I wrote the first draft of Island of Lost Girls before writing Promise Not to Tell. I worked hard on it for over a year, trying to create a multi-generational family saga told from many points of view. Unfortunately, the resulting book was such a mess that I was ashamed to show it to anyone. A couple of years later, while my agent was trying to sell Promise Not to Tell, I dug out my family saga, polished it up a bit and sent it off to my agent. He agreed that it was unwieldy, and suggested that the first and most important thing I needed I to do was decided whose story I was going to focus on. Once I decided that it would be Rhonda’s story, things began to fall into place. I ended up throwing about half of that original draft away.
The original inspiration for Island of Lost Girls was simple: I had stopped at a gas station in a little town near a state forest in Vermont. A woman pulled into the parking lot, left her car running, and ran into the store. I noticed a little girl strapped into the backseat. Immediately, my mind started inventing these terrible scenarios: what if someone came along, jumped in the car, and drove off with the girl– what would I do? Would I try to stop them? My mind said, of course I would. But what if it was stranger than that; what if it was someone in a costume: Santa, a clown, the Easter Bunny? Would people believe me? The woman came out of the store in a couple of minutes, a pack of cigarettes in her hand and drove off, the girl safe in the backseat. But the seed of a story was planted, and an abduction much like the one I fretted about ended up being the event that sets everything in motion in the final version of Island.
Here’s another fun fact – I once had a job at a family farm and was asked to play the Easter Bunny for a couple of weekends. I put on the dingy white suit with the mesh eyes, stood by the side of the road waving at cars, hugging small children and giving them balloons and lollipops. It was a very odd and disconcerting experience and I think the thing that got to me most was how much these tiny kids trusted me, how excited they were to see me and give me hugs when really, I could have been anyone in that suit. I definitely drew on this experience when writing Island.