So, back in March of this year, I was working on RUSH, the third book in my series. It's about a blind recluse, who's bitter and angry at the world for his loss of vision, and who makes life a living hell for those around him. The entire idea came to me in a flash while running. (Some of you have heard this before, so just skip on down to FAST FORWARD for your abridged version).
I take a run most days, and I get in some good plot thinking, flashes of inspiration, and sometimes I unravel story lines as I jog along. But on this one particularly good run, I overheard (in my mind) a conversation. It was a young man--and he sounded bitter. He was giving a young woman a litany of job duties (and not being very nice about it.) Sounded like a job interview. So I listened in, eavesdropped. This man began to ask the girl questions. What do you look like? Hair color, eye color, etc, because he was blind--come to find out- and wanted to know what the "ghost who was to haunt his house" looked like. And he still wasn't being very nice about it, but this girl--god blesser--wasn't taking his guff.
And that, in a nutshell, was how RUSH was born. I ran home, typed up the echoes of that conversation, almost verbatim, and went from there.
FAST FORWARD to a month later, and RUSH is giving me the fits. I could NOT get around a certain stupid plot development I had tossed in there, and had not yet discovered that cutting it out completely was going to save my book. I was stuck trying to write around it and generally feeling shitty about the whole thing. To top it off, I stupidly set myself a crazy deadline by putting it on pre-order on Amazon, where the consequences of failure are swift and dire. Basically, I was in a funk and would go for days doing nothing more than ordering and reordering bits of dialogue, trying to get the stupid thing to gel.
I finally gave up and decided I needed to do some reading to refill my brain and get going again. I had heard a lot of good things about a book called Me Before You by a super-talented author named Jojo Moyes. So I decided to give that book a gander...and nearly had a heart attack just reading the blurb.
For the uninitiated, MBY is about a bitter, angry recluse who's been injured in an accident, and who gives his new assistant hell because he's bitter and angry and the assistant is plucky and doesn't take his shit and OMFG WHAT AM I GOING TO DO???
Yeah, panic. Straight up, panic. I'm 40% finished with RUSH and then I find this universally beloved book with a similar premise. Only she thought it up first, and I was sure I was going to look like some sort of ridiculous pretender. Oy. That was not a good day. So I did what I always do when I panic, and that is to send an email to Erin. (She's the one the book's dedicated to, and now you know why) I told her the situation and she told me to keep going because Erin's advice is always fabulous and, in one way or another, always boils down to "Shut up and keep going." So that's what I did. I kept going: I dynamited that stupid plot boulder I'd plunked into the middle of the story, and I finished it.
What I did not do was read Me Before You. Not until after RUSH was finished anyway. I didn't want one iota of that book (which turned out to be everything good I had heard it to be and devastating to boot) to seep into mine, subconsciously or otherwise. I skimmed enough to see that the plot lines were very divergent beyond the basic grumpy guy/assistant premise, and mine has a big ole HEA.
When I did read MBY, I was stunned by its intelligence, its smooth flow, and the fact that despite it being the Ugly Cry of the Century, it wasn't schmaltzy or maudlin in ANY way. Sharp, funny, sad...it's a glorious book.
Some people have compared the feel of my book to MBY and for that, I am profoundly flattered, but I'm not egotistical enough to think the two books are in the same league. And I can say that without qualms or self-pity because I'm also proud enough of RUSH to know it can stand on its own, in whatever capacity it has to move readers. I just kept going, because Noah and Charlotte had a story to tell and neither they, nor I--eventually--could let anything stop them from telling it.
But for a minute there? Yup. Shittin' bricks.