I’m going to give you a tour through the development of Rogue Gadda by using the opening paragraphs.
Drafts One, Two and Three
“Hampton looked around, noted his arrival had not been observed and so walked calmly out of the alley. On the street, cars passed and people walked down the footpath. None paid much attention to the tall, slender man in what appeared to be white pyjamas with a red tie. But then, such sights were quite normal on the street outside a karate studio.”
So this is how Power Unbound originally opened. I wanted to start by showing how Hampton was developing a range of human skills to compensate for his percieved inabilities with power. It struck me as being a good juxtaposition against the world of the gadda and also to show that Hampton was open to new thoughts and ideas, unlike a lot of his gadda brethren.
Throughout the books, you would have seen little clues that Hampton isn’t quite as powerful as everyone thinks he is. He’s certainly aware of it, and trying to cover for it as much as possible. Readers of my newsletter would have seen a little story I wrote showing one of the little tricks that Hampton’s developed to get himself over the moments when his power isn’t enough.
This was back before the whole Asarlai storyline developed. Once that happened, and I decided to start each book with a scene from her POV to keep the readers up with what was going on, the opening changed drastically.
“The library was impressive – floor to ceiling bookshelves covered all the walls, including the door she’d just walked through. The room was divided into two sections by two beautifully woven carpets. On one sat a couple of wing chairs, with footstools and a table between – a comfortable reading environment. On the other was a huge wooden desk; with a leather chair, leather writing pad, leather-covered inkwell.”
This was what I came up with as the opening line. This is of course leading up to the moment when Asarlai first meets Rogan Connor. Originally, readers didn’t know that’s what was going on at the end of Power Unbound - they just knew that Asarlai had found someone in the states who could help her and she was on her way there. But then as Power Unbound developed, and was edited, I decided that it would be best to end with Asarlai meeting Rogan. Not only because it ended that book on a cliff-hanger, but enabled me to think of a more active opening to this book. So this line became the opening of the last scene in Power Unbound.
As for my plan to have Hampton doing a human skill to start - I decided to drop that idea. I wanted to start with his power still the focus. However, I decided that the first time we see Hampton, I wanted him to be doing something away from being Sabhamir, a hobby that could show who he was outside the black (since in the first two books, we got to know Maggie and Stephen before they became guardians). I was really surprised when Hampton turned out to be a harpist - but the moment it flicked into my mind, it fitted perfectly.
“Asarlai clenched her buttocks. It was the only way she could show the tension she was feeling without Rogan Connor seeing it. Otherwise, she kept her hands resting on her knees and her expression blank.”
This draft began after I’d completed and handed in Power Unbound. The meeting scene had moved and so we were starting with Asarlai working with Rogan Connor to regain her power. It had become clear with chatting to friends and thinking things through that I needed to give Asarlai back her power somehow, so she had freedom to be as much of a pain as possible for the guardians. It was becoming too difficult to work out how she was avoiding capture when she was basically human, but not a very smart one. I loved this scene when it came together - I hope the sense of pain and terror comes across well.
Draft six, seven, final.
“Tension hummed through her body, but the woman who called herself Asarlai didn’t dare let Rogan Connor see it. The only relief she, the sorcerer, could find was to clench her toes in her shoes. Otherwise, she kept her hands resting on her knees and her expression blank.”
And here it is, the final opening paragraph. My beta readers both pointed out that ‘buttocks’ in the first line wasn’t the smooth, elegant opening that I should be aiming for. I was sad to get ride of it, but I think the final sentence is better.
So that gives you an idea how this book developed. Most of the change here happened later in the book, revolving around how Charlotte gets to Sclossin.