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Take 5: St. Louis author Laura Nowlin talks about new young adult novel

Laura Nowlin
Provided by Ms. Nowlin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Laura Nowlin woke up one night after a dream feeling utterly heartbroken.

The dream felt like an ending, she says.

And she thought to herself, “I’ve got to write the story that ends this way.”

So the St. Louis-writer set to work telling the rest of that story. The result is her new young adult novel, “If He Had Been With Me.”

Nowlin, who also works in the St. Louis County Public Library system, will be at County Library Headquarters Thursday, July 11 at 7 p.m., and she’ll have a reading and book signing from 11 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 13, at the Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

Nowlin, who is working on her second book, spoke with the St. Louis Beacon about her new book, her work and writing about St. Louis.

Beacon: “If He Had Been With Me” is your first book. Could you please tell us a little about it?

Nowlin: It takes place in St. Louis and it’s about a girl who lives next door to her mother’s best friend and her son. She was close with the son as a child. In adolescence they grew apart. After high school’s over, a tragedy happens to the boy; and she thinks, if I had still been friends with him, maybe I could have stopped it from happening.

This book is YA, what are the challenges of writing from the perspective and for that audience?

Nowlin: While I’m writing, I want it to be something teenagers can identify with and want to read. At the same time, I’m thinking, this person has parents and they’re gonna have some opinions of what young adult books should be. So in the end, I just wrote something that I would have wanted to read when I was that age.

Was the setting in St. Louis based on places you’ve been, or did you get to get out and explore parts of St. Louis that you hadn’t before?

Nowlin: For the most part it takes place in north county. I wanted to do St. Louis because I wanted to write something really emotionally honest and real to me, so I set it in a place close to my heart. I didn’t go out of my comfort zone, I was trying to stick with the familiar, what I know.

In addition to being an author, you work in the St. Louis County Public Library system. How does your work at the library impact your life as a writer or does it?

Nowlin: I’m around books all the time and I’m constantly coming across something... I always have a pile of books with me. It’s a good job for introverts who like people because lots of different people come into the library -- every class and race, so it’s good for character study. 

It sounds like you’re an avid reader. What are you reading now, and what’s on your bedside table that you’re planning to read next?

Nowlin: At the moment I am reading the first book in "The Illuminatus Trilogoy," “The Eye in the Pyramid” and after that, I’m going to jump back into young adult. I just picked up a book from the library called “The Wicked and the Just.” It’s historical fiction set in the Middle Ages.

Kristen Hare

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