BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. Jennifer Castle grew up writing fiction, and she always dreamed of one day seeing her own book on the shelf in a book store.
In September, Castle, 44, fulfilled her dream with the publishing of her first novel, "The Beginning of After," which is set in Briarcliff. The book tells the story of a 16-year-old girl whose life changes in an instant when her parents and brother die in a car accident after having Passover dinner.
"The first time I held my book, and it was a hardcover with a really shiny cover, all pretty, it was a really incredible feeling," Castle said. "I saw it sitting on the shelf (at a book store) and I couldn't stop staring at it and taking a million pictures of it with my phone."
Castle said the inspiration for her book was 9/11 and a fellow animal rescue volunteer who lost most of her family in a freak accident. "On the surface, the book is about grief and loss, but for me the book is about survival and hope and exploring the idea of what would happen if your life changed in an instant?" Castle said.
Castle's book struck a chord with a HarperCollins editor who had had a personal experience of losing a parent when she was a teenager. "She was reading it on the train going home to New Jersey, and she just started crying and weeping," Castle recounted.
The editor liked Castle's book so much that she made a deal to publish not only "The Beginning of After," but also Castle's second, unwritten young adult book. Castle grew up on Stephenson Terrace in Briarcliff. She worked on the literary magazine in Briarcliff High School and she decided to go to Brown University in Providence, R.I., because it has a well-known creative writing program.
Castle was living in Los Angeles when she wrote her novel, and she nostalgically described her characters growing up in a small town based on Briarcliff. "I think the environment of a small community is a fascinating and rich setting for any story," Castle said. "(The main character) has always flown under the radar, but by virtue of this accident she sort of becomes a celebrity in this small town."
Castle said her second novel, which she hopes to finish by spring, is about teens who are subjects of a documentary film series that peeks on their lives every few years. The novel is based in a small town like New Paltz, where Castle currently lives with her husband and two daughters, ages six and three.
"There are good days and bad days with writing," Castle said. "My goal is to be able to keep getting paid to write books and have them published."
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