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Sonya Hill's new novel 'Quell' set in Hodgenville

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By Ron Benningfield

What began for Sonya Hill as an endeavor to inspire her two children to enjoy reading turned into a novel set in Hodgenville. 

Quell is the title of the 169-page book published by Lulu Press.

“The title means ‘to suppress,’” Hill, an Elizabethtown resident, explained.  “I chose this name because there is a theme of suppression.”

The main character, a teenager named Sarah, has nightmares she cannot suppress.  She often feels like she is powerless as she finds out secrets about her family and a secret society that have to stay suppressed for them to survive.

Hill, who grew up in Radcliff, set the teen romance/suspense work in Hodgenville because she fell in love with the town.

“I have always loved visiting Hodgenville,” she said. “There is something special about the town. It is so welcoming and friendly with a strong historical background.” 

Her husband’s (Tommy) family is from LaRue County and that might also play a part in her fondness for the town.

“While I was writing the book, I always pictured Hodgenville,” she said.  

Told in first person by the protagonist, Sarah James, the plot follows a 15-year-old girl who enjoys hanging out with her best friend and hopes to find love one day. 

Sarah begins to feel paranoid and confused when the nightmares about the death of another teenage girl begin to haunt her. Spending the summer before her sophomore year visiting her aunt in Hodgenville may be the only cure. 

Hill revealed that the house where Sarah’s aunt lives and the focal point of much of the plot is based on the historic Smith House on Greensburg Street. 

“That house is so beautiful,” the author said. “We were impressed with that house and even tried to buy it.”

It is in that home and in other fictional places around Hodgenville that family secrets are revealed, love is found, a secret society is uncovered and the nightmares become a part of who she was always meant to be.

Hill began her story after noticing her daughter was writing a short story about a topic she really enjoyed.

“I saw her excited about writing and thought I would try writing a story for her and her brother, only this story would be like nothing they had read before,” Hill said. “It would include interests, topics, and experiences from their lives and the lives of our family.” 

She started with the characters, then thought about what type of life they have and who were the people in their lives. 

 “The setting was created as the story took a life of its own,” she said. “I based it on what I pictured as I wrote. The characters just came to life for me and I ran with it.”

It took her one year to finish the novel. 

“The hardest thing about writing was jotting it down when it came to me,” she said. “Often, I would be at my daughter’s gymnastic practice or at the grocery store and I would think of something to include in the story.”

The easiest part of writing was being inspired.

“I catch the most amazing moments of inspiration by listening to my children and observing them grow into adults,” she said.

Though the story and its characters are fictional, Hill acknowledged that some of the experiences in the book are based on her personal experiences or those of her family.

“For instance, all of the men in my family have been a member of the military and my children and we all have green eyes and a cafe’ au lait mark on our skin,” she said.  

She at first intended to publish two copies of the book solely for her children to read, but she ordered more copies to help inspire other children to read and to promote the use of technology in libraries by giving free copies to schools.  

“I kept receiving more requests for paperbacks so I went back to Lulu Press and worked with them on distributing it to bookstores,” she said.

The book can be ordered from Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and Lulu.com.

The cost is $15 for paperback and $2.99 for e-book. Quell is also featured in Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library.

She has written two more books in the Quell series, though she hasn’t named them and they aren’t ready for publication.

Hill attended St. Christopher’s Catholic School, Radcliff Middle School and North Hardin High School. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2009 and is finishing her master’s degree in technology education at Webster’s University. 

 “When I am not writing, you can find me repairing computers or designing web pages,” she said. “I have an in-home computer business called CBTech.”