1) What was the inspiration for The Secrets We Kept?
I’ve struggled with depression since I was seventeen years old, but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I really hit a low point. I wanted to write something that might’ve been comforting and encouraging to me at that point in my life, something that would’ve helped me to feel like I wasn’t the only one in the world going through depression, something that might’ve even given me some ideas as to how I might better combat depression on the particularly bad days.
I was also intrigued by this idea of secrets, and the reasons we keep things from each other. I wanted to explore why someone might choose to keep a secret from a loved one and how, in their eyes, it would seem like a righteous cause. But I also wanted to explore the consequences for the other parties involved, and the damage secrets can cause in relationships—as well as the healing that can sometimes come when those secrets are finally out in the open.
2) What are some things you hope readers will take away from the novel?
First of all, I want others who’ve struggled with depression (especially teens) to know that they’re not alone. Sometimes you may feel like you’re the only one in the world who has to deal with such a ‘Goliath’, and it can be a lonely-feeling and daunting journey. But there are people out there who care and who want to help you, and I’d highly recommend taking advantage of these resources as early in life as you can (whether it’s one-on-one counseling, a support group, or something else). Suppressing emotions and leaving them unchecked is rarely–if ever–the answer.
Second, I want to encourage people to be more open about what they’re going through. Fortunately, we’re living in a time when more people are opening up about their own struggles with depression, and I definitely think this is a good thing. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed or flawed by depression. The more we can talk about it, the more we can help each other, and the more we can heal ourselves.
Third, I want more and more people to understand that depression doesn’t look a certain way. As one character observes in The Secrets We Kept, depression can affect anyone: the popular, the successful, the introverted–maybe even your own family member or best friend. There aren’t always ‘warning signs’ that you can notice point-blank. What’s important is to let the people you care about know that you’re there for them. If you’re the one struggling with depression, don’t feel like you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders 24/7. Open up to at least one other person.
Finally, I hope this book encourages people to at long last let go of the weights and secrets they’ve been carrying for so long. Sometimes, we keep these things inside of us for what seems like an eternity (whether it’s to protect ourselves or to protect someone else), and the secret festers over time until it’s twisted us inside/out. There’s so much freedom that can come from finally speaking the truth, though, and where appropriate, I hope readers might pursue their own freedom and enjoy the healing that can result from it.
3) What advice do you have for those struggling with depression?
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. The more you fight depression alone, the harder the struggle can feel sometimes. Seek counseling, open up to a family member or friend, join a support group like the one the characters are a part of in The Secrets We Kept, participate in online forums, etc. These days, there are so many opportunities to connect with others. You don’t have to face your journey alone. Just as well, develop a list of go-to strategies that can help lessen your feelings of depression on the especially dark days. Dr. Bran introduced the support group in this book to a number of strategies. A simple internet search can help you discover even more. Try out different measures and see what works for you. Finally, on those days when things seem hopeless and lonely, hang in there. Just take it one day at a time. Keep fighting. If you need to, look up a crisis hotline and call the number. Just don’t give up. Ever.
4) Are the characters and their experiences in the book inspired by anyone you know/anything you’ve experienced personally?
I wanted to explore what it looked like for people to find themselves in the same difficult situation (in this case: a difficult foster home) and naturally form deep, family-like bonds with each other almost as a survival tactic. That being said, I read a number of memoirs and other personal accounts that helped inform each character’s experience with foster care and adoption. I also used my own experiences from losing my father to cancer in 2013 to depict the grief a particular character deals with, as well as my own experiences with depression to detail another main character’s story arc. Therefore, in a way, you could say some of the inspiration came from certain aspects of my own journey. The rest? Simply my imagination.
5) Do you have a favorite character?
Am I allowed to admit to a favorite? If I had to choose, I’d say Sully. He has a heart of gold, and he’s always trying to protect and take care of those around him. Though life didn’t deal him the most fortunate hand of cards, he never throws a pity party. He just keeps working hard. He’s a selfless guy, and I love that about him. If I had to pick a second favorite, I’d say Haley. I love his adoration for his family, and those unsuspecting moments when he provides Cadence with an insightful shot of wisdom.
6) What inspired you to set the story in Brooklyn? Did you do any on-site research?
I visit New York frequently and tend to write a number of stories set there. I love the diversity of Brooklyn. It’s a fusion of so many different cultures, lifestyles, foods, and more. It’s my favorite among New York City’s boroughs. While some of the locations in this book are purely fictional, many of the observations come from firsthand experience from my own visits.
7) Where can people learn more about you and your books?
You can learn more about me and my books at www.lilyvelezbooks.com. From there, you can also join my VIP Crew – they’re the first to know about upcoming releases, advanced reader copies, and exclusive giveaways! So come on over and join the coolest party around! ; )
Publication date: November 8th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Synopsis:One year. That’s how long it’s been since childhood sweethearts Sully Graham and Cadence Gilbertson broke up, since one adoption and one out-of-state move turned their worlds upside down.
Suddenly, Cadence is back in New York City, but something’s different about her. The light in her eyes, the music in her laughter, the warmth in her smile—all of those things have entirely vanished. In their place stand the makings of a girl Sully can’t even begin to recognize, much less understand.
Still, despite the collective history of heartbreak between them, he’s convinced he can win her trust again, and he’s committed to proving the invincibility of their love no matter what it takes.
But Cadence is quietly harboring secrets of her own. Dark secrets. Ugly secrets. Secrets that could break a person. And though broken herself and unbearably lonely, she’s determined to protect Sully from her terrible, biting truths. Even if it means locking him out of her life forever.
The only problem is it seems her heart hasn’t quite received the memo. One glimpse of him is all it takes for her to trip into familiar (and, she’ll admit, addictive) feelings that threaten to all but consume her. Now her biggest fear is that her secrets will begin to slowly unravel one by one…long before Sully’s resolve ever does.
The Secrets We Kept is a moving story about first love, friendship, and forgiveness, and the enduring bonds that forever connect us and give us our strength.