This is the non-spoilery (or only slightly spoilery) version of the Q&A from Wattpad.
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Thanks for sending questions! I had some similar questions come in via Wattpad and email, so I’ve amalgamated those to avoid repeating myself.
Did you know when you were writing book 1 how it would end for each character? When you start each new book, do you plot them first and did you plot the entire series out before you started?
To answer the last question first: I wrote stream-of-consciousness scenes for the first few months, all out order, so there was no plotting going on. Then I divided that up and created an overall arc for each book, and added in plots and subplots as necessary.
So the answer is no, I didn’t plot it all out first, but by the time I started each book I already had lots of scenes written (they had to be tweaked of course) even if I didn’t have the overall arc yet. There are scenes in book 10 that I wrote four years ago, and a few scenes in book 1 that were written right before I started uploading to Wattpad (18 months after I started writing).
I knew the main characters would end up in a band together.
Who is Wynter’s father?
The final chapter of the final book resolves this question. Her paternity changed frequently in my mind and I considered leaving it ambiguous (since she doesn’t care).
How do you choose character names? Do they mean anything significant?
None of the names means anything significant as far as I remember, except that Wynter was originally called Summer (because it sounds hippie). I changed it to Wynter because having “Summer” live in the desert seemed a bit obvious. The other main characters arrived in my mind complete with their names. For the rest, I often look at baby name lists or social security data from the right era to pick names.
I’ve realized Indio’s middle name is never given. Any ideas??
By the way, I have some name regrets, like Jesse, Jenny, and Jilly in book 1 being too similar, or Jesse and Joy not being the twins. But once those names were fixed in my mind I couldn’t imagine them being called anything else.
Writer tip on name regrets: Take care when names have other meanings, such as Wynter/winter, Joy/joy, Dusk/dusk. I had to avoid writing those pairs of words in the same paragraph. And I couldn’t write Jesse and Nessie (the band’s van) in the same sentence because it sounds so silly.
I hoped Indio and Wynter would turn out to be not related. Did you consider that idea?
I felt that would be a cop out. I wanted them to struggle with it. If it turned out they weren’t related, it would make that struggle meaningless.
I learned that lesson from a medical TV show episode: an agonizing ethical decision had to be made, and then an accident removed the decision. The writers copped out. I saw the episode years before I started writing seriously, but it stuck with me as what not to do.
Do you base characters or plots on real life or people you know?
A few little moments come from my life—for example, my husband told me how weird and incredible it felt, after our daughter’s birth, the first time he filled out a form asking “Relationship to child”.
The plots don’t come from my very mundane and ordinary life, or anyone I know. I guess some plots are “ripped from the headlines” in a generic sense (e.g. unknown paternity, genetic sexual attraction, secret babies, etc.).
I don’t base characters on real people—to me, it’s always seemed really weird to do that. There are two ways you can go about character creation: start with someone you know and “disguise” them, or start with traits and develop realistic but totally invented people.
For example, for the Fairn boys I started with broadly drawn traits (fair and authoritative, troubled and artistic, logical and extroverted) and by adding backstory and throwing them into different situations I got a “feel” for them as I wrote the early drafts.
I should add that my own mother is wonderful and nothing like Miriam! She’s my greatest fan.
Can I write fanfic for this series?
I’ve been asked this a few times and all I can say is: go for it! With the disclaimer that authors can’t read fanfic written in their universe because of legal issues down the track.
Which is your favorite and least favorite book in the series? Do you have favorite plots?
My least favorite book is generally the one I’m currently writing. That’s the book I’m agonizing over.
I have special affection for books 3 and 4, which cover the discoveries about Xay and Deedee, Caleb’s illness, Christmas at the cabin, buying the new house and Wynter coming home, putting together the band Crunch, the mini-golf debacle… This is the time period where Wynter is still quite naive but putting herself out there in the world.
Then she goes to London, and in my mind that marks a point where she begins to properly “grow up”, to understand the world better, so books 5 to 10 have a different feel to them. In those books I really like the Jenny and Dusk storylines as well as the London chapters, the formation of Rule212 and their gigs, the tour, and the cute stuff with Theo.
The introduction of both Xay and Theo gave the others new challenges. Jesse scenes are always fun to write, of course. And I like re-reading any scene between Caleb and Indio. When you compare their interactions in book 1 versus book 10, wow! They’ve come a long way.
Is it hard being mean to your characters?
Short answer is yes.
But it has to be done. Caleb’s downfall in book 9 was the hardest to write and I felt sadistic doing it. He was so perfect (especially as he softened up) that I felt he had to show weakness when pushed to the limit. I think it was important for Jesse and Wynter to see his human failings.
