Olive Bell has spent her entire life in the beautiful suburb of Vista Valley, with a picture-perfect home, a loving family, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a near-fatal car accident, she’s haunted by a broken heart and a melody that she cannot place.
Then Olive meets Nick. He’s dark, handsome, mysterious . . . and Olive feels connected to him in a way she can’t explain. Is there such a thing as fate? The two embark on a whirlwind romance—until Nick makes a troubling confession.
Heartbroken, Olive pieces together what really happened the night of her accident and arrives at a startling revelation. Only by facing the truth can she uncover the mystery behind the song and the power of what it means to love someone.
The Real Life Inspiration for Nick and Olive’s Adventures
As I was writing Olive and Nick’s story, I imagined them falling in love in this almost magical, nocturnal world. I was drawn to the idea that the places they visit aren’t obviously beautiful – in fact there’s something alienating and even ugly about them at first glance. But on closer look, an unexpected beauty is revealed.
I chose to set the book in and around Los Angeles because it’s a city full of hidden beauty. When I first visited LA I was still living in England. All I noticed were the strip malls and billboards and gridlocked boulevards. It was a stark contrast to the architectural beauty lining practically every street in Oxford, where I had been living for two years. But once I moved to LA, I discovered it was a city full of hidden beauty. You just had to know where to look.
Here are the real life inspirations behind some of the places Olive and Nick visit in the book:
There’s a real Skid Row in LA, home to between 3000-6000 people, one of the largest homeless populations in the country. Since LA has such a temperate climate, other states and communities have been known to bus their homeless here. Even hospitals and law enforcement agencies have been known to “dump” homeless people on Skid Row. As the sun goes down the one square mile area transforms into Tent City, lined with people, cardboard boxes, tents, and shopping carts. It’s a shocking, haunting place, just like Olive experiences it.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, is about a mile away from Skid Row. Its gleaming architecture that rises up like a spaceship is a stark contrast to the destitution and poverty just a few blocks away. One of the things that always strikes me about Los Angeles is how there can be such extremes in wealth, opportunity, architecture and culture side by side, which is why I wanted Olive to experience that juxtaposition as well.
The main concert hall, where Nick plays music for Olive, is also an incredible sight to behold, and it has incredible acoustics.
The Burnt out desert where Nick takes Olive:
Like the U2 album of the same name, Joshua Tree, about two hours outside of LA, is an incredible place. The landscape, with its burnt, leafless trees, has an almost lunar, otherworldly quality to it. It’s quite amazing that anything grows in the scorched earth. That’s what gave me the inspiration for the desert where Nick takes Olive the first time they leave the city, and for Nick’s comment that it’s a place that’s “jolie laide”, which means ugly-beautiful. Beneath the seeming layer of rot, there’s an intrinsic beauty.
When people talk about Sunset Boulevard they usually think of one of two things: the famous old movie, or the Sunset Strip, a mile and a half of bars, glamorous Hollywood hotels, and clubs where famous rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Doors performed.
But Sunset Boulevard actually runs practically the length of the city – 22 miles from downtown on the east, to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Along the way, there are many different parts of the boulevard, encompassing Hispanic culture, old Hollywood, and the wealthier enclaves of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and the Pacific Palisades.
Since it is such an iconic street that conjures so many different parts of LA, I wanted to include it in the book.
The Green Parrots:
When I started writing OUR SONG, I met a woman at a party who told me about these green parrots that migrated to her backyard every Spring in huge flocks, taking up residence in the trees. I was fascinated by the idea, and imagined a shock of green in the sky, much like Olive sees it. When I went home to research the parrots, I discovered all the varying theories of how they got to LA, like Nick describes in the book.
In perhaps a magical twist of fate, they soon after appeared at our house, in our trees in our backyard, and that’s when I knew they had to be in the book.
There was an old church that burned down in Montreal when I was in high school. It sat empty and dilapidated on one of the busiest arteries in the city for years on end, almost like ruins from another era. The image of that church, pictured below, has always stayed with me, and became the inspiration for the church Nick takes Olive to.
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A big thanks to Jordanna for such an extraordinary intake on the sights and insights to the places inside Our Song. I absolutely loved the Parrot Scene with the church so it made me smile having known where it came from. Definitely magical in my opinion, Jordanna 😀
Jordanna Fraiberg was born in Montreal, Quebec, and currently lives in L.A., where she settled after receiving degrees from Harvard and Oxford. A former national squash champion and Hollywood film executive, she now divides her time between dreaming up stories and chasing her toddler. She is the author of Our Song andIn Your Room.
jordannafraiberg.com | @Jfraiberg