The first part of it is completely nonsensical: I actually had a dream in which a girl--sort of me, sort of not, in that way dreams are--believed she'd found a secret code in the poems of "Sylvie Plate." Yes, the name in the dream was Sylvie Plate, not Sylvia Plath. I couldn't get the dream out of my head, and from that one strange name, I came up with the idea of a book set in this slightly surreal world where everything has a different name. So, in Alice in Everville there's a Never 22 instead of a Forever 21, a Flowering-Vale department store instead of a Bloomingdale's, and many more...
But more than that, I needed to create a fictionalized poet for my story to work. The real Sylvia Plath, of course, did not leave any kind of coded message in her poems (as far as we know!). By creating a fictional poet, I was also able to write my own poems that followed the "code" and insert them into the story, and I was able to explore themes in these poems that also occur elsewhere in the story.
One reason I wanted to address this topic is...while I tried to make the poems in Alice in Everville as good as possible while still adhering to the code, I realize that my poems are absolutely positively not even in the same league, or universe, as Sylvia Plath's work! So if you don't like the poems in my novel, please don't write off Sylvia Plath's poetry as well. Just to prove it to you, here is one of Sylvia's earliest published poems, written while she was in college. Yup, she was a genius, and definitely an inspiring figure while I was writing Alice in Everville!
Mad Girl's Love Song