A behind-the-scenes peek at writing.
I begin each new book with…get ready for it… “Now, how do I do this?” Every single book. One would think after sixteen novels, I wouldn’t have to ask this question. So, why would I?
That’s another question I ask at the start of each book. Why is this so hard? Well, if it were easy, everyone would write a book, right? Still…even when I follow the brief synopsis I submit to my publisher for the book, I struggle with getting started, mostly because the actual story rarely follows what I submitted.
Take Counter Attack, the first book in the Pearl River Series.
The original idea came from a story about a serial killer who targeted women who had just moved into a small town. I imagined the killer spoofed the local police department’s phone number to call the women. But, when I started writing the story, suddenly the killer was leaving a white pawn at the murder scene which was in Chattanooga, Tennessee (instead of a small town) with a note that contained a famous chess move.
That presented a problem. While I have played chess and even taught it to kids—kids who ended up beating me before long—I didn’t know any famous chess moves that could be used to point toward a killer. I needed help! So, I asked my followers on Facebook if there were any chess masters out there who could help me. And lo and behold, a follower volunteered her brother. Without his knowledge.
Thank goodness he was okay with it, even excited to help me. I emailed him a synopsis of the story, with a list of the victims, and he found just the right chess moves to fit each case. My job was to tell just enough of the move to let someone who’d never played chess understand what the killer was saying with the move, but also enough for someone familiar with the game to say, yeah, that’s perfect.
Once I had the chess part figured out, I had to get the story from Chattanooga to a small town, because I’d said the story would be set in a fictional small town in the Cumberland Plateau. And my heroine, Alex, did not want to go home to the small town of Pearl Springs in Russell County, Tennessee. When I tell non-writers this, they give me a strange look and say, “So, just make her go home.”
It doesn’t quite work that way.
If I make my characters do something they don’t want to do, they’ll quit talking to me, and if they don’t talk to me, I can’t go forward with the story. I had to make Alex an offer she couldn’t refuse—her grandfather who raised her asked her to come to help while he recovered from a heart attack. She couldn’t say no to that!
I’m about to start the third book in the Pearl River Series and guess what? Once again I’m asking, “Now, how do I do this?”
Patricia Bradley is a Romantic Suspense Selah winner, a Reader’s Choice Award winner, and a Carol and Daphne du Maurier award finalist. Three anthologies that included her stories debuted on the USA Today Best Seller List.
She and her two cats call Northeast Mississippi home—the South is also where she sets most of her books. She has penned three series that include Logan Point series, the Memphis Cold Case Novels, and the Natchez Trace Park Rangers. She is now hard at work on her new Pearl River Series set in the Cumberland Plateau area above Chattanooga.
Writing workshops include the American Christian Fiction Writers on-line conference, the Mid-South Christian Writer’s Conference, the KenTen and Scrivener retreats where she was the keynote speaker, Memphis American Christian Fiction Writer group, and the Bartlett Christian Writers group.
When she has time, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.
For more information, visit her website at www.patriciabradleyauthor.com
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