The Night Before by Wendy Walker is now available in paperback. To celebrate the releases Wendy Walker joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads Group to discuss the story and her writing process. I am very excited to share with you all the fantastic insight Wendy shared with us.
Debra: Hi Wendy! Thank you so much for joining us. I would love to know how you get your ideas for your books
Wendy: I get ideas from all different places. The key is to be observant of everything all the time – people, places, situations, reactions, etc. If something catches my attention then there is likely something of interest to others as well.
Debra: Do you do an outline of your plot or do you just write and see where the story takes you?
Wendy: I do outline carefully before I begin to write. I have to know where the pieces to the puzzle are going to fit in so that the plot can be woven together. Sometimes I will have a new twist idea as I’m writing and then I have to go back and revise to make it work, but otherwise, I know what’s going to happen
Brenda: What came first for you the plot or the characters Laura and Rosie? Laura and Rosie were very different sisters and this created some interesting dynamics in the story. How did you come up with the idea of them and can you tell us a bit as to why you created them so different?
Wendy: Rosie and Laura developed as I structured the plot. I knew Laura would be edgy because I wanted her to be someone on the edge of losing it – I wanted there to be a reason Rosie feared what she might do to the man and not the other way around. Then came Rosie – I wanted her to be softer but also tough. They had to be two sides to the same coin. Rosie is how Laura might have turned out if her father had shown her love.
Brenda: How did you maintain that suspense, tension and sense of dread? Were you aware that you were creating a sense of dread as you were writing or was it created as you were writing the story?
Wendy: Creating suspense is definitely a tool I had to learn. Plotting helps me a lot with this. For example, if I know someone is the killer, I will be careful to hide clues in other places, like a conversation about something totally off topic between my killer and someone else. I will drop in a comment there so that when the reader finds out who the killer is, he or she won’t feel blindsided because the bread crumbs were there. I also use red herrings and foils and other devices to distract the readers from the real ending!
Brenda: You explore some interesting psychological themes with your characters. How do you go about capturing their voices? How do you go about researching those themes for your characters?
Wendy: It is always my goal to make the reader have to read every sentence because nothing is there to fill the space. Everything is written to build the characters or drop a clue. The psychology here was very important. I like to have realistic element to why a character is a certain way. So I researched attachment disorders using experts I found and came up with her personality – a reason why she always chooses the wrong men and then hates herself for not being able to change. Attachment disorders are fascinating! Many of us have them to some degree. At the most extreme, it’s why people who grow up being abused or witnessing abuse will subconsciously choose abusers for their adult partners. They are drawn to the familiar because their brains know they can survive it. We are wired to do this – to seek out circumstances that we know how to survive, even if they cause us paid. And we also try to fix the past by recreating the problem and then solving it as grown ups. It’s our way of dealing with unresolved pain.
Debra: Do you ever get inspiration for your characters based on people you have met or know (or observed) in your real life?
Wendy: I almost never base characters on people I know but I do draw from themes that I see in relationships and also different personality profiles.
Sometimes at night these days, if I watch the news, I can get into a real slump emotionally. Like most of us I’m sure. I actually try to put those feelings onto a character and then imagine what she or he might say about them and what plot I could build that would provoke such powerful feelings. It’s a way of coping sometimes.
Norma: I’ve been learning that authors don’t always have a say sometimes in their book titles and covers. I was just wondering if you can enlighten us a little bit on that. When we first received our e-Arcs it didn’t have a cover and then when I actually seen the cover I was totally blown away with it. Did you have a hand in picking out the cover design? The title is perfect BTW! 🙂
Wendy: On covers and titles, this is true! We do not have the last say, although we can weigh in. There is a fuzzy line between creativity and marketing and what appeals to me won’t always appeal to the masses. This is true even with the content of the book. I like very dark, gut wrenching stories so I always have to tone things down just a bit when I’m writing, or usually editing. It’s so important to have a trusted team behind you to let you know where you’ve strayed!
Leslie: I know a couple of questions have already been asked, Maybe you can just describe your writing process a bit for us?
Wendy: To address a few of the questions at once – I always try to build to a dramatic ending where all of the clues are coming together but the suspense is also building. In The Night Before and Don’t Look For Me, I changed to very short chapters where the timelines finally meet and the characters are in the same place at the same time. I also try to come up with some spine chilling”scenes” that the reader can visualize and that will cause a powerful sense of surprise or fear or dread or shock. But I also like to have an emotional wrap up at the end so that it leaves the reader with a strong and lasting connection to the characters. I love books where I think about the characters as if they were real people for days after I finish reading. As if what happened in the book actually happened to someone. That’s always my goal
I also love to write in first person, and every book I have written has at least one first person narration. It is usually the character who requires the most explaining! It’s much easier for me to explain a complex personality by writing a stream of thought and going off on tangents etc, because I think that’s how we are used to experiencing people in real life. When we we build a relationship with someone, they tell us things directly, not through another person, and I think this builds closeness with the reader and allows for more nuances to come through.
DeAnn: Hi Wendy! Thanks for joining us. I’ve read 3 of your books and you are an “auto-request” author for me. I truly enjoy the characters that you create.
I’m curious if you feel pressure to keep putting out great books or have you developed confidence now in your abilities?
Wendy: I do feel pressure but it’s not negative. It feels like a challenge and it means that I am always thinking in terms of plot!
Diana: Welcome, Wendy! I absolutely loved All Is Not Forgotten! I look forward to reading more of your work! I want to ask you which authors or books inspired you to begin writing?
Wendy: I personally enjoy books that force me to feel something provocative, either good or bad. I want to be made to feel things I don’t normally feel in my life. So I try to write that way as well. I also studied some psychology when I was practicing law, so I always look for angles that will allow me to go into those areas.
Lindsay: Hi Wendy! Thank you so much for being here with us!! I’ve been a HUGE fan of yours ever since reading All Is Not Forgotten. One of my most favourite books ever! My question mirrors Brenda and Debra’s – I’m wondering if during the planning process of your novels, are your characters created through inspiration from people you know in real life? Or are they completely imagined and not based on anyone in particular? Your characters are done so extremely well in every novel. I’d love to know how these characters are “born”.
Wendy: Sometimes a situation in my real life will make me start thinking about the broader issue and how it might impact others and then I will extrapolate from that theme. For example, The Night Before was definitely inspired by my life as a single middle aged woman with a lot of single friends all out there in the darting world. Even though I wrote about a young woman dating, the stories that inspired the basic theme behind the plot came from my life.
Debra: Are there any scenes that were particularly hard/difficult to write?
Wendy: Scenes that are hard to write are the ones that need to be written for the plot but that don’t have anything that dramatic in them. Like some of Rosie’s investigation into the disappearance. The reader needs to know why and how she ended up in a new place but the process of that isn’t interesting to me because I already know!
For more of the Q & A discussion you can find it here