Here’s a quick look into my writing process with a few fun facts behind the scenes of Dead Ringer.
A five year journey
It is almost exactly 5 years from the time I started writing Dead Ringer to its publication. When I tell people that, I think they imagine I’m just a really slow typist.
In fact, a lot of that was fevered periods of drafting, followed by long reflective periods where I figured out what wasn’t working and how to fix it. Novels aren’t born in perfect first drafts; they’re sweated out in seventh, eighth, ninth drafts.
I’m hoping the next novel proves to be less of a marathon, though!
Method writing on Walney Island
The climax of Dead Ringer takes place at twilight in the rain on the shores of Walney Island in Cumbria. And, yes, I did stand outside at twilight in the rain on the shores of Walney Island and make notes on my ~sensory impressions~, because sometimes I get very #method in my writing.
Dead Ringer’s setting on Walney Island (a small island off the coast of Cumbria) feels so intrinsic to the story now (it’s like another character), so it’s weird to remember that, for many, many drafts, the action of the story took place in the picturesque market town of Kendal.
Also, a good tip for writers, if you’re feeling frustrated with a story, making one major change (like shifting the action to a new setting) can breathe new life into it. That’s what I did with Dead Ringer when I re-located it to Walney Island.
An unconscious nod to a YA fave
I swear this was unconscious, but the major characters in Dead Ringer have the same first initial as the major characters in classic 80s YA series Sweet Valley High. There’s Ella/Elizabeth, Jem/Jessica, and Ella’s/the twins’ brother, Steven/Simon.
Oh, well, here’s to you, Francine Pascal (and all the minions who ghostwrote the SVH books)!
A Ronseal title
Dead Ringer’s title emerged literally on the day my agent sent it out on submission (for publishers to consider). For years beforehand it was called “Ella is not herself today”, which in the end we decided was too similar to allllll the other “[name] is [something something]” books on the market (see Eleanor Olyphant Is Completely Fine and work onwards).
I’ve grown to embrace Dead Ringer as a title, even though I’ll never “own” the search term (yes, I think about things like this). It’s a good old fashioned Ronseal title: does what it says on the tin.
A read-aloud marathon
One editing trick I’ve picked up over the years is to read my writing aloud. I do it with my short stories and, when I was finishing off Dead Ringer, I thought: why not read this aloud, too?
Cut to: five days later, sitting alone in my living room, reading my book aloud to no one, quietly losing my mind. Yes, that’s right, I rehearsed the audiobook before there even was an audiobook.
It was a bit of an epic process, but I do think it made the prose cleaner and crisper.
I’m glad to have professionals reading the real audiobook, though!
Check out a sample of the Dead Ringer audiobook:
Get the audiobook free with a trial of Audible…