Behind How to Be Alive: Felicity & Throwing Half a Book in the Trash

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It occurred to me recently that I’ve never shared the story behind each of my books here. Since this blog is all about the moments that make up our journeys, it seems like an oversight not to share a little bit of the process behind the books. Their journeys, so to speak. This week I’m sharing the story behind my most recent novel, How to be Alive and in a couple of weeks I’ll do the same for my debut (Neverending Beginnings) and it’s linked novella (Delayed). Remember that show called Storytellers on VH1 years ago? It’s sort of like that, with books … 

How to be Alive started as just the tiny spark of a thought that I wanted to write a story about a main character who dated her RA in college. This is directly related to my unabashed love of the late 1990s television show Felicity. The book turned out nothing like the show, of course, but I loved those characters and that world so much I wanted to spend time with it in my own way.

I wrote How to be Alive nearly three years before it was published. The first version of the story was titled, Mile Zero. I had finished the entire thing and reworked parts of it multiple times, but something just didn’t feel right about it. I could not get it to a place where I felt happy with it. Eventually, I filed it away, figuring it would be that one novel that never got published (most authors have one). I wrote Delayed and started the first few chapters of a new novel, but my thoughts just kept creeping back to the main character, Jen’s, story. Finally, I decided to give it one final look and try one last round of revisions. I promised myself that this was it — if I couldn’t figure it out this time, I had to let it go.

In this case, absence made my vision for the story much clearer. The original novel had a dual narrative telling the story from another character’s viewpoint that I was finally able to pinpoint as the biggest problem. Once I cut that (read: half the novel), I realized that while Jen’s story now needed quite a bit of fleshing out, it had a lot going for it. I added on to the existing novel and began the (long) process of polishing the story into what it is today.

If you haven’t read How to be Alive, here’s some more information on it.  If you have read it, thank you — I’d love to answer any questions you have about it or its back story in the comments below!

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