Questions I’ve been getting

Seating along the Cootes Paradise Marsh Walk trail at Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton

I’ve been getting a lot of interesting questions since the publication of my book, so I thought I’d post and answer a few today. Pull up a chair, make a cup of tea and enjoy 🙂

Where do/did you get the idea for your story?

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, my original idea germinated from the lure of all the roads we didn’t take on my childhood family vacations. On the way to our destination, my dad would be driving past all kinds of exits to unknown, and therefore mysterious and intriguing, places in our province, and I would have happily cheered him on for any detour he might want to make. Over the years, through many travels with my hubby, I’ve never lost my fascination with what might be around the next bend in the road. Eventually, as I got into reading urban fantasy, I began to ponder about what if there were Roads that would take you places not on a normal map — into other dimensions, for example. Roger Zelazny’s first Amber novel, Nine Princes in Amber, was an early influence for the concept.

From that seed of an idea, you begin to think about “what if…” — what if a person who had no idea that these alternative roads existed suddenly stumbled upon them? And how would that ‘world’ look like for these roads to exist in? I love origin stories, so when it came to writing mine, the plotting of the novel revolved around all the logical steps in my protagonist’s journey: she tumbles into this supernatural world, tries to figure out what the hell’s going on, runs into people who may or may not have her best interests at heart, determines who to trust, and then handles all the kinks that crop up.

How do you keep track of all your ideas?

A massive Excel spreadsheet that contains plot details for every chapter, for each book in the trilogy that I’m writing, for the characters and places, historical and mythological elements, etc. (backed up religiously!). There are all kinds of software programs available for writers that will keep track of things for you, but I haven’t tried them and so can’t comment. I’ve been using spreadsheets for a couple of decades and like the format; it seems to suit my extremely detail-oriented brain. Keeping track of these details is critical for a series so that you don’t mess things up or drop the ball from one book to the next; writing a stand-alone novel would have been easier in that respect, but that’s not how this story wanted to be told.

How do you put together an entire book, not to mention three of them?

Well, I knew from the outset where the story was going to begin and end, both overall as well as for each book in the trilogy, so that was my guiding light, so to speak. I think it’s fun when my characters surprise me along the way, but I feel it’s critical to know ultimately where their journey will take them. Every decision they make along the way needs to move them toward that finale, and even detours along the way have to make sense in the timeline. So as I plotted out what was going to happen on the journey, I had to keep true to the climax of the book, and the series. There were ideas I considered and sometimes tossed out because they were too tangential, or wouldn’t have added value to the story. I gave a lot of very careful thought to what went into each scene and chapter before I wrote them, and didn’t end up stripping anything in the editing process, just tightened the pace to make the book flow better.

Beyond that, I think it’s a matter of a story that wants to be told, that haunts your thoughts until finally you have to get it out onto ‘paper’. There’s certainly some discipline and dedication involved in pressing on until you’re finally able to type “The End”, which is thrilling every time — it’s the first pay-off for all the hard work you’ve just put in. Then you step away from the book for a while, go back to it in a month or so with rested eyes, make some edits, and send it out to Beta Readers to get outside eyes on it. Their feedback is critical, whether you act on all of it or not, because it gives you a cross-section of how different readers are going to react to your story.

What will you do when the trilogy is finished?

I was wondering that myself, as the novels have been such a big part of my life for the past three years, and I’ve been delightfully surprised that people have asked me to keep writing more novels in my same imaginary ‘world’ (or is it all imaginary?). So I’ve been adding notes to my voluminous spreadsheet re stories about other characters you’ll already have met through the trilogy. One novel will definitely be horror, called The Summer Door. Others to be determined 🙂

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