Please welcome Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of four novels for adults, including (most recently) The Precious One, Love Walked In and Belong to Me; and one for middle grade readers, Saving Lucas Biggs, which she co-wrote with her husband David Teague. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with David, their two children, Charles and Annabel, and their two Yorkies, Huxley and Finn. Connect with Marisa on Facebook and on Twitter.
I’d never been a person to walk away from a commitment, and every novel I’d ever started writing, I’d finished and delivered when it was due. But eighty pages into my fourth novel, I walked away and tried something completely different. I’m not a risk-taker, and this was a huge risk and hard, wrenchingly hard, but it was exactly what I needed to do.
Knowing When to Walk Away
About eighty pages into writing my fourth novel The Precious One, I found myself in a state I’d never been in before. I wasn’t blocked, if being blocked is the complete inability to write. At eighty pages, I had faith my story, and I was already in the mode of experiencing my characters as real people. Not only did I have the two, very different narrative voices down cold, but also I loved my protagonists, Taisy and Willow.
And I could write, eking out a few paragraphs a day. The problem was that I didn’t want to. I confess that I have always enjoyed the act of writing. Sometimes, of course, I’ve hated it, but on a pretty regular basis, it makes me happy, and there are occasional whole stretches of time when it is sheer exhilaration. And even on the most desperate days, it has always felt like home.
Except that eighty pages into The Precious One, it stopped being home. I was slogging, dragging out and slapping down one sentence, then another. When I didn’t feel abject fear of the process, an icy dread, I felt numb. I had lost my joy.
About this time, my husband David Teague, a picture book author, and I started talking casually about what it might be like to write a book together. It was all a series of what-ifs: what if we wrote a book together; what if our narrators were thirteen years old; what if the book were for readers who were around our kids’ ages; what if we put history in it, and time travel, and Quakers, and a cool grandpa . . .. We began to text each other ideas at odd hours and to come tearing into the house blurting out plot twists or historical tidbits we’d dug up. We began to think in the voices of our characters. But it was all a game. How could we write it when I had another book to write, one under contract and with a deadline? We looked at each other, told each other we could not do it, it made no sense, the book would have to wait for another time, another year.
And then I walked away from The Precious One. [Read more…]