So where does Amy (The protagonist of Sleepless) come from, originally?
During my honeymoon, which we spent in the far east, we visited China. If there was something we really fell in love with in China (and there was a lot to fall in love with), it was the tea houses. Each tea house was a calm, serene beautiful place, many times located in the middle of a park. You could order some tea, which would come with a huge jar of hot water for refills, and just sit there for as long as you’d like. People easily sit in a tea house for four or five hours, playing mahjong or talking to their friends. Me and my wife joined this Chinese national pastime, my wife practicing her calligraphy, and me writing. It was there that a concept for a book called “Amy’s test” was born.
Amy’s test was a story about a sixteen year old who was going through a crisis in life. Her best friend stopped talking to her, the guy she was in love with didn’t return her love, her newly acquired friend turned out to be a mess, and over everything loomed an incoming math test which she had to score high in. The book’s name of course has a double meaning where it literally means the math test, but the actual test is the way she handles those obstacles in her life… you get the gist.
The book never went anywhere. I think it isn’t bad, but at the time no one wanted to publish it, and self publishing wasn’t a thing yet (people self published, I guess, but it was much harder).
Much later, when I decided I want to write my scary thriller, I decided I needed a protagonist which was a fourteen year old girl. Then I realized I already wrote a protagonist I really like. True, she was sixteen, but presumably she was fourteen just two years prior, why not use her? She had a snarky voice, she was confused, headstrong, quick to act, and full of life. She was exactly what I needed.
A writer friend once told me that he took one of his stories, dismantled it and sold the parts. This is exactly what I did with Amy. I dismantled Amy’s test, took her and a few choice lines, and sold those parts to Sleepless.