My first agent often talked about author branding—that if you write a hot vampire romance, the readers who’ve followed you to book two won’t be particularly happy if they find themselves holding a hard-boiled detective story devoid of other-worldly love. Well, I got the idea for my work in progress two summers ago when I went to Story Land, a small amusement park, in New Hampshire. As soon as I got home, I wrote the first few pages and while I really liked the setting and characters, there was something keeping me from falling in love with them.
1) Author branding coming back to bite me. My story, which I’d titled Land of Enchantment, was going to be a fun YA—not a ghost, vampire, or demon in sight. I knew from past comments on another WIP that my editor was looking for something paranormal to follow Uninvited and Revealers. Last fall I figured out a way to turn the story to the dark side, and I fell in love.
2) Fractured Fairy Tales. For some reason I thought about Snow White’s stepmother and her magic mirror. Their relationship was anything but healthy. I named the stepmother Helena and thought about what it would be like to have a mirror that got off showing you things it knew would really get your bloomers in a knot. I wondered if Helena, frustrated with her inability to kill Snow White, might decide messing with her head was the next best thing. What better wedding gift than to give Snow White the magic mirror? Would the pale princess remain good and pure after the mirror shows her what the prince is up to when she’s out singing with the forest creatures? What would become of Snow White when she was exposed to the same lust and envy that devoured her stepmother? Cue the new title—Devoured. (Thanks to Linda Joy Singleton for coming to my title rescue!)
3) Pay it forward. Bump the action to present time, and the mirror is still messing with the descendants of Snow White, who run a fairy tale themed amusement park. I had a ball writing the scene where my main character, Megan, is shocked when her twin—who died years earlier—shows her a ghastly Snow White/Grimm’s Fairy Tales inspired vision in the costume room at Land of Enchantment.
4) I often see or read about things I know I’d love to put in a book one day. Old English Witch Balls are a big part of my second book, Revealers, and I was so happy to discover Megan has a mother who is into K9 Freestyle. In other words, she dances with their dog. I’d seen a video online a while back of a woman dancing with her dog and while I know training a dog to follow a complex dance routine takes a lot of work and shouldn’t be made fun of, I couldn’t help but wonder how a teen would feel if her mother picked romantic songs to dance with the family pooch. I’m having major fun with the mom and her Freestyle obsession.
5) Life doesn’t turn out the way you want it to? Live vicariously through your characters. When we got our puppy a year ago, we thought how wonderful it would be to train him to be a therapy dog. Well, Griffin had other ideas. He’s the light of my life, but he’s also stubborn, he attacks his leash when I first put it on, and he growls whenever my son tries to pick him up. It would take more time than I have to get him prepared to pass the therapy dog test, so when my Megan’s mother isn’t practicing a routine to their dog, Fergus, Megan gets to take him to the nursing home her father is living at to visit the residences.