I have decided to get back into the groove of posting every Thursday here on my blog. While trying to drum up ideas, I thought it might be interesting to do ‘Behind The Book’, a series of blog posts in which I talk about what went into each of my books and/or book series. There’s no time like the present, so I figured we would dive right in with the series I am currently in the midst of, Rag & Bone.

As has happened with other series of books in my life, Rag & Bone was never meant to be a series. It started as just one novel, a stand alone that was titled simply “Rag and Bone”. It featured Avery Harris, our MC from book one, and was simply about his life during the rise of the Ruger virus and the downfall of humanity. I started writing it out in small bits and pieces while at work, in the very real rural community that inspired the fictional town of Graven. I knew I wanted to write something set within my own eastern Kentucky home area, because it just provides a really fantastic backdrop for stories about survival (at least in my opinion). I dug right in, and finished the very first draft within four weeks during a cold, and seemingly never-ending, January.

From there the book just sat untouched for quite a while, until I felt ready to revisit it and begin editing. As I dug back into Avery’s story, it occurred to me that I wasn’t ready to finish telling his story, or the story of the world as it struggles to maintain through the spread of a super virus. I was in the thick of it, working on rewrites, when COVID-19 came on the scene. Seeing things that I had written and perceived as fictional actually happening in real life? It put me right off for a good long time, and again the book sat without much of anything going on.

Then, late in 2020/early 2021, I decided to start fleshing out a second back that would become Ashes. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of the beginning from another perspective, and let Avery have a break until book three. The idea of twins Sarah and Trey Jacobs came to me on a whim, as did the notion that they lived in California. I had toyed around with several other possible locations, such as Philadelphia and the UK, but there were some limitations to those ideas. I knew it would be very hard to tie both books together in a third act if I set it in another country, so that took the UK off the table. Philadelphia was interesting, but once they escaped the city I felt like I would be dealing with a lot of the same obstacles that I had placed Avery in. California felt like a good, logical choice and would set it apart from Transmission. I picked Pasadena because, well, it just seemed to be a fitting place for the Jacobs family to live, without throwing into the more typical hot spots like Los Angeles or San Francisco.

So, the Jacobs family was born. It was interesting to flesh out the twins, and to play off of ideas and places that I hadn’t gotten to have in book one. It made their journey unique as well, passing through places and meeting people that Avery had not. I also decided to write this book in a more linear way, as opposed to bouncing back and forth between past and present as I had in book one. Sarah and Trey are not Avery, and their story demanded to be told in an altogether different way. I think it worked out for the best then, because the twins are younger than Avery was, and did not grow up in a rural place and thus did not have some of the survival instincts that he did initially. They had to learn along the way, and their will to live is their primary driving force. Ruger has not treated any of them kindly for sure, but it was especially cruel to Sarah and Trey who have to learn to navigate the new world on their own while presented with obstacles such as starvation and horrific human violence.

Without giving too much away, book three does feature all three characters working together. Book one does elude to a grim fate for Avery, but it’s not easy to sort out that we haven’t seen the last of him. He crops back up again at the tail end of Ashes, when he first meets Sarah and Trey, and from there the events snowball into what takes place in book three.

Book three has presented it’s own unique set of challenges. The worst being a loss of data that could not be recovered during the second drafting process. I got a quarter of the way through writing book three, and decided I did not like what I had been doing with it. I scraped it, went back to square one, and started draft too. I was just over 25K words in when word destroyed what I had written, and it could not be recovered. I tried everything to uncorrupt that file, but to no avail. So I’m back at the drawing board again, starting over on draft three as book two is about to launch (less than a month away now). It has been a little bit slower in moving forward since that happened, it just mentally drained me to lose all that, but I’m still on track for book three to release in July of this year.

More or less, the entire Rag & Bone series grew from a stand alone viral apocalypse novel, into a three book trilogy. I didn’t know what I was doing with it until I finished the first book, and that nagging feeling hung on that I was not yet finished with these people or this story. It is so crazy sometimes how that happens, how one thing can snowball into bigger things, but I like when that happens. I like when the muses in my head just take control, and all I have to do is put the words down on paper (or on computer, as it were). This is also what happened to me when I was writing A Crooked Mile, which grew into the Rust series. That, however, is a different post for another Thursday.

The story of Avery Harris is one that I have fallen in love with, and that I hope readers have as well. I think that people will also enjoy reading about Sarah and Trey, and their own challenges as they race through the decline of humanity as Ruger ravages the world. I hope that their stories are intriguing and interesting, a new take on a life we have become eerily familiar with.

See y’all next Thursday!

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