Hello, dear readers! And happy holidays! I hope you’re having a wonderful festive season, and I hope this news adds to it. It’s big announcement time: after a lot of soul searching, the time is right for me to release Aix Marks the Spot, my YA travel romance based on my own childhood in Provence!

Wait, what? I thought you were a Scifi writer!

You are correct, fake person I created to interview me on my own blog. Science Fiction is my lifeblood. But Aix Marks the Spot surprised me more than it surprised you. Unlike Starstruck, Aix Marks the Spot is completely rooted on Earth. No Scifi involved anywhere; it’s purely a YA contemporary, for fans of such books as Anna and the French Kiss, Love and Luck, or Again, But Better. 

The thing is, I had been wanting to write about my experience growing up as a Third Culture Kid for ages, but every time I tried non-fiction it just felt weird. Too absurd. Then one night in 2017, I work up with the entire plot in my head. I finished the first draft was written in less than two weeks, faster by far than anything else I’d ever done. More than ever before, I feel like I needed to tell this story; that somehow, Provence was (ok, this is going to sound really weird) speaking to me.

So this book came to be, my love letter to Provence. I only sent it out to a handful of people, and the response was better than any other book I had ever written. I poured my heart and soul into the pages, and people felt it.

So of course, I shelved it for two years. Because why not?

But last week, I woke up in cold sweats, with the same pressure in my chest I had when I was writing AMtS. And I knew, somehow, that it was time to put this book out there.

But you’re self-publishing this one?

There’s a few reasons for this. For starters, the book is set in both summer 2017 and summer 2000: the year I was writing, and the year I arrived in France, because signiiiificanceeee. If I start querying now, the book probably won’t release until summer 2022 in the best possible scenario. I don’t think I can wait that long to put the book out there.

More importantly, I’ve seen how the traditional publishing process can change a manuscript. Books have to fit certain molds and expectations in order to make it in the traditional market. Seeing as how everything that happens in AMtS either happened to me or to someone I know (except for the treasure hunt plot that ties everything together) I don’t want to give up that creative control. If I want this story to stay true, it has to be mine.

Which doesn’t mean I didn’t edit this book – I know better than that! For the past year and a half, this book has had its fair share of editing, while staying true to my intentions. I have amazing people who worked with me to make this book happen.

Ok, so what is this book about?

Well, here is the blurb:

Jamie has been dreaming of this summer forever: of road trips and intensive art camps, of meeting cute boys with her best friend Jazz. What she didn’t count on was the car accident.

Exiled away from her family as her mother slowly learns to walk again, Jamie is sent to Provence and trapped in an isolated home with the French grandmother she has never met, the guilt of having almost killed her parents, and no Wi-Fi. Enough to drive a girl mad. That is, until, she finds an old letter from her father, the starting point in a treasure hunt that spans across cities and time itself. Somehow, she knows that the treasure is the key to putting her shattered family back together and that whatever lies at the end has the power to fix everything.

Armed only with a high-school-level of French and a map of local train lines, she must enlist the aid of Valentin, a handsome local who’s willing to translate. To save her family, she has castle ruins to find and sea cliffs to climb; falling for her translator wasn’t part of her plan…

Every single place in the book is somewhere that matters to me. Part of my experience growing up here in the south of France as an American who will never be one thing or another. Not to mention, weird detail, but every place they go, every bus and train they take, I have tested and taken and double-checked the timetable. So unless the bus stops running (which they tend to do on occasion) Jamie and Valentin’s steps can be retraced exactly.

A lot of the inspiration also came from watching Provence grow around me. People have this image of it being timeless and unchanging, but I’ve lived here twenty years, and seen so much go by. The relationship with foreigners, the money invested in heritage sites… it’s part of the reason I have Jamie retracing her parents’ steps from seventeen years ago: through their eyes, we see France as it was when I first arrived here, and through hers, as it is now. Some of the challenges in her hunt arise from just how much has changed in this time.

I’m really super excited to finally get this story out in the world! If you want to get early access to the book, and/or spread the word about this new adventure, then please let me know! Post a comment below, reach out to me on my Facebook or Instagram – I need all the help I can get!

P.S. More Starstruck news will be coming soon. So if Contemporary isn’t your jam, don’t fret! Sally and Zander have exciting updates as well…