In keeping with The Spontaneous Reader Book Blog highlighting Saving Emily, I’m posting the answers to some of the questions I’ve been asked about one of my most popular books.
Q – Where did the story come from?
The basic concept for the story came from an overheard snippet of conversation. Two of my friends were discussing the problems of trying to date while being single dads with daughters. One told the other to just wait until his daughter turned thirteen. He stated that thirteen year-old girls were the most judgmental people on Earth. His daughter said everyone was either too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, and picked apart everything from their makeup and hair to their clothing choices. I immediately wondered what would happen if he brought home someone five to seven years older and the kid said something rude and he yelled at her. What would happen if the kid then got into some kind of trouble and the only person who could save her was this woman? And what if the woman wasn’t exactly the kind and nurturing type? I knew within thirty seconds that this would make it to paper.
Q – How did you create Janice Bracken?
A – The same evening I heard the conversation, I turned on the television after returning to my room and Lethal Weapon 3 was on. Rene Russo plays an absolutely kick-ass cop in that movie. I figured if she could beat up five guys in a garage than Janice Bracken could be just as tough and cool. I wanted to write about a woman who lived her life to the beat of her own drummer. She’s very “male” in her attitude about work and sex. If this was a James Bond book, he’d have gone ahead and had sex with the gym owner at lunch and still gone home with the love interest that night. All the male readers would have cheered. But my female characters can’t do that. There’s a fine line between free-spirited and sluttish. However, I did make sure to let Janice at least think about it.
Q – If Janice was created based on a Rene Russo character, was Mac created based on an actor or character? Do you normally write with actor’s in mind?
A – I don’t normally write with an actor in mind. I have friends that pin pictures of an actor/actress to a board and write to their appearance and style, but I write to fit the story. Most of the characters that I create begin as personalities and then I simply choose the look and style of the individual. In Saving Emily, Mac needed to be all man, but out of his depth when Emily is taken. I needed him to be lost and dependent without being emasculated. I “felt” like he had a Gary Sinise “look.” How’s that for helpful?
Q – Isn’t Janice a little older than your average heroine?
A – She and Evie Duncan from A Shared Fear are both past their fortieth birthday. The older I get, the more I see forty as young. I don’t know that many twenty-two year olds that have it all together. I prefer that my characters have had some life experiences and made some mistakes. Realism matters. Plus, women and men with a few years and some mileage are much more interesting to me than all that new and innocent stuff. My people have real problems to overcome and the brains and skills to do it.
Q – This is one of your shorter books. Do you plan for a specific length with your novels?
A – I don’t generally think about length. My goal is simply to tell a story. Some are shorter than others. In this case, I wrote the book during National Novel Writing Month (NaNo Write), November 2011, and I was shooting to get past 50,000 words in thirty days. I ended around 63,000 on the first draft by 29 November. I set the book aside and worked on something else for two months before going back to it. Saving Emily was pretty rough and contained things like. “Janice walked into the gym. Describe the gym in detail.” And, “Janice and Mac have sex here.” By the time I finished the rewrites and edits, the book finished out at 72,500 words, which is just under 200 pages.
Q – Did you know who the killer was prior to writing the story?
A – Not a clue. And thank you for not giving anything away. All I’ll say at this point is that once I wrote the ending, I then had to go back and make sure I included enough clues so it wasn’t implausible. I hate reading those murder mysteries that end in a gotcha without any clues along the way. If I did this right, you should be in suspense until the reveal, but not pissed off afterward. I’d tried my hand at this with A Shared Fear, but this book took it a step further. I learn something each time I try.
Q – You’ve said that this book was fairly well plotted in advance since you did it for NaNo Write. Were there any surprises for you when you wrote this book?
A – The character of Oscar Islas and his role in the story were completely unexpected. I never planned on Janice feeling a connection or being interested in Oscar. He was simply a plot mover – the guy she could address her age and conditioning with. But in writing the section, Oscar took on a life of his own and things changed. He became important to Janice and thus important to the story arc. He provides an interesting bit of speculation about what her future will be.
Q – I see at least one person in the reviews asking for more from Janice Bracken. Any thoughts of writing additional stories with this character?
A –If there was one of my characters to take forward in a series, it would be Janice, but she hasn’t spoken to me since Saving Emily. Series writing is not as easy as it sounds, so I’m okay with where I left her for now. I have other stories to tell, but who knows, she could come back someday if the right circumstances presented themselves.