One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guest Post: Ammi-Joan Paquette and her debut novel Nowhere Girl

We are so excited to have Ammi-Joan Paquette with us today—writer and agent extraordinaire. I have had the pleasure of being in Joan’s presence a number of times, and I can tell you first-hand that she exudes a warmth, wisdom and a kind of magic. Truly. And I believe Nowhere Girl radiates the same amazing trio.

We interviewed Joan about the incredible landscape in her novel.

What is one landscape that is featured in your book? Can you describe it?

The main character in Nowhere Girl, Luchi, has grown up in a small, rural prison outside the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, and the first leg of her journey takes her south toward Bangkok. Since I was unfortunately not able to travel to Thailand during the writing of this novel, the first thing I did was to immerse myself in as much detail as possible relating to the area. I used Google maps to plot out the specific roads she would take from one point to the other, and I researched the scenery and landscape she would find while on her journey. In my research, I learned that there is a particularly striking road that links Chiang Mai with nearby Lamphun, which is lined on either side with very tall yang (rubber) trees—over 800 of them, first planted over 100 years ago.

800 rubber trees. Wow. That is a deeply striking image. How does this road play a part in your story?

Right from the start, the image of this tree-lined road burned itself clear and sharp into my mind—compounded by the fact that this road was the very one that Luchi would be traveling upon in her journey south. In the process of writing this scene, which began as a simple description of landscape and surroundings, I suddenly visualized in my mind’s eye what the view might be like for a girl who has grown up in a prison, living her whole life behind bars. When she looks out of the car window on this narrow road, and sees tall bars sweeping up into the sky on either side of her, what kinds of things might be going through her mind?

Oh, I can only imagine what complicated feelings Luchi would have…

Luchi is in the process of undergoing a complex emotional transition: while the prison bars she grew up with represented her captivity, they also stood for safety and protection, and were a huge part of the past that she has left behind—along with everything else she has ever known—to venture out alone and unprotected into the world. This tree-lined road ends up capsulizing an important moment in Luchi’s internal journey: looking up, she views the larger-than-life “bars” of the trees as a sign of some larger protection being afforded to her, though she is alone in the world. This little echo of her past within her present gives her strength and confidence to proceed with her journey, and is another step in the process of growing up and moving forward with her life.

I always amazed at how one image can evoke, and perhaps even create, such a resonant emotional landscape for a character. Your description of the way this road mirrors Luchi’s internal journey is just gorgeous. And it rings so so true.

Thank you, Joan, for sharing this bit of your book with us. Nowhere Girl is out now, so go on and get it! And you can get in touch with Ammi-Joan Paquette at



  1. What a beautiful example of how a single image can evoke so much emotion and relate part and parcel to the theme of the story. Thank you for this exquisite post.

  2. What a great, striking image. And what a beautiful blog. Thank you!

  3. If a single image can resonate with so much beauty and meaning, I can only imagine what the rest of the book has to offer. Fortunately, I won't have to imagine long, since my copy should arrive in a couple of days.

  4. I'm intrigued! I'll look for this book! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Google maps!! I wondered how you did that. :) This is a lovely peek at your book, Joan. Thanks to you and Tam.