And So It Begins: The Inspiration Behind “Wish You Were Here”

Renee Carlino

Today’s post by Renee Carlino | @renayz

There’s a running joke in my family about “the skinny blanket.” When my older sister was in her mid-twenties and feeling ambitious about her domestic pursuits, she taught herself how to crochet—but instead of starting on a small project, she decided to go all-out and make a massive blanket. The first row was twelve feet long. Unsurprisingly, she got through maybe twenty rows before she gave up. The finished blanket was twelve feet by two and a half feet—hardly a blanket at all! But rather than admit defeat and throw it out, she used it as her guest blanket. Whenever I’d stay the night with her, she’d give it to me to sleep with. It barely covered me from arm to arm so I would have to stay really still in order for it to do any good. To this day, everyone in my family gets a good laugh out of it.

In my new novel, Wish You Were Here, I used the idea of the skinny blanket to explore my central character Charlotte’s deeper inability to follow through on her ever-evolving desires, both professionally and romantically—something I think a lot of women can relate to. It was really important to me to show this phase of a young woman’s growth. Charlotte is like so many of us in our twenties: she’s flawed, fickle and immature. She loves well and she’s a good friend, daughter, and sister, but she’s having a hard time finding her way in the world as she experiences many ups and downs for the first time. Finding love is even more challenging for her, mirroring her career woes, but Charlotte’s romantic journey ultimately leads her to a place of self-realization that allows her to have breakthroughs elsewhere.

This theme comes out of my reflections on my own life choices. In my teens and twenties, I changed career paths about as often as I changed my underwear. My sister often jokes, “Remember when you wanted to be a horse jockey?” That wasn’t a little kid fantasy; I was probably twenty-five when I read and watched Seabiscuit a few too many times. I had dreams of becoming a famous horse jockey, but I barely knew how to ride a horse.

Becoming a wife and mother brought things into sharper focus over time, and that allowed me to figure out what I really wanted to do. And when I wrote my first novel, something clicked into place for me. As I sat down and typed the first twenty thousand words, I knew I could do it forever and that I loved it. I had no idea if anyone would ever read my books, or if they’d even be published, but I didn’t care: I had found myself. Things don’t click for Charlotte quite as easily—novels have to be more exciting than real life!—but I assure you, it does happen for her. And I think readers will find that journey really satisfying.


You know when you’re looking at someone and you can’t help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That’s what was happening to me, and it was making me feel…happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we had met in a previous life. Memories that didn’t exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks. 

Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.

Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.

Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.


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