My debut novel is releasing soon and I am so excited to share it with the world! Where the Shadow Lies has been in the works for three years. THREE! It’s been a long, beautiful (okay…occasionally not so beautiful) journey, but it’s been worth it. So fucking worth it. Here’s a little insight into how my crazed brain worked while writing this novel:
One… The day of conception.
I was talking to an old friend, trying to give her some advice, when BAM! it hit me. It was a theme, a one-liner, and from it, the idea for this story came pouring out of my imagination right then and there. (When you read this book, you’re probably going to be like…um…that came pouring out of your imagination? This woman’s head is a scary place to be. Well, you’d be right. It is.)
Two… You know nothing, Jon Snow.
I’ve always loved to write. Always been able to communicate best in written form; words pour onto paper so much easier than they do out of my mouth. In my younger years, I was a secret writer–journals kept under my mattress, short stories and chunks of novels hidden in my computer. But I’d never written a full-length novel. Never plotted a complicated web of events or character arcs. There I was, sitting at my kitchen table–laptop open, a story itching to be written–with no fucking clue where to begin. So, I did what any single mom would do: I poured a hefty glass of wine, put on a movie for the kids to watch, and opened up Google. How to write a novel.
Three… Research, research, research.
By the time the kids had fallen asleep watching Frozen, and I’d emptied the entire bottle of cheap Moscato, I had pages and pages of notes written from all the “experts” out there in the Interwebs. Did you know there’s like 82,736 ways to write/plot a novel? Let’s just say I had a ton of information. A ton of conflicting information. Awesome. The next day, I decided to pick out the few sites that’d seemed super helpful and insightful, and focus on those. I also decided to read. And read and read and read. I bought books about writing from the most reputable sources, all the novels by all the authors I admire the most, novels by the most successful authors of our time (regardless–and this is important–of genre. I was a romance reader at the time. Had I limited my research-reading to only romance novels, Where the Shadow Lies would have turned out much different), and the classics. And so I read. A shit ton. But I didn’t read for enjoyment. I read for research. I took my favorite books of all time and read them all over again for the purpose of understanding how that author was able to evoke emotion from me. How they set up a killer climax to have the most impact. How they turned a story into an experience. And I repeated that process for all the books I hadn’t read before.
Four… Go home, you’re drunk.
Somewhere between Atlas Shrugged and The Shining, I reached my first road block. It went something like this… “You are out of your fucking mind. Bahahahaha. You actually believe you can do this? You seriously think you’re capable of writing anything anywhere close to the caliber of these great novels? GO HOME, CASSIE. YOU’RE DRUNK!!!!” Ahh…the writer’s self-doubt. At the time, nobody knew I was dreaming of turning my passion into a career. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Nobody to pull me off the ledge. So, Where the Shadow Lies sat in my laptop, first chapter written, to be forgotten forever. Nope. I was not an author. I was not smart enough, savvy enough, or creative enough. Not gonna happen. It wasn’t until two years later that I realized this shit is normal for writers.
Five… My very own love story.
It was around this time of self-doubt madness that I met the Hero of my own love story, Derek. I’d told him on a whim, when everything was new and we were getting to know each other, that I was a writer. THIS, I believe, was one of the most important decisions I ever made in my journey. I’ll do a separate, more personal post about that later. The gist…I said those words out loud. “I am a writer.” So, this guy–this crazy, beautiful soul–he dug it. “A writer,” he said. “That’s awesome.” We had a whirlwind romance. Well…okay maybe more like a hurricane romance. It was fast-moving and changed everything. It was wonderful, it was fresh, it was a fairy-tale. But Where the Shadow Lies got set on the back-burner. A pipe dream was nowhere near as important as establishing a loving home for our new family.
Six… Writers write.
A year and a half flew by before I ever sat in front of my laptop again to start chapter two. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t working on my story. Writers write, right? It’s true. I wrote in my head while the days flew by around me. I lived in two worlds: mine and Jael’s (the heroine of Where the Shadow Lies). I bought a ginormous three-ring binder and worked on characters. This wasn’t anything I learned from that first night with Google. It was almost instinctual. I wanted to know who these people were. They spoke to me in my head for hours on end every day, so I needed to get them. Inside and out. There were two things I figured out from all the books I’d read: that most books are either character-driven or plot-driven, and that my favorites were the character-driven ones. So I dedicated six months to just getting to know Jael, Jason, and Zander. Was it worth that time? You can tell me.
So, I had these tangible characters and a rough plot. And by rough, I mean I knew where it began and I knew where it ended. Everything in the middle? Yikes. It was right around then that my favorite author–one of the women who I look up to the most–Tarryn Fisher, posted on Facebook that she had an author group. Cue jump up and down excitement. I didn’t know any other authors. I didn’t even know there were groups where authors shared experiences, ideas, and knowledge. Getting into that group was the jump start I needed to actually get this damn story written. I met some amazing women. They inspired me. They encouraged me. They helped me. Without them, without that community of uplifting love, I know I would not be sitting here, writing this blog only weeks away from publishing Where the Shadow Lies.
Eight… The plot thickens.
Little by little, the bones of the plot fell into place. Driven by these characters that were basically family by this point, the themes started to emerge and, hell yeah, now this thing was coming together. By the time I had almost half of it written, I realized it felt a bit chaotic. It didn’t seem like a smooth stepping stone from one scene to the next. And that was when I had my next road block. Because you can have three-dimensional characters, a pretty setting, and rich themes, but if your plot doesn’t quite add up, you’ve basically got a bunch of interesting people walking around drunk and aimless. So, I poured over my outline. Tightened it up. Read more books. Watched some webinars. Still…it didn’t feel right. A month or so went by, Jael sitting around twiddling her thumbs, while I tried to figure it out. Then, this incredibly talented, unbelievably smart writer and editor started blogging. She shared her words in the author group and that woman SPOKE MY LANGUAGE. Her name is Traci Finlay, and she’s fabulous. She’s also my editor. She blogged about a concept called a plot clock, which you can find here. It was exactly what I needed to get back on track.
Nine… Finishing touches.
I spent a good ten months after getting back into writing after my laptop hiatus to finish this book. I had an “alpha reader” but really, she was my great friend, helping me along the way. Dusti told me what worked for her and what didn’t. And she entertained me by all her guesses as to WTF was going on. Having her to send chapters to after I polished them kept me energized about the story. Kept me actively engaged. Kept me writing. And that’s really the most important thing. To keep writing.
I’d planned to have two more points, to make it an (un)even eleven (which you’ll get if you read the book) but this thing is long as hell, so I’ll just say this… I am happy with this book. I’m proud of it. I’m excited for people to read it. I have zero expectations for its “success” because I will count just a handful of people reading it and understanding its message as a successful three year endeavor. But I couldn’t have gotten this far, couldn’t have finished writing anything without some very amazing people to help and encourage me along the way.