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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Story Secrets: THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer Hubbard

Secrets, secrets...I'm very excited to welcome a fellow debut and writer of secret stories, Jennifer Hubbard, author of THE SECRET YEAR!

(If you've missed previous Story Secrets, check them out here.)

After his secret girlfriend's death, seventeen-year-old Colt finds the notebook she left behind, but he is unprepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship.

The premise of THE SECRET YEAR is so intriguing - where did the idea begin?

I started where the book starts: with a boy whose secret girlfriend has just died. A notebook she kept about their relationship falls into his hands. I wanted to know what was in the notebook and why the relationship had to be secret.

The way Colt and Julia explained the secrecy was that they were in totally different socioeconomic groups, groups that clash a few times in the book. Also, Julia had a steady boyfriend, Austin. But I want readers to really think about these reasons—are they reasons or just excuses? Was secrecy the true appeal and, if so, why?

How did THE SECRET YEAR evolve as you wrote? Did you know how Colt's story would develop from the beginning?

The ending changed the most. My critiquers disagreed about which girl Colt should end up with, or whether he should end up with anybody at all. It took me a long time to know myself, how the story needed to end. Even when I knew that, I had to rewrite the scene several more times to get it right. It was one of the last pieces of the manuscript to fall into place, under the guidance of my brilliant editor.

Additionally, I had to think about whether there would be a confrontation between Colt and Austin at some point, and if so, how it would play out. I wrote many different versions, ranging from no confrontation to a violent one. (I won’t spoil the book by saying what I finally decided to do!)

How did your life experiences help you dig deeper into Colt and Julia's story?

Well, this book isn’t really about me. But I’ve observed firsthand the changing landscape of American towns, which Colt describes: the loss of farmland and forest, the building booms in once-rural areas. I’ve lived most of my life around rivers and creeks, like the river where Colt spends so much time. One of the dreams Colt has about Julia is based on a dream I had about someone I knew who’d died suddenly.

Most of the digging involved getting into the minds and motivations of all the characters: Why was this secret relationship so attractive to Colt and Julia? What did they get from it? What kept Julia with Austin for so long? It took me many, many drafts before I understood Colt’s basic psychology, and why he needed this particular kind of relationship.


Thank you, Jennifer, for stopping by to share your secrets! And readers, stay tuned for more secrets, coming soon...

In the meantime, here's a vid of Book Chic reading from THE SECRET YEAR:


  1. Awesome! Love hearing about the rewriting to get the ending where she wanted it (doing that now. argh.)

  2. Exactly! Just went through that process myself. I love how it took multiple drafts to get to Colt's psychology - I'm always interested in why people do things, what draws them and drives them.