How did you choose the subject for this story?
Originally, this story was not in the mystery genre at all. It was women’s fiction, and was a story about the relationship between a birth mother and the adoptive parents. However, it was clunky and slow and not so interesting! In a brainstorming session at a conference I attended around the time I was trying to figure out what to do with this uninspiring manuscript, someone suggested I turn it into a mystery.
I never thought I’d be able to write a mystery, what with clues and tension and plot twists, but I decided to give it a try. I am forever indebted to the woman at the conference for the idea and to the larger group for helping me develop the 250-word book blurb that same day. Once I chose the subject and genre, I started reading mysteries and thrillers. I got hooked, and to this day, mysteries and thrillers are my genre of choice.
In Due Date, the main character is in a very unusual situation for a protagonist. What prompted this choice for the character?
I found that making the protagonist a surrogate mom put her in a very precarious, vulnerable situation, which worked well to build tension in the story. She was also isolated, both physically and emotionally. The beginning of Due Date finds Shelby, the protagonist, moving from her brother’s home in Santa Cruz to a cottage on the intended parents’ estate in the Santa Cruz mountains. She has no car and is often alone.
A few months later in the story, she develops hypertension and is on bed rest. Shelby moved to the Santa Cruz area for the term of the surrogacy and has no friends. She’s estranged from her parents, and over the course of the book, becomes somewhat estranged from her brother. Her isolation causes her to make choices she might not have made otherwise.
What was the hardest section of Due Date to write? Why was it more difficult?
The hardest sections to write were the violent scenes, both emotionally and logistically. I have a hard time with my characters getting pummeled! It’s also challenging to figure the logistics of a fight, how to make all the actions taken by all the characters fit together in a seamless thread of action.
Occasionally, I found myself walking through the actions in my office: She’s running, in the dark, in clogs; how does her weight shift from one side of her body to the other? What’s she doing with her hands for balance? What happens when she makes contact with her enemy? And how does that feel when you’re pregnant with twins?!
Conversely, what was the easiest section to write and why?
The easiest and most fun sections for me to write are when my character is outside, wandering around in the beautiful place I call home, Santa Cruz county in California. I love the outdoors, and it’s such a joy to write descriptions of the Monterey Bay coastline and the redwood forest.
The way that the climax resolves in Due Date was intriguing. Was this a planned decision, or did the idea develop as you worked on the story?
This developed as I worked on the story. I’d been reading a lot of mysteries and thrillers by this point, and was really drawn in by the longer stories with twists. The ‘first’ ending would have been a great place to stop, but I decided to keep going and see where the story took me. Once I decided to continue, I had to edit the first part and plant in a few more clues.
When you work on developing a story, is there a process you use to help develop the idea? Or is it a lot of off-the cuff-writing, or a combination?
A combination. I have learned that I’m better off with a plot well in mind before I start. Now, after many years of rewrites, I’m better at plotting out a story to the chapter level. I also write extensive character sketches and back stories for each character, so I feel that I know how each character will act and react in a given situation. For me, it makes for a lot cleaner writing and a lot less editing.
Was there any special preparation or research you did to help develop the protagonist of Due Date?
I did a lot of reading on surrogacy and talked to a few surrogate moms. I read plenty of discussion boards, forums, and blogs, as well. I also researched fertility clinics, trying to figure out how that end of the arrangement works.
What advice would you share with other nascent authors as they work to create their own stories?
Keep going! And read anything and everything in your genre. Find something that catches your attention, and something that will catch the attention of readers, and just go with it. Writing and creating a story is so rewarding and seeing it take shape as the number of chapters increases is a thrill like no other.