The latest YA/Teen read from author Stephanie Morrill is The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink), an atmospheric jazz-age whodunit that takes readers from the glitzy homes of the elite to the dark underbelly of 1920s Chicago. In this Q&A, Stephanie shares the most challenging part of writing the novel, why she set her mystery in 1920s Chicago, and how she gets into the right frame of mind for YA readers…
What was the genesis behind The Lost Girl of Astor Street?
I wish the “how I got the idea” story was really cool, but it happened while I was putting away laundry. My mind was wandering, like it often does during mundane chores. I was thinking about the show Veronica Mars and how much I missed it. We had been binge watching Downton Abbey and I thought something like, “If only there was a show that was like Veronica Mars meets Downton Abbey… Maybe I could write something like that!”
What drew you to writing a mystery set in the 1920s?
I’ve loved Chicago since the first time I visited in 5th grade, and the history of that city during the 20s is so rich that it seemed like a great setting for a story.
How do you get into the right frame of mind to write for YA readers?
It’s very easy for me, because I’m still working my way through insecurities I’ve had since childhood. While I’ve grown a lot in confidence and being secure in who I am, like most people I’m still prone to flare-ups. A close friend will throw a party, and I’ll see pictures on Instagram, and might think, “Why didn’t I get invited? Was I not fun enough at the last party? Is it because I went out with friends last week and didn’t invite her?” Of course my thoughts don’t always go down that road, but sometimes they do, and it’s easy enough to drag up those old insecurities and feel like I’m still my uncomfortable teenage self.
What was the most challenging part of writing The Lost Girl of Astor Street?
I had never written a historical or a mystery before, so blending those genres and getting the layers right took me lots of drafts. I’m grateful for the patient feedback from writer friends who read the not-quite-there versions and pointed out where I needed help.
What do you hope readers take away after reading the novel?
There’s a scene where my main character, Piper, feels deeply disgusted with the corruption in her community. “At the end of the day, how much can one person really do?” she asks Mariano. And Mariano tells her, “Two people, right? You and me.”
Something I felt deeply as I wrote this story is that we can only control our choices, not those of everyone around us. I hope readers are encouraged by Piper’s journey to be wise with the choices they make.
The Lost Girl of Astor Street