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  • Writer's pictureA J McDine

The story of The Promise You Made


Well, it's been a week since my new book, The Promise You Made, hit the shelves, and I have been overwhelmed by the response from readers.

But before I share with you a few of the amazing comments I've received, I thought I'd give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into my writing process.

I'm always fascinated to hear other authors talk about what inspired them to write a certain story, how they plot, where they write and how many words a day they notch up.

You may remember me saying that I'm a pantser by nature, that is to say I don't tend to plot books out before I start writing them. I had to consign 24,000 words of my last book, No One I Knew, to the bin because the story wasn't working. And the story wasn't working because I didn't have a plan...

At the time I vowed it would be different with the next book, and I did fully intend to have the whole thing neatly plotted out before I sat down to write a single word.

This time, the one thing I did have was an idea for the opening image: a young woman turning up one dark and stormy night on the doorstep of her estranged godmother's house in the middle of the woods, and asking her godmother to fulfil the promise she made many years earlier: a promise to help if she was ever in trouble.

I also had a working title, as you may be able to see from my initial notes. And neither the title nor the opening scene changed!

I sat down at my desk in the corner of the dining room on Monday 26 April, full of optimism and enthusiasm, and clocked up the grand total of 1,274 words.

[I've been keeping a written note of my daily word count since 2015. Don't ask me why, but I do!]

When I'm writing a first draft, I aim for 5,000 words a week. Some weeks I met my target with The Promise You Made, some weeks I didn't. Because as we all know, life has a habit of getting in the way. But almost twenty weeks later, on Thursday 9 September, I'd finished the (very) messy first draft.

I spent a couple of weeks cleaning it up before handing it (with some trepidation, it has to be said) to my husband and fellow psych thriller author Adrian, for his thoughts.

While Adrian loved the premise, he felt there was a disconnect between the set-up - Eloise arriving on Rose's doorstep asking her to make good her promise - and the rest of the book.

No one ever wants to hear their magnum opus is fundamentally flawed, and I sulked for a couple of days before I figured out a way to fix the disconnect.

The book is undoubtedly better for Adrian's input.

[Annoying - right?!]

I must also thank my writer friend Carrie Magillen (author of the fantastic thrillers When He's Not Here and Stone the Dead Crows), whose excellent idea for a scene towards the end of the book really helped ratchet up the tension. Thanks Carrie!

By the last week in October I'd resolved all the issues and the book was ready to send to my small but trusty team of beta readers. Their feedback was amazing.


I spent the next three weeks polishing, proof-reading and formatting the book, safe in the knowledge that the end was definitely in sight.

And then, on Friday 19 November, almost seven months since I started writing it, The Promise You Made was released.

Double phew!

As you'll know if you've read the book already, Rose is not your typical off-the-peg protagonist. She's acerbic, opinionated, impatient and stuck in her ways. In fact she's the most complicated character I've ever written.

But I love her all the more for it!

And readers are loving her, too. Here are just a few of the lovely comments I've received since publication day:

There were more twists and turns than a back country road, I started reading faster and faster just to see what would happen next. There were several big reveals, but the last peek is the Granddaddy of them all!
I started reading it at 11pm, finished it at 3am, just couldn't put it down. An excellent story, beautifully written, well-developed characters and altogether a great psychological thriller. Highly recommended.
What a suspenseful twisted read all the way to the very last word!

And it's reviews like these that make all the hours spent gazing blankly at the computer screen worthwhile!

Meanwhile, there's still time to enter my giveaway to win a signed paperback copy of The Promise You Made.

Simply head over to my Facebook page, like the page and comment on and share the competition post, which will be pinned to the top of the page.

LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE. That's it!

I'll pick a winner at random next month. Good luck!

For anyone who wants to check out the book in the meantime, here are the links:

That's it from me for now. If you have any questions about my writing process (such as it is!) do drop me a line. It's always lovely to hear from you.

And if you've read the book and have time to pop a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads that would be amazing. Readers' reviews are the best way to spread the word about a new release. But please, no spoilers!

Happy reading,


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