If you haven’t read my Retrospective post on Rose and Reen’s books, click to read Part 1 & Part 2.
I’m going to go way back to before I started drafting Rose’s story.
When I pitched this series of novellas, the vision never wavered. I wanted to start with the older sister’s perspective of the magical past of her family. Then, I wanted to explore her sister’s point of view. I wanted my readers to have the background of the Barros’ women’s present before diving into the past.
At first, one of my lovely critique partners hesitated about this. She suggested I started with Pear's story, but, I couldn’t budge. The reasons for Pearl doing what she did wouldn’t be clear until you already knew the future. At every stage of the process, this was always my mindset. Sometimes projects write themselves a certain way, and who am I to get in the way of creative inspiration?
When it came time to sit down and write Pearl’s story, I wanted to start with two instances of her life changing to start the book. I had already created a small town which readers loved, and I wanted to get Pearl there as soon as possible. But, there had to be some understanding of where Pearlina came from. She wasn’t always the mother we knew from the first two books, and she came from a place not like The Burrow. I loved exploring that part of her past, and I hope that readers do too.
I went back and read through Rose and Reen’s stories (something I rarely do after publication) to make sure I had all questions answered and loose ends tied up. There was a strict deadline for Pearl’s visit on land which helped focus the outline and then it all came together. Out of all the books, this one was the easiest to write. Maybe because I had already created her future while drafting and revising the first books, or the fact that I had the opportunity to get more into the fantasy aspect which I always enjoy writing.
Either way, Pearl is almost here, and this series has been amazing and challenging, but so worth it. I hope, dear reader, you feel the same way.
If you haven’t read my Retrospective post on Rose’s book, click to read Part 1.
In the way that Rose’s story was difficult to write, Reen’s was entirely different. I had already set up the world and the mystery surrounding the Barros family background in Rose’s book, but I needed to move the story forward.
While writing Rose, I had an idea of Reen in my head. She was standoffish and ran away from her problems. Whenever Rose tried to talk to her, the conversations were short and usually ended with Reen hanging up abruptly. Reen didn’t share much with her sister since she had run away after graduation years ago.
Now, here I was with a hint of a character who I had to flesh out and create her own story while pushing toward the fantasy element of their hidden past.
The only link that Reen still had to The Burrow was her family. After her departure, she cut ties with everyone in her life; including her high school sweetheart, Brody. So, with the failing health of the matriarch in the family, Reen trudged home, unprepared for what awaited her in The Burrow.
When I started drafting Reen’s story, I was still working on revisions for Rose. Switching between them wasn’t easy. These women are total opposites, and I wasn’t going to run into the saggy second book syndrome while rehashing Rose’s story in Reen’s book.
In comes the reverse outlining method. An author friend of mine, K.R. Conway, introduced me to this method at a NESCBWI workshop. It involves starting at the end of the book, or a scene further into the story that I was excited to write, and you move backward. So, I opened a notebook and placed my “exciting” scene at the top of the page. Then I went down the page, jotting down other events which would have to occur to get to that point. Before I knew it, I had outlined more scenes than I knew what to do with. This process opened my mind to inspiration and the story flowed quite easily from there.
As I said in Rose’s post, I have not found one method to complete more than one book. I’m always learning, but at least I have a toolbox filled with ways I can try if (but most likely when) I come to a roadblock in each of my stories.
Most writers will say that each project is different than the last. We learn from the book creating process in many ways. We grow and get better.
But, when it came to creating THE SISTERS’ SECRETS: ROSE, I had no idea what I was in for.
I had already published eight novels and novellas with the fantastic team at HQ Digital. I had this down, right?
When I created this project, the vision came quickly. I saw Rose and Reen, and their ailing mother, Pearl. Their dynamics formed and before I knew it, I had three paragraphs—one for each book. Ideas flew through my mind, and I jotted them all down.
Then, I signed the contract and *Poof* nothing.
First, I thought it was the prospect of starting something new. Rose’s book was the first in the trilogy, so setting up the world was imperative. The first two stories take place in “our world” with a hint of the supernatural.
I used Google maps to look at coastal towns in Connecticut—surely at that point, I would find the spark of the story. While I had the location, the story still sat dormant in the back of my mind.
The deadline for the first draft loomed, and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.
This roadblock is where a lot of unpublished writers might stop and start something new. But I had a contract and many people at my publisher waiting and expecting a story.
So, I put the coffee maker on standby and pushed through the story. I understood the responsibility of setting up this world, but I kept it in Rose’s perspective. I still had Reen and Pearl’s story to get through, and I knew there would be a time in revisions to expand.
When I started writing, there was no stopping me.
Sure, this book had the most notes during first and second revisions, but I had the story I wanted to set the series off.
Looking back at other books I’ve published, at some point in the process, I’ve hit a rut—whether it’s during drafting or revising. But my best work comes out of being challenged. Luckily, I’ve had some amazing women at HQ Digital to push me to be the best I could be, one book at a time.
Rose changed the way I approach a book, and I have faith that more characters and book ideas will do the same.
I can't have a successful writing session without listening to music. Silence doesn't strike any inspiration for me. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you will frequently see my current writing music.
When I get up in the morning before a writing session, I browse my email and social media for about 5-10 minutes while listening to a cultivated list of music to get me in the "mood". While writing, I prefer to keep to movie/television scores without lyrics (as they distract me!).
Over the course of about a year, I created a playlist for the series because at any moment, I would be drafting and revising at the same time. I wanted these books to have the same "feel" so I kept everything in one neat playlist and added more as I continued with the series.