As a long-time crime reader, I never thought I’d be able to juggle the intricacies of plotting my own crime story. It was such a daunting task that it never occurred to me to even try. Fortunately (at least in retrospect) my first novel that my agent shopped out was rejected by every publishing house in New York. After picking my battered ego off the floor, I read all the rejection letters and realized that they were rejecting the story, which was a sweeping southern tale of two families, not me. During a long conversation with my agent, she asked me what I wanted to do next. I told her that I’d always wanted to do a thriller but I didn’t know if I could pull it off. She gave me the best advice any writer can ever get: sit down and write it. So, I took time off from work, sat my butt in the chair, and nailed out the bones of Blindsighted in about seventeen days. I was on fire with the story and by the time I stopped, I could barely form sentences. I let it sit for a while, then went back and worked on the important things: character development, tightening the plot, making sure the story had a clear beginning, middle and end. By the time I was finished, I was so in love with the characters that I knew I had more stories for them.
I always think about those seventeen days when I work on any new book, and I was especially mindful of them when I set out to write Broken. Going back to Grant County was a bit like going back to your old high school after many years away. Everything looked so much smaller and dingier than I remembered, and the people had—miraculously—lived their lives without me. Before writing that opening scene with Lena, I went back and read her opening chapter from Blindsighted and was amazed by how, as the books progressed, she had turned into a very different person. In some ways she was also still her core self, which is to say, she was still capable of making incredibly horrible mistakes. As I worked through her story in Broken, I thought a lot about that person she was in the beginning and decided that people don’t really change that much unless something awful happens. That turned out to be the theme of the book: how people change and how they remain the same.