Monday, May 23, 2005

How I Got Here, Part 57

How’d it get to be Monday so soon?

Beautiful BGs, thank you so much for all your thoughts from Friday. At this moment I’m planning to take a piece of something that each person suggested and use it. Lynette—the “always nicks himself shaving” idea sounded fun to me. Ron—Wilbur and his heart surgery scar. Evelyn—two guys fighting over which truck is best, Chevy or Ford. Grady—first of all welcome! Thanks so much for joining us and for leaving a comment! I loved the idea about the guy who always has a new entrepreneurial venture going. C.J.—the idea that the coffee shop owner is kind to Paige. Kelly K.—a prickly female business woman. MRSD—sisters who own a B&B. Dineen—Maude, owner of a shop (not sure it can be a doll shop, but I’ll see).

This weekend we will be at our Coeur d’Alene home. I will be interviewing the Chief of Police of one of the small towns near Cd’A. His town is the same size as my fictional town of Kanner Lake (which will be placed a little north of Cd’A), so he’ll be able to tell me how a police department of that small size works, and no doubt tell me some good ol’ Idaho stories. Those true stories are always jewels to work into the book.

So I thank you BGs who participated again. You’ve all earned a place in my acknowledgements. By the way, Ron, Evelyn, Kelly K. and mrsd—please email me to let me know if you want me to use your full names or only what you use when leaving a comment. I have the last names of the rest of y’all.

Well. So. Where did we leave off on our NES? (Which is not too far from becoming our ES.) Ah, yes. Brink of Death released in the spring of 2004, and I told y’all about some reader letters, good and bad. Of course, backing up a little, in the fall of 2003, I had to write the second book in the Hidden Faces series—Stain of Guilt. That book drove me nuts. I couldn’t figure out how to end it. I have this thing about always wanting to twist a story as much as possible. I figure if I give folks a choice between A and B, I’ll come up with the real answer of C. Or maybe even D or E. With Stain of Guilt, however, it was a little less convoluted, so I hade to come up with an ending no one would foresee, including those who understood the penultimate twist about the crime itself. I thought of this and that and finally figured out what to do. Man, I was glad when I finished that book!

Which reminds me—talk about reader letters. A few months ago I got a letter from a man who was absolutely fuming about the ending to Stain of Guilt. I mean this guy was beside himself. Not only did he vow to never read another Brandilyn Collins book in his entire life, but he also vowed to never again read any book published by Zondervan. Ever.

Wow, that’s some power. Kinda puffed me up, you know? Singlehandedly, I, Brandilyn Collins, have the ability to send the entire fortune of a major publisher to the dust.

And of course once again—wouldn’t you know this guy sent the letter (handwritten) to Zondervan, who then forwarded it to me. Good grief. Nothing like letting my publisher see the worst of ’em. Sometimes I think it’s amazing they still keep me around.

So, Stain of Guilt written fall 2003, Brink of Death released spring 2004. SOG would release fall of 2004. Meanwhile as BOD was releasing, I was preparing to write book 3 in the series. Oh, boy.

I originally had planned for my forensic artist’s project in book 3 to be a facial reconstruction from a skull. So I tried to build a book around that. I tried and tried, day after day. The story wouldn’t come. Absolutely wouldn’t come. I was getting really worried. I had to start that book, or I would have so little time to write it. Meanwhile the editorial letter from Stain of Guilt was late, so by the time I did the rewrite on SOG, which was a bigger rewrite than usual—I was really pushing the time with book 3. Teaching at Mount Hermon was coming up, and that would take a lot of preparation time. I realized I would not be able to start book 3 until after the conference.

Then—I would have 10 weeks to write it.

This was not good.

I always pray my way through projects. Yowie, was I prayin’ through this one. More like begging—Please God, give me an idea. Finally, one day at my desk, I hit the wall with the thing. The story I was trying to put together just wasn’t happening. So I chucked it. All my notes, my ideas I’d worked on for days, trying to make into a story—poof—I tossed ’em all.

