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BYU grad gets 'divine' spark from billboard

Published: Sunday, Jan. 10 2010 12:16 a.m. MST

It was just a small moment — a glance at a

billboard while driving down the street. But that's all it took to

spark a memory and plot idea for Utah author and BYU graduate Bree

Despain."I don't even remember what the billboard was for," the South Jordan, Utah,

resident told the Deseret News. "But I just looked up at this

billboard, and suddenly a conversation between a brother and sister

popped into my head."

The conversation entailed a brother warning his younger sister about

his friend who had changed and wasn't safe to be around any longer.

Wrapped up in this conversation was Despain's memory of a best

friend from elementary school. The friend had moved away in the second

grade and suddenly returned in the ninth.

"He showed up in my history class," Despain said. "Just completely

out of the blue he was sitting at the desk behind me. I didn't

recognize him at all; he looked completely different, and he had long

hair and messed-up clothes. ... I sat down, and he started goading me and

kind of being a jerk. I finally got sick of it and I turned around and

said, 'Who do you think you are?' And he looked at me and said, 'So you

don't remember me.' I looked at him and I realized this was my old best

friend from growing up. And I was so shocked. He was so different. All

I said was his name."

Class started, and the two were unable to talk further. Before the

day was over, Despain's friend was kicked out of school and she never

saw him again.

"He was just so different, and I think that memory had always kind of haunted me," she said.

That memory in turn became the first chapter of Despain's debut

novel, "The Dark Divine," a retelling of the prodigal son story with a

paranormal twist.

When Despain — who was law-school bound before changing her college

major to creative writing — very first started the "The Dark Divine,"

she saw it as being a straight-up contemporary novel with no elements

of fantasy, though she felt tempted to add them in.

"I actually fought it (fantasy) at first," she said. "Because before

then, everything that I had written had been humorous chick lit or

straight contemporary. ... But the more I got into it, the more I thought

I could explore the deeper themes and metaphors in the book. And if I

explored them through kinds of this fantasy element ... I would be able

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