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Vain Empires is turning, twisting psychological suspense.

Imagine six people on a remote island--contestants on a reality TV show, Dream Prize. They’ve been told the winner will be the person who learns the most facts about the others and gains the majority of viewer votes. Sounds simple. But once the three men and three women arrive on the island, they discover the game rules aren't exactly as expected. Turns out each person has a damning secret--one that could ruin his or her life. And those secrets just may be uncovered on live television.

A set of six clues—one about each contestant’s secret—will be given twice a day, six sets in all. Beyond that the contestants must extract information from each other, while trying to keep others from learning about themselves. 

These uncovered secrets will reveal which of the Seven Deadly Sins each contestant represents: Pride, Lust, Sloth, Greed, Envy, Wrath, or Gluttony. (One of the sins is not represented, but they don’t know which one.) The winner of the game will be the one who most correctly matches each contestant to a sin.

And this is only the beginning of the surprises to come …

Vain Empires is a story with an ensemble cast, meaning all six people are the main characters. Chapters move from one person’s POV (point of view) to the next. When you’re in a person’s POV, you’re privy to that character’s thoughts.

When this story is done being written it must progress smoothly and logically. The reader should have no idea of how difficult it was to make it read that way. But as a novelist I will tell you—the smoother the story reads, the harder it was to write. I often get lost in my own maze as I write one of my twisty Seatbelt Suspense® novels. But Vain Empires has been especially difficult. There are a million and one details for me to keep straight. 

Enter, if you dare, my writer’s brain …

As creator of the story, I know all the facts about each character: Aaron, Shari, Lance, Craig, Tori, and Gina. But I must keep straight at every moment which facts each character knows, and what the reader knows.

Say in one chapter (Aaron’s POV), he is talking to Tori. A fact about each is exchanged. Now I have to remember: Aaron knows X about Tori, who knows Y about Aaron. Reader now knows X and Y. BUT—you learn in the next chapter in Shari’s POV that she was eavesdropping around the corner. Therefore Shari knows X and Y, and the reader knows that Shari knows X and Y, but Aaron and Tori do not know that Shari knows. Meanwhile Craig, Lance, and Gina do not know X and Y.

Got that?

Plus there are each character’s thoughts in his or her POV. So if Lance (POV character) and Craig are talking and exchange information, the reader will know the information exchanged but will also know any information given through Lance’s thoughts. But of course Craig will not know that latter information. And—what if the fact that Lance tells Craig is a lie? Now Lance and the reader know it is a lie, but Craig may believe it. 

Now, compound all of this for every page and every chapter.

As the story progresses I must remember exactly what each character knows and doesn’t know so that they act and think accordingly. At the same time every little piece of information must be coordinated to slowly fill out pieces of the puzzle in a way that's exciting and satisfying for the reader. When to reveal each piece? How to reveal it? And what not to reveal so readers must fill in some pieces themselves? 

Again, all of this is below the surface, only in my creator’s brain. Sort of like the depth of the ocean below surface waves. What I want the reader to see is page-turning, building tension in those waves. 

Some readers, those who love suspense and figuring out the puzzles ahead of time, may read this book carefully, gathering each fact as if playing the game of Clue. Other readers may just go along for the ride. I want both kinds of readers to be swept up in the story—from the first line to the last.

So--if you see me as I struggle to finish Vain Empires, and my eyes are glazed over—all of this is why.

They were stuck on this remote island, all of them.
Trapped in this show.
No way to stop what came next.
No way at all.

Vain Empires will release in late May. I will announce when it is available for pre-order. If you want to make sure you’re notified, please sign up for my newsletter, Sneak Pique, on my home page (and receive a free book).


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April 10, 2016 at 7:53 am

What a challenge (to say the very least) this creating and writing is for you, Brandilyn! We anticipate reading this new suspense novel as though gathering facts, such as playing the game Clue!

April 11, 2016 at 9:01 am

Thanks, Jaylene. :]

April 10, 2016 at 4:47 am

Whoa. This should test your skills! I love stories like this and can't wait to see how you handle all those POVs. On my "to write" list is one I call Revelations's 12. It will be a series involving 12 characters. I don't have the experience to pull it off yet, so it waits patiently. I deninitely want to read yours!

April 11, 2016 at 9:01 am

Thanks, Ron. And blessings on your own writing.

April 9, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hi Brandilyn. I used to get your newsletter all the time but I haven't received it in ages!

April 11, 2016 at 9:01 am

I haven't sent one out in so long. You should receive one soon. Thanks for checking.