I love Willa Havisham. She has been a central focus of my creative life for more than a decade now. Almost daily I notice something and think “Willa would like that” or “Willa would wonder about that.” I clip news stories, buy trinkets, jot notes and drop them in the Willa box in my writing studio. Willa is with me always. She’s not fiction; she’s family. To me, Willa is real.
I created the character of Willa Havisham in 2002 as I wrote my first novel, The Wedding Planner’s Daughter, released in 2004 by Simon & Schuster. From the moment I began hearing Willa’s words and feeling her feelings….her worries, wounds and wishes….it was a joy to bring Willa to life on the page. My “research” for this character was a “me-search”….a journey inside. What do I care about? What do I want? What’s important to me in life? I imbued Willa with a great love of books and writing, the ocean…candy…family, friends… a studied conscience…an indefatigable optimism… an open heart… a desire to make a difference in the world.
That desire to make a difference, what Willa calls paying her “community rent,” became a running plot line in the five succeeding Willa books. At the start of each novel, Willa is living her normal teenage life… dealing with family issues, friend issues, boy issues and then she observes or experiences something that sparks in her a need to respond…. a need to act, to “roar.”
Over the years, Willa has stepped up and spoken out. Among other things she has saved her town library, spearheaded a housing program for the homeless, initiated a “go green” campaign….and a spare coin collection “Change for Good” plan… and a free perennial book garden, leaving favorite classic books on a park bench in town where readers can enjoy and pass along to others.
Willa’s life on Cape Cod has been golden. She lives in a beautiful Inn near the ocean in a quintessentially perfect New England town with family and friends who adore her. She’s living her dream come true.
As Roar Like a Girl begins, tragedy strikes. One crushing blow is followed by another, then a third, and Willa must cross over the Bourne Bridge in the wrong direction, the away-from-Cape Cod direction. Faced with heartbreaking change, what will be the true measure of Willa Havisham’s character? Will she still be the person fans have grown to know and love?
On a personal note, I needed to move Willa off Cape Cod because I no longer have a home there. I couldn’t bear to leave my beloved character behind. I needed to take her with me. And so I moved Willa to Troy, NY. Another place I know and love. My hometown. At the beginning of the story, I had no idea what would happen to Willa once she got here, but then Willa began venturing out, meeting new people, including a group of younger girls who wind their way into her heart and help her feel “at home” at the same time she is helping them learn to “roar like a girl.” Oh, and, Willa quickly meets a gorgeous boy. It wouldn’t be a Willa book without Cupid. Hope you enjoy the story! ☺