MDA: I’ve had some feedback on Pieces so far, and one of the things I keep hearing is, “This isn’t what I expected!” That can be a good thing and a bad thing, I suppose. Pieces does not focus on what happens immediately after The Breakaway. We don’t go through the whole trial or anything like that. To me, that’s not the story I wanted to tell at all, and it didn’t seem to find a place in the storyline, no matter how hard I tried to fit it in there (because I figured readers would want to see that). I wanted to tell the story of how Naomi heals and moves on from the traumatic experience of being kidnapped. That means some good time needs to have gone by. Pieces picks up two years after Naomi has escaped her kidnappers. She’s in college and trying to move on. It’s a much, much quieter story than The Breakaway, but still intense and emotional.
What are some essential items or habits that help you cope through those dark dark lulls during the writing process? What helps you relax when things just aren’t going well?
MDA: I think it’s safe to say I’ve had some dark lulls in my writing process. For instance, I recently shelved a novel I’m not sure will ever see the light of day now. It was difficult to do that, but it helped me see how essential it is to look at my work from an objective point of view. Being able to look at my career and my projects with a cold, objective eye has become a coping mechanism for me when things get tough. Writing is so very, very emotional. Sometimes you have to be able to take that emotion away so you can make important decisions.
As far as relaxing goes, I love Jane Austen movies, Downton Abbey, and other period movies. I usually push everything aside and spend some good time watching my favorite things when I feel like my writing is stressing me out too much. I’ve also started working only on the weekdays. I take the weekends off to read, and that has helped a lot too.
Is there a character that came easiest to write while writing the books in this series?
MDA: As crazy as it sounds, Eric was one of the easiest character to write. He’s so deliciously evil! I had so much fun writing him. Naomi was also one of the easiest for both books.
Do you have a favorite moment in the series where you felt it’s impact or power once you finished writing the scene that you might want to share?
MDA: I think a scene leading up to the climax of Pieces is my favorite moment of the entire series. Without giving too much away, it’s a scene where Jesse is explaining to Naomi a part of what happened in The Breakaway, from his perspective. I love this scene so much because it opens up a door for Naomi—one that leads to her making some very important decisions. It brings a lot of things into focus. I’ll share a little bit of the scene here, although it is longer in the book. Don’t want to spoil anything!
He stepped forward. She couldn’t back away. “That’s one of the reasons I thought this could work,” he said, reaching a hand out to her. “When I read your journal, I saw parts of you that made me believe you could deal with this. You’re that kind of personality.”
She scrunched her nose. “What kind of personality?”
Placing his hand on her arm, he inched closer. “Stubborn but submissive. Eric saw that in you. He tested you, and when he was convinced you were wired that way, we all agreed to push you into wanting to stay with us. Eric knew if we could nudge your stubbornness in the right direction, you’d be ours forever. He also knew heavy violence wasn’t the way to push you, so he forced himself to be as gentle as possible. We all did.”
Naomi let out a deep sigh, knowing everything he said was true. “That was all while I was captive. I’m not kidnapped anymore. I’m trying to break out of that frame of mind. I’m trying to be stronger.”
Jesse was close to her now. She felt as if the walls might be falling in on top of her. “This will take time to sort through,” he said as he wrapped an arm around her waist. “I love you, Naomi. I’ll love you forever.”
What do you hope to accomplish with this series? What do you want your readers to get out of reading your books? Any particular message or feeling?
I’m always a little sad when I get the impression someone has read either of these books on a “surface” level, meaning they’re focused only on one aspect of the book rather than the book as a whole. One of the things I try to do with my books is add a lot of layers and twist things in a way readers won’t expect. There’s the plot, of course, which is what you usually read about in the book description, but beneath that, I have so much more going on. What I’d like readers to get out of reading my books is to see all those layers working together and to ask themselves important questions as those layers break the surface.
The Breakaway, to me, has always been about Naomi and her mother’s relationship more than the kidnapping and her relationship with Jesse. Are Naomi’s parents abusive because of their neglect? Is that neglect worse than what Naomi’s kidnappers do to her? How often do we fall in love with people because of circumstances (Naomi’s relationship with Jesse) rather than the person themselves? Is that wrong or right? How far are you willing to sacrifice your own ideals to stay in a potentially harmful relationship/friendship? These are the kinds of things I want readers to see and explore when they read my books.
Have you guys read The Breakaways series yet? What did you think? Also: claps for Michelle for taking care of all those answers :)