Skylar Dorset says a dream compelled her to write her debut YA fantasy novel, The Girl Who Never Was (Sourcebooks, June), the first of a pair of Fairie Court books. Not just a dream, as in a life’s ambition—but literally a dream. “I had a dream a few years ago that a guy I didn’t know walked into his Boston brownstone and found a blonde woman he didn’t know sleeping on his couch,” she says.
Musing on a story that would explain the dream, she concluded that the man was an ogre and the woman a fairie. In addition, they lived in a supernatural world in which beings could “fall into other people’s houses and not realize it,” she explains. After unsuccessfully trying to write about the ogre and the fairie, Dorset shifted gears and focused on their child. “If that’s how your parents met, how would that shape your life?” she wondered. In the novel, as Selkie Stewart turns 17, the Boston teen realizes that everything she’s ever been told about who she is has been an elaborate lie to conceal the truth about her parentage.
This is the first time Dorset has written fantasy, but definitely not the last, she says, declaring, “It’s the most fun ever.” A newly minted law professor at the University of Mississippi, the author says she set The Girl Who Never Was in Beantown because she lived there when she had the dream. “Everything that happens in the book actually happened to me,” she insists about the magical underpinnings to the novel’s contemporary setting. For example, Dorset sat on a stalled subway train more than once while riding Boston’s T, and for all she knows, goblins were responsible for the breakdowns.
“So much of everyday life is absolutely crazy,” she points out. “Wouldn’t it be great if all the crazy things that happen in our lives had a supernatural explanation?” Her daily commutes while she wrote her fantasy were “like living in my novel,” Dorset says, adding that many of her observations landed in the story.
For instance, she says, while the scientific explanation for the lavender window panes on some historic Beacon Hill houses is that the 1800s-era glass had been corrupted, in The Girl Who Never Was, the lavender glass signals to supernatural beings that one of their kind lives in the house. “You can do whatever you want with fantasy,” observes the author. “You can have a talking rat. You’re in charge of your world.”
Dorset will be in charge of her world today, 11:30 a.m.–noon, when she signs copies of The Girl Who Never Was at Table 15 in the Autographing Area.