Hi all! A while back, Kelpie asked me to answer some focused questions on Back and Forth. I answered them in 2013; she didn't get her story spotlights up and running as a series, but she did post the spotlight of B&F. You can link to it HERE, or you can read it below. Thanks to Kelpie for being interested in learning more about this story. 🙂
Okay, so Back and Forth is the first story in the series. Was it just an idea that popped into your head, disappointed fangirl therapy…basically, how did you come up with the idea?
In the beginning, it was disappointed fan-girl therapy. I’d just gotten done watching the scene in Season 4 when Sookie tells Eric that she loves Bill too. That scene elicited the WRONG kind of chills in me. And I couldn’t fathom how DUMB Sookie was in that moment not to realize Bill’s blood had affected her (and not to question where the bullet that shot her had come from either). As a huge Eric/Sookie fan in the books, I was also upset that the first time they said they loved one another, Bill’s name had to be added to the mix. After that, I was seething. I decided that no grandchild of Gran’s would be that “dumb.” And then, I realized that no TELEPATH would be that dumb. Sookie had to grow up fast because of her gift/curse, and I think she would be self-aware enough to do something to take her own life back if she doubted that she was in control of it (that’s why the first major happening in B&F is Sookie breaking all blood ties/bonds with vampires. In effect, I didn’t want to hate Sookie, so I had to write the Sookie I wanted to see. The first line I wrote of Back & Forth was this: “Sookie was a smart girl.” (That ended up being the first line of chapter 32.) That line ruminated in my head for a while before I started to write in earnest, and then the story just spilled out from there.
Did you know when you started writing it that it would be quite as epic as it turned out?
No. I had never written anything as long as B&F, and then when Come Back to Me was longer, I was sort of amazed that it was coming out of my brain. But the characters really did “come to life”—as cliché as that sounds. It’s funny, but in my academic writing, I’m known for my conciseness, but in these pieces, I let myself go inside the characters and really analyze. And that experience has been extremely rewarding—even therapeutic at times.
When you were doing the casting for Back and Forth, could you visualize these people before you started writing or did you search them out and then fit them into your vision?
A bit of both—really. I didn’t “add” a lot of new characters to the mix when I was writing B&F. Most of my “new” people came into the story in CBTM, but from the start, I was picturing certain people filling certain roles. I’d just watched a movie called Pathfinder with Karl Urban, for instance, and when I wrote my first Tray scenes, that’s who I pictured. Other times, I didn’t “cast” someone until I’d written him/her for a while. Invariably, however, “casting” someone helped that character to come to life for me. I certainly picture Alexander Skarsgard and Anna Paquin when I write Eric and Sookie, so it made sense to have someone to visualize when I wrote others. By the time I was doing CBTM, my usual practice was to begin writing the character until I got the urge to “cast” him/her. After I found someone, I would read over what I’d written so far and revise so that the character came more to life. Probably the biggest change that happened to Come Back to Me came after I began to picture Helen Mirren as the A.P. and Gary Oldman as Niall. The A.P.’s role started to grow and evolve radically in my head, and Niall’s characterization altered quite a bit as well.
It’s funny. In the story, Uninvited, and I have “cast” Liam Neeson as Niall. As I started writing the character in that story, I saw that I was creating a darker version of Niall than in the B&F series. That’s why I chose Liam. As I continued writing, the edge that Liam could bring to the role made the character go even darker in a way. I probably think much too long about these things, but I’m a huge fan of good acting, and I “think” in pictures, so it really helps my writing.
What made you choose the people that you did?
All of the people I “cast” are actors, actresses, or singers that I admire. As I said above, sometimes I had someone in mind as I began writing the character. For instance, Summer Glau was always Thalia as I wrote B&F. Other times, it took me much longer to find someone. Amelia is an example of that. It wasn’t until I came across random pictures of Rachel McAdams as a brunette that I said—”That’s it.” For a long time, Kate Beckinsale was who I was seeing in my head, but she wasn’t “right” for where I wanted to go. When I found the “right” one, the character “talked to me” better.
Your chapter titles, how did you decide on them?
I sometimes take them from pivotal words from the chapters themselves. Other times, they come from a song that informed the chapter. The rest of the titles are based on the theme or the major happening in the chapter. I like for the chapter titles to say more than one thing too—to hint at what the chapter will be about, while also intimating something underneath the surface.
So, after 94 chapters, you still felt like these characters had more to say. Did you intend to make it a multipart series when you started or was it just going to be Back and Forth?
It was just going to be B&F! The story seemed finished to me, and I had already started Uninvited. I was just editing B&F by then and trying to post a chapter or so a day, but all my “new” writing was committed to something else. And I felt that the ending of B&F left Eric and Sookie where I wanted them to be. But then my sounding-board Scorp (CDB33) asked me what the kitten’s name was (the one Eric gives to Sookie as a pledging gift), and I realized I hadn’t named him. Believe it or not, that was the lynchpin for me to begin writing the sequel. I had thought that CBTM would be shorter than B&F, but that story just kept flowing. I have to say that writing it was a wonderful experience for me, so I’m glad Scorp asked about the kitten.
