I set my book, Open if You Dare, in the neighborhood where I grew up in Atlanta. We moved from that neighborhood, called Gainsborough, when I was twelve. While writing this book, I realized how much loss and fear I must have felt upon leaving the only neighborhood I had ever known. This was my childhood home, where everything had happened. I guess I had placed my sadness in an unmarked drawer which flew open when I started writing about it.
Gainsborough was a close-knit neighborhood with a swim club, creek with rope swing and fourth of July parade. We used to run free in the summers. The summer evenings in Atlanta were filled with the magic of lightning bugs and the sound of playful children’s voices that rang out until dark.
So in this magical neighborhood of my youth, I set Birdie, Rose and Ally. The island is made-up, but the creek is not. It flooded our home several times and when I returned recently, this is where my house was:
A whole street of homes along the flood plain had been removed and yes, one of them was mine. Luckily, my goddaughter, Sierra, was there with me to ease the pain.
Across the street was a Gainsborough sign in the yard of the neighbor who used to call my mom whenever us kids were up to no good.
And here was the pool club. It’s much grander in my memory but that’s how memories work.
This was the swim club back in the day. There’s me with my sisters, Lisa and Sally.
Some of the incidents in Open If You Dare happened in real life. For instance, Zora’s accident was based on a real life accident that happened to Lisa when I wasn’t paying proper attention. The hill where the accident took place looked less steep than I remembered and I found myself very grateful that I had written the book before returning to the scene of the crime. I’ll be forever grateful to have had those years in Gainsborough and happy to share an echo of that in Open If You Dare.