Creating My Worlds

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My sister and I at an Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America Meeting

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Our Writing Something Romantic Sisterhood

Someone once asked me how I create a world for whatever book I’m writing at the time. Since I write historical romance, you’d think the answer would be simple – research. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

While I do spend a considerable amount of effort studying the history of a particular time and place, I also must create fictional characters who have a backstory which shaped them. Every important character has a family. Fathers and mothers leave their imprint on their children, for good or bad. Brothers and sisters play an important part in each hero or heroine’s childhood. Qualities – positive or negative – instilled by parents or mentors become lifelong traits.

Let me give you an example.

In Promise Me, a story set in the Regency time period, Court Shelburne nearly loses the love of his life through his unreasoning jealousy. His lack of trust begins early on, when his mother is too involved with her current lover to return home to the bedside of her dying son – Court’s older brother. That traumatic event is the catalyst for everything that follows.

Now, I don’t start out by telling you, the reader, that’s why Court feels unworthy of love. Or why he’s so quick to believe that Philippa has betrayed him with his best friend. All we know for certain at the beginning of the story is that Court believes he holds the moral high ground – while at the same time he’s plotting his coldhearted revenge on his faithless wife.

However, things are not always what they seem.

When first creating a story, I ask myself: What secrets are they (hero and heroine) keeping from each other? These secrets often stem from incidents in their childhood.

But not always.

In Lachlan’s Bride, set in the reign of James IV of Scotland, Lady Francine is keeping a secret belonging not to herself, but to her sister, who’s died five years before the tale begins. Yet at the time of the story’s events, the concealment of the past becomes pivotal to the continued safety of Francine and her daughter.

Once again, I don’t tell the reader at the beginning of the romance that Francine is boldfaced lying to Lachlan MacRath (and everyone else).

But in the end, of course, all will be revealed.

Kathleen Harrington

WRITING A BOOK

by Ottilia Scherschel

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

I don’t know when George Orwell wrote that, but I know I agree with him. I often ask myself why I go through the “exhausting struggle” of putting words on the page. Am I “driven by some demon” as Orwell suggests?

I like to think I’m driven by curiosity, a desire to explore the “what if-s” of life. I’m currently working on a short story about smuggling antiquities. In my real world, I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing, but on the page figuring out what a smuggler might do is fascinating. Let’s face it. The idea is to escape my everyday world into a place where anything and everything is possible.

Isn’t this why you read? So far so good. I’ve told you the fun part of what I do as a writer. Now, let’s get to the “exhausting struggle” part.

Writing is a time consuming task. Ideas don’t always come quickly, and sometimes my brain can be as dry as bones bleached by the desert sun. My first draft is never my last draft since what I wrote yesterday may not make sense today. Progress can be slow and at times even negative when I have to start something over. Yet, I refuse to give up. Are you starting to feel “some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand?”

When I finish a writing project, I have a sense of accomplishment and relief—the first because I’m finished and can celebrate completing a task and the second because I can start a new story or book. I begin the “exhausting struggle once more.” I work and keep working because I’m a writer.

Is there something you enjoy doing that would fit Orwell’s description of writing a book?

 

The Whys and Hows of it All

Angela MyronLast month’s meeting of OCCRWA, I met a young mother of twins. It was her first meeting, and seeing the flush of her cheeks, the sparkle in her eye as she listened to the speakers and networked with other writers, it made me smile. Because I remember, because I still do this. Because underneath the exterior of a busy, inspired, prolific writer is one giant WHY that compels us.

Why do you wake at 5 a.m. every day? Why do you take your free Saturday, exhausted from a week of work, to attend a lecture on craft, or business of writing?

And then there’s the stunned HOW that emerges when you meet another parent, and they learn that in the delicate, intimate first years of your children’s lives, you launched a career as an author…

There are as many reasons as there are people under the sun why a person would want to be an author. But it’s when the Whys and the Hows combine in a compelling narrative, that’s when you find the Way.

