Central English teacher publishes her first novel

Like many who grew up surrounded by books, Angelique Burrell dreamed of writing her own one day.

"I wanted to, but it seemed so far out of reach of anything," she said. "It took a while for me to understand I could be writing right now. I don't have to wait for some other time to start doing it."

She was on a three-day summer road trip years ago - with her husband, two kids and new puppy - to her vacation home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., when she got an idea for a story that intrigued her.

"I get sick when I read in the car, so I would just sit there and just started thinking, 'What if? What if?' " she said. "I wonder what happened with that accident. I wonder what made those skid marks. So I started with, 'What if a kid could see that?' "

She started writing in the memos on her phone, and would work on the story a bit each summer as the family made the 1,918-mile trek to Lake Tahoe and back.

"It took a while for the whole thing to come together."

Progress came more quickly after she joined a writers group at Central led by fellow English teacher Jared Friebel. She didn't mention her story at first, but when she did, the response was positive.

"That helped," Burrell said. "When it's hanging out in your mind, you don't really know if it's anything."

Those early notes developed into her first novel, the story of Mason, a teen who can see the reason for every skid mark on the road. The initial response to advance copies of "A Mark in the Road," which will be released Oct. 3, has been good.

"A lot of the people know me, but it has gotten some reviews from people who don't know me, and they've been good," she said. "We're still waiting for the Kirkus review to come back. It's a little nail biting."

Among the most positive reviews were those from her dad, a former English teacher at LT, and her mom, a retired librarian.

"Oh my gosh, they were so proud. They were just over the moon," she said.

Burrell's experience getting her own work published has given her even more empathy for students in her creative writing class at Central.

"When you have someone read what you may have spent a lot of time working on and they want to tear it up a little, it's hard to take," she said. "Hopefully I've been able to help my students with the job of getting feedback and how to give feedback as well."

Her students certainly helped her in developing her characters beyond the clichés she sometimes sees in young adult novels.

"I think knowing teens as much as I have over 31 years of teaching, they are so much more nuanced than 'The Breakfast Club' type of thing," she said. "I think I definitely wanted to portray that more explicitly."

Her then-teenage son and daughter and their friends offered some insights as well.

"You just hear the way they talk, and that helps with dialogue writing."

Burrell already has completed her second book, currently titled "The Silent Deep," the story of a girl whose father is missing and a boy whose uncle dies unexpectedly.

"Their two stories intersect with the history of Tahoe as well," she said.

And she has an idea for her third novel, a sequel to "A Mark in the Road."

While the writing comes a bit easier now, some of her methods haven't changed.

"I do still write a lot on my phone when I'm driving long distances," she said.

- story by Pamela Lannom, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean