When I wrote my first Intrigue, STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT, I had stories in mind for four additional books. Unfortunately, when I turned to the second of those stories (what was intended to be the third overall), I ran into a few problems. One of the reasons I write romantic suspense is for the emotion, something I hope comes across in my books. Not only do I enjoy writing action, mystery and suspense, I particularly enjoy exploring the emotions of the characters caught up in these life-and-death situations and puzzling mysteries, seeing how they react and how they're affected on a personal level by these events. For me, that's one thing that makes Intrigue so great. In the case of my original story, I had a premise that I loved and a great mystery I had entirely plotted out, right down to identity of the killer. What I didn't have was the emotion. There simply wasn't enough of an emotional investment in the mystery for the main characters, or a deep enough emotional conflict for the romance. Without that, I wasn't excited enough by the story, even with a great premise and plot.
Suddenly I needed a new story that 1) fit what I had in mind for the hero; 2) was different from the other four books; and 3) had a premise that allowed for a title with the word “Stranger” in it. Eventually I had an idea: What if a woman had a one-night stand and became pregnant, something she thought was an accident, only to learn it might not have been an accident at all? I immediately loved the idea, as I thought about what it might mean to this woman to learn her child’s conception might have had something sinister behind it. How would she respond to learning the baby she carried had been fathered by someone who may have been a bad guy? How would those revelations affect her feelings about the baby she’s about to have? Then there was the hero. I thought about what it would be like for a man who's never really known what it is to have a family, who thinks he has no business or interest in getting involved with a woman about to have a baby, to be drawn into the heroine’s mystery. I finally had what I was looking for: a premise with the potential for not just plenty of mystery, but plenty of emotion as well.
Unfortunately, I soon ran into the opposite problem. I had my emotional premise and characters I loved. Now I had to figure out the plot and answers to the questions I'd raised.
I don't know whether it says more about how my mind words or how scary the world can be, but I had no trouble coming up with reasons why someone might have targeted the heroine or why someone would be after her baby. Finding a reason that worked for the story was much more difficult. Some of the reasons I came up with were too dark, some didn’t offer enough story to sustain an entire book, some had too many plot points I couldn’t resolve. As a result, this is a book I wrote and rewrote numerous times, going through multiple versions as I tried to find a solution that I was happy with. Characters were added, then dropped. Entire chapters were written, then rewritten multiple times, or deleted entirely. The motives and explanations behind everything were changed again and again. There were at least three times when I got good distance into the story, stopped and thought "This isn’t working," and scrapped most of it to start over.
Through it all, one thing remained the same: the main characters. These were two people in whom I was greatly invested and whose story I wanted to tell, if only I could figure it out. At times, it certainly seemed as though it would be easier to scrap this idea too and try to come up with yet another one. But my level of investment in these characters kept me determined to bring their story to life.
Finally, though there were many (many) times I thought it would never happen, I came up with a solution and a plot I was satisfied with and was able to finish the book. Of course the only thing that really matters with any book is the finished product, and it will be up to readers to decide whether I succeeded in finding the right plot and satisfactory answers to the mystery. I hope anyone who decides to give the book a try enjoys it, and will be as caught up in the emotion of these characters' story as I was.
To celebrate its release, I'll give away a copy of the book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter is comment on this post sometime today (4/8/09). The winner's name will be posted tomorrow.