Do you ever struggle to turn your brain off when it’s time to sleep?
Like… it just keeps going, anxious and desperate to pick something apart, and all you want to do is sleep because you have things to do the next day and it’s already so late and it isn’t getting any earlier, except that it sort-of is because now it’s early morning instead of late at night, but that thought doesn’t really help, it only makes you more anxious, which only makes it harder to sleep.
That’s the kind of evening that A Heart of Salt & Silver is born of.
Or rather, a series of those nights.
You see, there’s this little thing that I do on nights like that, a little trick to calm my restless mind.
I curl up and close my eyes. I picture a character, just fabricate them on the spot. Then, I drop them down in the middle of my head and see where they end up. My brain starts scrambling to put together a world for them rather than scrambling to assemble a to-do list for the next three months.
And then, I just watch it play out in my mind, letting that character wander through some random scene, some random event.
And it centers my mind.
Gone are the worries of the day. Banished are the stressors that have yet to hit me, the arguments that I’ve never had and never will have that my brain insists on playing out.
All that remains is that character, that scene, that world.
And I relax.
And eventually, I fall asleep.
If I have several of these terrible nights in a row, or if I have one a few weeks later, and happen to like the person my mind conjured, I’ll pick the scene up where I left off. Because my mind is a bit of a steel trap for these things. I’ll pick up the thread, and follow it wherever it goes until I decide that I like it enough to start actually writing.
And that’s how I got this book.
I imagined Ness, this demi-demon hiding in plain sight, disguised in human form, out in the middle of the forest. I conjured a man being chased into the little meadow she was trying to relax in, crashing through brambles and sprawling across the ground. I pictured the bandits chasing after him, one of them even stabbing him.
Then, Ness unleashed hell.
And I had to write the book.
Now, I don’t plan my books. But of all my books, I knew less about this one when I started writing it than with any others, with the exception of my current WIP.
What I said above is all I had.
I didn’t know why Ness was trying to relax in that meadow or any of the things in her past that she was hiding from. I certainly didn’t know the route her thoughts were travelling or the… act she was about to attempt, laying there thinking about her ex, Nolan. I didn’t know Nolan was werewolf.
I didn’t know that the bandits weren’t bandits, that one was a vampire and the other his pledge, a Nether witch, or why Elias was wandering through a forest chock full of dangerous immortals to begin with.
I just knew that those lives all converged at that one point, and I wanted to figure out why.
So, I started writing.
I got a few chapters in and realized that one of the bandits was a vampire, so I had to go back and adjust the first chapter to reflect that. Then, a few chapters later, I realized that the “bandits” were assholes.
More adjustments in chapter one.
And it just kept going. I found out more about the characters’ internal lives and even the premise for the book in chapter two, or at least part of it. I started pulling at that thread, and quickly realized that I didn’t have the whole plot yet.
About halfway through the first draft, I had an epiphany about the characters, one that solved all the problems I was struggling with at that point. It, quite humbly, stared me in the eyes and demanded an entire rewrite of everything I had, including the complete elimination of a few chapters, one of which I’ll be sharing with you tomorrow.
Things just kept spiraling, and what I thought would be a simple romance novella that just happened to be set in a fantasy world with immortals quickly became a dark and gritty novel with stakes so high that their world could shatter and so many fucking love triangles that it was more like a square with an X inside.
Normally, I hate love triangles, but the story had many demands. They were just one of them.
And it actually ended up being one of my favorite character dynamics in any of my books, because it isn’t just a simple “Oh, no, two hotties are into me, how will I ever choose?” type thing. (Btw, if that’s what you like to read, go for it. It just isn’t my thing.)
These love triangles are rooted in genuine psychological and emotional struggles.
And if you’ve read any of my books, you know that psychological and emotional struggles are always at the heart of every story. They’re my bread and butter. They’re the thing that hooks me.
The ones in this book, though not the darkest I’ve ever written, certainly aren’t light.
But I love the way they turned out.
It’s been such an amazing journey getting this book written and edited and ready for you to read. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
Release day is tomorrow! Can you believe it? I can’t.
I’ll be posting a deleted scene tomorrow around noon (CST) and going live on Instagram for a reading of the first chapter and a Q&A session. Follow here so you don’t miss it.
Preorders are available here.
And as always…
Keep writing. Keep reading.