Writing The Sister was a real labour of love. I put my heart and soul into my debut and over the 18 months it took me to finish my first novel the characters became so real to me it was almost as though they were my friends. Last November I told my husband we were going out to celebrate Grace’s birthday, and as I was applying my make-up he asked ‘who is Grace?’ and I froze, mascara wand hovering in my hand, before whispering ‘she’s my main character.’ It struck me in that moment that I might have got a little carried away. Never one to turn down the chance of a dessert we went out anyway, and I raised a glass to the girl who had reignited my passion for writing. By the time The Sister was published I was so familiar with all of the characters they were as real to me as anyone else in my life.
After I’d finished writing The Sister I felt bereft. I missed Grace, Dan and Charlie horribly. At a loss to know how to occupy my time, I quickly started writing The Gift. Jenna, my main character, is very strong, independent, and has been through a terrible ordeal. But while I was getting to know her, my heart was still very much with Grace and I found myself idly writing short stories about what I thought happened to Grace and Dan after the epilogue in The Sister.
During this period I was lucky enough to sign a book deal with a publisher and with a publication date set for The Gift I knew that had to focus fully on my new book and let Grace go. In a way, it felt like I was abandoning her and it was hard at first, to not try to make Jenna a carbon copy. As Jenna took on a personality of her own there were times I found myself thinking ‘Grace would never do that.’
The Gift has now gone out to reviewers prior to its publication next Friday and after The Sister reaching No.1 and being so loved I have expected inevitable comparisons. To my surprise the feedback I have received so far indicates that some readers are preferring The Gift to The Sister. Although I am delighted, in its infancy stages, The Gift is being so well received, and the first review was thrilling to read, there was a small part of me that inexplicably felt a little saddened. ‘Poor Grace,’ I thought, with the feelings a mother has when one child is more popular than the other.
With The Gift being released next week I know now it is time for me to start writing book 3, and with such a tight deadline there is not the time to have a decent break and put some space between me and Jenna. If any writers have tips on how they let go of their characters I would be extremely grateful to hear them.