Behind the Scenes

I wrote all three books back to back originally. I had a strong concept and storyline for Reason to Breathe. I worked on it, developing it, editing it for some time after finishing the first draft. I had friends read it. People I barely knew read it. I took their reactions and edited some more. I edited it so much at one point, that I messed it up. I literally had to go back to an earlier draft and bring some scenes back to their original form. I over analyzed it, and almost ruined it.

When I wrote the original version of Barely Breathing, I wasn’t as connected with the story. And that was evident to the only person who ever read it. (The only person who will ever read it.) Evan was overprotective and almost smothering. Emma was even more evasive. I lost the essence of their relationship.

There were many comments on Evan’s absence in this sequel. I know everyone loved him and Emma together. And trust me, they were together like every other high school couple – hanging out after school, going to each other’s games, making out on the couch. I just chose not to write about it. I focused the plot on the story that needed to be told. And that focused on Emma’s relationship with her mother, and her inability to heal from her past.

Jonathan has since become my most complex and controversial character. I purposely wrote Jonathan to be a character that walked an edge. He could either be perceived as angry and dangerous, or broken and misunderstood. Some readers will empathize with his characters, while others would feel uneasy around him, suspecting he may not be a good guy at all. I created scenes that could be construed as awkward coincidence, or something that was done on purpose to appear as accidents. I won’t tell you what the truth in those scenarios is, but I will say that it’s written that way.

The biggest difference between the original version of Barely Breathing and the rewrite that I created after self-publishing Reason to Breathe in May 2011 is the ending. I tipped Jonathan’s stability over the edge and lit a fire to his anger. When Emma chooses Evan over Jonathan, he becomes irate. Irrational. And aggressive towards Emma. After a struggle, she ends up stabbing him… killing him. I kept this ending in the rewrite as well. But my beta readers were freaking out, shaking their heads, murmuring, “No, no, no. What just happened?! There’s blood… everywhere. No, no, no. You can’t do this. No way.”

So I rewrote the ending. Five times. As you may have read elsewhere, I know the ending before I start writing. I had built this entire book to lead up to this violent and dramatic ending. And with days to go until publishing it, I had to come up with a new ending. I was at a loss. I came up with the fight between Evan and Jonathan. This is where the four rewrites come in. I couldn’t connect with it. It wasn’t what was in my head. Everything felt forced. I’d write. Read it. Erase it.

It wasn’t until the night that I was to press the “Publish” button that I finally got it right. I felt it as I wrote it. I could see the scene in my head. Hear their voices yelling, and bodies slamming against the walls. It was the ending that would leave many of you shaking your heads in disbelief.

But know… Emma left Evan at the end of every version. That never changed.