MILLCREEK — Tiffany Rosenhan never really saw herself as an author.
The stay-at-home mom from Millcreek would write all the time — while her husband was in training to become a physician, while she was at home caring for her four young daughters.
“I just wrote and wrote and wrote,” Rosenhan said.
Still, she didn’t really think seriously about publication.
“I always thought of myself as writing but I never thought of myself as like, an author,” Rosenhan said.
But now that’s changed, as Rosenhan prepares for the publication of her first novel, “Girl from Nowhere,” which will get released by Bloomsbury on July 21.
Although the timing of the book’s release presents some challenges, ranging from a global pandemic to family hardships, Rosenhan is looking forward to debuting the novel. A young adult spy thriller with a heroine that’s been compared to Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Rosenhan calls the book “escapist fiction” — something that she says might be needed for some readers right now.
“It’s just a really fun escapist story,” said Rosenhan. “You kind of just get out of your head a little bit and enjoy this otherworldly world — kind of our world, but not.”
‘Girl from Nowhere’
The “otherworldly world” of the novel starts out in rural Montana. The teenage Sophia Hepworth moves there and starts high school after traveling the world with her diplomat parents. She’s hoping to escape her past, but it isn’t long before that past catches up with her.
While Rosenhan calls the book a “spy thriller,” it also features some romance — which was the favorite part for her two oldest daughters, 13 and 11, who both read the book “in like a day,” Rosenhan said. “My girls are really supportive.”
Her daughters also influenced the way that she wrote the novel. Rosenhan, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said she wanted to make sure that she would feel comfortable with her daughters reading what she wrote. And to her, that meant keeping things “PG.”
But sometimes that was a challenge while writing in the spy genre, where the trope of the “femme fatale” and sexualized female characters are common.
Rosenhan knew she didn’t want to make her heroine that type of character. “I didn’t want to do that and then kind of put her in that box, so she’s using her sexuality as a way to achieve results,” she explained.
Instead, she wanted to Sophia to use her abilities in order to succeed.
“I wanted her to use like her physical body, and her intellect and her intelligence, and use that as a way to solve problems,” Rosenhan said.
Writing a heroine in a spy thriller
The character of Sophia is skilled in many ways, including being fluent in multiple languages and trained in combat. The spy genre often features main characters with incredible skills, James Bond being a prime example.
But something that Rosenhan says she did not foresee was the way that Sophia would be viewed differently from a male protagonist in the genre.
When a heroine performs action stunts, “there’s like so much backlash about it not being believable,” Rosenhan said. “But James Bond and ‘Mission Impossible’ can do whatever they want.”
By comparison, heroines of books like “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” (which are set in more fantastical or dystopian worlds) are often more easily accepted to have special skills or abilities, because of the “fantasy element,” according to Rosenhan.
“And my character is supposed to exist in the real world,” she explained. “And I think because of that, the expectation is that she couldn’t run this fast, she couldn’t shoot this well, she couldn’t climb this well, so all of it is just not realistic.”
In her experience, male protagonists do not receive the same sort of pushback or get called “unbelievable” or “not realistic” in the same way. To her, the discrepancy in the way male and female characters are viewed is unfair.
“It would be different if they used those qualifiers for male-driven fiction, but they don’t,” said Rosenhan.
As a mother of daughters, it’s something she says she feels strongly about.
“I feel strongly that they should be able to achieve what they want to achieve,” Rosenhan said. “And not be boxed in by this preexisting paradigm.”
Promoting a book in a pandemic
While Rosenhan is excited for “Girl from Nowhere” to finally debut, she is also aware that the timing of its release presents some challenges. For example, publishing the book in the middle of a pandemic can make it difficult to promote.
Not only is she unable to do in-person events, but promoting herself and her work can sometimes feel insensitive while other people are struggling or going through hardships, she said.
“My book is not the most important thing happening right now,” Rosenhan said.
The same is true within her own family.
Rosenhan’s husband suffered a stroke a year ago, from which he is still recovering. For Rosenhan, her family is her top priority. As she works to promote her book, she is keeping in mind what her family — and what many other families around the country — are going through.
“I want to support it. I also just want to be mindful of what other people are experiencing in the moment,” Rosenhan explained.
With all of that in mind, she is already at work on a sequel to “Girl from Nowhere” — but she’s taking her time with it.
“I’m just trying to take it slow and make sure that I write what I want to write and have it be better than the first book.”