I saw The Avengers.
Really, that’s how this started.
It was May of 2012, and I had just graduated from my MFA program. I was working on the final revisions for another novel I was prepping to query and I took a break to see The Avengers with my sister and cousin. While I’m really not a comic book person, I have always loved the core stories. The medium itself just never grabbed me. So, I had no expectations or background for this movie going in. But, as a massive Joss Whedon fan, I was fairly confident I would leave happy. In the end, I was right—just for a surprising reason.
About halfway through the movie, I became fascinated with the character of Natasha. In the movie, her character is a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. (a.k.a. the good guys, if you missed this particular pop-culture train). However, it becomes pretty clear that this wasn’t always the case—that there was a time where she actually worked for one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s enemies. I thought that must have been such an interesting transition— to go from an enemy to a fellow agent. And that concept became the backbone for CROSSING THE LINE.
I spent most of the summer character and world building while I finished the other book I was working on. (Fun facts: I am a major planner and outliner. I am also generally, working on two projects at the same time). By September, I had started querying the other book, and I was ready to make CROSSING THE LINE my main focus.
One thing I’ve learned about myself when it comes to writing is that I really can’t do two things at once—I can’t think about the story and write the story at the same time. So, I spent September thinking, researching, planning, and outlining. This included serious brainstorming sessions with my cousin, who knows things I don’t about spies, weapons, and the world in general. When I was contemplating who the enemy agency should be, I was leaning towards Russia or the Middle East. He was the one that said, “No. You want North Korea.”
By October, I was ready to write the first draft. When I get to this point, I have a pretty standard process, and CROSSING THE LINE didn’t really deviate from it. I tend to draft quickly and frequently, and I almost never let anyone read my first drafts–mainly because at that stage I can pick up and work out a lot of the bigger issues on my own. I also rely heavily on new perspectives, so I hate to burn a first read for someone until I need help and feedback. I usually reach that point after the second draft. That’s when I start sending it out to my first reader and my critique group. Then I workshop and revise based on their killer thoughts and suggestions, and repeat as needed. I also add a new reader every complete draft or so, which helps give me a sense of how the draft stands on its own and not compared to a previous draft (related: I’m seriously lucky to have so many literary-minded friends).
It took me a little over a year to move CROSSING THE LINE from conception to “Query Ready.” When the time finally came, I had a list of agents I thought would be a good fit, but my first choice was Michelle Wolfson. She had sent me a helpful and encouraging response to project I’d queried months before I even had the idea for CROSSING THE LINE. She also said I should keep her in mind for the future (I guess it was technically a rejection, but I really never considered it to be). My favorite thing about that response was that she seemed to be able to see what I was trying to do, even though I wasn’t really doing much of anything yet. She just got me and my work. I remember reading that email and saying out loud, “That’s my agent.” So I was ecstatic when she loved CROSSING THE LINE as much as I hoped she would.
From there, Michelle matched me with Jill Santopolo at Philomel/Penguin. Jill’s notes have been an inspiration from the start. I can honestly say this story could not be with better people, or in a better place.
There was, of course, a lot more that went into CROSSING THE LINE, but that’s a basic overview of how the book came to be! I can’t wait to share it with you next year!