Behind the Book – CROAK, Chapters #17-18


Behind the Book is an ongoing series wherein I tackle a new chapter* of Croak each week and give you all of the secret, behind-the-scenes tidbits and trivia that went into writing it. For an archive of past chapters, click here. To read the spoilers, highlight the blank spaces marked with <<hi>>; proceed at your own risk if you haven’t read the entire series. Enjoy!

*The longer the book goes on, the more I’ve already told you and the less I can talk about spoilery stuff, so I’ll be doubling up on chapters from here on out.

Chapter 17: The Sparkening

  • I have stated in a previous installment that I like Sofi, but in this chapter she does something I personally find repugnant: she points out that Lex is blushing. People occasionally do this to me, since I blush pretty easily, and I think it’s absurdly rude. Please, dear readers, don’t do that to your fellow human beings. It’s like announcing to anyone in earshot: “THIS PERSON IS EMBARRASSED. THE PROOF IS ON HER FACE. HEY EVERYBODY, COME LOOK AT HOW EMBARRASSED SHE IS. GATHER ROUND, DON’T BE SHY. LOOK, SHE’S GETTING EVEN REDDER THE MORE WE TALK ABOUT HER! GET THE CAMERA!”
  • For whatever reason, I owned a lot of gel-filled stress balls as a teenager, and the one that I had in mind when writing the scene with Sofi was a weird sparkly one with a stand; it looked like a snow globe until you picked it up and realized you were holding something that felt like a human organ. Mine wasn’t exploded by an unwelcome guest, though. It just melted.
  • Hey, Sparks! Sparks <<become very important in Rogue – just as I planned right from the beginning, mwahaha!>>
  • Elysia’s tale of how she ended up in Croak was something that I thought about cutting, since it is kind of off-topic, but in the end I kept it because I like the way it rounds her out. The backstories of the other Juniors are touched on but not laid out in full <<except for Driggs, in Rogue>>, so I wanted to give at least one of them a chance to tell their story. It also provides a small reminder for Lex–who at this point seems to have just written off her family entirely and is dreading her impending visit–of how lucky she is to have what she has.


Chapter 18: The Visiting

  • I was living in New York City at the time I was writing this book–Queens, in fact–so a lot of stuff in this chapter is taken directly from what I experienced while I was there. Examples include: disdain upon arriving at Port Authority, subway ads for dermatologists (say it with me, New Yorkers: Dr. Zizmor!), and visits to the Times Square Hershey Store (meh) and M&M’s store (pure tourist hell).
  • When I initially wrote this chapter, Driggs came along with Lex just for the hell of it, so that could spend a day exploring the city. But as I fleshed out more of the white-eye-investigation plotline, I decided that interviewing at the Post was something constructive for him to do.
  • I never explicitly said in the books where in Queens the Bartlebys live, and as far as I’m concerned it could be anywhere (Queens is enormous), but since I was living in Astoria, I based their house off of the sort of homes I saw in my neighborhood. Crammed together, very bricky and boxy, but with charming little lawns out front that people would often fill with lion statues, fountains, and of course, Blessed Virgin Mary clamshell lawn ornaments.
  • In case anyone’s wondering, this is my favorite line in the book, from Lex’s mom: “You seem to be doing marvelously, you haven’t gotten into any trouble, and you made friends with a chicken!”
  • Sometimes aspiring writers ask me if I ever disagree with my editor, and if so, what an author is supposed to do in that situation, and I always point to this chapter as an example. When I first got my editorial letter (basically a list of points about what should be changed/fixed/added/cut from the first draft), I agreed with everything my editor suggested–except her suggestion that we cut this chapter. She felt that it went too far astray from the action in Croak, whereas I thought it was necessary for the purposes of illustrating how strong Lex’s ties still are to her family. I agonized for a while about whether I should fight for it (as a debut author, you are constantly terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing, lest someone sets your contract aflame), but in the end I gave a thorough explanation of why I thought we should keep it, and she understood and agreed. Simple as that.

Got any questions about Chapter 17 or 18? Post them below!


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