Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, Danielle!
I love my main character. I can slip into her mind on command, figure out what she’d do in a situation, and I could probably even pretend to be her. That’s how well I know her. It’s a feeling that’s really unexplainable, but after four years together, we get each other. This was not always the case because, you see, Neely is very stubborn.
Even though I know her, she still has the ability to surprise me. (And she uses it!) I wouldn’t say that I know everything about her—just during this blog tour process she completely baffled me in an interview. Neely tells me what I need to know on the basis that I need to know it. This has been our relationship from day one. Because of that, she was the hardest character to develop, and was (sometimes is) the hardest one to write.
When this story started in my head, I knew it was a girl on the run from something. That was it. I spent days writing and listening—because once I’d started I couldn’t stop. By the end of a week, I knew all about the story. I knew why the girl was running, what she was looking for, what she was trying to do, what the stakes were. I knew about Thorne and what he meant to her, about Sara her stand-in mother, about her father, about Xenith. I knew every character’s names, what they meant to the narrator, who they were to her really everything about them. But I didn’t know much about her. Including her name.
Even as I pried back pieces of her life story, of herself versus the people around her, I didn’t know her name. I knew, right then, that I was in trouble with her. I wrote 30k words of that very draft without knowing the narrator’s name. I called her “GIRL”. I tried guessing. I tried filling it in with something else, but nothing was right Then, one day, she told me. Just like that. She was ready. “Neely Ambrose, short for Cornelia.” That was it. Once I knew her name, other pieces of information followed.
I realize all of this sounds crazy—and if you’re not a writer then you probably think I’m nuts!—but this is how it works sometimes. Some characters take on their own life in your head. Some authors have characters talking to them all the time—I’m one of them. Neely was the first one who was so incredibly loud, impossible to ignore, superbly stubborn, and amazing to experience.
Even after I knew her name it took a long time before I was able to crack her. She’s definitely surrounded herself in an iron wall. She doesn’t like to admit that she’s struggling, to express what she’s feeling, or to let people in. Even as the person telling her story I had trouble busting into her deepest emotions. It was a lot of work, a lot of patience, and tons of trying to get her to be the character she is now. I had to peel back layer after layer and slowly weave it all onto the page. She has to be guarded to survive her world and I’m really pleased with how she turned out, with how much she revealed on the pages of the Follow Me Through Darkness. I think that pain, that guardedness, those layers make her relatable. We all have pieces that we want to hide or not admit or accept. Some of us are just better at pretending we don’t. Neely’s one of them.
I’m working on the rest of the trilogy right now, and I’m happy to report that Neely is still stubborn, still surprising me with thing she says or does, and I hope she does that until her story is totally finished. It makes all of this more interesting to me, and hopefully to you.
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When she’s not writing, Danielle is usually drinking coffee, fighting her nomadic urges, watching too much TV, or dreaming of the day when she can be British. Danielle is also the author of SALT and STORM, a series about a snarky witch without magic. She has settled in Northern Virginia, for now, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.
The truth won't always set you free.
Less than a year ago, Neely Ambrose’s biggest worry was having the freedom to follow a path that wasn't chosen for her.
Less than a year ago, she believed she could trust the Elders who said they had everyone’s best interest at heart and who said they were keeping them safe from the outside.
Sixty days ago, she discovered what they had planned for everyone she loved—and that all of it centered around her.
Now she’s on the run through a dangerous wasteland full of killing machines, secret organizations, and people who want to sell her back to the Elders for their own safety. The whole world outside the Compound is living proof that everything in Neely’s life was a lie manufactured by the Elders, which may even include the boy she loves.
All Neely wants is the truth, but each new piece of it drives her further from what she thought she knew. With only forty days until everyone she loves falls under the Elders’ mind control, Neely must decipher who to trust, what questions to ask, and how to get one step ahead of the Elders, who will do anything to keep their secrets buried.