Why do I sometimes see the DECEPTION SO series called RUN TO YOU? And why do I sometimes see six shorter Run to You publications?
The first two books in the DECEPTION SO series were originally published by my former publisher as the RUN TO YOU serial. A few days after I sent in my contract for the two books, they changed the titles and told me they were going to publish the two books as a six-part digital serial. The two books were released in six installments, one week apart, in 2014. But the serial format was a flop. No one wanted to make six separate payments for the equivalent of two complete books. I was heartbroken. More than that – I was grief-stricken. After Book One (the first three serial installments) won the RITA Award for Best First Book, I got my rights back to the series and took the serial installments off the market. I compiled the books back to full-length–the way they were meant to be–returned their original DECEPTION SO titles, designed new covers, and released them in print. A happy ending!
What was your inspiration for AFTERMATH?
I’ve wanted to write AFTERMATH since I was twelve years old, when a girl my age, from my neighborhood, disappeared on her way home from school. It was the first time I truly realized that “stranger danger” was a real thing and that bad things can happen to girls like me, even in safe neighborhoods like ours. Thankfully, the girl was found alive some time later. She’d been held captive in the crawlspace of a man’s house a few blocks from her own. Her family moved away soon after her rescue, but I never forgot about her. I wonder how she recovered, where she is today, and how she’s doing.
I changed the circumstances in AFTERMATH — Charlotte is missing for four years — and the book starts when she escapes. I focus on what I’ve always wondered about the girl from my neighborhood: her journey of recovery. It’s a story of hope, healing, and triumph over tragedy, for fans of ROOM and THE LOVELY BONES.
Why did you become a writer?
Reading a book usually takes only a few hours, but some books I love so much that I never want them to end. My time with those beloved characters is so brief, yet I want to spend days, weeks, months, a lifetime with them. The only way to do that, I realized, was to write books myself. Now I get to spend months or even years with my characters as I write their stories.
Where do you get your ideas?
AFTERMATH was inspired by a real life event. But usually, a
what if… will pop up in my head out of nowhere. For the DECEPTION SO series, I was pulling out of a parking space at a grocery store and thought,
What if a girl was the only member of her family without a psychic ability and they were being hunted by a telepathic killer?
Will you describe your writing process?
I don’t have a lot of time to write between my day job (which I enjoy very much) and my busy family (which I enjoy even more). I usually block off Sundays for my writing days, but very often those get knocked off the schedule in favor of a family event. So, with writing only two or three days a month, it takes me a very long time to finish a manuscript. But that’s okay, because for me, writing is something I do for pleasure, not for money (which is why you won’t see me online constantly marketing and promoting my books, either. I’d rather spend my time writing than promoting!).
That said, here is how I write a book:
I use an old-timey portable word processor called an AlphaSmart to write my first drafts because it’s not connected to the internet (no distractions!). Also, it’s hard to edit on the AlphaSmart, so the only option is to keep moving forward and finish the draft.
When I’m done, I send the AlphaSmart draft to my laptop, where I use advanced writing software called Scrivener to revise and edit. Finally, once the manuscript is as perfect as I can make it on my own, I send it to my editor. I’ll revise again based on her feedback and my own insights, then I hire a cover designer and a formatter, and once those things are done, my book is ready to send out into the world. Ta-dah!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Before I write one word of my manuscript, I plot as much of it as I can using Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot Structure. Then I begin writing. My first drafts are horrible. Not fit for human consumption. Word vomit. They’re mostly just talking heads and brainstormed annotations to myself, and I usually end up changing the original outline a million times.
UPDATE! Disregard the above paragraph. After plotting and outlining multiple manuscripts that I couldn’t finish, I finally had to admit to myself that outlining doesn’t work for me. It takes me forever, and once I start writing the actual content, I realize that the outline just doesn’t work. It’s constantly frustrating, and it’s not fun. Plus, all that time–sometimes weeks of time–I’d spent plotting and outlining was wasted.
I pantsed my first two books, Deception So Deadly and Deception So Dark. In the industry, “pantsing” a novel means you write it by the seat of your pants–no planning, no plotting, no outlining. I loooooved writing Deception So Deadly and Deception So Dark. The time I spent writing those two books was among the happiest weeks of my life. Yes, I said weeks. It only took me a few weeks to write two full-length novels.
