the accidental siren
I worked as a stage manager at a dance competition for two years. I carried a clipboard with me at all times and—when I'd think of an idea for a book—I'd jot it down in the margins of my show notes.
There was a large group of girls backstage waiting to dance. One of them happened to catch my eye. What makes this particular girl stand out? I wondered. She wasn't necessarily prettier than the rest. Was it something in her eyes?
This lead to the "what if" question that became the impetus of Siren: what if there was a girl who was objectively the most beautiful girl in the world?
Word Count: 86,173
Chapters: 12 + epilogue
Months to Write: 8
Current Book Edition: 3
Sequence: 3rd book written, 2nd published
Where I Wrote: I wrote the first half of Siren mostly at a Panera in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The second half was written in the basement of my parent's house while my dad was struggling with lung cancer.
WHAT I LOVED About Writing Siren
- Writing about the 90s came naturally to me and was SO much fun. I made a rule for both Lighthouse Nights and Fallout Dreams that I wouldn't include pop-culture references of any kind... so I LOVED diving headfirst into my favorite films, music, and books from the 90s. Jurassic Park, Macgyver, Monopoly, Inspector Gadget, Duck Hunt, Demi Moore, etc. etc. etc.
- Writing from the perspective of a 30-year-old reminiscing about his life as a 12-year-old was a breeze. I think the lack of research I had to do for the character allowed me to focus on other aspects of the book (unlike The Day I Wore Purple where one of the major characters was a Mexican woman who runs a nightclub and struggles with infertility).
- Endings are one of my strengths as a writer... and the Summer Celebration was the perfect crucible for every storyline to come crashing together. Although most of the book was written a few paragraphs at a time during the day, I wrote the climax PAGES at a time, Mountain Dew by my side, from 11 PM to 7 AM.
- One of my biggest obstacles was foreshadowing certain betrayals without giving them away too early. I remember rearranging my notecards even after the book was nearly complete, trying desperately to make everything fit.
- I spent a lot of time deliberating the scope of the book. My initial idea was to show Mara and James as children, then college kids, then adults. As I traveled deeper into the childhood portion of the book, I realized just how long the novel would be if I kept going.
- These two challenges are going to converge if I ever muster the confidence to start book two. I establish early in Siren that Mara's effects linger for a very long time. This means that everyone she influences in Siren NEEDS to have a through-line in later books. It's going to be an epic jigsaw puzzle when I finally find the time to put it all together.
Although I usually write to wordless music, there are times in the book when I need something more inspiring than my usual writing playlist.
The musical inspiration for The Accidental Siren came mostly from smoldering 90s females like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette. The visceral undertones of repressed anger seemed to fit Mara's frame of mind during the course of the story.
Lamb and Imogen Heap have an otherworldly quality to their voices and music, which also seemed to fit Mara's mysterious personality.
Reading it now, it sounds a bit clunky... but this passage (a complete stanza in the book) is still one of the most important in the story.
The Accidental Siren reached 2.9 million reads on Wattpad.com.
Mara's eyes change color four times throughout the book.
Many of the interactions between Mom and Livy were based real interactions between my mom and my adopted nieces.
My rules for Mara:
- She IS supernatural.
- The perception of her personality and physical characteristics change subtly depending on who's looking at her.
- Her only two supernatural abilities are her looks and voice. Everything else is 100% human.
- Her appearance starts the drama. Her voice finishes it.
The book was originally dedicated to my ex. Writer pro-tip #23: Don't dedicate books to girlfriends.
Yes, the movie James shoots throughout Siren was inspired by a short film I shot in college. And like James, I dragged my whole family into it. My niece Kelsey starred as "The Girl." The middle pictures show the before and after of "The Red Room" (Whit's favorite scene). And that's me with a sword and green fairytale smoke in the last picture.
I made the first two covers while I was still writing the book. At that time, the childhood aspect of the story was only supposed to be the first quarter of the book, so Mara is depicted as an adult. Once I realized I would only be telling the kids stories, I kept the same design idea but changed her to a little girl.
The strange fourth cover was the initial idea for the design which eventually became the first edition... which is image #5. Conceptually, I still like it. But damn I was a bad designer.
I found a German artist on reddit named Timo Gellenbeck. He posted the watercolors in image numbers 6 and 7, and I fell in love with them and asked if I could use one for the new Siren cover. Again, my design skills improved between the second edition cover (#8) and the current, third edition cover (#10).
THE FUTURE OF MARA LYNN
I have three more books planned out. Book two (Mara the Saint) takes place in high school, book three in Los Angeles, and book four... I can't tell you.
The picture shows my bulliton boards in my old Arkansas apartment mapping out books two, three, and four of the Mara series. If you look closely enough, you might find spoilers...
ASK ME ANYTHING
If you have questions about The Accidental Siren, Goodreads has a great Q&A forum where I can respond directly to readers. Check it out!
Book Club Questions
My "Delve Into" pages serve three purposes:
1. To provide more content for fans of the books.
2. To preserve my writing experience for my sentimental self.
3. To be as transparent as possible with my writing process to help others.
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