It's also exactly 30 years since I made that journey...so many triggers.
My novel A Fair Exchange drew on my experience as a exchange student. There are certainly some resemblances between the main character and myself and I did end up on the Massachusetts North Shore. Like Amelia's character I struggled for a prom date but the story is fiction.
Many of the really funny things that happened I didn't appropriate because I wouldn't want to tell anybody else's secrets.
The book is however, of all the books I've written, is the book of my heart. (Well aside from Mr Right and Other Mongrels which was my blessing and my curse). That's true because I got to go back in time and revisit the joy of being young and brave and taking on the world.
Matt, the male character in the book, while not even remotely based on anyone I know is my favourite male I've written and I like that Amelia struggles along the way because I know so many women who were bright and shiny at sixteen who lost their way as life went on. I wanted to write a happy ending for all those women. The book also has great female friendships, I should mention that.
Yet here is a truth writers don't like to discuss. That has been my least successful book. My favourite and no one much has read it. Heartbreaking really from a writer's point of view. Was it the timing? The cover? The story? The blurb? The marketing? Do my readers not like stories where people get a second chance at love? Check, all of the above?
It's so sad to think the thing you most want to share is the thing that languishes. This happens to writers more than you might expect. We all want everything to go well and we know it won't but I'm sure many writers would name unlikely choices as their books of the heart.