So, why did I start plotting and outlining my manuscripts after that amazing, glorious pantsing experience? As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, as it turns out, it was broke. Deception So Deadly came in at 186,000 words, and Deception So Dark came in at 168,000 words. When I researched how to get published, I learned that most books were between 70,000 – 90,000 words. To make my two books publishable, I would have to cut half of each of them.
I’m not gonna lie. I cried. Real tears. Each and every single subplot, character, chapter, scene, and word I had written was indispensable. How could I possibly cut a single one? I grieved for three solid days. Then I got to work. I studied the craft of writing and joined a writers’ organization (Romance Writers of America), met other authors (many of whom are now my best friends, so bonus!), networked, took workshops, attended conferences, and learned. I learned to identify the subplots, characters, chapters, scenes, and words of my two manuscripts that were, in fact, entirely dispensable. And I cut, cut, cut half of each manuscript. Obviously, the books were 100% better for it.
I also learned that most authors plot and outline their manuscripts before they begin writing. I did not want to repeat the horrible experience of cutting half of my manuscript ever again, so I converted and became a dedicated and enthusiastic plotter. For my next several manuscripts, I outlined them as much as I could. Weeks and weeks of time and pages and pages of outlines. Those outlines were beautiful to look at, and the plots worked brilliantly… until I began writing the actual content. Then I would realize the outline just didn’t work for some reason, and I would have to adjust it. Again and again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Want to guess how many of those manuscripts I finished? One. Aftermath. But I’d had that story in my head for twenty five years before I wrote it, so it doesn’t count. Of my other six outlined manuscripts, I finished… none. Zero. Zilch. It was taking me foooorrrrevvvver to write them, I hated it, and I dreaded getting on the computer. After struggling for years on a manuscript, I would give up and start a new one, vowing to come back to the old one eventually. The magical, euphoric feelings I’d experienced while writing the two Deception So books were gone. Writing was no longer fun. But I still believed outlining was the right way to do it.
After bemoaning my lack of progress with a few friends, it slowly dawned on me that no one is forcing me to outline. I don’t have to do it. I’ve studied the craft of writing for years now. I have years of experience writing books and reading novels with a critical eye. I now know if a subplot or chapter or scene would do nothing to move the plot forward. Maybe… maybe I should ditch the outline and pants my next manuscript! *gasp* I’m experienced enough by now that I probably wouldn’t end up a manuscript with half of its contents unusable. And I might just recapture those magical, euphoric feelings that came with writing my first two books, which, really, is all I’ve ever wanted when it comes to writing.
Dearest readers, I tried pantsing again, and it worked. I’m pantsing my current manuscript. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s magical, it’s euphoric, and I love writing again.
tl;dr: I’m a pantser.
What’s next for you?
I want to write more books for the Deception So series one day. I also want to finish at least two of those unfinished manuscripts I mentioned above: another dark, ripped-from-the-headlines contemporary YA, and a super-romantic YA mystery/thriller with a dash of magical realism. I also have an idea for a New Adult contemporary romance series.
However, dearest readers, as of May 2018 I have put my YA stuff on hiatus. My current manuscript, the one I’m pantsing, is an adult romance. The plan is to write a few more adult romances before I publish them under a different pen name, and then I’ll bring the YA stuff out of hiatus. Ideally, I’ll write both YA and adult.
Any tips for aspiring authors?
- First and foremost, READ. When you read something you like, figure out why you like it. When you read something you don’t like, figure out why you don’t like it.
- Join a writers’ group (I belong to the Romance Writers of America, but there are lots of groups out there).
- You need an editor. This isn’t an insult or a criticism of your manuscript. No matter how brilliant you think it is, you need an editor. Every author needs an editor. Get one.
- Learn everything you can about the craft of writing, the publishing industry, and book marketing and promo. But beware: the publishing industry and marketing and promo strategies are constantly changing, and whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, it’s very hard to be discovered. It’s easy to spend all of your time, money, and effort doing marketing and promoting, and none of your time writing. Don’t fall into that trap!
- Remember this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy.
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