Wednesday, September 7, 2016

As I Descended Blog Tour + Giveaway

Thank you to Hannah from Irish Banana and HarperCollins for this opportunity to be on the As I Descended blog tour. I have the pleasure to showcase a guest post regarding the writing process of As I Descended by Robin Talley. As I Descended is contemporary Macbeth retelling and is Robin's third book. Definitely check out the novel when you have a chance. You can read my review here. Make sure to check out the wonderful giveaway and the other tour blogs at the bottom of the post.

Thank you Robin for the wonderful post about plotting and how a manuscript ends up turning into a final finished novel. Also, congrats on the publication of As I Descended!

Title: As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 384
Find it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks | The Book Depository
Synopsis (from

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.


A lot of writers call themselves “plotters” or “pantsers.” I have mixed feelings about those terms ― for me, at least, both pants and plot are required to complete the grueling process that transforms an idea into a book ― but if I had to pick one, I’m definitely a plotter. I’m a hardcore outliner, and the day someone tries to take my spreadsheets away from me will be the day I develop psychic powers of revenge.

With my newest book, As I Descended, the initial idea came quickly. Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, and as soon as I realized there wasn’t already a YA f/f retelling of it out in the world, I immediately threw myself into plotting out my characters and story.

In the early days of a new project, I usually go back and forth between experimenting with the narrative voice and charting out my plot. My earliest drafts usually look nothing like my final versions. With As I Descended, the first few pages I wrote were in first person, from just one point of view. By the time I’d finished the book, it was in third person, with five rotating points of view (some of whom get more screen time than others).

To get to that point, though, I had to spend more time developing my major characters, beyond the two lead girls who’d been with me from the beginning. Normally, I devise my cast of characters mainly through brainstorming, but since this was a retelling I dove back into my source material for inspiration. First, I started playing with names ― I wanted my cast to have names that started with the same first letter as their Shakespearean counterparts, so my Macbeth character is named Maria, Lady Macbeth is Lily, Duncan (who’s a girl in my version) is Delilah, Macduff is Mateo, etc. I also decided to combine some characters, so I melded Shakespeare’s Banquo and Lady Macduff into Brandon, who is now both Mateo’s boyfriend and Maria’s best friend.

Then I started building out my spreadsheet in Excel. I have a spreadsheet for every project I work on, and many of the tabs are the same from book to book. One tab is my list of characters, including important data about them ― name, age, notes about their appearance and activities, and, in the case of As I Descended, I also included a column for each character’s parallel in Macbeth. I also have a tab for setting, where I keep track of the names of key elements like schools, towns, and local landmarks. But the most important tab is the outline itself. Here I break down, chapter by chapter, the key events in the story, the point of view each scene is told from, the day it takes place, the word count, and other important details.

Once I had my outline in relatively solid form I started writing my first draft in earnest. Like most of my books, there were some gaps in my outline when I started ― I had no idea how As I Descended would end until I was more than halfway through the first draft, for example ― and I wound up making changes to what I’d already outlined along the way, too.

But I made progress, day by day ― and once I had a complete first draft, then came revision. Lots of revision. I got notes from beta readers, from my amazing agent, and later from my editor, which I used to make changes ranging from big ones ― I added new sequences, made major structural changes, and turned two previously unrelated characters into siblings (surprise, kid, you have a new sister!) ― to smaller ones, like changing the setting of scenes or adjusting pop-culture references. By the end of the process, I’d revised As I Descended so much I’d gone through at least 12 drafts.

But every single stage of the process was fun. Sure, sometimes I wanted to tear my hair out and/or drown in a glass of wine when I tried to tackle a particularly difficult edit, but, well, the thing is, I love this book. I love the characters, even when they’re doing terrible things. I love their world, even though I would never want to set foot in it (I’m terrified of ghosts). And I loved getting to do a deep-dive into one of Shakespeare’s darkest works and translate it into something new.

Looking at my finished copy of As I Descended now, with its gorgeous cover and interior artwork, the words I wrote all laid out and book-shaped ― it’s the end of a process for me, but the start of a whole new one: letting this book out into the world.


I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby's sleeping, I'm probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine's character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

More information about me: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr


  1. Wow! You have quite an organized writing process. But I can see how this would definitely help you see where you needed to add or subtract plot ideas and keep everyone's ID straight and in character.

    1. Isn't Robin's writing process super organized? I love how she plans out everything.

  2. I loved reading this post! It is awesome to get behind the scenes and see how an author goes from idea to finished product! I am so looking forward to reading As I Descended!

    1. I hope you have a chance to pick up As I Descended. Robin's writing process is fantastic! It's always interesting to see the how steps from draft leads to the finished product.