Urban Fantasy Author
Book Bling Blog
Behind every book there is a “story.” The when, how and why a simple idea spun into a fully completed manuscript. As an avid reader and writer, I often wondered how fellow authors came up with their novel. What made them choose those characters, what influenced their writing, how did they conquer writer’s block, etc? It’s strange that now I have readers asking me those questions too. I guess I never really thought people ould be curious about my work too, but that has a lot to do with the fact that being a published author is still surreal to me. But today, I decided to dedicate this blog to the “story” behind my story, The Shifted, and provide you all with ten fun, interesting, and/or influential facts about my YA novel.
The Shifted was never meant to be my debut novel. I didn’t even know it
was going to be a young adult series. It was just an idea that came to me in a
dream one night when I was in the middle of writing a completely different young adult series about angels and demons. I merely wrote down the first chapter (because that is all I dreamt, the scene between Kale, Scout and their mother arguing about a new school) and put the story aside. I didn’t even know for sure if I would even pursue it. I had a lot of story ideas on that “back burner.” All I knew was I wanted to finish the book I was working on, but life had other plans apparently.
My computer crashed.
(Talk about bad luck.) And then my dog ate my flash drive. (No joke.) So after two years of work, I was left with only a couple original printed chapters and an outline. I was beyond bummed and aggravated, so much so that I stopped writing for over a year. In fact, I had no desire to attempt writing a book again until I started reading Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampire series. After reading the first three books in that series in two days when I was on vacation, something ignited in my head again and all my creativity and desire to write was back. I wanted to write a series that hopefully one day made someone love my work just as much as I loved Rachel’s work. I wanted someone to spend an entire day getting caught up in my writing the way I was with hers. I wanted them to fall in love with my characters the way I fell in love with Shane. He was my all-time favorite.
And on the week I got home from vacation, I was buying a new computer, a new computer chair, and I was writing again. Just. Like. That.
But this time I decided what the heck, I’ll try a different story. So I tried picking up from chapter one of The Shifted (which at the time had no title) and oddly enough, I wrote 96,000 words in three months and got a contract a few months later with Tell-Tale Publishing Group, LLC. Oh, happy day!
Considering I had no outline, no idea how I wanted The Shifted to go, who my characters were going to be besides Kale and Scout, it made writing a bit
complicated at first. Until I visited a park in Medford, NJ where I went to
support my husband in a race. The second I saw it, I just knew that was how I wanted Emerson Fox Academy to be and everything became so visual in my head after that.
As for the characters, some were just random picks on a name list but others had more meaning or influence. For starters, Scout and Kale are my
favorite two characters. I can’t pick who I love more. I might have started off
with the desire to write characters that readers could fall in love with, but in
the end wrote characters that I fell in love with. They’ve all come to mean so much to me and now I completely get why writers say their characters pretty much just came to life and wrote their own stories. Until I wrote The Shifted, I always thought that it was kind of silly when they talked like that. But really, that’s pretty much how it went. When picking Scout’s name I really considered his age and his personality, I wanted something that was young, playful, childish and would make a cute dog’s name too. And I chose Scout to shape shift into a dog because puppies are energetic, funny, stubborn and carefree and that’s exactly Scout’s personality. When I first started writing I pictured him shifting into my dog Chance but I soon realized that my dog was too big a dog and not exactly the right breed, so I changed the breed to be more like a beagle. When I was growing up we had a beagle named Sport, and that dog meant something to me too.
Kale is older, more responsible, respectful, smart, awkward at times and downright sarcastic. His sarcasm is why I love him so much. I have a lot of friends, including myself, who are sarcastic and I know when we are upset, angry, or uncomfortable we tend to try and cover it up with sarcasm. So I could totally relate to Kale’s spouts of uncomfortable jokes, because lame humor is comfort for me. As for his name in the story it states the he was not named after the vegetable but really that is why I first picked his name. I was reading a magazine about the health benefits of Kale and the name just sort of stuck with me. But in the story his name means something more and that will be explained in book two.
