Susan Vaughan here. My latest novel of romantic suspense has just been published. Yesterday, actually. Dark Vision is an addition to the DARK Files series, and my fourteenth book. I had a glass or two of bubbly to celebrate and breathed a sigh of relief before digging in to promote the book. I don’t usually do promotion here, but this baby was a difficult birth, so here we go.
First, a little background. My career as a published novelist began in traditional publishing, with Harlequin. But after five books with them and another with a small press, I ventured into independent publishing, also known as self-publishing, because online book retailers (Amazon, B&N) were making DIY possible. My journey to finish Dark Vision was longer than usual. I should explain that The DARK Files involves officers in a government agency I made up, DARK, which stands for Domestic Antiterrorism Risk Corps. I know, that acronym would be DARC, but that wasn’t, you should pardon my pun, dark enough for its mission. I do have characters discuss that anomaly in a couple of the books.
On with Dark Vision’s conception and eventual birth. I created Matt Leoni, the protagonist, or hero, as a secondary character in the fourth book in the series, Dark Vengeance (2016). After writing that book, the character of Matt kept asking for his own book. He’s irreverent, charming, appears lazy but has a sharp brain, and can move fast—to deadly effect—when necessary. My problem was that at the end of that book, Matt resigns from DARK because scar tissue in one eye from a terrorist bomb is affecting his vision and plans to marry his fiancée and join her film company. So I decided his story, Dark Vision, would then become the first book in the series. I could use it as a vehicle to introduce some of the protagonists in the following books.
I swallowed hard and told myself I’d figure out later how to make that work. I needed a plot. How did Matt get injured? How will he meet this filmmaker who becomes his fiancée? Who is she and what are her films? I needed to research eye injuries from shrapnel, indie film making, and once I decided on the terrorist connection, foreign embassies. I love research, but doing it only delayed the actual writing.
Every author has his or her own process. One extreme is starting with a blank page and just writing “by the seat of his/her pants.” Those writers are termed pantsers. The other extreme is plotting out the story in detail before writing. Those are called plotters. I’m somewhere in the middle, more of a plotster. I need a road map of where I’m going with the story. I write down conflicts, backgrounds, personalities, and physical descriptions for the hero and heroine in detail and some of the same for important secondary characters. I figure out a general idea of the plot and the major events that turn things around, and I decide on chapters and scenes as I write. Before I write a scene, I plan it out in a few words. This gives me something to put on that blank page before I write an actual scene.
But this time, I was stuck, insecure about the story. Could I even write another book? Could I make the character conflicts and romance work with the external plot? And more. To make it easy—ha!—on myself, I would make the story a novella, less than 75 pages. A snap. Wrong! Dark Vision would not be wrestled into that short. Plot twist after relationship twist after conflict twists kept the page count mounting. Writing in fits and starts and procrastinating, I gradually made progress.
It took me nearly two years to finish Dark Vision. Perhaps you read my March blog post, “Refilling the Well,” about vacations rejuvenating and re-energizing people—me in particular. After a week or so on the beach and not writing at all, I came home and made the final push. The words flowed. The exciting climax, the romantic resolution, fell into place. Hooray, I finished the book! Editing, formatting, and the rest are all completed, and the book is for sale. It’s no longer a novella, but a short novel, and although it was a long process, I’m proud of my baby. The DARK Files is now a series of five books. For now all are only digital, but print is coming. And I hope readers of the series will be interested in how it all began for Matt and Nadia and new readers will pick up Dark Vision (only 99 cents for a short time) and move on to the rest—Dark Memories, Dark Cover, Dark Rules, and Dark Vengeance.