THE WRITING OF THE CRACKED CHRONICLES
The Cracked Chronicles began with chapter one of Win the Rings. I had a vision of a tough girl locked up in a facility with others since childhood, living a highly regimented, military life and being trained as a special weapon. That was really all I had when I started. I wrote chapter one, the first draft of which is very close to what’s in the book. Beyond chapter one, I had no idea of what the overall plot would be at first.
It took me from the middle of January 2013 until the end of May to finish a first draft. I immediately faced a big problem. The first draft consisted of three parts and the entire book clocked in at 150,000 words. Whoa, hoss! That’s waaaayyy too long! So, what was originally meant to be a stand-alone book morphed into a trilogy, with parts 1, 2, and 3 conveniently becoming books 1, 2, and 3. I took each part and expanded it to around 90,000 words and turned each part into a book, which worked out great, since this gave me much more space to really develop the characters. Woot!
The good news about this back-asswards way of doing things is that the overall plot and story arcs were done and set by the time I finished book 1. How many trilogies have you read where the author published book one and clearly didn’t have a firm idea of where he/she was going to go from there, and so the wheels come off after the first book (I could name a lot of names, but I won’t). The bad news? The dreaded cliff-hanger endings. All I can say is I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t avoid it . . . not if I was going to stick to the overall plot I had developed. If it’s any consolation, I will never, ever, ever write a trilogy with cliff-hanger endings. I feel your pain. As a reader, I’ve been there. It sucks.
So, let’s talk about the magic system in the Cracked Chronicles. I liked the idea of shifters, but I didn’t want to do another animal shape-shifter story. To be honest, I’d read a billion of those and I wanted to be a little different. So, I settled on people-shifters. Others have done something similar, of course—Hey, I got the idea from the classic Star Trek episode involving the hideous salt-sucking monster, remember it?—but people shifting is uncommon. Also, I wanted the focus to be on the humanity of the characters. Yes, they have abilities, but they are still people like us even when they shift—their shifting powers merely gave me a more interesting stage for them to act out the same human drama we’re all part of. So, the paranormal element is there, but it was not intended to be dominant.
What else? The story mostly takes place within the context of the U.S. Army, particularly in books 2 and 3. I wanted to be as faithful and realistic as I could about the Army. Problem? I never served. But as I researched and dug into the Army, I kind of wished I had. For someone who turned 18 shortly after the Vietnam war ended, my generation might call that sentiment utter heresy. But the world has changed so much from when I graduated from high school. As Jace finds out in book 3, it’s actually an honor to fight for your country. I totally missed that growing up. I wanted Jace to go through something roughly similar to what I and others of my generation went through: evolving from hating the Army to honoring, and vigorously saluting, its soldiers. It’s a long, hard journey for Jace, as it was for me, but we both get there in the end and that’s what counts.