Earlier this summer at UtopYA (recap here), Kiersten met Christina Benjamin and found out about her series, The Geneva Project. Today, Christina is here with an awesome guest post - it's especially great for aspiring authors! We hope you enjoy Christina's post and check out her series below!
Writing for a Series
By Christina Benjamin
I write a YA fantasy fiction series called The Geneva Project. It’s about a young girl who learns the shocking truth about her secret identity, which happens to land her right in the middle of an ancient legend that gifts her magic powers, but requires her to save her civilization. It’s a great read for fans of books like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or Divergent.
Writing for The Geneva Project has been a dream come true! I started it in 2012 with 5 little words on my lunch break, “My name is Geneva Sommers…” and they’ve transformed my life. I’m now set to publish the 3rd book in the series, The Geneva Project –Lies, on September 1st.
I never imagined the wild ride that writing a series would take me on when I first started it. Heck, I didn’t even know I was writing a book that anyone else would read. I just wanted to do something fun for myself. I’d always had this crazy imagination and when I sat down to write, it all poured out in Geneva’s voice.
What I’ve learned is that the first book in a series is a gift. It’s where you get to have complete freedom. You create a whole new world, people to live it and fun little back stories, and in my case myths, magic and legends. I even created new species and a whole new language. What fun, right?
Well that was before I knew what I was getting into. When people started to read the book and actually enjoy it, they all wanted to know more. The Geneva Project – Truth ended on a major cliffhanger, so I couldn’t really blame them. So, I sat back down to start on book 2, The Geneva Project – Secrets. That’s when I realized I’d made my life as a writer pretty difficult. I created a world and characters, but now I had to figure out how they could continue to live in it. What would be their goal in the next book? How could I pepper in fun, after everything the characters had been put through in Truth. Plus, they’re older now, so how should they change? Can I add in new characters? Will that change the dynamic? Oh, and I better remember all the crazy details that I thought were so fun to pepper around in the first book, because everything needs to make sense. I don’t want to have holes in my back story! Yikes! Suddenly I realized I was writing a series and that’s a whole different beast to tame. Especially for someone like me, who’s a total pants-er.
I muddled my way through Secrets, which ended up being so long due to the new characters and continuation of story, that my neat little trilogy turned into a quadrilogy! (if that’s even a word?) Secrets was hard work, compared to the gift that Truth was. But I was determined to make it great for my loyal readers and I think all the extra work that I put in elevated my writing and my characters. I realized I could set up things in Secrets that wouldn’t take place until the next book. Once I started to embrace the endless possibilities before me, I started to have fun writing again. The dedication that I gave Secrets really allowed me to put a lot of my heart into that book and I was sure it would be my favorite of the series.
So when it came time to start on book 3, The Geneva Project – Lies, I was feeling pretty good. I was no longer a one hit wonder - I’d written two books in a series. But, that feeling of accomplishment vanished quickly when I found myself completely stuck in the middle of Lies. Again, there were new characters, even crazier plot twists (because you have to keep stepping it up, right?), the vanishing element of childhood innocence, and then, just to make my life more difficult, due to a plot twist, I put a cap on the magic that often made it easier to write my way out of difficult situations.
So at that point I thought maybe I’d give plot outlines a try. Maybe writing by the seat of my pants wasn’t the best choice when crafting a series. After all, I was setting up a long epic adventure, so maybe some organization would help. For most writers, I would say it’s probably a great idea to outline when you know you’re going to be writing a series. But for me, I found it stifling. I spent a week, writing out beautifully color coded notecards that organized Lies into chapters and broke the book up into a beginning, middle, and end. Genius, right? Well not for me. I tend to let my characters lead me to where they’re meant to go and trying to change my writing style in the middle of a series where I already had an established voice was not only a bad idea, it was impossible. I’d look up after an hour of furiously typing and realize I’d gone completely off course according to my pretty little outline. So after a month of yelling and stomping around my house, I packed up my notecards and kissed them goodbye.
After I did that I felt like I’d gotten my freedom back. I knew loosely where I wanted to end up, thanks to my outline, but I liked keeping my options open about how the characters were going to get there. So moral of the story? Writing a series for your first book is difficult, but not impossible. I’d recommend some light outlining, but ultimately listen to your heart and the voices in your head that feed your characters. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m having a blast, and isn’t that the most important thing?
Thanks so much to We Live and Breathe Books for hosting me! I’m looking forward to all the fun events I have in store leading up to the launch of The Geneva Project – Lies on September 1st. I’m celebrating with a Giveaway for a $50 Amazon giftcard and a Facebook Release Party on August 31st featuring 20 amazing YA authors and tons of giveaways every thirty minutes!
You still have time to catch up on the first two books in the series and the eBooks are on sale for $.99! Follow me on Facebook to see what’s next and you can join our fan club HERE to become a BeliEVA and stay on top of the latest news.
About The Geneva Project
Trapped on a flood ravaged island full of orphans, natives and wealthy citizens of the prosperous city Lux, a young girl named Geneva finds herself enslaved at an orphanage with no future and a past she can’t remember. That all changes when she meets someone who promises her that there’s more in store for her than she ever could have imagined. Her once dull life rapidly spirals out of control as she starts to acquire new magical powers that may be the key to unlocking an ancient legend along with her true identity. But first she must master these powers, all while trying to keep them secret from her friends and the evil head mistress at the orphanage. Before she knows it, Geneva is in over her head and has inadvertently wrapped her friends into her web of magic and lies and now all of their lives hang in the balance once the head mistress finds out her plan to prove that the legend of Lux may not be a legend at all! Who will Geneva trust and how far will she go to save her friends and find out her true identity?
What if you were part of a secret so powerful it could change everything? Would you pursue it? Could you survive it?
Geneva finally knows the truth about her identity. The Book of Secrets gave her a name, a family and a destiny to fulfill, but it also revealed many more secrets she must uncover. Some are dark and mysterious and beyond her wildest dreams. Now she has to decide who she can trust with her secrets and which of them she must keep to herself.
Can you keep a secret? What if you life depended on it?
Can you live a life of lies?
That’s exactly what Geneva finds herself doing to protect everyone she loves. While Geneva and her friends embark on a dangerous mission to fulfill her destiny, the dark forces that seek her powers are closing in, putting everyone she cares about at risk. Geneva must lie about who she is, what she knows and her true feelings. Are all these lies worth it or will she go too far and lose everything she’s been fighting for?
After spending some time writing for blogs and websites, she was inspired to get back to her true love of telling stories, and dove head first into The Geneva Project, her first novel.
Christina now lives in Florida with her husband, dog and cats and spends her free time writing The Geneva Project series.