If everything you wrote came true, what is the story you would write?
This is the question that Vail Valley author Jennifer Alsever explores in her latest (and fifth) young adult novel, “Burying Eva Flores.”
Alsever was inspired to delve into this question after certain aspects of her first trilogy of books began coming true, specifically, a pandemic.
“I wrote (‘Burying Eva Flores’) after seeing how so many of the things that I wrote in 2016 for my trilogy — ‘The Trinity Forest’ series — came to fruition. It was kind of odd, because I had written things like a pandemic, without knowing that that was going to come out,” Alsever said. “It was still a very magical book, yet there were still some eerie things.”
Alsever describes this latest novel as a paranormal mystery about a war between two girls: Eva Flores, a TikTok star who moves to Paonia, and her classmate, Sophia, who has no interest in people or social media.
“That war comes to a head when Sophia receives a notebook and everything she writes somehow changes her future. She finds a new power, and now, the whole town thinks she killed Eva. It takes time to untangle the true story of both girls. It’s a story of revenge, power and the stories we project to the world,” Alsever said.
While the question serves as the main inspirations for the story that unfolds, Alsever found her inspiration all around her while writing the novel.
Alsever initially entered the world of writing as a journalist — writing for publications such as Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Wired and Fast Company. She still writes as a freelancer, but jumping into fiction has opened up a whole new world of writing. While her first four novels by her followed a more “traditional” format, “Burying Eva Flores,” she departed from this and drew more on her journalistic writing style from her.
Inspired by a number of books — including “Daisy Jones and the Six” and “Good Girls Guide to Murder” — her fifth book combines a variety of styles to tell the story. This includes everything from documentary interviews and newspaper articles to text messages, point of view and prose.
“That’s what really finally clicked, and then the story really poured out of me during lockdown 2020,” she said.
Writing during the COVID-19 lockdown also allowed Always to really lean into the creative space that it allowed her.
“It was so quiet and I was able to connect with my kids, I was able to get on my mountain bike every day and I was able to pour myself into writing,” she said.
While the actual experience of writing may have been different, connecting with her kids — Jake, 21, and Brendan, 16 — has always influenced her writing. In fact, it’s initially what drew her to write young adult fiction in the first place.
“I was reading so much with my kids at the time and my oldest son was 14, so we started reading a lot of young adult books,” Alsever said of the time during which she wrote her first novel. “I loved how young adult (fiction) was this coming of age, where young people are exploring the world and identifying who they are and who they want to be, and I loved that fiction could help them explore that world and think more critically about themselves, even subconsciously.”
And today, a large part of the world that young adults exist in is social media.
During her writing of “Burying Eva Flores,” Alsever said she was “watching how social media was impacting young people today and how it was productizing young people and shifting how people view themselves.”
As such, she explored in the novel how adults are preying on and manipulating young adults to “become micro-famous.” Her hope for her is that “through storylines like that, teens can explore and learn about the world in a safe space — in a book.”
Not only relying solely on her sons’ experiences to shape her stories, Alsever also interviewed one of her friend’s daughters, a 19-year-old Eagle Valley High School student who couldn’t care less about social media and what people thought of her.
“She was kind of this anomaly in her generation and I really loved her perspective, and she also fixed up her own car and learned how to do that at EVHS and I just thought that was super cool, and so I modeled Sophia’s character after her ,” Alsever said. “I interview people and I’m constantly listening to what people have to say and the way they talk and the way they interact, taking little bits and pieces of experiences around me and rolling them into my stories.”
The final piece of inspiration came from the novel’s location itself: Paonia. Alsever visited the Colorado town initially for a yoga retreat but was immediately drawn to it and kept returning.
“I spent a lot of time in Paonia the last couple years and there was something about the town that really drew me to it for the setting for the stories,” she said. “I like stories of small towns and how small town life shapes people. I thought about what it would be like if a TikTok star moved in, and that’s what happens in my story.”
In drawing experiences from the world around her, Alsever had a hard time picking her favorite thing about the novel.
“I love that it’s pretty timely right now, with TikTok and social media. I really love the characters; they are very real to me. And I loved the idea of: ‘If everything you wrote came true? What is the story you would write?’” she said.
Alsever will be hosting a book talk at the Bookworm in Edwards on July 7 at 6 pm to discuss her latest novel, “Burying Eva Flores.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.