With Dark Hearts having just released I can’t help but be blown away by the love this series is receiving and I find myself thinking about how this series almost didn’t happen.
In fact, I almost didn’t release Rae of Sunshine.
Authors rarely talk about the drama and stress that goes on behind the scenes, but a book is rarely smooth sailing. Rae of Sunshine was one of my toughest releases ever. I’m going to start at the beginning though, back to when I first started writing it.
One of my first hiccups when writing Rae of Sunshine was I couldn’t SEE Rae. Normally, I always get a feel for what a character looks like, how they dress, act, etc. All I knew was she was into photography and starting college (I also knew the BIG thing that happened in her past but I don’t want to say that here and spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it)
Anyway, I started writing.
I wrote about 10,000 words. It wasn’t right.
I started over.
I’m someone that rarely “starts over”. If I have to change something it’s usually minor and doesn’t affect me in a way that I have to rewrite so much. So I was frustrated. But I knew it needed to be done.
Rewrote the 10,000 words and got to around 12,000 words this time before I again decided it wasn’t right.
So I started over…AGAIN.
I started over a total of three times. By that point I was questioning if I should keep going. Also, I had this guy popping up in my head. He played drums and had a pet hedgehog and he was telling me it was finally time to tell his story. >.< Last To Know began to eat at me as I wrote Rae of Sunshine. To the point where I couldn’t focus because ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS LAST TO KNOW. It was hard. But I pushed through, because I knew if I didn’t finish Rae’s story then I probably never would and I felt it was too important of a story to scrap.
While I was writing Rae of Sunshine I had a plan to do a book for Xander and Thea and Jace and Nova, so I dropped hints and set up their story.
At the time I was planning to finish Rae of Sunshine and go straight into Xander and Thea’s book–When Stars Collide. But again, Maddox and…at the time she had no name, but she became Emma, wouldn’t leave me alone and I began to feel miserable and depressed at the thought of having to write two more books before I could get to theirs.
In the midst of all this we had the photo shoot for Rae of Sunshine.
I hated the photos.
I have never, in all of my photo shoots I’ve done for my books, HATED one of them before. But I hated this one. At this point, I was feeling like I was cursed. Regina went ahead and did some covers with those photos, in case ONE of them would work and I could get a refund on the shoot. I hated all the covers too, even though she tried so hard.
I spent the whole day crying over the photos and covers. I’m not a crier at all, but I was already so distraught over how HARD the book was to write, still wasn’t quite happy with it at that point as I was writing, and here I was needing a cover to reveal and I had NOTHING. Every time someone looked at me that day I burst into spontaneous tears. It was bad.
But Regina is a saint and told me not to stress about it.
We scheduled a reshoot.
It was perfect. I absolutely LOVE the photos. It was a weight off my shoulders when I finally saw them.
….But then the cover was taking forever again. I hated everything she did. Nothing was right. Poor Regina. We went through over forty drafts. I’m not even kidding. Some weren’t bad, of course, but it wasn’t right. This was a VERY hard book to get the feel right for. A cover is your first impression so it has to be perfect.
Regina sent a concept that was very close to the what became the final and I finally KNEW we were on the right track. It just needed some small tweaks. I’d told her that morning that I needed it done that day, so we worked the whole evening to get it perfect. At that point, since we’d had to reshoot and the cover took so long, I didn’t have a reveal with bloggers. Well, I’d had one but I had to cancel it after everything that happened. Regina finished the cover and sent me the final files and I revealed IMMEDIATELY. I was releasing in like a week or two, I can’t quite remember, so I wanted it out there.
Thankfully, you guys shared that cover everywhere. It was amazing. I’m always blown away by the power YOU guys have. I think as readers we (I say we because I’m a reader too, lol) feel insignificant, but you guys do more than anyone else. Your reviews, your shares, your word of mouth praise is what helps a book be successful.
