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The Right Ingredients

One of the questions readers ask is how I come up with a particular storyline. As I read through Surreal Neal, working through edits after having put the manuscript aside for two months, I wondered the same thing. The story flowed, the characters leapt from the page, and some of the wording was quite beautiful–yet I didn’t remember writing it. I remember outlining the chapters. I remember relentlessly revising the outline as characters said and did things that revealed themselves in different ways than I’d originally planned. I remember making tea to sip while I wrote.

The journey of putting together a story at times becomes surreal. Getting into the characters takes the creative process to a new level. I started Surreal Neal months ago. I wrote 20,000 words and deleted most of them. Twice. It wasn’t working for me. Then I realized the problem: The characters needed to speak through me. I had to write the story in first person. Once I made that change, then the process became transformative. I became a vessel for Sophia, Neal, and Drew as I wrote each chapter.

I knew early on that I needed to add a permanent third to Sophia and Drew’s relationship. It seemed sad to continue on the path of having sex with a meaningless parade of people. Both of them deserved more. When I met Neal, I knew he was the man to take them to the next level. He was exactly who Sophia needed to help finalize her healing process, and he was the person who made Drew realize himself more fully as a Dominant. That twist surprised me too.

I had originally planned to continue inserting chapters from other Awakenings characters, but it detracted from the story, so I deleted the single one I ended up writing. It’s chapter 6.5, and it’s available for free download on my website.

Lastly, I had to move the subplot about Elysium along. Sophia, Neal, and Drew each needed to put their stamp on it, otherwise it wouldn’t quite be theirs.

Writing Surreal Neal was a joyful process, and I hope you very much enjoy this leg of their journey.

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I’m Michele Zurlo, author of over 20 romance novels. During the day, I teach English, and in the evenings, romantic tales flow from my fingertips.

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