From the brief: "The mother, Isabel, pays the rent with an all-night job delivering newspapers out of her van. And the climactic section involves a kind of quest road trip in which Isabel, now 20, and her grandmother set out in a Volvo on a quest to find Isabel’s mother. Eventually they do find her and her van alongside a prairie road. She’s burning papers from her life alongside the road."
My first idea which really intrigued me was to use the open doors of the black van referred to in the novel as symbolic open arms. I spent a lot of time trying to find an image of a van shot from above with the doors open to no avail. I finally found a site that had diecast models of cars for sale with doors that opened and I ordered a Ford Econoline black van. I had to pick it up from my U.S. postal box and when declaring it on the way back over the border, I got involved in a conversation with the custom guy who was really into cars. For about 30 seconds there I actually felt like I was one of the guys, talking about cars. In the end he had a hard time understanding what the hell it was, that I was planning to do with it. I think he is still trying to figure it out.
The publisher in the end wanted this novel to tie into another novel by the same author that had just been shortlisted for a literary prize so we went in another direction, still using the van though. Prairie landscapes with blue skies always seem kind of corny to me. The final version has a blackened sky which works.