Like I said in my acknowledgements, the whole story started by me asking myself "Where was Saavik during ST 6?"
My first ideas focused on her former friendship with Valeris (that I had read about in the novelization) and her reaction to the betrayal. All those ideas were pretty cliche, so I tossed them but I did start focusing on that Valeris may have betrayed Saavik to get a spot on Enterprise -- and more specifically -- a place with Spock.
Then one of those cliches was: how would Spock, Kirk et al find out? What if something happened to Saavik that brought her abruptly back in their lives? After tossing that around for too long, I came up with the attacks on anyone from Hellguard. And then a bunch of things happened.
I was going to develop the other Vulcan/Romulans. I wanted anyone who read the story to feel for these people. When the first "Battlestar Galactica" came out, I remember watching it as a kid and some people in my family saying it lost some of the dramatic impact by having the attack too soon. You didn't know those people, so while the attack was horrible, some of the emotional impact that it could have had, if you knew them beforehand, didn't happen.
I wanted that emotional impact for these new characters, so I had to develop them realistically. Science Fiction relies on taking things we don't even know exists -- or don't take a good look at -- and presenting them as alien. Then, as we're drawn in, we find out these "aliens" are in our own backyard.
I also didn't want to "sugar coat" them. Hellguard is a horrible place. It is not the London backstreets of "Oliver Twist" and it's not the NY streets of "Little Orphan Annie". It has to be shown in all its grit and darkness or it undermines the plight of these people.
I first turned to the foster and adopted children that I knew. Who wanted to know their background, who didn't? And then, by sheer coincidence, someone my husband worked with suddenly told me that he had been abandoned as an infant and never was adopted or fostered. I asked who had raised him. He answered with pride: "I did." He didn't rant about what was wrong, he found the good in his background: the strength and self-reliance he had garnered and the experiences he had that no one else did. I had found a role model for my Saavik.
But I had a whole different element to play with: that the Vulcan parents were forced. So research led me to discovering the group fighting for the rights for children of rapes. And I got so much more than I ever thought I'd have and I wanted to show the struggle for acceptance they have in our society and how it's not given. And that's kids raised in loving homes. Imagine a half-Romulan, violent and feral child if she had come to Earth. Or if Earth found out what she was.
Then the last piece fell into place: children of Vietnam vets started telling me their parents' stories about American/Vietnamese children abandoned to the streets and worse. Mixed with the children up above, I had my Hellguard survivors. All realistic, because I took them from reality.
I thought I had it all, but I didn't. People asked other questions like Why did Spock get off so easily forcing a meld on Valeris when it's the worst crime on Vulcan? Back to researching canon on how Star Trek deals with it; I also used Leonard Nimoy's comment: he fought for it to be kept a horrible thing to show good people do horrible things sometimes. So I kept it horrible too. My one friend taught me Valeris' backstory, so I didn't feel I could use my simple confrontation idea I first had. It needed layers, it needed complexity because both of them -- Saavik and Valeris -- are complex characters & what they're dealing with isn't simple either. It also needed that one person to provide Saavik's "second" in this dual, for support and conscience. It needed Rrethliz. It took me a long time to write that scene because of all its complexity. But I look back on it and I think it works.
With all these questions and development of S/Saa, Harve Bennet calling the shot of Amanda and Saavik the "in-law" shot so I developed their relationship & the great impact they have on each other, Cain gathered several subplots and I got really lucky that I thought of a way to funnel them all back into the main plot, especially the climax.
Anyway, I hope you like the story!