Spotlight: Sparked by Helena Echlin and Malena Watrous
Fifteen-year-old Laurel Goodwin wakes up to find her older sister Ivy missing from their Airstream trailer in the Oregon redwoods. A recurring nightmare convinces her that Ivy was abducted, but no one takes her dream seriously, including her mom. Laurel, a loner, has to learn to ask for help, and Jasper Blake, a mysterious new kid who shares her love of old books, quickly becomes her ally. Together they find their quiet town holds a deep secret and is the epicenter of a dark prophecy.
Laurel soon learns that her worst enemies, mean girls Peyton Andersen and Mei Rosen, are developing powers that she needs to find and save Ivy. With time running out, Laurel realizes that power doesn’t always take the form that you expect. And once she learns to look beyond her snap judgments, she develops an unexpected gift of her own.
When the novel opens, Laurel wakes up to find her sister Ivy missing from her bed. Their mom is sure that she must have stayed out all night to try to teach her a lesson—because of a fight they had the night before—and that Laurel will see her at school. When Ivy isn’t there, Laurel becomes increasingly convinced that something terrible must have happened to her. Not knowing what else to do, she goes to class. In first period, her English teacher returns a short story that she’d submitted the week before. Laurel has always considered herself a writer, and English has always been her best subject in school, so the following exchange comes as a blow on what’s already a horrible day…
“This was a clever idea,” Ms. Owen said, “but the characters never really came to life.” She dropped the story I’d submitted for a creative assignment on my desk. My words were covered in so much red ink, I could barely read them anymore.
“I mean who is this girl really?” she said. “What does she see in this boy, aside from the ‘sparkle of his ultraviolet eyes’?” She put those words in finger quotes. I shrugged, my face burning. “And what about him?” she pressed. “If everything he touches turns to stone, how does he eat?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “It’s just, like, a fantasy story.”
“Well, I think you can do better,” she said sternly.
My eyes prickled with tears. I hoped she’d go away—but Ms. Owen was like a pit bull, jaws locked on its prey.
“If you’re serious about becoming a writer, I suggest you spend more time thinking about what makes people tick,” she said. “Use your real-life observations to create fictional characters with a pulse.”
My vision filmed over and I tried not to blink. Normally, I wouldn’t have broken down like this over a stupid story, but I didn’t know how much more I could take today.
Everyone was staring at me.
Except for Jasper.
He seemed to be gazing at some point at the front of the classroom, oddly focused, although there was nothing in particular to see there.
Then I smelled it: very faint at first, but unmistakable.
Behind Ms. Owen, a curlicue of smoke rose from the garbage can. Something crackled quietly, like a twig snapping in the woods. Then a flame shot up over the rim. Half the class screamed, not so much in fear as in delight that something was happening for a change. As the flame whooshed up, Ms. Owen scuttled backward, as if hoping to use the students in the front row as a buffer between herself and the fire.
People leaped to their feet. Stu Sheers smashed the glass on the fire alarm, and the air filled with the pealing of the bell. Everyone rushed out the door, pushing and shoving. Ms. Owen yelled at us to hurry, and I grabbed my backpack. Only Jasper didn’t move. When I left the room, he was still pinned in his chair, staring at that blaze as if he didn’t want to get an inch closer to it.
About the Author
Hello! We are both novelists, but if you’ve ever tried to write anything, you know that writing can be a lonely, angst-filled business. So one night over a cocktail or two, we came up with a solution: write our next book together. Malena already had an idea: a girl’s sister is kidnapped and she has to rely on mean girls with superpowers to get her sister back. We couldn’t resist seeing where that story would take us – a wild ride that includes a loner girl who wants to be a writer and a gorgeous boy who can shoot fire from his eyes but also loves to talk about books. And an ancient Zoroastrian prophecy. And pie shakes. (OK, so maybe we got a little carried away.)
We’ve both published solo novels (check them out here and here) and had no idea how co-writing would work out, but we pounded out the first draft in a white-hot frenzy of inspiration we called “the Vortex.” One of us would write a scene and send it to the other with a note: “My apartment is a pigsty and I haven’t eaten all day. #inthevortex.” We wrote the book we wanted to read as teenagers: a supernatural thriller with healthy doses of horror and humor. Oh, and of course there’s romance. You have to wait a long time for the only kiss in the book, but isn’t that the case with all the best kisses in books?