Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.
For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …
An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is set in America, and I’m a Brit who has never stepped foot inside the USA. The furthest away from home I’ve ever been is Southern Spain. I actually learnt how to use an American voice via online screenwriting workshops, then leaned on my writing friends to help me snag all the culture differences.
All the characters in Rose are based on people I know in real life. My own mum is a SciFi nut. My therapist is the wisest woman I have ever met. And Luke is an exact replica of his real life inspiration.
My twin sister, Rachael, always gets a shoutout in my books. In Under Rose-Tainted Skies, she lent her name to Norah’s mum –a lot of my sister went into the making of Norah’s mum, so it was only right.
The book was over 10k shorter when it was first sold. My editor and I added a bunch of words later, most of which went on developing Luke’s character. We gave him more page time, and a much more in depth backstory.
I spent a solid week –seven whole days — locked in 18 hour writing stints. That was my roughest/toughest week writing Rose. I’m not even sure I stopped to take a shower. I know, gross. But when the writing bug bites you, it’s so hard to step away. Also, dry shampoo is a godsend.
I talk a lot about my mental health, but before there was that, there was a debilitating condition called Arnold Chiari Malformation, which I needed intensive surgery to fix. After that had been sorted, I went on to have a spinal fusion because the malformation had caused a scoliosis. Unfortunately, the nerves on the left side of my body had already been damaged, and now I have little to no feeling over on that side.
I considered pulling Rose the day after it went out on submission because I went into meltdown. My anxiety was so high. My eyes were swollen shut with hives and I was having palpitations for a good 24hrs before my sister managed to calm me down. I was so afraid of sharing huge parts of me with strangers. More than that, I was scared no one would believe it was real, that people would call it dramatic. Some of Norah’s stuff may seem super bizarre, but I can assure you, it’s very real.
Rose received its first offer on day six of submission, and I nearly fell off my chair. I missed my agents initial call, didn’t even hear the Skype ringing. Then a good friend and agency sister messaged me and was like, PICK UP YOUR PHONE. MANDY *NEEDS* TO TALK TO YOU. RIGHT NOW! I don’t think any moment will ever top hearing that my book was under offer.
I started writing a Rose sequel. About three weeks after we accepted an offer from HMH/Clarion, I talked myself into trying to write a second Rose. It did not go well. It felt forced, awkward, all things icky. I got five pages in before I shut that shizz down.
Luke’s name is borrowed from Star Wars. I’m a big fan. And seen as Darth had one too many negative connotations… His name is the only character name that remained consistent throughout drafting.