Anyway, I had a release date set for Rae of Sunshine and then I got sick with the flu or something. I can’t really remember. I was sick, but still reading through the book again because I wanted to get it out to you guys on time regardless. But as I was reading it I still wasn’t quite happy. It was missing something. I knew I needed to add some scenes. So I took the time and I did it–but it meant postponing it. I announced a new release date that I knew I could meet, and went to work adding these scenes. I added over 10,000 words. When I read it this time I was FINALLY happy with the book. I finally felt like the story had the emotional impact I wanted. I felt good about it. When it was ready I released it early, before the new date, and I honestly thought the book was going to flop. My last six or so releases hadn’t done very well, so I was expecting the worst.
I got the best.
Rae of Sunshine went on to be one of my bestsellers.
That book was my hardest book, all the way around, from writing it, to the cover, to the shoot, to trying to get it out to you. Everything that could go wrong did. And then a miracle happened.
I was blown away by the love it received. I was especially worried, since while it is a romance, it’s not heavy on the romance, it’s more about the plot. I thought that would hurt me, but if anything I think people loved that about it. It was different.
Before releasing it, I’d already made up my mind not to write Xander and Thea’s book next. Rae of Sunshine was too hard, I was exhausted and needed a break from that world, and Last to Know wouldn’t shut up. I knew if I tried to write Xander and Thea’s book then I’d be miserable and it’d be forced and I never want to force a book. So I chose instead to market Rae of Sunshine as a standalone. I knew that if I ever wanted to go back to those characters I could, but I honestly didn’t think I would.
I went on to write all four of the Willow Creek books, then started a series for the kids. While I was writing The Road That Leads To Us I started thinking about writing a bonus scene for Rae and Cade to celebrate the one-year release of Rae of Sunshine. “I’ll write their wedding” I thought to myself. Well, Xander and Thea didn’t take too kindly to that. “Do that and we’ll never get our book,” they said. So I chose not to do a scene and instead just did a sale. More time passed. I wrote The Lies That Define Us and Bring Me Back.
And then Xander and Thea’s voices started to get louder and louder.
Then Regina posted a photo of a guy and I just about fell out of my chair, lol. I was like, “It’s Xander! OMG!”
I started writing The Game That Breaks Us, but Thea and Xander’s voices grew louder and louder–much the way Maddox and Emma had while I was writing Rae of Sunshine. In the midst of writing Game, I stopped and had to write the first page of When Stars Collide. I had to get it out of my head before I went crazy. That first page hooked me. I couldn’t wait to get back to it and finish it.
I scheduled a shoot with Regina for When Stars Collide.
In my mind, I couldn’t believe this was happening all this time later. Almost two years after Rae of Sunshine first released. The craziest part was I still got asked at least once a month if Xander and Thea were getting a book.
I was ecstatic to finally be able to say yes.
I finished The Game That Breaks Us and immediately started writing When Stars Collide. I couldn’t wait. Seriously, I think I started it the same day I finished Game, lol. I absolutely loved writing When Stars Collide. It was so fun and easy. If you’ve read it it’s a lot funnier and lighter than Rae of Sunshine. It was a breath of fresh air to write. And I LOVE Xander and Thea. Their dynamic is fun to write. Plus, Thea is my favorite female character of mine. She says what she wants and it’s awesome. I also have to take a moment to thank Hannah and Anthony (the cover models) for embracing the characters and being so awesome. I can’t imagine anyone else as Thea and Xander. (And yes, Anthony is the guy I saw Regina post and was like, “OMG! It’s Xander!”)
So it’s pretty crazy to me, that a series that I originally planned to write three books for, went down to one, and now there are going to be FIVE. Five books in this series, guys. Like, WHAAAAT?! (Xander and Thea are getting a second book and Jace and Nova are getting a second book)
It’s also turned into one of my favorite series of mine. And despite all the craziness and heartache that happened behind the scenes I wouldn’t change a thing. If I’d written When Stars Collide and Dark Hearts immediately after finishing Rae of Sunshine they would’ve been completely different stories and on the creative end, it would be totally different cover models, and the models for both those books are perfect. In the end, everything happens for a reason. And I’m thrilled that the series is continuing with Xander and Thea’s second book (When Constellations Form) and Jace and Nova’s second book. Even though Rae and Cade aren’t getting a second book you’ll be seeing a lot more of them and their story too. 😉