That’s about the time ya really start praying.

Only then did this other story begin to emerge. The first thing that came was the killer’s POV. I sat down at the computer and dashed off the prologue. Eek, I creeped myself out just writing the thing. Where was this voice coming from? This crazy, ranting, warped-perception voice? Then when I finished, I read the prologue over. My first thought—huh-uh. No way. I’ll never get away with this in CBA. A serial killer—who takes trophies? Yeah, right.

God, is that You behind this? Because if You are, you’d better talk to my editors.

The story kept forming. It wasn’t even about a facial reconstruction; it was about drawing the dead—those victims of the serial killer who hadn’t been identified. The more I prayed, the more I sensed this was the book I was supposed to write. As for the darkness and intensity of the story—yes. I was not to pull back in presenting it. But I was to present the other side of that darkness—God’s light. God’s power as released through the prayers of His people. The more darkness I presented, the more of God’s power I needed to show.

Terrific. Fine and dandy. I now had an idea for a story, and as soon as Mount Hermon was out of the way, I could start writing it. And I’d have no time to waste either, what with only 10 weeks to complete the thing. All right, go for it, no looking back!

Then I got this bright idea. My editor was gonna be at Mount Hermon. I’d just take the prologue and let her read it—you know, warn her a little about what to expect from this book. And hope to heaven she didn’t shoot it down because then I’d really be in the soup.

So I caught her at breakfast one morning. Sat next to her and slipped her these two pages. “Hey, Karen, wanna read the beginning to my new book? It’s kind of . . . Well, it’s sort of . . .” I swallowed, my muscles tensing up. If she didn’t okay this idea, I was doomed.

She started to read.

I buttered my bread with focused intensity.

Read Part 58


C.J. Darlington said...

Thank you very much, Brandilyn, for offering to acknowledge us in your book. Of course, you know you don't have to at all.

It's cool to see the development of this new story from scratch the way you're sharing it. For the writers who are reading (of which I'm one of them), it helps to see the creation process of another writer. Lets us know that there really isn't a magic formula or mystery about fiction writing. It takes a lot of patience, hard work, and tons of prayer. If it were easy, everyone would do it, right?

Anonymous said...

I agree with C.J.
Does David Letterman still do " a brush with greatness"? (does he still have a show?) If so, I feel like this is our brush with greatness. Brandilyn Collins, not only DIDN'T HURL over our ideas, she is going to incorporate them and actually give a nod to her humble BG's, how cool is that?

If I tell you my last name now, do I still have to email it to you? Klepfer - try to incorporate that into a character! Ha.

I also agree with C.J. re: the story of Brandilyn - the making of a BS novelist (Best Selling). It has been an encouragement and fun. ( sorry about laughing over the hurtling cart - I'm twisted!).

I believe my well-trained (after 57 segements ending with a HOOK!) nose sniffs out a small twist in the road? Perchance?

mrsd said...

'I buttered my bread with focused intensity.' Which is the only way to butter bread. :)

Lynette Sowell said...

I think you and I talked about this once before, the ending to Stain of Guilt. I kinda suspected the ending twist (not mentioning specifics if any fellow BGs haven't read it yet), but the ending didn't cause the angry reaction that it did with the reader who was so sure you were sinking the publisher's ship. (Now the ending to Brink of Death--holey mackeroley, I walked right into it!--a lot more fun than if I had tried to "figure it out")

One thing that surprises me now is hearing about the story elements that my critique partners pick up on--and hold to. Especially if an element is something I hadn't thought of or considered and it's NOT the reaction I'd planned. (For example, if I wanted to scare someone and made them laugh instead.) You just never know what a reader brings with them when they sit down to read your book.

Dineen A. Miller said...

I'm honored, Branilyn. Thank you. Looking forward to reading Paige's story. Blessings to you!