Why I Chose to Set My Novel on Nantucket

We are delighted to host the latest stop on Leila Howland‘s blog tour for her debut novel, Nantucket Blue.

NantucketBlue-HighResFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.
Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.
When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.
But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.
A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

As soon as I decided to set my Young Adult novel on Nantucket, I knew it was the perfect choice. Despite what it looks like on a map, Nantucket is actually the easternmost point of the United States (next stop: the Azores), and you can actually feel that you are on the edge of a vast expanse. You feel that you are away; the word Nantucket means “the far away island.” I wanted my protagonist Cricket to feel far away from all that was familiar to her. I wanted her to feel far away from her old self so that she could find a new self.

Nantucket is also an awesome place to be a teenager. Teenagers are free! They can walk into town and let the evening take them where it will, and adults, trusting this place, let them go (while they have their own fun). Even though there are plenty of vices on Nantucket, there’s also an abundance of simple pleasures. Just to sit on a bench by the harbor and watch the boats rock gently beneath the moon turns a Monday night into poetry. Now add a chocolate ice-cream cone and a cute boy and forget it. Heaven! And an evening dip in the Nantucket sound? Paradise! All you have to do to get there is walk a half a mile and descend a staircase to the sand. I wanted to give Cricket that Nantucket-in-the-summertime freedom as she falls in love for the first time and teeters on the cusp of adulthood.

Also, the past feels alive on Nantucket. The cobblestoned streets, the stately old whaling captain’s homes, and the lack of chain stores and traffic lights evoke another era so consistently that the past is a living breathing being. This made it the perfect place for Cricket to reconnect with her mother, who in the present is lost in sadness, but who in the past was a wild spirit with whom Cricket would have had so much fun. Though no actual ghosts appear, Cricket and a younger version of her mom meet in their own way and are able to be together for the first time in ages.

Nantucket is the perfect setting for the story I wanted to tell. Forty miles out to sea with pristine beaches, whispers of ghosts, and sunsets so alarming you can’t help but stare at the sky in a kind of blissful, wide-eyed stupor, it lit my imagination on fire. If you can’t get there this summer by ferry or plane, hopefully NANTUCKET BLUE will transport you.

Guest post by Leila Howland

Leila Howland author pictureLEILA HOWLAND loves to read, explore L.A., and engage in funny and meaningful conversations with her friends and family, especially her brother who calls from Washington D.C. whenever he’s waiting for the bus. A lot gets discussed in those phone calls, but they tend to end abruptly when the bus shows up. She can really cut the rug, but wishes she could sing without people covering their ears. A graduate of Georgetown University, Leila spent five years acting in New York where she was a company member of the award-winning Flea Theater in Tribeca. It was a lot of fun and she often talks about “getting back into it.” The closest she has come was a stint as an extra on The Young and the Restless in 2010. Leila now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs. She teaches high school English and blogs for HelloGiggles. NANTUCKET BLUE is her first novel.
To learn more about Leila and her work you can her on Tumblr(here) or converse with her on Twitter (here)
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Nantucket Blue was published on the 7th of May 2013 by Disney Hyperion and is available to buy in hardback from Amazon.com (here) and Amazon.co.uk (click here)

Those lovely people at Disney Hyperion are giving US readers a chance to win a finished copy of Nantucket Blue. Simply fill in the rafflecopter form below.
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