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The problem for me, though, in writing about running was I couldn’t ever find the right story and characters. I just couldn’t make it work. I wanted to write a story that included running in a way that wouldn’t bore the non-athlete and might perhaps even inspire some readers to give it a try. I wanted it to be about running, and not about running, at the same.
As is typical of most of my stories, I will often combine several works-in-progress that I’ve been fussing with over the years into one final novel, and I did this with Running Past Dark. Initially, I had a story about a girl named Scottie. She was a new girl in school, and I opened with a scene where she’s being tormented on a bus. I gave her a strange friend who may or may not be trustworthy. Year after year I’d pull out the scraps I had and work on it between the writing of other books, never satisfied with the direction I was going with it. Eventually it became a story so completely different from the original that all I had left of it was the name and character Scottie, and the idea of a character whose friendship might be a bit shady.
Another story I was working on over the years asked the question, what do we do with our pain? How do we handle it, both physically and mentally? I created a painful situation that affected not just the main character, but her family, friends, school, and town. The protagonist had a twin sister who appears to have run her car into a wall, killing herself and the school’s beloved coach. The main character became Scottie from my other story.
Over time and a crazy number of revisions, the story became much bigger than this single question about pain, and the running became for Scottie much more that a way to handle the loss of her twin sister.
Han's fave writing spot - in motion, of course!
I knew the story really worked when the editor who bought my book told me that she usually hated books about sports, but she loved this one, and Scottie was one of her all-time favorite characters.