is broken. Everyone is broken.”
Those lyrics from a 1995
Radiohead song were a starting point. That and the image of a young
Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Writing a novel is and yet
never will be a mechanical process. The mechanics come in the rituals
of making coffee, sitting down in a chair, and starting to type. But
how each of my novels has come to life has always been different.
Sometimes it begins with a premise. Sometimes it starts with the end.
it started with that young woman.
I could have put her in a
variety of stories. And I tried. I really tried.
Initially I was going to write
a story about a young woman who tries to kill herself at the start of
the book. After she fails, she begins to slowly put the pieces of her
life back together with the help of a man she falls in love with. That
and the prayers of her father, who died when she was young.
That sounds like a
love story, Travis.
After writing about a hundred
pages of that particular story, I ended up discarding it and breaking
up its core into two very different stories. One was a love story that
was a love letter to my daughter. That came out late last year.
definitely not that book. It’s the story of that broken young woman
named Laila and her journey toward hope.
Instead of a love story, I put
Laila in a harrowing journey of escape. I tried to build on my two
previous supernatural thrillers while creating a story that’s fresh and
stands on its own. I continue to write dark stories with characters who
are, hopefully, authentic and storylines that are, hopefully,
surprising. I also tried writing a bit differently, cutting out italics
and interior monologue to create a fast-paced and tight tale.
There’s never a right way or an
ideal way. There’s trial and error.
I tried to change things up while continuing to add to my current line
So is Broken
a scary story?
scariest thing to me is that God-shaped hole that each of us has. We
all try to fill it with something. So often we fail.
Few people get a chance to look
deep inside that hole to see what lies there. That is a terrifying
thought. That is the journey I took with Broken.
Yet even though I realized I
knew who the character was and what the journey was headed toward, I
never expected the outcome. It came in the middle of the story in a
It makes sense now that I look
back, but not when I started. If I had plotted meticulously or retread
familiar steps, I don’t think I would have gone down the road I did. If
I hadn’t tossed out that early story and rethought the concept, I don’t
think I would have had two great stories to show for it.
That’s the beauty of creating,
and the great fortune I have in my job. I learn a little more with each
journey I take. About both my craft and myself.