A long time. That's the short answer. Hours and hours and hours. Days and weeks and months and years.
I found an old notebook the other day with an early first draft of Gathering Darkness; crampt pencil handwriting scrawled across every page. The date: a while ago. Well, more than a while ago. More than ten years, more than fifteen years ago.
That's how long this is has been in development. How many years I've spent with these characters. They've been with me all that time. They've grown with me, changed and developed with me.
Clearly, I was not writing continuously for that time. There were weeks and months without writing a word. I was doing other things, life things. And what I wrote in that first draft, and the second and third drafts, hasn't all made it to the final cut. But those core ideas and characteristics have remained. Some of those words I wrote so long ago, are still there. And those that have changed, well, they've helped improve my writing, they've become the foundation upon which this story has been built.
Looking back at that first draft written so long ago, I think back over all that's happened over the intervening years. I think about where I am now, where the story is now. It's been a long journey. And in some ways it's only just beginning. It's over to you now. I'm giving it to you. Your journey's just beginning...