I met Suzy Gonzales about six years ago when I was profiling her for a magazine article. She immediately struck me as charismatic and bright, one of those people who had that spark. She was the kind of person I’d normally profile for doing something amazing at a young age: writing a novel or directing a movie or releasing an album before she hit 20. But instead, I was profiling Suzy for killing herself.
It was jarring. I kept having to reconcile this amazing girl that friends and family had told me about, one whose future seemed infinite with possibility, with the girl whose future was already in the past.
Shortly after I finished the article, I began to taper off doing journalism, focusing more on novels. But Suzy’s story burrowed somewhere in my brain because several years later, she emerged, or rather, a version of this bright charismatic young woman, emerged.
I began to imagine not what led Suzy – or, Meg, the fictional character she inspired – to kill herself (suicide is the ultimate unsolvable mystery, the victim dies with the perpetrator). Instead, I began to think about what it would be like to receive an email suicide note (as Suzy had sent her) from someone you loved, someone you were close to, someone you thought you knew everything about.
And that was how I found Cody, my heroically flawed heroine in I Was Here. The novel may open with Meg’s suicide note, but it is Cody’s journey that is the centre of the novel. Her search for the reason Meg chose to end her own life, and her own complicity in this decision, pushes her to the boundary of love, friendship, forgiveness and redemption.