Kale’s love interest is Lavallette Waters. Lavallette is actually a town in NJ and since it’s located near the water, I thought Lavallette Waters would be
fitting. However, I couldn’t think of a good nickname for it that fit her personality and physique so I decided to name her “Kit,” short for “Kitten” because she shape shifts into a small cat.
Holland Bentley was actually inspired by my husband’s cousin. I used his last name for the character’s first name and some of his characteristics. The dark hair, light eyes, tall, muscular build. But in real life Mike’s cousin doesn’t act like Holland.
And finally there is another minor character introduced into the book, Jilianna Cortez. She was the most fun to create. I was at a party when my friend Jill asked me to write her into my book. I told her sure and we spent the day thinking of names and what she would look like, etc. It meant a lot to her and to me that I was able to write her into the story.
The fight scene at the rest stop was actually inspired by a dream my mother had one night. She told me she dreamt about an owl and a lynx fighting in the woods and it quickly turned into my next scene. I just had to do some research on animals first. I wanted to get their looks and mannerisms right.
When I first submitted my book to the publishing company I was told I only had half a book, (oops!) and that I too often made Kale sound like a girl and Scout sound like a college professor. (My bad!) So after a month of more writing and a lot of editing, I resubmitted and scored a publishing contract. (The crazy thing was I learned so much in one small rejection letter, that really wasn’t a rejection letter, and my editor’s words of wisdom really helped guide me along.)
The title of my book was a toss up between Shifted, Emerson Fox or Emerson Fox Academy but everyone liked Shifted so I picked that. However, my best friend told me The Shifted sounded better, more suspenseful, so I took her word for it and that became the title of Book 1.
At the end of The Shifted, I actually cried. I cried because I was so happy with how it ended. The first time I thought I finished the book I always felt like something was missing but the second time I knew it was complete. I knew because it felt right. I hadn’t been that certain about something in a long time.
The hardest part to write in the whole story was Kale’s romance with Kit. I’m a chick flick obsessed girl so it was hard getting it right. I didn’t want the romance to come off fake and unbelievable. I still don’t know if I got it right, but I hope so. My mother always told me the two most important parts of a story were the romance and the conversation. I tried keeping both in mind when I started writing because I realized those were my two favorite parts of a book too. But that’s just personal preferences.
When I told my grandmother I just wrote a book she was super excited. She asked me what it was about. I told her it was about shape shifters. She replied, “Oh that’s great dear. What do the three sisters do?”
Needless to say we both were laughing pretty loud after I explained I said “shape shifters.”
It took me one month less to write book two than it did for book one. Looking back, I still have no clue how I managed to write two 90,000+ books in less than six months. In fact, when I told my husband how many words were in book one his response was, “96,000 words? I don’t think I said 96,000 words in my life.” To this day, he hasn’t read my book but he assures me in five years he might be finished. (Sadly, that’s not even his sarcasm. That is the truth. He does not like to read. Five years is probably far-fetched. Maybe ten is more accurate?)
Anyway, there are all kinds of little tidbits and interesting facts behind each of my stories but these ten are the most influential to the development and
completion of The Shifted. I hope you got a kick out of some of them, found
some information you might have been looking for, or just got inspired to give my debut novel a try. Oh, and for anyone that wants to know how I conquer writer’s block…. go for a walk, complain a lot to my best friend through text messaging and/or harass my mother with phone calls of unlimited questions. My mother’s advice is often, “Take a break. You can’t see the forest for the trees.” And somehow, her advice always works.
So next time you are stuck on something, do something different. Talk to a friend, go for a walk, and/or just step away.
As Will Shetterly quotes, “Moving around is good for creativity: the next line of dialogue that you desperately need may well be waiting in the back of the refrigerator or half a mile along your favorite walk."
Great post, Natalie. Thanks for being here today. These are just the sort of questions and answers we readers are interested in hearing about our favorite books. I had to laugh when you talked about including people you knew in the story. It reminded me of the following joke I saw on a plaque: You have entered the home of a writer. Remember, what happens here may end up in a novel.
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