On the road for Ransom

There are several things about the new Ransom book that are unique compared to the rest of the series. It’s the first book where we’ll get to directly see what Will Ransome is experiencing and feeling (which I am super excited about! I wasn’t expecting to enjoy writing about Will as much as I did). The Ransome Brothersis also the first book where we’ll switch Point of View between more than two characters. Another way this book is a little different is that the boys aren’t on tour at all. Redeem is the only other book in the series where we don’t see the boys out on the road.

The fact that 4 of the 6 books show the band on tour probably tells you that I really enjoy writing about their life on the road! That’s mainly because a huge source of inspiration for this series was my own experiences traveling around with my friends to follow a band.  To tell you about this, I’m going to have to confess something: I am a huge Hanson fan. Yes, Hanson, those Mmmbop kids from the nineties. Feel free to laugh at me! The funny thing is that I absolutely hated them when I was a kid and they were popular. But then a good friend reintroduced me to them years later and I fell in love. If you haven’t checked them out lately, you totally should! They all grew up super cute! They own their own record label now and write really fun pop-rock songs and seeing their shows is SO MUCH fun. Seriously, go find some of their new music. Okay, Hanson advertisement over 😉

The band themselves didn’t have anything to do with my inspiration for these books—Ransom has a totally different sound, style, and reputation. But my own experiences as a fan did inspire a lot my writing, particularly about Daisy, Paige, and Karen. When I was in my early twenties some friends and I followed a tour around for a few weeks and it was seriously the most fun I’ve ever had. We slept in crappy hotels and camped out on the pavement in the freezing cold to get good spots inside. We lived on gross fast food and traveled by bus for over twenty hours. And I loved it! It was so great to spend that time with close friends and to get to hear music we were passionate about every night. That was the feeling I wanted to capture when I wrote about Ransom being out on tour—that sense of freedom and adventure, excitement and connection with a group of people.

Beyond those tour memories, travel in general has played a big role in my writing. Traveling is something that I truly love and I try to do it as much as possible. So it makes sense that I love writing about characters who are traveling, experiencing new places and new sights. If I’m writing about somewhere new, I try to visit that place first whenever I can afford it. It’s important for me to really get a feel for the places I write about. I was super lucky to be able to visit Paris before I wrote Rescue. That trip ended up changing the entire book.

I always knew that Lennon was going to go and find their mom while on tour in Europe. Originally this was all going to happen in London (which I’ve visited a few times before). But then I got to Paris and that idea totally changed. Paris seemed like a place that Lennon would have such a connection to. I knew he would love the art and the culture and the food and vibe of wandering along the river, looking at beautiful things. When I walked into the Musee d’Orsay, I immediately envisioned the entire scene where Paige takes the boys there as a special treat for Len and he connects with Haylee. I have no idea how their relationship would have been different if I hadn’t gotten the chance to see that place for myself. Something similar happened when I went to the Monet house in Giverny. It was suddenly so obvious to me that Lennon would take Haylee there and that’s where he would see his mother.

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Gardens at the Monet House in Giverny, where I plotted out Haylee and Lennon’s love story

Little surprises like this are my favorite part of writing. When I see something new or travel somewhere I’ve never been before or catch a glimpse of a stranger who seems interesting and suddenly feel inspired to write—there’s nothing in the world that makes me happier than that. I love it when I have a plan for a story and something new and unexpected comes barreling in to change it. To me there’s nothing more exciting!

The Ransome Brothers is set mainly in LA, which I was lucky enough to visit when I was researching the Lovestruck series. It’s also the place where I first had the idea for the Ransome boys (you can read about that here). In that sense, LA is really where this whole series began for me. And it felt completely appropriate and fitting that The Ransome Brotherswould take me back there.

 

**Book 6 in the Ransom series, The Ransome Brothers, will be available on June 12th**

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New Ransom covers and how it all began

We’re getting so close to the release of the next Ransom book! A bunch of people have sent me messages to let me know they’re rereading the series to prepare for the new book. That makes me BEYOND happy! Before writing this book I did the same thing and reading all of those books just reminded me of how much I love this series and these characters. And my reread got me totes hyped for the new covers I’ve been working on with Paper and Sage Book Cover Designs! I am absolutely in love with these covers—I think they express the feel of this series perfectly! So without further ado, here are the brand new covers for Ransom books 1-5!

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Aren’t these amazing?? I love them so much. Next week I’ll have the cover for The Ransome Brothers ready to show you!

Speaking of The Ransome Brothers, today I was editing a scene featuring Daisy and Daltrey, and it got me thinking about the beginning of this series. When I get an idea for a new book, I’ll usually start thinking about the characters before I decide anything about the plot. Ransom was a little different—I had an idea for a character and within just a few hours I pretty much knew what was going to happen in the entire series. That’s never really happened to me before! It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Daltrey was the first character I thought of (even though his name was originally going to be Levi!) The second character might not be as expected—I actually thought of Rose before any of the other brothers or even Daisy!

The day I decided to write the Ransom series I was out in LA to do setting research for Lovestruck in Los Angeles. I knew I wanted the Lovestruck characters to go to Disneyland so I was visiting the park with my friend Jon (sometimes my job is SO HARD!) We were heading over to Space Mountain when we passed a younger guy holding his daughter, who was probably around four or five. This guy had longish hair in a ponytail and tons of tattoos—he totally seemed like a romance novel bad boy! He was so cute laughing with this adorable little girl as they walked by, this tough looking guy having a sweet daddy-daughter outing. I only caught the briefest glimpse of them, but I couldn’t get them out of my head for the rest of the day.

