Tiffany Rosenhan “fell into writing books” after having completed college and finding herself at home caring for a newborn baby.
Writing was something she enjoyed. It helped keep her mind sharp. “I wrote stories for fun for a year, until I realized that I had something that I couldn’t walk away from,” the Utah author says. “I found creative writing, or rather creating writing found me, and I’ve never looked back.”
But becoming a published novelist didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t come easy. Just like Sophia, the main character in her debut novel, “Girl from Nowhere,” Rosenhan had to work hard to acquire the skills needed to achieve her goals — and teenage readers everywhere are now reaping the benefits.
Gretchen Zaitzeff, Canyons District’s Library Specialist, credits “Girl from Nowhere’s” popularity to its accessibility. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a once-a-year-pick-up-a-book reader, or you’re inhaling books for breakfast, this is a book that you would enjoy,” she said. Zaitzeff recently arranged to have Rosenhan, a frequent visitor of CSD’s school libraries, drop by the Connect Canyons studio for a brief interview.
Rosenhan spoke about her inspiration for “Girl from Nowhere,” her path to becoming a writer, plans for a sequel, and — spoiler alert — a possible film or TV deal in the works. There’s not much she can say about that last point, except “there’s good news” to report. But Rosenhan admits, she’s “super excited about book two.”
“Girl from Nowhere” is a spy thriller about a teenage girl who has just moved to Montana with the hopes of leaving her past behind only to be faced with having to confront it. The daughter of diplomat parents, trained in different languages and forms of combat, Sophia is no “normal” teenager. But through her adventures, readers see her overcome very normal teenage challenges, such as the desire to fit in and make friends in new surroundings.
Living life on the move is something to which Rosenhan can relate. “My family moved a lot when I was a kid,” she says, while noting whatever fears she felt as a newcomer were tempered by the fortune of having the built-in friendship of a twin sibling.
Though Rosenhan describes her book as “escapist fiction,” she wanted readers to be able to relate to Sophia whose talents — and physical attributes and appearance — aren’t of the superhero variety found in Marvel comics. Sophia is written with a depth that transcends such stereotypes.
“I wanted something different with my character, because I wanted her to solve problems with her intellect and the skills she’s trained for. She’s an average girl with a complicated life. She has these skills because her parents have trained her in a specific way,” says Rosenhan, the mother of four girls. “Really to me she just mirrors the incredibly hard things that teenage girls are doing.”
The theme of persisting through trials reflects Rosenhan’s own writing process. She speaks of her talent more as an acquired skill honed over many years with lots of practice. Any new project she undertakes starts with a great deal of research and character exploration. Rosenhan fleshes out her characters by writing lengthy scenes, and then later goes back to winnow them down and stitch them together into a tight plot with twists and turns. “I’ll write scenes and characters for fun. I tend to overwrite and then cut everything out and rewrite the plot,” she says. “When you write a thriller, you want it to have a quick pace.”
Over the past two years, Rosenhan has visited with creative writing clubs and other student groups at most of Canyons District’s secondary schools. She is generous with her time and talents, says Zaitzeff who has invited Rosenhan to participate in a panel discussion at the Utah Educational Library Media Association conference on March 10 at Weber State University.
To aspiring writers, Rosenhan offers this advice: read, every single day, and write for at least five minutes. Like any profession, including that of her husband who is a critical care physician, she says, “writing is challenging and hard. It’s a profession that requires experience and technique. You have to train, and you have to practice.”
But it’s also enjoyable and well worth the effort, says Rosehan who believes there’s a writer in all of us: “Each of us has a story to tell, and if we don’t tell it, who will?”