I was eight years old when my family moved from snowy South Dakota suburbia to the wide fields of rural New York. I remember living with my grandparents while my parents scoped out the area. The first photo I saw of our new house featured a large yellow farmhouse settled right off the highway, framed by fields and trees.
I remember my room, upstairs, second door on the left, filled with white furniture and yellow and pink floral curtains. I remember the two-story rickety wooden wraparound porch. In the winter, I helped my mom shovel mountains of snow off the upstairs porch; in the summer, I shucked corn on the first floor by the sliding window door that led into the kitchen.
I remember the time my family returned from a day of running errands to unleash a swarm of wasps from our front room. Apparently the recent addition before our moving in had trapped their nest in a wall. I remember a basement with at least two inches of standing water at all times. The farthest I was ever allowed was halfway down the stairwell; we weren’t sure how many snakes or rusty nails were hiding in the murky depths.
About three months before my twelfth birthday, my family left our ancient problematic farmhouse and moved to a dwelling housed on the end of a concrete block built to house four families in a row. Across a parking lot stood an identical concrete block. All along our street stood a neatly spaced out row of cold, solid, eggshell-colored concrete rectangles. We lived on that military base for three years. I spent every day and many nights dreaming of the moment I would once again step foot on the country soil of upstate New York.
When a writer sets out to write a book, the first piece of advice they’re likely to hear is “write what you know.”
For Sixteen, what I knew was how to be a teenager; experience with relationships like mom, best friend, romantic interest; and volunteer ballet teaching. The only parts of Sixteen I needed to research were pregnancy and daily life in the 90s.
World of Shadows is a work of fantasy and imagination. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but not the one Disney viewers are familiar with. There’s no sentient furniture, no musical numbers, no lessons for an animal-man hybrid in acting human. Instead, we get invisible people, rooms that clean themselves, and a monster terrorizing our heroine with very real danger. All set in an underground world populated with a medieval French village.
Clearly, I’ve never lived in a tunnel world. I’ve never experienced magic or met a person I couldn’t see. I don’t speak French. I’ve never taken any specialized studies on medieval life or culture. What happened to “write what you know?”
Beila’s life in the tunnels is as new a realm to me as it is to her, but her life above the surface feels comfortably familiar. Her childhood home, her life in the country, the woods behind her house—these are things I know. These are things I remember, because I lived them.
My long-awaited return to a northern New York childhood never came, but in this book, I was able to explore it through new eyes. The faint scent of cows on the breeze, the snap of forest debris underfoot… it’s good to be home again.
Lovely post, Emily! <3 I’m glad you got to return home via your story and that you decided to take your readers with you on your journey. I haven’t read World of Shadows yet, but that above description just makes me need it a little more. *slyly bumps novel higher on the reading list*
World of Shadows Info:
In this urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, modern-day teenager Beila Durand is plagued by nightmares that lead her to discover – and wind up trapped in – a cursed underground world. The invisible people that live in this medieval village depend on Beila learning the truth behind their curse – and why she is the only one who can set them free.
In her quest for answers, however, all she seems to find are more questions. Where do the echoing screeching at night originate? Who is the isolated man that speaks with Beila from the shadows of his cloak? What does this New York girl have to do with any of it? And will she ever find a way back home?
About the Author:
Born in Panama, Emily Rachelle traveled throughout the country and the world with her Air Force family. She currently attends university in Indiana, pursuing a degree in public relations. When she’s not curled up with a book or her computer, Emily loves to ride around campus on her hideously hot pink bike. Of course, if it’s raining (as it often is in Indiana), Netflix-binging and amateur art are always options. Emily is also the author of poetry collection Rain In December and Christian novella Sixteen.
This giveaway will have four winners with four separate prizes: a paperback copy of World of Shadows, a short story titled “Louna’s Noël,” a $5 Amazon gift card, and an ebook copy of World of Shadows.
So have any of you ever had this experience, writing what you know in a fantasy world? Can’t wait to hear from you all, and don’t forget to leave Emily a note of congratulations and check out the other posts on the tour!
~ Love, Alexa <3