The Story Behind the Story: “The Girl Who Wasn’t There”

Hands down, the Secrets of Redemption series has been the most challenging of all my writing. It has also provided me with the most breakthroughs.

(Isn’t that the way it always goes? We learn more from our challenges and failures than from our successes or what’s easy.)

In March 2015, roughly six months after the intense moment in ICU with my dying mother, I received the nudge to start writing fiction again. Subsequently, the books in the Secrets of Redemption series have been my biggest teachers.

Back then, the last thing I thought I should be doing was getting back into fiction. My mother was in the last six months of her life, and I had a business to run, as well as an old dog to care for. The list went on.

But the message I kept getting was clear: it was time to get back into fiction. And the story I needed to start with was the one I had been carrying around with me for well over twenty years.

That story would eventually become It Began With a Lie.

Then came the moment when I realized I needed to break the book into two, because it was going to be WAY too long if I didn’t. So, This Happened to Jessica was born.

And if I had two books, I might as well have a third and complete the trilogy, so The Evil That Was Done came along.

At that point, I thought I was done for a while, but Charlie had other ideas. I found myself writing her origin story, The Summoning and The Reckoning (and just like It Began With a Lie, her origin story was supposed to be one book until it became two).

I took another break, started a cozy mystery series featuring Charlie, also known as Aunt Charlie (because Charlie refuses to stop talking to me), and while I had every intention of eventually writing more books in the Secrets of Redemption series, I wasn’t sure when I actually would.

Until Podium, my audio publisher, approached me wanting more Secrets books.

And that is how I found myself writing The Girl Who Wasn’t There.

From the beginning, I knew it had to be three books, because I would need that many to tell the full story (especially since at that point, I had learned my lesson–whatever I was going to do would end up being more books than I thought, so I might as well plan for it in advance).

So I knew it was going to be a trilogy, but this was the first time I had actually planned one out.

As you might imagine, this process required a massive learning curve, with two big rewrites of roughly 60% of the book before the pieces finally came together.

I won’t lie … there were moments I thought this book might take me down. I really struggled with it. You have to understand that despite writing fairly complicated plots, I’m not a big plotter. I do some plotting and some planning, but I can’t truly see a book until I jump into it. (In the author world, I’m what’s known as a “pantser,” which is short for “write by the seat of your pants.” Hey, don’t knock it … it’s how Stephen King writes, too, and he does pretty well.)

Trying to do that with the first of a trilogy was a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be.

But there is good news. At some point in the middle of that messy and painful process, I had something of a writing breakthrough. The ideas started coming even faster, and the book began flowing even better.

It even carried over to Red Hot Murder, Book 6 in the Charlie Kingsley Mystery series. (Don’t worry; once I get that one out, I’m back to Books 7 and 8 of the Secrets of Redemption.)

Again, I’m grateful for this series and how it always stretches me as writer. It’s the foundation of my universe, the one you definitely need to read if you truly want to understand Redemption and Riverview and all their associated craziness.

I’m grateful for how much The Girl Who Wasn’t There pushed me, as well, even when I was grumpy and despairing that I was never going to figure it out.

I should know by now that my stories always come together in the end, even if I can’t see it in the beginning. (Probably because it’s not me in charge, but God.)

And I’m excited to keep going and see how it all comes together.

Here’s where you can check out The Girl Who Wasn’t There.

Every story has its own story. The behind-the-scenes peek at how it got written. This is the story of The Girl Who Wasn't There. Click To Tweet

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