Many readers wonder what goes on before a story becomes an actual book. With the Retaliation series, I've been surprised at how the story revealed itself to me. The book Retaliation came to me shortly after meeting with girls who had been victims of violence. I began to hear voices and have thoughts which essentially said to me, "Tell my story."
In the case of my latest book Accused, I dealt with both sexual assault and an innocent person being falsely accused. While I was sitting at my desk, I heard a male voice in my head say, "I didn't do it." Immediately, I wondered what the person had been accused of. Slowly, but surely, little fragments of the story began to form.
In researching sexual assaults and the use of date rape drugs, I scoured newspapers, magazines, and internet articles dealing with the subject. I was absolutely devastated when I discoveredvictims who do not go to the hospital immediately after being given a date rape drug will likely have no evidence in their system 8 hours later. Most victims, however, aren't going to the hospital within 8 hours because they don't know they have been drugged. In addition, most women won't know who gave them the drug and will not know who attacked them and therefore, won't be able to identify their attacker. This information really motivated me to write Accused. Young women attending college who accept drinks from people are putting themselves at risk and it's important for them to know that.
It was pretty easy to research incidents where people were falsely accused. The key for me was to present accusations in a present day electronic / social media time frame. Before Ahmed could get to the police station, people on campus already knew that he had been arrested and many assumed that he was guilty. The time that it takes to send a text message is how fast a rumor spreads through a school or university. It was important for me to show how electronic images, social media photos, and text messages can be cut and pasted together to make a person appear guilty when they were completely innocent of the crime.
To further make the book realistic, I read extensive case histories on sociopaths in creating Brandon Royal's character. I wanted Brandon to accurately portray a sociopath. In gathering the data on sociopaths, I was most surprised by the level of charm that sociopaths exude without much effort. It's almost as if a sociopath can reel you in without really trying. Because of my research on sexual assault, I wanted to write a book where young women could see that an attractive, charming guy could be the same guy who is using the date rape drug.
Every author's process is different, but I trust the voices in my head. It's important to note, however, that it's not easy for me to take on topics like sexual assault, the use of date rape drugs, and sociopaths. However, I believe if I do my homework and set the tone, the characters and the circumstances just right, the book will not only entertain someone, it might just save someone's life.