On an ordinary January day, which was also the day after Anton DiSclafani’s manuscript went out on submission, she received some extraordinary news. Her agent Dorian Karchmar called to tell her that, not one, but several publishers were interested in her debut novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. “I was flattered by the publishers’ attention, and the interest in the book,” DiSclafani says. After five years of writing and revising, two of which were spent reworking multiple drafts with Karchmar, Yonahlossee sold at auction ten days after being sent out, for a reported seven figures to Riverhead, who will publish it on June 4. “It was a surreal experience,” DiSclafani says, “I spent so much time working on the book - half of my twenties – that it was wonderful to think I would hopefully be able to have a career as a writer. The uncertainty of knowing whether or not the book would sell was awful. I’m not someone who deals with uncertainty well.”

Despite that, DiSclafani, 31, was steadfast in the completion of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. “I think if I understood how much work was involved in writing a book when I started, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” she says. “I had no conception of how much story I would throw away. But there was a lot of joy in it. I am a writer who likes to write. I like the act of thinking of all the different ways to say something.”

Born in Memphis and raised in Northern Florida, DiSclafani considers herself a southerner, “even though I haven’t lived there in a while.” She lives now in St. Louis, Mo., and continues to teach fiction and nonfiction at Washington University which she was doing while writing the novel. Her southern roots, and her history with Yonahlossee Resort in North Carolina, made it the ideal setting for the story of a 15 year old girl who is sent to an equestrian boarding school after her involvement in a family tragedy. “One of the things I love the most about the south is how beautiful it is. Something’s always in bloom, and the world appears untouched and unconstructed,” she says. Yonahlossee takes place during the depression, DiSclafani says, to highlight a pivotal turning point in the south, when bourgeois and old money found their way of life teetering on a dime, and the fall often proved catastrophic. “The hierarchy of the south is so particular. An outsider has no way of understanding it because each area of the south has its own climate and place.”

The protagonist of the novel, Thea Atwell, comes from a small town not unlike Ocala, the town where DiSclafani grew up. What they have in common is place. “I was a teenager when we first went to Yonahlossee,” she says. “Of course it was no longer a camp by the time I was going there. My family had a cabin in the resort and we would go and eat dinner at the old headmaster’s cabin, which is now the Gamekeeper restaurant. I learned there once was a camp in the mountains, and the gamekeeper who tended the property lived in a cabin up this twisty mountain and path. I thought, ‘what would it be like to come here as a girl of 15?’ The places in the book are autobiographical.”

While the settings are based in reality, Thea, her family, and the girls of Yonahlossee are not. “Thea sprang out of the idea of a family who lived a life they considered idyllic, and then she does something really bad and everything changes. She ruins her family and must come to terms with it.” DiSclafani knew the sins of Thea first, and as she discovered who Thea was as a person, “it became clear I was writing someone who was the opposite of me.” Though a contrasting personality, for years Thea was enmeshed into DiSclafani’s life. “She was so much a part of my world, for so long, that at the grocery store I would wonder, ‘Hmm, what would Thea like for dinner?’ Then I’d realize she couldn’t conceive of a grocery store like this, not during those times.”

As a voracious reader herself, DiSclafani looks for stories that take her into a different world, places in which she can pretend to exist. “I look for a world I can believe in, one where you are sad when you close the book, where you want yet don't want get to the end because it means the end of that world,” she says. “I tried to write that kind of story.” As for her protagonist, Thea, DiSclafani says, “I don’t think perfect people exist, and I was never interested in writing a perfect character. When I boil it down, I think of the book as a book about a nuclear family and in life, as in literature, it is sometimes impossible to do the right thing without hurting another person, especially in families.” As for what she hopes her story will achieve, “I would like for [readers] to read the book, and feel some sympathy for Thea and the world she lives in. It’s a small thing and yet a lot to ask.”