Young-adult novel franchises often feature action in exotic lands or world-famous cities.

Young-adult novel franchises often feature action in exotic lands or world-famous cities.

But if all goes as planned, a local author's work might bring central Ohio to mind when people think of spy thrillers.

Kristen Orlando's first major novel, "You Don't Know My Name," serves not only as her debut, but as a homage to her home.

Orlando, who is married to Columbus radio personality Mike Ricordati, uses her maiden name as a pen name. The Dublin resident, who has been a television producer and public-relations professional for years, said she came up with the idea for the novel in the shower after watching a movie about spies. She said she wrote half the plot in her head "between shampooing and conditioning."

"I was thinking to myself, 'What would it be like to be the daughter of one of these CIA agents?' It would have to be such a crazy troubled life you'd lead," she said. "And I thought to myself, 'That's the book.' "

The novel's main character, Reagan Elizabeth Hillis, is a 17-year-old girl whose parents work for a top-secret government agency. But she doesn't live in London or New York City or Los Angeles -- the book is set largely in New Albany and throughout central Ohio.

Orlando said she wanted to set Reagan's fictional world in a location that means so much to her in reality.

"Columbus is the first place where she feels at home -- where it feels warm and the people are nice," Orlando said. "She has a feeling of normalcy here that she never felt anywhere else. That's how I feel about Columbus."

In telling a teenager-turned-spy story, "You Don't Know My Name" refers to real schools, streets and other central Ohio locations, resulting in a far-fetched storyline with a grounded setting.

"I was going to make it a fictional town in Ohio, but I thought, 'I love Columbus,' " Orlando said. "I thought it would be really cool to actually feature things in Columbus."

Orlando said she put "all kinds of nods to Columbus" throughout the story. She described the story as "a love letter to Columbus, in a way."

Since the idea's inception, things have moved quickly. The timing of her idea worked perfectly for a contest held by Macmillan Publishers. Authors sent ideas for novels for ratings by readers, with the best-reviewed manuscripts earning a spot in front of editors.

It was during the process that Jean Feiwel, who published the "Harry Potter" series in America, along with "Goosebumps," saw Orlando's story.

The novel moved quickly through the publishing process, and now Orlando finds herself celebrating the launch of her first major novel.

"I'm definitely a bundle of nerves," she said with a laugh prior to the book's launch last week. "But I'm really excited. It's obviously a dream come true, but knowing that a thing I created out of my mind is out in the world and people are going to be reading it is definitely scary."

Meanwhile, she has been commissioned to write two more books in the series and just wrapped up a draft of the second. And while she's writing, an agent in Hollywood is pitching her story as a television series.

Orlando is trying to take it in stride.

"A lot of people have high expectations for it, and I'm trying to keep mine low," she said. "I feel like everyone thinks when you write a book it's going to hit the New York Times' best-seller list. But that's really hard. ... So I feel like I'm just in that small percentage of people who are lucky enough to have their dream come true."

aking@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAndrew