears, Riley fears she’s lost another loved one. As they frantically search for him, she, Kate, and Jay are drawn into the mystery surrounding a relic that belonged to Jay’s dead father and contains clues about the afterlife. Riley finds herself wrestling with her feelings for both Noah and Jay—which have become clear only in Noah’s absence. If Riley is to help those she loves, and herself, she must set things right with the one she’s lost.
What made you want to tackle such a large topic as grief and the possibility of PTSD?
I didn’t! Here’s what happened:
So, I’d given up on writing. I’d been doing it my whole life, I felt like it was never going to go anywhere, and it was driving me crazy. So I put it down and went to law school. For two solid years, I read only legal books. I didn’t create one thing. I didn’t jot down even one story idea. I thought I was finally free of this maddening “writing thing.” And then, just before my third year of school, I woke in the middle of the night, covered in sweat. I had a vision of a 16-year-old girl standing in a grocery store. She saw her mother at the other end of the aisle. There was only one problem: her mother had been dead for two years.
I bolted upright in bed, grabbed an article on the floor, and frantically started writing in the margins. I didn’t know who the girl was or why she was seeing her mother. Was her mother alive? Did she fake her death? Was she a ghost?
That’s how it all started. And I couldn’t stop. It moved into my life like some unruly houseguest who refused to leave. I had to figure out why that girl had seen her mom. I had to solve the mystery. And I hope readers have fun figuring it out, too. Because, in the end, while my story does touch on grief and trauma, it’s also a lot of fun. And hopeful, too. I think hope in the face of life’s really painful moments is where the real beauty is.
What made you hand in the law towel and live a more peaceful, creative life?
The short answer is that SIGNS OF YOU wouldn’t leave me alone. Seriously. I tried to focus on my legal briefs and court appearances and write at night. I would fall asleep at the computer! I took creative writing classes after a ten- or twelve-hour workday and fall asleep there, too. And my story, once it really started to take shape, meant as much to me as a family member. I loved it that much. To ignore it each day felt like I was leaving someone I adored locked in a closet at home. It was agonizing.
There’s a longer answer that’s about discernment, knowing yourself, and knowing what things you need to accomplish in order to be fulfilled as a person. But that would probably take another page or fifty to fully discuss. Suffice it to say that for now, I need to be a writer. It’s a path that wasn’t optional for me. And my light shines brighter because I took it.
About the Author:
Emily France graduated from Brown University before going on to law school, where she was the editor-in-chief of the law review. She finds creative inspiration in all things spiritual, from sitting with Benedictine monks for 4 a.m. vigils in a Rocky Mountain monastery to trekking to Buddhist and Hindu temples in India. Now she writes full-time and lives with her husband and their fearless Tibetan Spaniel in sunny Colorado—the closest place to Nirvana she’s found. Signs of You is her debut novel. Visit Emily online at http://www.emilyfrancebooks.com and follow her on Twitter @EmilyFranceBook.
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