Third Life: Taken Q&A

TLT, as I’ve taken to calling it, is getting it’s own Q&A page. Why? Because the way my website is set up, I can’t make changes to a page already published without having them show up immediately. Since I’m able to do a new page as a draft, I created a new page. (What about copy and paste? Well, I could, but then I’d have to finagle with the formatting.) Enough about the page. Let’s get to the questions. (LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD)

Awhile back, you Tweeted that you were considering killing someone. Who was it?
You people have quite the memories, don’t you? I did Tweet that, and I did consider it. If you’ve read the book (stop reading this answer right now if you haven’t), you’ll recall that Lewis had a stroke at the end. At some point, I was seriously considering killing him. I’d been reading a couple of books where characters died and thinking that there was a certain poignancy in the deaths that made the book more memorable. I wondered if Lewis’ death would bring a poignancy to this book. Would Kelsey feel guilt over her father’s sacrifice? Would his sacrifice even out his earlier failure to remove Kelsey from her marking surgery? How would his death ripple through her life?  Ultimately, though, it seemed like a really depressing way to end a book. It also would’ve made the book much longer, or I wouldn’t have really been able to explore either of those ramification questions very much. Finally, it felt like, with Penelope’s kidnapping, there had been enough suffering in the story. So, I eased off of the idea of killing Lewis.  I’m glad I did because Lewis knows things that might be important in the future.

In the future? I thought book 3 concluded the series.
Yes, book 3 concludes the crux of the series. Reading these three books gives you that entire story arc. However, I have had thoughts of a prequel that explores Dr. Grant’s history. Well, actually I’ve had more than thoughts. I’ve written about 2,500 words of it, and I like where it’s going.  This is a prequel. At it’s heart, a prequel is sequel. So, you have to read books 1-3 before you read book 4, the prequel, even though the events of that book will come primarily before the events of book 1-3. Those who have read TLT know that Dr. Grant makes a video reference to being blackmailed. I do plan to explain that. There wasn’t a good way or enough time to explain that in TLT. That book is told in first person and you’d need to get inside Dr. Grant’s head to find out about this blackmail. So, it seemed OK to leave that open, with Kelsey and Luke presuming he might have even just made that up the notion that he was being blackmailed so Kelsey doesn’t hate him for all the misdeeds he’s been a part of. He did not make it up. The blackmail was very real, and I will touch upon that in the prequel.

When is the prequel coming out?
OK, time to hate me. I don’t know. Definitely not in 2014. Hopefully sometime in late 2015. I’m trying to finish my novel Scented this year, and that’s my top priority.  I’ve also started writing another completely unrelated novel that’s piqued my interest. So, I’m just not sure when I’ll get to the prequel. While I really LOVE the Life First series, the one thing I’ve learned over this year of publishing is that to get people to read book 2, they have to have read book 1. With standalone books, you might pick up a new reader who goes back and gets your other books. But with series novels, you have to get people on book 1 to get them to read book 2 or book 3. Because of this, I’m a little hesitant to devote time to book 4, because I’d like to broaden my audience. Certainly, if the Life First series were to take off in sales and people were clamoring for more, I would fill that demand. However, without that demand present, I’d like to spread my wings, do a couple different things, and then ease back into the Life First world.

Did you know what Lewis had done–er, actually not done–when you wrote Life First?

I’d love to say, yes. I’d love to say I’m as super cool and plot-thoughtful as JK Rowling (who knew Snape’s secret, and so much more when she wrote the first Harry Potter book). But, I’m totally not.  Just to be clear (as I left the question a little vague in case someone who hadn’t read the book stumbled upon the page), we’re talking about the fact that Lewis could have gotten Kelsey taken off the marking list. He had been told that it could be done, and was seriously considering pulling strings to get Kelsey’s mark removed. When an advisor leaked Kelsey’s marking info and he saw the bump in his poll numbers, he decided he liked the bump and couldn’t risk trying to get her moved off the list.  While I didn’t know this as I wrote book one, I did know it before I published that book. So, there are inklings of Lewis’ guilt over not moving sooner to get Kelsey off the list. He plays it off as it being about Maya, Kelsey’s mother. And there’s some truth in that. But, he mainly feels guilty that he didn’t just ask to have her mark removed. If he’d known she was going to run, he would’ve done it. Only he didn’t know that. In April of 2013, right before Life First underwent it’s final edit, I went in and edited that scene toward the end of the book (ch. 34:Sentence) where Lewis and Kelsey are talking and he’s apologizing to her for his role in  what happened.

My husband actually said to me when he read that scene, “Why is he feeling so guilty? He didn’t cause this.” I just shrugged, and didn’t tell him, because I like to have a few secrets. But that was the reason he has a lot of guilt in that scene.

Here’s an excerpt from that scene.

He sits on the edge of the table, then put his head in his hands. “I’m so sorry, Kelsey,” he says, his voice breaking.
“Sorry?” He isn’t the one in a holding facility because he refused to give up his kidney. He hasn’t ruined his loved one’s career. “Dad, you have nothing to be sorry for.”
He shakes his head in refute. “I do, Kelsey.”

