Labor Pains

When I was a teenager/in my early twenties, one of my relatives wrote a book and wanted me to read it. Well, actually, I believe she gave it to my aunt to read and because I like to read/proofread, I ended up with it. It was her first book and as far as I read, it was comparing visions to pregnancy. Sometime last year I became acquainted with a youtube video of a keynote at a conference that referenced the same thing. Apparently it’s a really useful analogy with women in the religous world. To be honest, when I was given my cousin’s book, I was befuddled and a little disturbed.

I never finished editing that book. My cousin hired someone to edit it and it was published. As a writer, I feel terrible that someone gave me their book baby and I DNF’d on it. When my usual beta reader was reading my daily output of Delivering Justice, I felt that feeling ramp up in me. It’s especially bad now that I’ve given the marriage book to my minister to beta read.

So, in honor of my late cousin and my regret for not realizing how ahead of her time her book was (possibly), I am going to compare my book journey with the marriage book to a pregnancy and childbirth. (Sigh) OK, here it goes.

The seed for this book (and I’m a little grossed out already) came from a frustration with the fact that people were always pestering me about when I was going to get married, but no one seemed to be willing to share with me any useful information about being married. It was like the number one rule of marriage was you don’t talk about marriage–except to tell people to get married.  As the idea took root, I began to think about a)how I could get people to stop asking me when I was getting married without resorting to rudeness and b)how to get the information I really wanted to know about being married.

After some initial doubts and second guessing, of downplaying and explaining away the symptoms, I realized that I was pregnant with a book (gah! typing “I realized I was pregnant” in any context right now is just…*lays down in the corner for a while*). Once I knew I had a book growing inside of me, there was no way I could abort it.

Boy or girl? There were a couple of ways this book could have turned out. I could: write a book about a subject I’m not all that authorized to talk about (hello! I’m not married); write an intensely personal account of my own journey to marriage (which, since I’m not married, seems a bit premature), or; talk about something I actually do know about–being single. The thing is, I didn’t want to write some book about how it was so great to be single. I’d been content with being single for a long time. I didn’t have much to learn there. The point was that I wanted to know about marriage. It took a while, but I finally found the book I could write: a book that focused on being a content single woman who is also acquiring biblical knowledge about what it would mean to be a wife. I was having that book.

I conducted the first interview (the official start of this book making process) nearly four years ago in August of 2010. Since then, I have conducted many more interviews, study scripture intensely, gone through two different pre-marital counseling courses, attended years of monthly Marriage and Family workshops, wrote in fits and starts, and…stayed single.

I’ve experienced my share of Braxton-Hicks contractions with this book. I thought I was going to get it out into the world many times before now. I thought I had someone to help me with publishing. I thought I knew who would design my cover. I thought the book was finished. In every instance, I was told it was a false alarm. It wasn’t time yet.

I’ve never been in labor  myself, but from what I understand (mostly from TV), labor starts slow and can take a long time. But then, things start happening, and the next thing you know, TA DA! Baby is here! My labor began pretty slowly as well. I began working on the book again after a hiatus writing and subbing romantic fiction. I saw someone who had a book coming out post a picture of their cover and thank their graphic designer. The cover looked really nice, so I looked at the designer’s portfolio. I really liked what I saw, so I asked her for a quote for a cover design and formatting for kindle and physical books.

Then the contractions began to come faster together. I wasn’t sure if I could afford the quote that I was given, so I told her to let me think about it. Soon after, I was asked to do paperwork for someone who promised to pay me well for doing it on short notice. Then my minister agreed to beta read the book for me. Then someone else offered to help pay for the book cover. Then a visiting minister’s wife (who has self-published two books of her own) said she would help me with any part of the publishing process that I needed help with. I did a good chunk of the paperwork and received enough money to pay the downpayment the graphic designer asked for in her quote. A couple of beta readers have my book and I have the downpayment to commission the cover,  all in less than two weeks.

I’ve kept the name of this book baby close for a long time. Once I get that cover, I will reveal the cover and the title. I have a really good feeling that this book is going to be here really soon now.

So, that’s (most) of my journey from aspiring author to (almost) proud book parent. How is your journey going?

XOXO,

Erica

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Sticking the Landing…

I had this amazing idea to use my car accident as the moment that defines the lives of two characters in my Always series. As I chronicled here, playing the what if game got me a basic premise of how they came to be where they are at the start of the story. The hook is an enemies to lovers theme with a much more serious reason to be enemies than usual. They aren’t in competition (but there’s one of those in the series percolating) and there’s no old family feud. No, the largely one-sided animosity is created by an accident, a horrible accident that changes the main character’s lives forever in two very different ways. For one, the accident brings realization, salvation, and hope; for the other, loss, anguish, and bitterness.

As soon as I realized what I was asking my heroine to do during the course of this book–forgive the man she holds responsible for his role in her sister’s death–I knew I would have to adjust things to make it work. I didn’t want to make it easy by revealing a twist like he wasn’t really responsible for her sister’s death (not that I have anything against this when done well–and I’ve read books where it is done well). I couldn’t if I wanted to be the hero told me he WAS responsible in the most basic way. So how can I make it plausible that they can get past this big huge thing separating them?

One of the things that I like to do is to figure out how to keep two characters determined to flee “in the room.” How do I keep them in the same place at the same time long enough for the sparks to fly and the magic to happen? One thing I find works well is when at least one of those characters wants to be in the room and is determined to keep that other character there. In this instance, my hero’s goal is to make amends to the people he directly affected, including the heroine. While there’s no way to give back what she lost in the accident, he has to find a way to make amends and ease some of the guilt he’s been carrying. It takes help from God to keep the heroine “in the room” and interacting with him, which is probably the only thing that will keep them in the room when our heroine is so determined she will NOT grant him the forgiveness he seeks.

The second thing I wanted to do is figure out how much time will have passed since the accident when the story begins. I had to do a bit of research to figure out a timeline for the judicial ramifications of the accident, and then I needed to leave time for healing to begin. I decided to start the story five years after the accident–enough time for the legal matter to run its course and for the food and the parade of sympathetic friends to be a thing of the past. Even then, I knew that this relationship needed to move at a snail’s pace. I’m still tweaking how long it will take for each phase of the story.

The thing that’s hung over my head the most, of course, is figuring out how to get the reader to connect with a hero who admits to the things he did surrounding the accident, which are very unlikeable things, without turning the victim into the bad guy or otherwise shifting the blame. I didn’t want the reader to hate him like the heroine initially does. So I decided to start telling this story from the hero’s point of view, to introduce the reader to who he is now before they know who he used to be five years ago. The hero has a sympathetic back story that he doesn’t use to excuse his behavior and isn’t over the top. I made the hero humble and sincere in his attempts to make amends. And I let God work on both of them, through nature, other characters, and each other, to show them how forgiveness can release both of them and how love can cover the multitude of sins between them.

I hope the reader, and the heroine, can appreciate the changes that God has made in the hero, and can move forward with an open mind. I’m working really hard on this one, drawing up character profiles, creating an outline, researching. I’m taking my time with it because certain details have touched me personally and I want people to understand the underlying message of the work that forgiveness does in us. If I’m being honest, I want to come to terms with my own accident and make sure I truly forgive the person responsible for it. I’m working hard to get this one right.  The gravity-defying flips and twists that make the crowd ooh and ahh are worth nothing if you don’t stick the landing. I want to make sure this one doesn’t have a shaky, unstable end that costs the story a spot in the reader’s heart.

What difficult things are you working on in your current WIP?

XOXO,

Erica