Now, the second story of the series (Come Back to Me), the title is pretty illustrative. Did you intend for it to be that way?
Yes. Once I began to outline that story, I knew that Claudette’s taking Sookie to Faerie would be one of the major moments of the story. And that moment would create the main angst. The title hints at that, but it was fun to hear what people speculated as they read. A lot of people feared that I would break Sookie and Eric up with another romantic interest, thus creating the angst for the title. Plus, the title Come Back to Me ended up being as much about the A.P./Artegal as it was about Eric/Sookie.
The “Inspired” page for Come Back to Me was…inspired, for lack of a better word. Was that something you decided to do or did someone request it?
Thanks! I decided to do it. Sometimes as I write, a poem or song comes into my head that helps me to create the mood I want for the story. A few of these pieces eventually got attached to my outline and became driving forces in determining how the characters behaved. Those pieces were so important to my conceptualization of the story that I wanted to share them in some way. And I love the fact that WordPress gives me the chance to add little visual renderings like that.
Now chapter 164-166 had alternatives posted alongside them in order to spare some of the violence of the chapters. Why did you choose to do that instead of just giving an overview like some authors?
Even in the most violent of chapters, I tried not to have gratuitous violence. And I felt that the emotional journeys of the characters continued within those chapters, and I didn’t want readers to lose connection with the characters’ evolution. However, I did want to provide alternatives because I know that some of my readers are survivors of sexual violence, and I didn’t want them to have to read the more graphic parts. Actually—that’s not quite accurate. I think they deserved the choice—the control in the situation.
In a few author’s notes you commented on the fact that people were saying that you were dragging the story out for no reason. (I don’t think that’s the case, by the way.) Do comments like those discourage you?
Negative comments—not to be confused with constructive comments, which I welcome—are designed to hurt. I have several readers who preferred some sections of the story more than others, but they didn’t feel the need to “attack.” I have to be honest and confess that comments that are designed purely to hurt DO hurt. Intellectually, I know I should ignore them because they often come from people who aren’t even really reading the story—who just want to “instruct” the writer about how to write (which is asinine, by the way). But sometimes, it’s difficult because my stories include a lot of my heart, so my heart reacts first. That said, these comments don’t discourage me from writing; they just make me sad for a while. Usually, however, I end up feeling sorrier for the reviewer than for myself—because if he/she feels the need to attack for no reason, then his/her life must require that. And that’s sad.
Of course, next there came Sojourn. That’s a side story/interlude during Come Back to Me. Why did you choose that title?
Honestly? I love the word, “sojourn,” and it was descriptive. This is a story meant to be a “vacation” for Eric and Sookie; a vacation for me (since I tend to write so much angst); and a vacation for readers, who wanted to enjoy Eric and Sookie’s reunion without the drama.
You have a third installment planned, right?
Yep—It’s entitled Earned. And there’s a preview chapter on my WordPress site.
Can you give us an overview of that? Eric and Sookie aren’t the main couple anymore, are they?
Earned will focus as much or more on Hunter and Emma as they both mature into adulthood and try to fulfill the promise of love that begins in CBTM and Sojourn. Eric and Sookie are still major players, but—for now—they are firmly in the role of protective parents. As in CBTM, we will find several enemies trying to screw with the harmony of the ætt land.
Here are a few spoilers for Earned (so don’t read if you don’t want to know them!)
At the center of the enemies is Andre Paul. The readers of the books know him as Sophie-Anne’s creepy child. He blames Eric for his maker’s death, and he wants the Viking to suffer. What better way than to go after Eric’s son?
One pawn in his revenge will be Coby Bellefleur, who has been secretly in love with Emma for many years. More than that, however, he is obsessed with wanting Hunter’s life.
Another pawn will be Remy Savoy.
There will be other enemies as well, some I’m making up, and others I’m importing from the books and/or show.
Poor Emma and Hunter! Imagine trying to find privacy in the midst of Britlingen guards, as well as vampire/telepathic/shifter parents.
Emma and Hunter must both grow into their supernatural gifts.
In order to save Hunter and Emma, more than one member of the clan will sacrifice his/her life. Who will die? (I will leave that a mystery.)
Any idea when we can read that one? I know you have other projects in the works.
Yes. I actually have a few projects I’m working on. Hmmm…maybe starting in early 2015?
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions! I love your writing and can’t wait to read more!
Thank you for doing the interviews you do. I look forward to reading them!
Note: Though I kept an eye out for this on Kelpie’s Site, I never saw it pop up. It’s quite possible that I missed it, or that Kelpie decided to go in a different direction with her interviews; however, I thought some of you might be interested to see my responses (some of which were revised to indicate updates), so I decided to share it!