The Writing Process Blog Hop
Last week Kay Hudson tagged me to carry on the Writing Process Blog Hop. Kay was a fellow Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist in 2012 and writes ‘romance with humour and a twist of the unexpected.’ Her current project is ‘Jinn on the Rocks’, the third book in her Jinn series, following on from Jinn & Tonic and Bathtub Jinn. Kay and I are both members of the Firebirds loop, being the fiery crop of 2012 Golden Heart finalists.
So on with the blog hop questions:
What Am I Working On? My debut novel, The Dress Thief, has just been published and I am doing as much promotion and public relations as I can to support it. This involves social media, blogging, responding to review opportunities and getting signing sessions at book shops. At the same time, I am working on the follow-up novel, The Milliner’s Secret. Both these books are historical romance, kicking off in 1937 and both are set in Paris, but TMS is not a sequel. While some familiar characters make an appearance, I am telling Coralie de Lirac’s story and she’s a very different creature from Alix Gower, the eponymous Dress Thief. Whereas book 1 ended just prior to the outbreak of war, this new story goes through the Nazi occupation of Paris and explores the themes of survival, resistance and collaboration. It is also an emotional journey for a heroine whose life to date has been one of abuse and betrayal. I also get to research vintage hats, which is great fun.
How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre? I grew up reading the classics and those sweeping sagas from writers like Danielle Steele, Colleen McCullogh, M.M. Kaye and my favourite, Beatrice Coogan, whose ‘The Big Wind’ has been called the Irish Gone with the Wind (and not just because it has wind in the title). These gave me a love of detailed books that envelope the reader in a big, furry mantle up to the last page. I’m aware that in a fast-paced world, where the publishing industry wants slim and snappy, I’m marching to a different beat and thumbs up to my publisher, Quercus Books, for given me a loose-ish rein. My other ‘difference’ is my tendency to give my characters a dark side which is never entirely resolved. I like to ground my characters in reality and show them struggling as imperfect beings, striving to become better beings. I do give happy resolutions, but I like to leave readers sensing that there is a ‘what next?’ for every character. You will also find humour in my books. Even in the darkest moment, there is a sprinkling of funny.
Why Do I Write What I Do? I loved history from the earliest age, and would be found leafing through big, leather-bound tomes on my parents’ shelves. Not to read the text, not at age four, but to look at the pictures. These books had fabulously detailed woodblock prints, re-imaginings of scenes such as the signing of the Magna Carta, or the trial of Charles the 1st. These very skilful illustrators wound something up in me that has been ticking ever since; the desire to get behind dry facts to the human drama. It was also pure romance, with kings, queens, gallant knights and lurking villains. A recurrent theme in my stories is that of escape, either from incarceration or from tricky backgrounds. As a not-particularly-happy child, I would often just leave home and walk for what seemed like hours in the fields around my village. I re-invoke that need to get away in my heroines and heroes.
How Does My Writing Process Work? Me and my computer are best friends. I do all my writing in Word, on a large-screened desktop PC. Not for me the whizzy little ipads. I even find laptops too confining, though will take one on holiday with me. But if I can get my full-sized keyboard into the suitcase, I take that and plug it in because I cannot write fast on anything small. One of the most useful things I ever learned was touch typing and when the spirit moves me, can still get up to about 95 wpm. On a restricted keyboard, I’ll look down after five minutes and find I’ve written rhw cqr war ib rgw nT abs rgw yuxj veiqb diz hynows icwe rfw k\T SIF,
Plot-wise, I’m a cautious panster. I have the full plot written out as a synopsis of about eight pages, and I plan the key climaxes of each part of the novel. In the past, I have done very extensive biographies on characters, but now let that happen subconsciously. I will often ‘go quiet’ at the keyboard and allow a character to tell me what he has done in his life and why he is reacting as he does. I hear my characters’ voices very clearly and I see scenes from their lives cinematically. I don’t always see their faces so accurately, and I’m happy with that as I know that readers see faces in their own way. A bit like the profile-only man who used to appear on Mills & Boon romances, readers add their own ideas.
Now I’ll pass the Writing Process baton on to my Firebird sister Catherine Rull who will post her version next Monday. Catherine writes humorous Women’s Fiction, Young Adult, CST and Paranormal. She is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America; and a member of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association. Take it away, Catherine . . .