It’s when he’s shaking his head, he’s thinking of what he could’ve done. But, he knows he can’t tell her that. He knows he can’t tell her that when she’s just been found guilty, when she might be sentenced to death in this place, so he goes for the partial truth and tells her about his guilt over not listening to her mother at the end, and how that contributed to her death. How he feels guilty for not listening to Kelsey. But, there’s also that guilt of not moving Kelsey. The funny thing is, had he moved her, his career would have ended the same way – in disgrace. Both Kelsey and Susan’s markings were set up by Dr. Grant to catch Lewis in the act, and ultimately build public anger toward the marking system.

So, here’s the order of how I wrote the books:

2012 – November – finished the best draft of Life First with eye on publication

2012-2013 – December through February- wrote Second Life

2013 – March – conceived some ideas for Third Life, including the notion that Lewis had an opportunity to remove Kelsey from marking list

2013 – April – make a couple of last minute tweaks to Life First to include foreshadowing about Lewis’s guilt

2013 June – Life First published

2013 – September – November – worked on first draft of Third Life: Taken

2013 – December – Publsihed Second Life

-So, you can see from this timeline that I didn’t know from the beginning, but I knew early enough  that I had time to foreshadow it. So, someone coming to the series after all the books are published will notice the foreshadowing more readily. For example, in Second Life, I added a line (right before publication), where Rob says to Susan, “If you’re good, I may even show you the secret room.” This never comes up again in Second Life. I worried people would think it was weird or be irritated by it. However there was no room in Second Life to really discuss the secret room. I inserted that line there, though, so when you see the secret room in Third Life, you’re not taken aback (or if you are, you can flip through your ebook and find that line).

Where are the deleted scenes/extras?
Oh my. All I can say is I’m sorry. It’s been a hectic summer for me with a lot of unfortunate and crazy stuff happening, and I just didn’t take the time to pull them together, flesh them out and polish them. I didn’t write a lot of extraneous stuff for this book. In fact, a chapter that is in the book actually started out as an extra scene. Chapter 38, where Kelsey overhears her husband and Rob having a conversation, started as me writing this conversation between Rob and Luke. I thought it was a conversation Luke needed to have, but it was also one he couldn’t have with Kelsey around, so I was writing it, but after I wrote it, I realized it should be in the book. So, I reworked it into that scene where Kelsey ends up unintentionally eavesdropping on this conversation. The other scene I wrote that is an extra is the removal of Penelope’s LMS. I had to write that to figure out timeline and what exactly transpired in that room between Luke, Lewis and Rob. I was initially going to have Luke and Lewis discuss who should do it, and ultimately I decided that Luke would never let Lewis make that sacrifice. He’d feel it was his role to do it. So, we have Lewis trick him into leaving so Lewis can get what he wants. I have that scene–I believe the final scene; not the version that totally didn’t work where Lewis and Luke try to haggle over who should get the deadly LMS– on my computer. I will pull it out and polish it up and post it in the extras section before the year ends. Promise.

I thought we were going to see more of Haleema
I think I’ve said that, too. Well, despite my great adoration of Haleema, she doesn’t end up with much face time in the books. I don’t know what to do about that, as forcing her in would make the books feel longer and awkward. Her place is there in Kelsey’s heart and I think you feel that in the book, but there’s just not a lot for her to do. My favorite Haleema moment from the book is at the end, when they’re in Lewis hospital room and Kelsey says she feels bad about leaving Haleema alone, and she just looks at Lewis and says, “I’m not alone.” To me, that was pure Haleema. Pure optimism and heart.

Kevin was something — how’d you come up with him?
Well, when I mentioned Kevin in book 2, I decided that I wanted to see him in book 3. I knew this guy who had done Susan so wrong would be back. So, I fleshed out a couple of details in Second Life and then moved on. When I sat down to write Third Life, with the knowledge that Kevin needed to come back to complicate things for Rob and Susan, everything just flowed. I especially loved that he called her Sue ’cause he’s too lazy to pronounce her full name (OK,that’s probably not the real reason, but I loved Rob’s thought on it).

In the epilogue, you mention Luke’s refusal to speak to his sister; what’s the long-term outlook for that situation?
I don’t know. I’d like to say it gets resolved eventually. But that’s not an easy thing to overcome. Plus, we hear this story from Kelsey’s point of view. The truth of the matter is Emmie isn’t clamoring to speak to Luke either. As much as Luke blames Greg for the kidnapping, Emmie blames Kelsey for being drugged and driven insane. She feels like, “Hey, I’m not asking you to leave your wife, even though people drugged me to get to her; you have no right to ask me to leave my husband.” So, it’s not a rift that’s going to heal easily, if at all.

Is there a question you’d like answered, but don’t see? Drop us an email, and we’ll answer it and it to add it to the FAQ page.

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