Whether we’re hiding or embracing, we all have to face it: the truth. For Sara, the truth is all that matters in a time of desperation and urgency. In the following interview, Tracy Bilen, talks to us about writing her debut YA novel, What She Left Behind.
In three words, how would you describe your writing?
Suspenseful, dramatic, concise.
Has working around young adults, as a high school French and Spanish teacher, influenced the creation of What She Left Behind?
It’s hard to say, since I try to keep the two separate. But it does help keep me a little more up to date with the latest gadgets and the way teens are talking. Also, teaching itself is another creative outlet for me.
What was your greatest challenge in writing What She Left Behind?
Figuring out how it was going to end!
Your time spent studying at the Sorbonne in Paris opened to you a first-hand experience of French culture; will we see any French influences in your debut novel?
I did sneak in the word Versailles, but otherwise no! However, Sara’s brother is a wiz at learning languages.
What connects you to your main character, Sara?
The emotions: the overwhelming urge to go home when you’re already there, loving someone who you shouldn’t anymore.
What was your favorite part of What She Left Behind to write, and why?
I loved writing the scenes with Alex, the guy Sara falls in love with, because with all of the things that are going wrong in Sara’s life, Alex is something that’s going right.
What kind of feelings do you want your readers to experience while reading, and after reading, What She Left Behind?
I’d like readers to feel nervous about what’s going to happen next, and the excitement of falling in love. The last emotion I can’t say, because it would spoil the ending!
What would you like for readers to take away from Sara’s experience of living with an abusive father?
That living with abuse isn’t always as black and white as it might seem from the outside. That people being abused sometimes can’t help still loving those who are abusing them.
Can you tell us something about What She Left Behind that isn’t in its blurb?
What She Left Behind does deal with serious issues, but it’s at heart a thriller and a love story.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thanks for letting me share my characters with you – I love them and hope you will too!
Tracy Bilen is a high school French and Spanish teacher in Michigan where she lives with her husband and two children. Before moving to Michigan, Tracy taught at a ski school for high school students in Vermont (Spanish, not skiing!). She studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and taught English in Strasbourg, France. She enjoys cross-country skiing and walks in the woods. Her debut young adult novel, What She Left Behind, will be released by Simon Pulse on May 1, 2012.