Danielle Soucy Mills - Endings and Beginnings
Danielle Soucy Mills wrote her first novel when she was only 10 years old and has since earned her BA and MFA in Creative Writing and won multiple awards with her books, Tina Tumbles and Illusion of an Ending. When she is not writing or practising backflips, Mills enjoys spending time with her husband and one year old daughter. As our author of the day, Mills talks about Illusion of an Ending, her perception of the afterlife and reveals how a series of events inspired the book.
Please give us a short introduction to Illusion of an Ending
Illusion of an Ending intertwines three peoples’ life stories—when Jimmy dies in a motorcycle accident, he finds himself hovering above his body, still able to see everyone around him. He then promises to let his mom know that he’s okay. The story follows his mother who is totally and utterly grief-stricken, as well as a 16 year old girl who is dealing with her own personal issues—an ability to see and hear spirits that her mother believes are not real.
What inspired the story behind Illusion of an Ending?
Illusion of an Ending was inspired by a car accident that I was in leaving work one day in the small city of Cranston, Rhode Island. It turned out that the other driver was in a rental car all the way from Southern California. I remember realizing in that moment that there were no accidents, that I would write about it, and that I would move to California too, though I did not really believe it at the time. Later that same day, I found out that a friend had lost his childhood friend in a motorcycle accident in California, about an hour away from where the man in the rental car lived. I then got the idea for a book about a young man with an important message to relay to the world that there is no death.
Shortly after, I discovered Chapman University in an online search for MFA programs in southern California. Just a month after that, a young woman transferred to my school in RI who lived 20 minutes from the school I had found online, allowing me to stay with her while I visited. After being accepted to Chapman, I moved 3,000 miles away from home knowing no one, yet everyone I met in California—my roommates, my co-workers, and my classmates—seemed to be connected. These “random” connections inspired the aspect of my novel that aims to show how people’s life stories, seemingly separate, intertwine for a purpose.
Jimmy Pollaski reaches out to his mother from the afterlife. Do you believe that our loved ones can see us from the afterlife?
I definitely do. I’ve always been really intrigued by this sort of thing. Not just the afterlife, but where we were before we were born. I remember realizing when I was young that the world had existed for so many years before I had entered this lifetime, but that I had to have been somewhere during that time...
When I discovered books about how people went into a deep hypnosis and remembered very vividly what their life had been like “between lives”, and how they chose very much of the life they were living at the time, I was awestruck. Over the past couple of years I have also connected with an incredible medium by the name of Necole Stephens whose story was so incredibly similar to the one I had written, it has absolutely strengthened my beliefs.
Does Illusion of an Ending have an underlying message? What do you hope readers will take from it?
There are so many books and movies where death is portrayed in such a negative manner. And most often in real life, dealing with the passing of a loved one can be an extremely tough, emotional journey. When I set out to write Illusion of an Ending, it was my goal to show that there is no “death”—that the end to our life story is really only an illusion. I hope that when people finish the book, they are able to let go of guilt surrounding a loved one’s death if they have any, to release the weight off their shoulders knowing that our loved ones really are around us all the time, even if we can’t see them.
Your first book, Tina Tumbles, was a children's book. Why did you decide to do something totally different this time?
I actually wrote Tina Tumbles and Illusion of an Ending simultaneously. Illusion was written for my thesis while attending Chapman University. I wrote Tina Tumbles on the side with the help of some young gymnasts I was coaching. I started writing children’s books first, and have been coaching and doing gymnastics since I was little, so although it is very different from the other genre that I write, both equally apply to my life experiences and interests.
Your descriptions of the afterlife are very vivid. How did you pull this off?
I know it sounds strange, but I did a lot of research. There are so many cases of people who have had near death experiences, out of body experiences and memories of life between lives—stuff that seems really crazy. And while we can never really know for sure, the point of the book was to make it all seem authentic.
Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you
- I wrote my first novel by the age of 10.
- I have a 1 year old daughter who inspires me to be a better person
- It’s a goal of mine to be able to do back flips past the age of 50
In this book you’re dealing with so many difficult themes – as a writer, do you feel a sense of responsibility? If so, how do you deal with this?
I’ll admit, publishing this book definitely scared the crap out of me. The subject of death can be very tough for a lot of people, and so many people have different religions with different beliefs. Also, since I wrote from the perspective of a bereaved mom without having experienced the loss of a child, or even being mom for that matter, I most definitely felt responsible for making sure that my story was indeed comforting to people.
What are you working on right now?
A little over a year ago, Tina Tumbles ended up in Us Weekly as a favorite of Jenna Dewan Tatum and Channing Tatum’s daughter, Everly. I have since been working to expand that book into a series of inspirational stories. I’ve also been working on several other children’s stories as well as a novel about angels.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Thank you so much for this interview, and for your interest in my book.
You can visit me at: