Behind the Scenes – Instinct

Instinct Kindle 3D CoverThis book, Instinct, which was called The Hybrid as its working title, is a story I never intended to write. In fact I was working on a different book about grim reapers when this idea came to me and no matter how hard I tried to push it aside, I just couldn’t lay it to rest.

The concept for Instinct actually came from my already published, Shadow Series. Those four books took years of my time and taught me so much about being a writer. Unfortunately, although they were a big lesson, they weren’t up to standard and last year I found myself wrestling with the decision to either pull them from sale or re-edit them. I didn’t want to move backwards but also couldn’t bear the idea of throwing them away. So I picked them up one last time, hired new editors and cleaned the books from top to bottom. They’ll never be perfect, in reality, no book will be ever be perfect but I love the characters and although the concept is a bit of a genre-mash, it’s really unique.

In the Shadow Series, the main character, Selena, falls through her shadow into an alternate universe. The books follow her journey as she learns to live in a world that is nothing like the one she came from. In the process of re-editing these books, I couldn’t stop thinking about what life might be like for people who fell the other way and landed in our world. And before I knew it, I was writing a spin-off series from a bunch of books that were nearly packed into a suitcase and never seen again. Even as I started, I kept saying to myself, why am I doing this? This is crazy! This story belongs in my past.

But although Instinct carries the same concept as the Shadow Series, it couldn’t be more different. It’s told from Sam’s point of view, a regular nineteen year old guy, whose whole life turns upside down when he crosses paths with a hybrid from the Shadowlands. Evelyn has supernatural powers and she’s searching for a way to close the passage between the worlds when she accidentally get mixed up with Sam.

Everything from the characters’ ages, to the tone and setting in this book sets it apart from the Shadow Series. It’s designed to be read completely separately and the story stands entirely on its own.

So at the beginning when I was screaming at myself not to follow this path, I guess deep down I knew that I had to tell the story, of the girl who fell through her shadow, in a completely different way.

It might sound a little like it all just fell together but when writing a book, it’s never that easy. This is book number six for me and it always blows my mind how the process of drafting one story is never the same as another. There are always obstacles and as life changes, the challenges of writing come from different directions. The last time I told a ‘making of the book’ story, it was when I was suffering really bad migraines and I could barely look at a computer and kept losing my place. Now, my life has picked up some serious pace and the challenge, this time, comes from being time poor.

I still work three days a week in a medical clinic but I also run my own author services business. I’m super passionate about the work, I’ve met some amazing people and it’s taught me so much about the industry. It’s been a really valuable use of my time but of course, I did worry that my own writing would slip away. And it has to a certain degree but the truth is, if you want something bad enough, you just need to make it happen. I come across stories every day of authors who are raising families, working full time and publishing books on the side. No matter how hard it is, they’re still writing, because once it’s in your blood, it’s impossible to deny.

So I found a way around my time issue, and bought a dictaphone with voice recognition software. And rather than writing this book, I spoke it. Ninety-five percent of this story was recorded on my work commute, then plugged into my laptop for the software to transcribe my words to text.

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If it wasn’t for dictation, I would probably only be halfway through this book and I’m really lucky that this method came easily to me. Travelling on the road is a very creatively fertile time for me so it wasn’t much of a stretch to start talking through the ideas rather than just thinking them. But it was incredibly difficult never really knowing where I was in the story. Usually when I sit at a desk for a writing session, I’ll read my previous chapter and daydream a little to get in the zone. With dictation, I would check my chapter outlines and just start speaking without visualising the characters or the scene in much depth.

At the end of the drafting process, I had no idea if what I’d recorded was even usable and I felt really disconnected from the story. I kept thinking to myself, if I’m not in love with my characters, obviously no one else will be.

Despite all my doubts, I read through the draft and started editing. In my opinion, that’s when all the magic happens. In the process of working through the chapters, I really got to know my characters and finally, that connection to the story came together. With help from some amazing beta readers and editors, this book shifted from a messy draft, told in thirty minute intervals, into a finished novel that’s about to be published.

As they always say – the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.

Once again, thank you to the ever-changing writing process, for always keeping me on my toes and making every book feel like the first.

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