My book With Malice was one of these mixing of ideas. I’m fascinated with long-term friendships and how they survive and evolve. I wanted to write about two friends who had been in a relationship for so long that at times it was hard to tell where the good parts and the bad intersected. I’d also worked for over twenty years with individuals with brain injuries. Taking the opportunity to explore identity and relationships when you can’t trust your own memory was exciting.
While drafting the book I was planning a trip to Italy and it occurred to me to set portions of the book there. I did a semester abroad in England while a student in university. It was an amazing experience, but there is something very disorienting about being so far away from home and your own culture that worked well for a character exploring her capabilities.
The final bit of inspiration for the book came from the first season of the Serial podcast. It’s a true crime story about a murder trial from the 1990s. With each person that told their story I’d shift my feelings. “He’s totally innocent! He’s guilty! Wait-he’s innocent!” I wanted to see if I could recreate that feeling for readers by providing them with new perspectives that might change how they felt about the storyline.
Once I had a story fleshed out in outline form all I needed to do was name the characters. I find it difficult to write until everyone has the “right” name. This typically involves a lot of searches on those name your baby websites, where I fret over the meanings, how they sound and look on the page, and how they fit with the other characters.
It was important to me that Jill had a name that was classic and timeless, but for her would feel dowdy next to the more glamorous Simone. For some of the supporting characters I stole names from people I know. I considered making up a story about a bad boy romance in my misspent youth that led to the character of Nico, but the truth is less exciting. While traveling in Italy one of the hotel managers, who was handsome and charming in all the right ways, was named Nico. While he was too old to inspire the character, I had no problem with stealing his names and good looks for my novel.
Once all the pieces were collected, the story fleshed out, and the characters named – all I had to do was write the book. Which sounds far easier than it felt at the time, but now that the book is done I can’t wait to share it with readers!