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June 3, 2014



Everyone who regularly takes subways knows that they stall. A lot. For weird, vague reasons like “congestion ahead of us” or “a signal problem.” Suspicious? Skylar Dorset, the author of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, thinks so! Which is why her YA novel --- set in a fantastical Boston --- blames these mysterious delays on underground goblin wars. In her blog post, Skylar discusses the ways that she transformed the city where she lived into a place bursting with supernatural creatures and magical objects (besides the obvious magic that is clam chowder and lobster rolls, of course).


I have written stories ever since I can remember, and I always set those stories in places that seemed so exotic to me: New York City, London, Paris.

Then one day I looked around the city where I was living --- Boston --- and I thought, “Wait ---why don’t I set a story here?”

THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who finds out she’s half-faerie-princess and half-ogre, and some of it takes place in the Otherworld, a supernatural realm populated by supernatural creatures. But Selkie herself is a Bostonian, and I wanted THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS to really reflect its setting. For practically the first time I was writing a story about a place I knew well, and I wanted it to really feel that way.

For practically the first time I was writing a story about a place I knew well, and I wanted it to really feel that way.

So a lot of the little Boston quirks in THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS came directly from my real-life experiences there. For instance, once, while sitting on a stalled subway, I decided, “They had better be fighting a war against goblins, because that is the only thing I can think of that would justify how frequently I am stranded underground on the subway here.” After that, every weird incident on the subway became, amongst my friends and me, further proof of the ongoing goblin war that those in charge couldn’t tell us about. “Stalled trains”? No way --- definitely a goblin attack. “Congestion ahead of us”? We were underground! That had to be a goblin code word! In fairness, Boston has a good public transportation system (from Twitter, I glean that it is not much worse than any other public transportation system) and even though we complain about it, we’d be lost without it. However, the idea of goblins living in the subway tunnels really does make everything about the subway make more sense. If you ever have to deal with frustrating public transportation, blame it on goblins and you’ll feel better, I swear.

You will ESPECIALLY feel better if you decide that the goblins are really attractive. A practical person once said to me of my goblin theory, “But if there are goblins living in the subway tunnels, why do we never see them?” “They look just like us,” I said. “Only hotter. In those rare times when you see a really attractive person on the subway, then you have spotted a goblin.”

I never lived on Beacon Hill the way Selkie does, but I always wanted to; I used to fantasize about it when I was in college. It is right in the middle of the city, it is old and charming, and I loved the history of the place. Like the lavender windowpanes still found on some of the buildings --- the official explanation is that the glass in the shipment was defective. When exposed to the sun, it faded to a very particular shade of lavender. Beacon Hill was and always has been one of the very poshest areas of Boston, so the lavender windowpanes became a status symbol. For a little while, there was a fad for imitation lavender windowpanes to try to mimic the Beacon Hill ones. However, they could never quite match the same shade. SUSPICIOUS, NO? Definitely supernatural.

I did, however, live on Beacon Street, which is the same street Selkie lives on. It’s a long street, running nearly the full length of the city, and I lived on its very western edge, right before Boston turns into the city of Brookline. This required me to take the Green Line into the city every day, where I worked. There is a line in THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS that says “Only the Green Line is evil.” That was a direct reference to how excruciating the Green Line can be sometimes.

I wrote THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS while I was still living in the city. By the time it was time for me to review the final proofs, I had moved away from the area because of a job opportunity. As I read through the proofs, I was actually surprised by how Boston-y it all felt. I knew that I had set out to write a book set in Boston, but, having moved away, the Boston-ness of it all seemed much sharper. If you have ever been to Boston, I hope you smile at bits of it in recognition; if you have never been to Boston, I hope you are inspired to go. Get in touch to let me know and I’ll tell you where to go.  : )

Skylar’s first story was a tale of romantic intrigue involving two feuding factions of squirrels. Think ROMEO & JULIET but with bushy tails and added espionage. She was seven. Since that time, Skylar’s head has been filled with lots of characters and lots of drama. She is delighted to be able to share some of it with all of you now, because, honestly, it was getting pretty loud and crowded in there.
Skylar is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. Skylar shares her home with a cardboard cutout of the Tenth Doctor, lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans, and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.