A week after the release of my first novel, MY KIND OF CRAZY, the unthinkable happened; my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. My second book, WHERE THE ROAD LEADS US, was supposed to be turned in to my publisher just a few months later. Fortunately, my publisher and agent were both incredibly understanding as I asked for more time and gave my full energies to helping care for my dad. When he ultimately passed a year later, I completely shut down. Being creative on demand was impossible. The absolute last thing I could focus on was writing.
Grief has a way of putting things in perspective and reordering everything. Suddenly, writing a book about two teenagers trying to make sense of their lives seemed like the most trivial thing. I could not write a single word. Weeks bled into months and then a whole additional year went by before I would finally be able to sit down and face that blank page with its daunting blinking cursor. But when I did, it truly helped me begin to process and heal.
They say an author should write what they know, and in the past two years leading up to the creation of WHERE THE ROAD LEADS US, I had become an accidental expert in grief and loss and how it forces us to rethink and rewrite our carefully crafted plans and figure out how to move forward. As I started to craft Jack’s story and then ultimately Hallie’s, I realized that grief is a universal language, and that was the place of vulnerability where my characters could authentically connect regardless of their life’s circumstances, age or personal history. Over the three years it would take me to write this book, writing characters who are finding the courage to keep growing, changing, and reinventing themselves despite their fears helped me find hope again.
Writing became my escape. I was further down the path than my characters, and in helping these young people confront their grief and navigate their issues, I was forced to dig deep into what I’d learned along the way. These characters provided an outlet for all that grief, all that love, all those memories, feelings, understandings, and revelations. And in the end, I hoped perhaps it might help someone else feel seen and find their way back too.
I believe that some of our strongest work can come from the depths of our pain and our greatest challenges. There is no singular way to deal with grief, but writing offers us a unique space to sit with our emotions, explore our feelings, and sometimes, to choose our own endings.
The author of MY KIND OF CRAZY and WHERE THE ROAD LEADS US, Robin Reul has been writing since she was in early elementary school, when she used to make her own book club flyers for her classmates and then pen them original stories. Though she grew up on movie sets and worked for many years in the film and television industry both as an actress and in motion picture development, she ultimately decided to focus her attention on writing young adult novels. She loves to write stories that straddle the line between humor and heartbreak, filled with quirky, memorable characters who stay with the reader long after the story ends. When she's not writing, Robin can be found drinking copious amounts of iced coffee and listening to way too much 80's music. She lives in Los Angeles suburbia.