With her 2010 debut novel, Still Missing, Canadian author Chevy Stevens established herself as a writer who can tranform small fears into ultimate nightmares. Her new novel, That Night, evolves a tale of high school bullying into a story of revenge and twisted girl-world secrets.
In 1998, due to false testimony from classmate Shauna and her posse, high school sweethearts Toni and Ryan went to prison for killing Toni’s younger sister, Nicole—a haunted girl with well-hidden secrets. Seventeen years later, Toni and Ryan are out on parole and determined to clear their names—but Shauna's bent on sending them back behind bars. Writes our reviewer, "Chevy Stevens’ account of what it’s like to be powerless—whether as a grounded 12th-grader or a prison inmate—is pitch perfect (and relatable to anyone who’s ever been a teen)."
Stevens shares a look behind the curtain into the changing tides of her writing life:
Some people say that certain songs remind them of a time in their life. For me, it’s each of my books. When I started Still Missing I was in a transitional stage, not happy in my career, my relationship or my house. I started writing the book on my old computer in the upstairs bedroom of the character home I owned. The temperature was inconsistent, and I was either too cold or sweltering in the summer. Six months later, I sold that house, and continued writing in the office at my townhouse. I can still close my eyes and see Post-it notes stuck all over the wall from when I was mapping out the sessions.
When I rewrote all the session openings, I was now single. I rented a cabin on Thetis Island, taking long walks with my dog, Annie, then writing some more. I know exactly which paragraphs I wrote when I was there. If I read them again, I’m transported back to that island, to those days when it was just us.
Not long after I signed with my agent, I met my husband, who was living down in Victoria, about an hour and a half away from me. At the time I’d gone back to work in sales, having used up almost all my savings, and I’d stay with him or a hotel when I was working in the south end of the island. I’d get up early to write on my laptop in his office, trying to be quiet so I didn’t wake him, or I’d come home to my hotel room at lunch, sneaking in a few lines before my next appointment. I was also planning our wedding during this time, excited about the beginning of my married life and my writing career.
Never Knowing was written while I lived at our townhouse, now sharing an office with my husband, our chairs back to back. It was a chaotic time in my life, trying to balance the marketing leading up the publishing of Still Missing, and then my beloved dog, Annie, became very sick. I’d write while she slept on the couch in the office. I’d glance over often, agonizing whether her breathing was okay, how she was feeling that day, if she needed medication. A lot of the stress I was feeling went into that book.
When I was writing Always Watching, I worked through my grief over having lost Annie and my own questions about the universe and whether there was a Heaven, and if I would see her again. We sold our house, and I wrote with boxes stacked around me, then at my friend’s kitchen table while we stayed there for a few days, then finally on my computer in my new office. Toward the end of the book, I found out I was pregnant. For the final three months of that book I had to take long naps on the floor in my office, constantly nauseous. Finally the book was finished—and I was out of the first trimester!
I have my best memories of the time when I was working on That Night. I loved being pregnant, the energy, the clarity of thought. Initially I wrote in my office every day, but the more pregnant I became, the more uncomfortable my seat. Finally I had to work downstairs at our table—for some reason that chair felt better. I remember that fall, looking out at the leaves coming down in our backyard, feeling the baby move in my belly. I also got a cold and spent the last trimester sneezing all over my keyboard.
In December of 2012, I was close to finishing the last draft—and close my due date. If the baby held off for another week, I’d be done, but she thwarted my plan and I went into labor on her due date. I didn’t start work on the book again until late January. I remember all the breaks for nursing, the exhaustion. I had to start the day late, and then take afternoon naps, and still work in the evening some days. I was beyond tired, but head over heels in love with my daughter. Thankfully my husband was also home during that time, and he was with Piper whenever I was writing. A few months into the start of my fifth book, Piper finally started sleeping through the night, and my days gradually returned to normal.
Now it’s spring, and I’m working out in our travel trailer, my dog Oona sleeping quietly beside me. I will finish this book in the next couple of months, probably part of it while on tour, then I’ll start my next book, and the next stage of my life. I don’t know how either will unfold yet, but I’m excited to find out.
Thank you, Chevy!
Author photo credit Suzanne Teresa.