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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Ask the Author: The Making of At First Sight

Eileen Pan, Unsplash

As a reader, do you wonder about the process an author goes through to create a book? And if so, are you afraid to ask? This weekend, a reader reached out to me. And this is the result.

(1) How long did it take to write the first draft?

As someone who had never written a novel, I was surprised that the first draft only took six months. That said, much of the first draft was cut when I took out a huge subplot. There were so many changes between that draft and my final book. I probably eliminated more than the total number of words that were in the published version book.

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

(2) What is your writing process?

I could just say that at home, I sat in a chair and wrote on my iPad, then I met other writers at coffee shops and wrote on my iPad. I wrote almost every day, but not at a predetermined time or a set amount. If an idea struck me, I would sit down and write. Kind of the way I wrote my dissertation.

Did you have the whole story outlined and then fill in as you went along?

When I started, I had two characters that had been rattling around in my brain for a while, but no plot--and, no idea really of how to create one, even though I am a voracious reader. My first idea was to write a mystery, because I had always wanted to write one. I had tried and failed numerous times.

Then I thought I would write a romantic comedty because that's what I started reading after my husband died. But I found I wasn't good at that either.

In the end, I decided on romantic suspense and took an online class on how to plot. Then, following the guidance of my instructor, I made a table of every scene. Did that work out? Not exactly. But it did get me started.

Or didn’t you know how the plot would develop in advance?

I thought I knew. And then, when I changed everything, again, I thought I knew, even though I rewrote the opening of the book at least five times. And the current opening was written not all that long before the book was finally published.

The bad news was that it took so long to write the book. The good news is that I am a much better writer than I was when I started.

(3) Where did you get the idea for the novel?

First i spent some time thinking about my characters. II knew that I wanted Cress to be a writer of historical fiction, another area I had failed at. You would think a historian would make a good historical novelist, but it doesn't necessarily work that way. At least not for me.

Once I decided that Max was a former spy turned cybersecurity expert, I planned a plot that was based on cybersabotage, centering around Cress' current writing project about Ivan the Terrible. My original opening had her in Moscow with her friends, to do some research and someone planted a thumb drive in her luggage. When she got back to Chicago, Russian agents, and Max, all wanted the drive. Sound familiar? Thought not. That ended up not working at all. Still that was the first idea.

Once I got started, I decided that I wanted to write in Penny Reid's Smartypants romance world. That shaped a lot of my initial decisions. When my submission--firstk chapter, not a complete manuscript--was rejected, I had a bunch of things that had to change to take the plot and characters out of that world and in another direction, including the secondary characters..

At some point I pictured the Oxford bicycle collision and other things moved on from there.

(4) Are any of the characters based on “real people”?

Yes and no. No character is completely a real person. There is a lot of me in Cress, although there's a lot that isn't me at all. Certainly her background is very different from my ow--except studying history and going to the University of Illinois. There are aspects of Peter in Max, mostly the jokes and the languages.

Where did characters like Tina, Micki, and JL come from? Not sure, really although with Tina, I knew that she had to have a narcissistic personality disorder.

This picture of David Tennant was my inspiration for Max..

(5) Did the novel require a lot of research? What things specifically did youresearch? Sports cars? Rugby?

Everything required a lot of research. I went to various restaurants, ones that I ended up using and one's that I didn't. I took a tour of the Rookery building. I had to make sure that things were around in 2013, eliminating some things I had planned ot use.

The cars, in the end, were one of the bigger deals. I know nothing about cars, or racing. One day, when I realized I needed more insight into Max, I asked him what he was interested in and did some freewriting. I never expected sports cars to come up. Fortunately, I know an actual race car driver, so I contacted her. She was invaluable. But guy talk about cars? My brother, Mark, came to the rescue and told me what kinds of htings they wou She liked it, which was a relief.

I had to learn about rugby, and things about Scotland. Some of hte history I knew already--polar exploration, Caterina Cornaro, Ivan the Terrible.

Every time I sat down to write, I ended up on Google or checking books in my library.

I saw one of these driving down my street and that gave me the inspiration to use it

as the car Max drives to the book signing.

(6) Do you know enough French that you was able to write the sentences used?

The French, yes. That said, I had a friend check everything to make sure I hadn't made any mistakes.

The French Canadian I had to look up. But I knew about the cursing from reading hockey romances with French Canadian characters.

But the whole language thing is interesting, not the least because my language expert had always been my husband, but obviously that was no longer an option. And I wanted Russian, Turkish, and Italian. An Italian friend checked that. Fingers crossed that the Turkish is okay. One of my beta readers knows Russian and he didn't say anything about errors.

While I know a lot about British English, I did have ltwo English people read the manuscript just to make sure things were okay.

Photo by Hannah Wright on Unsplash

(7) How did you choose the names for your characters? I have never heard of the name Cress!

The name Cressida is in the news these days in the UK because the head of the Metropolitan Police just stepped down and her name is Cressida. My character had different name in the beginning but I ended up changing it after the second draft. Part of it was taking the book out of the Smartypants world. I had to change a bunch of names at that point and recreate those characters. Cress' name was a second choice when I realized that I wanted to use her name for a different book down the line. But I wanted a literary allusion and eventually decided on Cressida, who appears in the story of the Trojan War. Shakespeare used her story in his Troilus and Cressida.

Portrait of a Lady in the Character of Cressida, John Opie (c. 1800

(8) What was the editing process after you completed the first draft?

I had r early readers, then a developmental editor before I submitted to a publisher, who rejected the book but suggested rewriting and resubmitting. In that rewriting process, I went from third person to first person, which meant a lot of rewriting. I had mentoring along the way, and I took those comments into consideration and a second pass with the developmental editor before I entered the manscript in the "Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author" contest, run by the Illinois Library Association. After I was named a semifinalist, I decided that I could publish the book.I sent it to beta readers, re-edited, then sent it to a copyeditor before publishing it as an Indie author.

(9) Tell us a little about how you got it published.

Once I decided on indie publishing,put together a long list of things that I had to do--ISBN numbers, copyright, and becoming an author with Amazon. I had a professionally made cover done. I used formatting software, then uploaded it to Amazon and IngramSpark for the ebook and paperback.

Hope you enjoyed this little excursion into how my book developed. If you have other questions, just comment.

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