SOLANA BEACH — Although her debut novel was 10 years in the making, author Jenny D. Williams said she is “grateful” it took that long.
“If I had tried earlier it wouldn’t have resulted in a work I’m proud of,” said Williams, a 2000 graduate of Torrey Pines High School who grew up in Solana Beach.
“The Atlas of Forgotten Places,” scheduled for release July 11, was inspired by her time spent in war-torn Northern Uganda more than a decade ago.
The loosely based story line began unknowingly after she graduated from the University of California Berkeley. Williams quit her job working for a book publisher in San Francisco and she and her then-boyfriend bought one-way tickets to Africa with plans to “travel until our money ran out,” she said.
When that happened, the couple parted ways. Williams remained in Uganda and worked for six months as a volunteer with the Lutheran World Federation in Kitgum helping internally displaced people living in government camps.
She interviewed area residents and wrote human interest stories and grant applications.
“I was just really moved by the people I was meeting,” Williams said. “I felt very strongly that these were stories that were not being told on a large scale.”
That was about a dozen years ago, during peace negotiations in the midst of a lengthy civil war.
“I was there during a time of relative peace,” she said. “But it was clear that two decades of war devastated the region socially and economically. I saw what happens when the fighting stops. That sort of became the seed of inspiration for the novel.”
Set against the backdrop of ivory smuggling and the Ugandan civil war, “The Atlas of Forgotten Places” is a story about two women from different worlds who set out to save loved ones.
The story starts with a volunteer who goes missing. Some events in the novel, which Williams describes as a “political thriller,” did take place.
“I wanted to tell a really good story that would give the reader a reason to want to turn the page,” she said. Williams, 34, now lives in Seattle with her husband and dog and works for Google. She holds a master’s degree from Brooklyn College in New York and has been published in magazines and anthologies.
Early in her writing career she said she heard “horror stories that it took 10 years or more to write a novel.”
“Sometimes it’s a good thing when something takes a while to do,” she said. “I’m grateful this took so long.”
Williams is scheduled to appear at the Del Mar Library for a discussion and book signing at 1:30 p.m. July 29.