Eva Gibson, Flagler Alum and Published YA Author's Books Delve into Difficult Topics to Help Readers Realize They're Not Alone.
Sep 30, 2021
Eva Gibson was in the middle of a cross-country move with a new baby and a lot of change ahead. She was touring isolated rental properties with a dwindling phone signal when she looked out onto a river in the middle of rural Kentucky, standing alone on a cliff. As she stood there, she had a thought, anything could happen out here, and no one would know. That little, random thought led her to write her latest novel, Where Secrets Lie.
“The story slowly unspooled from there into something bigger and darker than I realized it could be at the time. That’s usually how my book ideas begin: a single line or few words of dialogue, paired with a vivid visual image.”
When Eva Gibson graduated from Flagler with a degree in English and Communications and Journalism back in 2000, she had no idea she’d wind up a published Young Adult author.
“Years ago, during my first attempt to write a full-length novel, I had the idea that I’d pull a John Irving and follow the main character from childhood through adulthood and into old age. That didn’t work out at all as a whole, but I realized in the process that I was most invested in the main character’s teen years, her coming of age experience, and the way it set the foundation for her future.”
This realization led her to write novels like Where Secrets Lie, which follows a teenager named Amy Larson, who returns to River Run, Kentucky, for the summer. There, she must confront her romantic feelings for her childhood best friend, Teddy, while searching for his missing sister, leading them to uncover the dark history of their small town.
For Eva, it’s the ability to watch a young character grow into themselves that fascinates her and inspires her to write from their perspective.
“Writing a young adult character through a story arc, allowing them to fail, and learn, and recognize their flaws and weaknesses for the first time lends a specific weight to the narrative that to me is often absent from adult novels.”
Eva had no idea that small moment in rural Kentucky would inspire a novel that Simon and Schuster would later publish. She also had not anticipated that two of her books, Together We Caught Fire (2020) and Where Secrets Lie (2021), would be published during a global pandemic. Or that the pandemic would inspire her to write two more novels in the span of two years: her upcoming YA pop horror novel, Frightmares, which will be released in July 2022, allowed her to escape, while her other upcoming book helped her to confront the anxiety she felt at the time.
“That (Frightmares) was pure escapist fun and a great way to distract me from day-to-day stressors. The other is a contemporary coming of age road trip story, which acted as more of an introspection into my own anxiety surrounding the pandemic.”
She continues, “I had my kids at home doing distance learning all last school year, so I had to shift my writing time to late at night after they went to bed. It was exhausting, but the one thing I know about writing is you have to seize every spare moment to get the words on the page until an idea becomes a book. All the inspiration in the world won’t matter if you don’t put in the work to make it happen.”
Growing up, writers like Judy Blume, Jerry Spinelli, and Christopher Pike inspired her to make her dreams of becoming a Young Adult writer a reality. Just as those authors moved her, she hopes young readers will be similarly affected by her novels.
“I hope they find something to love in my stories, whether it’s the plot, the writing style, the dialogue, or a favorite character.” Eva continues, “My books delve into difficult topics such as death, trauma, substance abuse, and mental health issues, and may not be for everyone, but I want the readers who connect with those issues on a personal level to find validation in that recognition and realize they’re not alone.”
For aspiring novelists, her advice is to stay true to the stories you want to tell, do your research, learn to love rewriting, and remain determined.
“Write the stories you love in the genre that speaks to you, regardless of marketplace trends. Write your stories honestly, at a pace that works for your life. However, writing for enjoyment and writing with the goal of publication are two very different things, and every aspiring author needs to be aware of the nuances if the end goal is to see their books in print.”
She adds, “Prepare to be patient, flexible, and tenacious—many authors don’t sign with an agent or get a book deal with their first novel, or even their second or third. The people who succeed, however, are the ones who don’t give up. What that success looks like is up to you.”