This week I'm back to answering questions posed in the comment section two weeks ago. I'll start with one "RowAn" posed: The question posed was: How did the [Sammy Keyes] series begin to take on a life of its own (if you think it did)?
The answer is: I definitely think it did, and it really kind of snuck up on me.
When I started Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, I was not planning or plotting a series. Sammy was the first to take on a life of her own, and she did that early in Hotel Thief when she punched Heather in the nose. I was like, Whoa! Ouch! YES!
And then, of course, I came to my adult senses and realized Sammy had to pay some consequences.
And the way she paid her consequences made me like her even more.
So Sammy found her way into my heart pretty early on, but it wasn't until I was done with Hotel Thief that I realized I didn't want to leave Sammy in the place where the book ended. After all, she was still living in the Senior Highrise! Her mother was still gone! She didn't know who her dad was!
There was more to find out.
And then came the idea for Skeleton Man, which was based on a spooky house down the street from me and the rumors that the kids in my classroom had whispered about.
So I sent Hotel Thief out to editors and agents and immediately got to work on Skeleton Man. And when Sammy was issued 20 hours of detention due to her use (and abuse) of the school's PA system at the end of that book (again, consequences to pay!) I got the notion that it would be a riot to see her serving her detention with nuns and immediately started on Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy as soon as Skeleton Man was done. Then, once done with Sisters, I started on Runaway Elf. By the time I was done with Elf, I knew I was in trouble -- it had finally dawned on me that I'd been following Sammy through junior high school and we were only four months into her survival of that!
I say in trouble because I may have written 4 books in a series but no publishers were biting.
As many of you already know, I was rejected by publishers for years. But it only takes one yes to annihilate all the no's, and when my yes finally did come I had the wonderful benefit of having written the first four books in the series, which gave me the ability to go back and rewrite like crazy. After four books you have a much better picture of the world you've created, and the characters who inhabit it. You also have a much better picture of what you're doing and where you're going.
So I began with no plan, but with four books behind me I could see where I was going and could develop a plan and put it in place before Hotel Thief was an actual book.
I very much like having a plan. So although the series did take on a life of its own, it became my job to lead it toward the final book, the final scene. If you have a destination in mind, the whole process becomes easier. I have one in mind for each title, and I've also had a destination in mind for the series as a whole. That doesn't mean that each book hasn't (at times, anyway) taken on a life of its own, because each most certainly has!
After all, these books feature someone we know (and love) as Sidetrack Sammy!
But the destination is still the end goal, and it's my job to get Sammy to it, sidetracks and all.
Like probably every writer out there, I wanted things to happen now. I wanted Hotel Thief snatched up and published the minute I'd finished the first draft! I was very frustrated over the years it took. But sometimes what seems like a curse ends up being a blessing in disguise. I don't think the series would have been as cohesive if Hotel Thiefˆ had been picked up right away. In the end I'm thankful for the rejections and delay. Funny how things turn out.