Published by Bronarch Books on April 13, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, contemporary, Romance, mystery
There’s just one semester left at the Briar School for Girls in Sonoma, CA. But it will take more than straight As for Lana Goodwin to survive . . .
***Senior year is not going well for 17-year-old Lana Goodwin.
Her father’s vintage car business is about to crash and burn, the nicest (and cutest) teacher at school was fired under a cloud of scandal, and her hot sort-of boyfriend may or may not have something big to hide.
She’s also totally over being the class pauper. It’s bad enough her dad was briefly married to the head of the board—the rich, cruel, impeccably groomed Ramona Crawford. What’s worse is going to school with her vindictive ex-stepsister, who never misses an opportunity to make her life hell. Not ever.
It also happens to be the tenth anniversary of her mother’s suicide. No one knows why Annie Goodwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the day after Christmas. She didn’t leave a note. She wasn’t sick. Even Lana’s father can’t explain it. Ten years later, someone—or something—starts sending her clues about her mother’s past.
Before Lana can escape to college, she finds herself in a life-or-death race to uncover her mother’s long-buried secrets.
Can she claim her birthright before her future and her life are snatched away?
Valley of the Moon is a modern-day fairy tale with some intense themes.
Today I am very excited to have Bronwyn Archer, the author of Valley of the Moon here to share with us her inspiration for the story! Welcome Bronwyn! 🙂
Where Did You Get That Idea?
The Inspiration for Valley of the Moon
By: Bronwyn Archer
Where does a story come from? Stephen King knows all about finding stories. He compared it to discovering a fully formed fossil buried in the dirt. All you have to do is locate the bones, dig them up, and assemble them into something that looks like a T-Rex—or a novel, to extend his metaphor.
And that’s exactly what happened to me to and how I came to write my young-adult novel, Valley of the Moon. In the spring of 2011, I happened to read the New York Times obituary for someone named Huguette Clark. This very rich, strange old lady had died at the age of 104 as the last of the Gilded Age heiresses. Her gruff older father was a self-made gajillionaire, a turn-of-the-century copper baron who worked his way up from being a penniless miner.
Huguette’s story is a novel all by itself. When she was a young woman, a brief marriage fell apart and she and her $300 million inheritance retreated from the world. She spent her days in a vast apartment on Fifth Avenue surrounded by priceless works of art, an enormous doll collection, and a stunning jewelry collection—including a silver charm bracelet that plays a key role in my novel.
Huguette owned stately mansions in Connecticut and Santa Barbara, and even employed teams of housekeepers and groundskeepers to ensure the properties were pristine at all times.
But she never, ever set foot in them.
In her eighties, she abandoned her New York apartment and—even though she wasn’t sick or dying—spent the last 20 years of her life in a small, colorless hospital room.
She left no heirs. She had everything, and died alone, with nothing and no one around her. (You can see photos of the real Huguette and learn more about her on my blog, Bronwyn Archer.)
I became obsessed with the idea of this real-life Miss Havisham and her meticulously curated mystery world. And then I had a thought—what if she DID have an heir? A distant relation who would suddenly find herself the beneficiary to a grand old fortune?
Who would be worthy enough to get that phone call? Maybe a young girl, a lonely teenager, who had no idea she had a rich and famous distant great-great aunt. But how would she know? How would this girl be found?
I realized this little idea was nothing more than a modern- day Cinderella story—with a few twists. How do you make a story sort of inspired by a Grimm fairy tale but make it modern and realistic—without the mice and pumpkins and magical fairies? There’s no such thing as fairy godmothers, and I didn’t want to write a fantasy story. Ah—but what if the dead heiress had somehow been the girl’s actual godmother? That made my juices start to flow.
Meanwhile, this Cinderella’s life story was taking shape. I threw in a Pilates-obsessed stepmother, a couple stepsisters, and a feckless but well-meaning dad. And since it’s a modern tale, her dad won’t die—he’ll just divorce the stepmother. Oh, and wouldn’t it be fun if his poor daughter gets stuck going to the same fancy all-girls school with her former stepsisters?
But I still needed the final piece: the setting. Where to put the characters? I’m a native Californian, so that’s what felt most natural to me. But Los Angeles, my hometown, has such a specific vibe. I feel like the only novel set here that really works is Less Than Zero. I wanted a place in California that felt romantic and tragic—a lost world, a setting where something mysterious and terrible and wonderful might still be possible in this modern age.
So I looked north. And found a little town in the Sonoma Valley called Glen Ellen. Once I discovered that it was also where the ruins of Jack London’s burned-down Wolf House was, I knew that was it. Oh, and the nickname for the Sonoma Valley happens to be “the valley of the moon.” Anything called the “valley of the moon” pretty much was the perfect place for this story.
And that’s how Valley of the Moon was born. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it!
BTW: Huguette would have turned 110 years old two days ago. RIP.
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