so do you remember in school english classes when you had to read a book and then write essays and papers about what the author was trying to say with their story? where you had to identify themes and somehow connect it to the political happenings of the author’s time? where you had to break down the characters and their motivations and see if you could label them as important people from the author’s life? i always hated those. so when i agreed to attend a local book club’s discussion of “missing” this month, i was sort of dreading it.

to set the record straight, i intend no political, feminist, religious, or any other sort of statements with my book. not this book, or any of the others you can expect from me. i write for entertainment. i like fictional stories that make us laugh, maybe cry a little, and dream a lot. not really ones that are supposed to make me think too much. reading is an escapism for me, and that is what i want for my readers to get with my books.

that being said, i was a little nervous about the book club discussion of “missing”. luckily for me, the ladies in this book club were much like myself, in that they were more into the story than the “hidden messages” in it. it was a very interesting experience for me, and, I hope, them as well. i talked about the story itself and about my writing process. here are some of the discussions that happened:

  1. do you use people you know as characters in your books? – no, not really. i know some people say they do, but it wouldn’t work for me. real people in my life have their own back stories and experiences. for my stories to work, i have to come up with the characters’ histories and quirks and personalities myself. i need to understand them better than i could understand the people around me. i know why they do the things they do and how they feel about the things going on. if i use someone else, i feel like it’s no longer my story to control. i do, however, use names of people i know sometimes. that is kind of fun. “missing” used a few: mortenson, harrison, and farrah.
  2. i would like to have gotten to see rowan’s parents, seen her interact with them. a couple of the readers felt as though this was set up to happen with the conference rowan was supposed to attend with them and wondered why it didn’t happen in the book. there is actually an explanation for that. originally, i did have a scene with the parents and the conference. in fact, it was going to be where one of the big happenings would occur, but this scene was discarded and the ending modified a bit. the reason for this is that i and a critique partner felt like it set rowan’s growth back too close to the end of the book. much of the story depends on rowan’s development and her change. she had a bit of a set back after talking to her mother, and a bit again during the investigation, but is able to battle back pretty quickly. the scenes with her parents’ influence was just too much. i decided that it wasn’t really necessary to furthering the story, either, and reworked those chapters into what you read today. the fact that you know what her history with them is, from her own thoughts and from disclosure through her and jared, and her reaction to the phone call from her mother was, in my opinion, enough for the reader to understand why rowan is the way she is.
  3. how much of you is there in rowan? not a lot, to be honest. i’m not a strategist. i’m not overly intelligent. i am not very detached from my emotions. i do, however, love donuts and would love to have a motorcycle.
  4. how did you get the idea or inspiration to write “missing”? – that’s a tricky one. it wasn’t the usual way my process works where i start with one idea that then evolves into the story i publish. this one started as an experiment to see if i could write a romantic suspense, even though it’s not my usual kind of genre. i really enjoyed it, though, so it will be something i will do again. after that, it was a few smaller ideas pieced together, but mostly focused around the idea of rowan’s character.
  5. is the book pretty much the same as the original manuscript? – lol. really, i laughed out loud. um, no. it has gone through a lot of changes from start to finish. after i wrote the first draft, it went through a series of beta readers, then three critique partners. then i signed with icasm and it went through a content editor, which is where it made the biggest changes, then copy editing and proofreading. each of these phases resulted in different changes to the story from small tweaks to major overhauls.
  6. i really liked the way the characters were portrayed, especially ro and farrah; both as individuals and their relationship with each other. – thank you. that was my favorite part of the story, as well. with rowan, i wanted a strong female character that was both smart and independent, yet vulnerable. i wanted to show a heroine that doesn’t fall into the cliche’s of being “too stupid to live” (where and otherwise intelligent woman knows that there is a crazy stalker out to get her yet still decides to go into the dark woods by herself, unarmed and not telling anyone because she wants to clear her head) or is trying to chase a man who doesn’t want to be caught because that’s romantic or is afraid of getting into a relationship because she had a bad boyfriend in college or something. farrah, i felt, was important to distinguish as more than just a substitute for lexie. farrah and rowan had a mutually beneficial friendship whereas lexie benefited rowan, but rowan never really felt needed by lexie. it’s important that rowan feel needed as a friend. her growth would stall without that.

we discussed writing mechanics and how i went about my process when creating a book, and we also ate lots of good snack food. overall, it was a great success! thanks to those who made it happen!