Friday, April 8, 2016

The Secret to Letting Go || Author Guest Post

The Secret to Letting Go author, Katherine Fleet, is here to talk about writing three-dimensional characters and her journey with Clover and Daniel. Enjoy!

One summer can change everything...

Haunted with guilt after his girlfriend's death, Daniel Hudson has no interest in committing to anyone. At the end of the summer, he'll be leaving Florida for a new start in college. If only he could avoid the mysterious new girl in town, who seems every bit as naive and eccentric as she looks. Trouble is, she's hard to ignore, with her beautiful piercing eyes, pitiful-looking dog, and unsetting tendency of finding trouble.

Clover Scott lived her whole life off the grid and arrives on the Gulf coast in search of her grandparents. She never expected to nearly drown, or get caught in a hurricane, or fall in love with the boy who rescues her. Now, she has a chance to rewrite her life's story, to finally fit in somewhere, but Daniel wants answers about her past. When the police start asking questions about the disappearance of her parents, she must make a choice: go to jail or confess her secrets - even if they might destroy her chance at a happily-ever-after.

Hi everyone! I want to thank Mahalia for having me here today. My debut novel is a YA contemporary set in a fictional town on the Gulf Coast of Florida during that magical summer after high school graduation when the whole world is out there waiting for you. It's the story of two teens - Clover, a mysterious girl who shows up in town lost in her secrets and fears, and Daniel, a boy who's drawn into her troubled world despite his better judgment. Life keeps throwing them together, but their secrets keep them apart. Ultimately, it's a story about living through tragedy and learning to forgive your self.

I was asked to write about my characters - how I built them, named them, and made sure they were realistic and what I love and hate about them. This will probably sound cliché, but I had a dream, which was basically the first scene of the book. When I woke up, I just lay there, letting the characters take shape. So in a way, Clover came to me fully developed.

I didn't know her name, but I wanted something unusual to suit her personality and circumstances. I also wanted something that felt a little retro and free-spirited. The idea of having all the women in her family named for flowers (Lily as her mother and Rose as her grandmother) came later and was probably inspired by my own family. I share the same middle name as my daughter, mother and great-grandmother - May. I love that continuity.

I always saw Clover as a girl who possessed a quiet strength. She does require physical saving on several occasions and she has her phobias, but she's survived so much and still has the ability to see good in the world and feel compassion toward others. I personally believe it takes great personal strength to emerge from trauma and tragedy, without losing hope and optimism. So, I was surprised when feedback on early drafts mentioned that she seemed too weak and needy. That's when I realised that sometimes the writer's vision of a character may not always come across. So it definitely took some revising and tweaking on my part to make sure that my original vision of Clover came through in the story.

Daniel went through the most changes as the story evolved. Originally, he was just a good guy - the person Clover needed to support her while she worked through her unresolved feeling about her past. But as most writers will tell you, it's important that both main characters have a character arc, with the ability to grow and change throughout the novel.

So, he needed a backstory - something to put him in direct conflict with Clover's needs. Because he was put in the position of needing to save Clover, I wanted this to be a struggle for him. So I gave him a girlfriend who'd died, feelings of guilt over this death, and a reluctance to have anyone else need him, in case he failed them. Once, I added this element to Daniel's character, the story evolved into something so much deeper for both of them.

What do I love about these characters? I love that even after everything they've both been through, in the end, neither one of them has given up on life, hope or love. What do I hate about these characters? Nothing, honestly. Like a mother looking at her kids, at various points they frustrated me, and at times I felt so sorry for them. But overall, I just feel proud.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you'll consider reading Clover and Daniel's story and forming your own opinion.