Before I head back to the UK for several weeks, I thought I’d share a Q&A about my book, Trail of Worth. Below are some typical questions I’ve been receiving!
How did you come up with the title?
The title came to me as I was halfway through writing the book. I knew I wanted something with three words that would reflect the themes of the book, namely that of self-worth, while also carrying a sense of mystery. “Trail” refers to not only the geographic location of the story’s setting and the significance of hikes and running in the book, but also to the main protagonist’s journey of finding her feet in a foreign country.
To work out a title, I wrote down two songs I not only really like but that remind me of the time being written about – River of Dreams by Billy Joel and Into the Mystic by Van Morrison. I then played around with some metaphorical phrases and Trail of Worth suddenly appeared in my mind!
How did you decide on the book’s front cover?
The cover of the book is actually a photo of me taken by a friend. The scene of the hike on which it was taken was initially featured in the book, but I decided to remove it during the editing process.
It wasn’t my initial idea to use this photo for the cover. I first provided the designer with an idea of an image and colours, but the result didn’t match my vision. It looked too much like a fantasy book. I then remembered this photo and thought it made sense to use it. It’s quite weird to think that a candid photo taken during the time written about ended up being used on the cover! As if it was all meant to be…
How did you come up with character names?
Creating new names was fun! I combined maintaining confidentiality with using names that I thought suited the personality of the characters. I used the name “Sara” for my character because I love the song by Fleetwood Mac. Its opening few lines seem to speak to me and a particular time and feeling in the story.
What were your favourite characters to write about?
I did enjoy the challenge of showing the personalities of both Harry and Will. Both are very interesting characters with unique traits. I also loved showing the friendship between Sara and Tyler. It was important to me that I highlight how possible it is for a woman to have great platonic friendships with males. Carrie is another character that was special to write about, because her introduction in the book signals a real sense of personal progress for Sara.
What was your favourite chapter to write?
Chapter 30 was my favourite chapter to write. It was admittedly bittersweet, but writing about falling in love was nice – those early stages where you get the flutters and it feels like a dream. There is also quite a bit of symbolism in that chapter when it comes to the hike and the surrounding wildlife. Interestingly, this symbolism wasn’t planned but rather was something I noticed during the editing process.
There are quite a few references to music in the book. What are some of the pertinent songs from that time?
There are a few scenes where references to music have been made to help set tone and convey emotion. For copyright reasons, musician names and song titles couldn’t be mentioned explicitly. I won’t give the exact names of the songs because it’s quite personal and I also think it’s more fun for a reader to try to guess what they are, but artists referred to in the narrative include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Marley.
Trail of Worth covers a range of topics. How would you summarize it in a few words?
I’d describe it as a love story – not just love with others, but love with self. I say this because at the centre of all the varied topics and themes is a person trying to achieve a sense of personal fulfillment and self-acceptance.
What were some of the most challenging things about writing this book?
In posts before the book was published I’ve talked about the challenge of being selective with content when writing a memoir. I wouldn’t say I struggled with writer’s block per se because I had the inspiration of real-life events to write about vs making up fiction. Probably the most challenging thing was reliving some of the very emotional events – setbacks, loneliness, witnessing the mental health struggles of a partner, etc. But overall, it was a cathartic experience as revisiting those events after a while helped me see certain things in a new light. I wrote this book for others but I’ve also written it for myself too.
What are you most proud of as the writer?
I’m really pleased with the dialogue. I wanted to include authentic conversations – messy, awkward and vulnerable moments vs cliche, surface-level dialogue. This is an aspect of the book that people seem to really enjoy, which is great. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed recreating dialogue because I’ve always thought of myself as being a more descriptive travel writer. But I do find human behaviour very interesting, so maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much.
As the author, it’s also very fulfilling to know that the themes I wanted to portray have come across and resonated with readers. I’m really happy that people have been relating to certain details. Another thing I’m proud of is that fact that males are also getting something out of this book. I never wanted to target women only with this book, but it’s very much a female perspective and about the woman’s experience. It’s great that men are getting an insight into this and perhaps learning something or becoming more empathetic.
All this said, I haven’t read the printed copy of the book yet. I’m too scared to! As the author and a perfectionist, there are bound to be little things I don’t like that might make zero sense to anyone else.
Will you write a sequel?
I’m not opposed to writing a sequel but that likely wouldn’t be for a while. There are certainly some other topics and experiences since that time which would be interesting to write about. I’d like to write other books too – perhaps a little more fictional but still using real-life experiences for inspiration. I don’t feel any rush to do this though – when the time is right I’ll know!
If you’ve read Trail of Worth and have additional questions, let me know! I’ll keep updating this post as they come in.
If you haven’t read the book but are now curious to get a copy, it’s available online from Amazon (choose your country) and Barnes & Noble. If you live in Victoria, BC and would like to buy the book, I have some hard copies available! Please send me a message on the Contact page and I’ll arrange pickup/drop off or mail delivery.
For more commentary on the book, you can follow me on Instagram @shannelizabethco
Thanks for reading!