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Interview: J Dark, author of Broken Bridge

How did you get the idea for Broken Bridge?

The idea came late in the writing. The first few chapters were the characters establishing themselves. The antagonist’s trap came as a surprise to me. I could feel something, I just didn’t have the real understanding what the character was up to until later in the book. It honestly felt like when you see a great movie and someone decides there has to be a sequel to it. That’s how the first few chapters felt. Once I got into the story, things started clicking and the puzzle pieces fell in place.

How do you normally write — by the directions the characters take you or do you plot it out? Have you tried it either way?

Both Best Intentions and Broken Bridge were totally off-the-cuff. Both seemed like I was at a coffee shop interviewing Fern about what happened. She talked, and I recorded it as best I could with pencil and paper.

Where did Fern come from? Is she based on someone?

Fern reminded me a lot of my daughter, her sister and friends. They all are in some way a part and parcel of Fern.

I understand you had to do a few rewrites. Did you rewrite the entire novel or just parts? What parts were the most difficult? What did you keep from one version to the next?

That is an interesting question. The original ending for Broken Bridge was meant to be a cliffhanger. I wanted that thrill leading into the next book. The publisher and editor said that wasn’t the best idea. My ego got in front of me and I tried to rewrite the first ending twice, and it just didn’t work. I finally saw what they had been trying to tell me, and rewrote the last half of the book from scratch. It turned out a lot more acceptable to the publisher, but I had to get past my own ego to get there. As a writer, I have to put myself into writing, but not let the ego get in the way of constructive criticism. A book is a team project.

Did you find it difficult or easy to write a second book? How many books are planned for this series? Do you have the series planned out, or are you going to sit down with the characters and have them guide you?

The second book was definitely harder, for a few of the reasons outlined previously. I’d never thought past the first book and, when asked if there were more books in the series, was something I had to think about. The obvious answer is: yes, there are more books. I’m envisioning four, but again, the publisher and the editor have a big say in that with me. The last thing I want is for the series to drag on to the point where it goes stale. I’m more for a small series that outlines a world and a character, getting an adventure snapshot of their lives, and moving to the next character/setting/story — like anything with me. Plotting out has had very mixed results. I love writing spontaneously. The characters, when I’m in the story, tell me where to go and what’s happening.

The description in this novel is extensive and doesn’t seem to get in the way of the story. Do you find narrative or dialogue easier to write?

I originally found that dialog was easier for me, and narrative was my weak link. That may be why there is so much in Broken Bridge. I’m nowhere near as good as other authors in getting in a character’s head and describing their feelings, so dialogue gets me that glimpse. Likewise, the setting is what helps frame the narrative, and with the narrative, I can hopefully recreate the mood of the story, and drag the reader in. That’s the ideal situation. Like any neurotic writer, I’m never sure if I got it right. It feels great going down on paper, but six months and two edits later, I’m not quite as certain it came out right.

There are a lot of red herrings in the story as well. Were these planned or did these just come up?

The red herrings are to me a lot like what happens in real life. You have choices each day, and your life is determined by them — like taking a left to go to one store versus a right to go to a different one. Saying “yes” to a date, versus saying “no” and waiting for someone more ‘compelling’ to show up. Each choice creates movement. The red herrings are a glimpse of what might have been, or, foreshadowing for something in a following book. And it could simply be someone saying something they think they saw, and it’s so preposterous or unlikely, that nothing happens.

What was some of the research you had to do in order to write this book? For example, how are you familiar with the pistols/weapons that Fern used?

My boyfriend helped me a lot with ideas for weapons. He is a history buff, and a reloader. If I got stuck, or wanted to throw an idea out about things like the survival straw, he and I looked them up online and on the outdoor sites. The stuff you can get for survival is amazing! I’ve never seen so many gadgets. The settings and things I researched online, there’s a lot of information out there.

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