Dreams are a big deal to Lorelei Savaryn.
Her debut novel — “The Circus of Stolen Dreams” — follows a young girl into a mysterious world where dreams come alive.
For Savaryn, this novel is a dream come true.
Penguin Random House is publishing the book, plus an upcoming second novel, but that impressive two-book contract came about only after “a lot of rejections,” Savaryn said.
The former Racine Unified School District teacher, who lives in Gurnee, Ill., with her husband and four young children, worked hard to turn her dream of being a full-time writer into reality.
She squeezes in writing time around homeschooling her kids, crediting “being flexible” and “becoming really good at writing in short spurts of time.”
“It’s something I have worked really hard to make a priority,” she said. “I write on the weekends and in the evenings after the kids go to bed, and sometimes I hire a babysitter for a few hours. I’m not one of those writers who has a special room in my house where I can go and write at my leisure.
Though this was a longtime dream of hers, Savaryn “was afraid to try it; afraid I would fail.”
After their third child was born, she said, “My husband, John Paul, told me to just go for it. He saw how much I wanted to do this.”
They moved from the Kenosha area to northern Illinois, closer to his employer, AbbVie, to lessen his commuting time and give her more of a chance to write.
Savaryn is described as “an author of creepy, magical stories for children,” which reflects “the type of stories I read as a kid,” she said. “I loved being a little bit scared.”
Her idea for “The Circus of Stolen Dreams” came, in part, from the 2011 adult novel “The Night Circus” and the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
“I think the circus is really fascinating,” she said, “and I knew I would love to write a circus-type story for younger children.”
When her daughter told her about a story she had read where a dream comes into a character’s real life, Savaryn built out her plot.
“My stories start with a sense of place, and then I build in a character,” she said. “I mapped out a story where my main character finds a flier in the woods behind her house for a circus called Reverie and thinks it will be the perfect spot to run away from her problems.”
This circus features “tent after tent where visitors are immersed in popular dreams,” Savaryn said, including everyone’s favorite: That dream where you can fly. However, as the main character — a young girl named Andrea — moves through the tents, the dreams start turning into nightmares.
Sticking with it
Getting a debut novel published is a nightmare task of its own, one filled with rejections and lots of revisions.
“Every time I got a rejection notice, my heart sank,” Savaryn said. “But I really, really wanted this, so I had to keep trying.”
Savaryn was determined to “prove to myself I could do this. I wanted to see my book on a bookshelf in a bookstore, and now it’s about to happen!”
She’s also excited about “leaving my children — and their children — stories that can live on and that have a message of hope and of good winning out over bad.”
Unfortunately, her book launch, coming during the COVID-19 pandemic, isn’t the celebration she dreamed it would be.
“I’m finding ways to do some events, even if it can’t be in person,” she said, adding that she did “buy a dress that matches my book cover, and I had a cake to celebrate.”
She’s hoping to do some virtual classroom visits — “as a former teacher, I know how to engage with children” — and hopes her story can inspire students.
“I want to encourage children to see that you have to push through rejection,” she said. “Even in this really weird time.”
Savaryn is now busy working on her second, unrelated novel, which also has a magical theme.
“It’s my take on ‘The Secret Garden,’ with a few ghosts and a little bit of creepiness,” she said.
“When I’m writing,” she added, “I feel like I can do this forever. I hope I can.”
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