Wynter goes through a growing up process so I’m asking how much time does the series cover?
Wynter is just shy of 15 at the start, and a few months past 18 by the end. The series covers a total of 3.5 years, from January 2013 to June 2016. (The precise dates don’t really matter of course, but occasionally I had to reference them especially when we delved into Miriam’s family history.)
Are you writing more stories about the main characters? Do you have in mind another project? Where can we read them?
Yes! There are a few different directions I plan to take, looking both forward and backward from the point we finished in book 10. I plan to publish stories as exclusives and sneak peeks for my newsletter subscribers, as well as on Amazon. Some ideas I’m exploring:
>> I hinted at a secret about Xay that he might explore in Australia. I’d love to write a short story that takes place in Australia, since I live here, and the trials and joys of touring here.
>> Could Wynter and Jesse move into a student house next semester? I like throwing those two together without supervision to see what happens (see: the road trip in book 7). I’d give them a couple of roommates and watch everything explode (or implode).
>> For various reasons, next Christmas (in their timeline it would be 2016) is a big one so I might write an Xmas special. There’s also a wedding to plan, while other characters have fledgling romances in their lives.
>> Because I kept such detailed timelines and referred to numerous past events, I have lots of ideas for short stories from the Fairn brothers’ childhoods (such as when Caleb age 15 drove his brothers to Seattle). I’m especially excited about these and may write a series of novella ebooks.
Whatever happened to Dr. Rosa, the foster mother?
I don’t know what happened to Rosa Meyers. I don’t know if she learned anything from fostering Wynter. I do wonder if she’s following Rule212’s career just to get another glimpse at a certain motorcycle-riding guitarist.
You said you might follow up on Joey’s story. Are you writing that?
I hope to. I brought Joey back in order to send him away on a new mission, where he and his brother Beck find themselves reluctantly taking care of younger cousins who lost their parents. One of the cousins is a high school girl who plays drums, so it would actually be her story. It takes place in a small town (think Stars Hollow) where Joey sticks out like a sore thumb.
Who was the most challenging character to write?
Of the five main characters I think Xay was the hardest to write—maybe because his personality and experiences are the least like mine. Actually Joy was even harder, especially early on when I didn’t have a complete handle on her (she never really got to show her true personality of course, but fortunately Caleb remembers what she was once like).
Indio’s feelings about Wynter are always tough to explore because I wanted to keep it subtle but intense, if that makes sense.
Jesse has lots of challenges, like Harry’s wedding (2), his reaction to Wynter’s hunger strike (2), his panic attacks (8). Of all the characters, it’s his difficulties that get me choked up. I don’t know why! He has all these facts about the world but sometimes he seems the most innocent – which is preferably to being cynical, I guess.
Favourite scenes? Or hardest to get through.
A favorite scene that actually covers several chapters, but it’s essentially one long scene: Wynter and Jesse’s road trip to San Francisco (7), from the time they set out, the goodie bag he makes for her, the weird stuff that happens along the way… to Caleb’s reaction back home.
I know I have a tendency to write slightly ridiculous scenes for their own sake, not because they “advance the plot”. Examples are when Indio has to return to his high school and jokes with Eliza about not knowing the audition songs (7).
Or when Jesse’s girlfriend’s parents come home to find him, Indio, and Wynter sleeping in the house (5), and in the same book, Jesse’s perspective on the meeting between the boys and Miriam. And the scene where Wynter is in a state of shock while also being inappropriately attracted to Luke (6).
Hardest to re-read for me is Caleb’s accident (3), which puts the other three into a state of terror, specifically the short scene in the tree house. Also Wynter’s custody hearing (2), when Xay first finds Wynter, Indio in Missoula when he remembers about Joy—your standard heart-wrenching moments.
I got overly attached to my characters, so the story of the dog that illuminates Indio and Caleb’s relationship (1) was tough. It was a late addition but I wanted to give Indio more “screen time” and give Caleb the chance for some introspection.
Hardest to write is probably the scene where Jesse tells Caleb what he knows about Indio’s feelings (7). This isn’t a family that often yells and screams at each other, so it’s a balancing act to show them suppressing emotions but feeling things deeply.
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Okay, I think I covered everything that was asked. I already cracked the champagne to celebrate finishing the series, so now I’m off to write the series Epilogue. I can’t thank you enough (but here I go again) for reading and supporting me through comments and reviews and emails. It’s been an amazing journey and I feel honored to have had you along for the ride.
I’ll leave you with this wise quote, a mantra to live by:
Guys with dimples already have girlfriends.
Wait, my mistake. I meant this one from Caleb:
You’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness or healing.