This installment of the comments questions series comes from Jacqueline C., who asked:

Did All Unquiet Things turn out to be the book you thought it would be when you first set pen to paper?

Good question! Especially since AUT had quite the journey from first draft (almost quite literally a million years ago) to finished book (okay, let’s not lie we’re still not there, but we will be very, very soon).

So I started writing All Unquiet Things in 2002, my sophomore year in high school. It started out as a story about a disaffected teenager (Neily) who finds out that his mother has HIV, partly inspired by a friend of mine. It quickly became apparent that that was not a book I was capable of writing, and so over some time it took a bit of a turn and Carly appeared.

At first, Carly was supposed to have been just a friend of Neily’s who, due to issues of her own, had killed herself. During the course of the novel as planned, he was supposed to have saved another girl from killing herself (I think her name was Rose, and she’d driven her car off a bridge into a body of water; Neily then rescued her from drowning) and getting to know Rose was supposed to help him come to terms with Carly’s death.

Okay, well, aside from the fact that a lot of that seems really melodramatic in a total soap opera way, this plan didn’t really work because I wrote so much of it and at the end it was almost 300 pages and we were just getting to Carly’s suicide, because instead of having the novel deal with the aftermath and Neily and Rose I got sidetracked exploring Carly’s story (why did she kill herself? what was her relationship with Neily like? who was she, really?) and ended up with basically a whole book written. So I decided to chuck the second girl idea and just focus on Neily and Carly.

The book’s structure was actually very similar to what it is now. There were two timelines moving in tandem–one was the past, the year or so leading up to the present, and the present itself, leading up to Carly’s suicide, and joining at the end (Carly is absent for all but a small amount of the present, because she’s in a mental institution–I KNOW RIGHT, aren’t you glad I changed it?). Now, AUT has a completely different plot, but the structure is still similar, two timelines, flashbacks to the past interspersed with the present.

Even just by reading the summary and the excerpt, you can see how much AUT has changed, and how little it resembles the book I started out writing seven years ago. (SEVEN! YEARS AGO!) The first big change was that Carly was dead at the beginning of the novel, and that she was murdered (there was a murder in version one, but it was not the crux of the story, although it was sort of a linchpin–and of course Carly wasn’t the person who was murdered in that version). The second big change is that Neily and Carly’s relationship was romantic, not platonic. And the third big change was that I brought the second girl back into the story–Audrey.

There were other changes, too, but those were the big picture ones (I mean, other than the entire plot). I would love, love, love to dig out my old copy of AUT and post bits so you can see the difference, but I’m not sure I even have a copy of it or know where to find one. Possibly my old college computer, which barely works and probably hasn’t been turned on in like three years. I’ll look into it.

The version of All Unquiet Things that will hit shelves January 12, 2010 is definitely not the book I thought it would be when I wrote Neily’s first words, but I think it’s the book that I wished it could be. I almost abandoned AUT after writing the first version–I didn’t think it was any good, and I had other projects I wanted to work on. But I came back to it, because I couldn’t leave those characters behind, and I’m so glad I did.