I’m TERRIBLE company when I’m stuck on an idea for a book because I can’t really think about anything else! Luckily, my friend Jon is a huge rollercoaster fan—and I am mega terrified of heights. So while Jon went to ride California Screamin’ a bunch of times, I got in a long line for Radiator Springs Racers. I pulled out the notes app on my phone and spent the next hour and a half plotting the entire Ransom series while I waited for the ride.

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Part of the original notes on Ransom, jotted down in line at Disneyland. This is the moment I had the idea to name the boys after rock legends and started to brainstorm options.

By the time I left the park that day I had decided on most of the main plot points for the whole series. Some of that changed over the months as I wrote the first four books but a lot of those original ideas ended up in the series.

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When I got back to the hotel that night I had decided on the main character names and descriptions. I scrawled out this note on a scrap of paper–which I ended up spilling something on. I’ve kept it pinned up over my desk ever since I got home from LA, stains and all 😉

I think about that dad and his daughter a lot. I hope they still do fun things together like visiting Disneyland. I hope they’re still as happy as they seemed when I saw them laughing for those few seconds that day. I’m so grateful that I caught a glimpse of them all those years ago because the Ransom series has given me more joy to write and share with you guys than anything else I’ve ever worked on. People always ask me what has been my favorite part to write. I don’t know if I have a favorite, I love a bunch of the scenes so much, but I can say my most emotional writing was the scene where Daltrey introduces his brothers to Rose in Rescue. After all, it was those two characters who started the whole thing!

Crazy Dreams

Okay, I’ve been awful at keeping up with my blog lately! I’m sorry! I kind of have a good excuse. First of all, I’ve been writing like a mad thing. Kiki’s book came out in July and it’s been selling well. I love the feedback I’ve gotten from readers. I really love Kiki and it makes me so happy to hear that other people enjoy reading about her too. I’ve been working hard on the sequels to In Search of a Love Story. I like how they’re coming along so far and I’m hoping they’ll both be ready by the new year.

Another reason I’ve been MIA relates to a very fun adventure I got to go on earlier in the fall. I got home a few weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to post this. It’s a blog entry I wrote while crossing the Atlantic ocean on a cruise ship. Here goes:

Last September I was heading back to the classroom after a summer of amazing, fulfilling, humbling writing experiences. I remember a feeling of almost desperation. I had been able to focus on my writing all summer long, and it made me so happy. While I was excited to get back to my students, a huge part of me badly wanted to continue to write full time. I had published my first book over the summer and had finished writing and revising the second. The excitement of those experiences was unlike anything I had experienced. The thought of regulating the writing stuff to after school hours made me feel so sad—and scared, in a weird way. What if I never got to write full time?

What a difference a year makes.

When September rolled around this year, instead of heading back to the classroom, I got on a plane. Many hours later I landed in Scotland, a grand UK adventure ahead of me.

I’ve always wanted to write a book set in London. Most of my favorite books are set in England, from Jane Austen’s classics to Sophie Kinsella’s chicklit to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I’d been to London before, years ago, but I knew that to really do justice to a book set in the city I would have to spend more time there. Now that I’m not teaching, I finally had the opportunity to do it. I would spend some time in Edinburgh Scotland, London, and Winchester, before heading home on a transatlantic cruise (The cruise doesn’t really have much to do with the book research, but it seemed much more romantic and interesting than just flying home).

The experience was everything I wanted it to be. All three cities were amazing. I saw castles and churches, museums and markets, parks and palaces.

Buckingham Palace

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey

Edinburgh Castle

I went to the house where Jane Austen lived, where she wrote and published her books. I went to the church where she is buried and cried as I read her sister’s correspondence announcing Jane’s death.

Jane Austen’s house

Miss Austen’s writing desk

Well said, Jane!

Winchester Cathedral

I met interesting people everywhere I went and got enough material and inspiration to fill several books. Cruising home across the vast Atlantic I spent hours sitting out on deck, writing and watching the waves.

It was the trip of a life time. When I first arrived in Edinburgh and went through customs, the agent asked me my profession. Without hesitation, I told her: “I’m an author.”

Before I left home my best friend made me a series of CDs to listen to in the various cities I would visit. There was a moment listening to that music in London that I will remember for the rest of my life. As I walked along the Thames, in the shadow of Big Ben, a song came on my iPod called Crazy Dreams. Do you know this song? I guess it was originally done by Carrie Underwood, but it was covered last season on the show Smash. You can hear a clip of the Smash version over here on NBC’s site. Anyhow, the song is basically all about not giving up on stuff and how amazing it is when our dreams come true. It’s a little cheesy, but totally appropriate for walking around in London on a grand adventure of sightseeing and book writing. Ooh, and the actress who sings it on Smash, Megan Hilty, is who Andrea and I would want to play Kiki if they ever make a movie of my books.

Doesn’t she look just like Kiki?

It was such an amazing moment, walking along the river in this amazing city, hearing those lyrics randomly start up on my ipod.

Here’s to you free souls, you firefly chasers
Tree climbers, porch swingers, air guitar players
Here’s to you fearless dancers, shaking walls in your bedrooms

There’s a lot of wonder left inside of me and you

Thank God even crazy dreams come true

I think sometimes of what would have happened if I had given up last fall. My books weren’t selling well, teaching was taking a lot out of me, and it was difficult to write as much as I needed to in the limited amount of time I had after school. Writing the third book of the series was hard for me. I remember feeling tired and frustrated. The writing didn’t flow the way it did with the previous two books. What if it was no good? What if I never got my chance, if my books never started selling? Would it be worth it to continue to work so hard when the rewards seemed so little? A voice in my head told me it was time to slow down a little, stop writing so much, take a break.

Thank God I didn’t listen.

And thank God even crazy dreams come true.