For each of us, the Whys and Hows and Ways are different. But it’s also the same, for all of us. It’s the touchstone we revisit when starting a new work: Why am I doing this? What matters so much that I must communicate it through story? It’s how we muscle through revising and editing the story until it’s good. It’s how we weather rejection from agents, editors, and readers.

Under the surface, there is always a driving WHY.

My Why stemmed from a need to share philosophy, varied and collected over my formative youth, a combination of Science, Buddhism, Christianity, world myth, and old world magic passed down through generations before me. At least, that’s my Why was when I started writing fiction. Today, still, I’m driven by philosophy, but it’s mixed with my interactions with my readers. The kids I meet at book fairs and school events for my Ennara series are a huge inspiration.

What’s your Why?

I’ll be signing books at the upcoming OC Book Fair. More info at: http://ocwriters.org/book-fair and  https://www.facebook.com/events/516548848506569/. See you there!

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It’s in the voice

I’ve been reading romance novels since—forever and haven’t read a romance I didn’t love—well maybe one or two. Several years ago my “to read” stack of books was growing and my reading time was shrinking. A time when I was working fifty plus hours a week and free time was at a premium.

I spent the day with author Linda McLaughlin, shopping at Barnes and Noble (adding to the “to read” stack) when we found an audio cassette box set of Nora Roberts’ The Key Trilogy. Linda asked if I’d read the trilogy, and sadly I had not. In fact, I’d only read one or 9781491542071_p0_v1_s192x300two of Nora’s books. She suggested giving the box set a try. I’d only listened, or tried to listen, to one audio book before when a friend let me borrow a mystery-suspense novel. I ejected the first cassette within minutes because the narrator’s voice drove me crazy, and never tried one again. At the time, I spent a minimum of two hours a day sitting on the freeway going to and from work, and since my car had a cassette player I decided to give audio books a second chance. If this one faired better, then I would be able to read more authors—no, listen to more novels by authors I hadn’t had time to read.

I slid the first cassette to The Key of Light into the dash. Brother, what a difference a voice makes. Within minutes Susan Ericken’s wonderful voice swept me into the lives of Malory Price, Dana Steele and Zoe McCourt and the world surrounding Warrior’s Peak. When I finished The Key of Light, I immediately started book two, The Key of Knowledge and finished with the Key of Valor.

One audio book led to another and another and another. Before I knew it, I’d listened to numerous titles by Nora, including J.D. Robb. I added other authors I didn’t have time to read. Then I started listening to favorite books I’d read. My favorite historical romance is 9781469261492_p0_v2_s192x300Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. I’ve read the book several times and when I was finally able to obtain an audio version, I was in seventh heaven. Performed by Rosalyn Landor, the Highlands and the Scottish warrior Gabriel MacBain became so vivid in my mind. I remember listening to Jennifer Cruzie’s Agnes and the Hit Man and laughing out loud while driving down the freeway.

My audio library is still growing. I now have either CD’s or MP3-CD’s in both unabridged and abridged (I prefer unabridged). I have even repurchased certain audio books I originally bought in cassette format. I recently read an article that stated there has been a strong growth in audio books in companies such as Audible. Amazon’s Kindle Edition offers an audible narration with your book’s purchase. OverDrive is a digital download platform for public libraries.

Even though I no longer find myself sitting on the freeway for hours at a time, I still prefer listening to an audio book instead of a music channel. And heaven forbid if I forgot to bring an audio book along.

If you have never tried an audio book, why not give one a try? You too might find yourself falling for them as I have.

Where do I get my ideas? by Jill Jaynes

Jill Jaynes

“Where do you get your ideas?”

People ask me this all the time. They ask it with a look in their eye that tells me they are a little afraid of my answer. It is the same worry I see in someone’s eye when I tell them my degree is in Psychology.

They worry that the jig may be up. They worry that if writers really write what they know, then I am writing what I know.

And I know them.

There just may be that chance that their lives – warts and all – could show up on my pages for all the world to see.

Everybody can just relax. I am not plagiarizing your life (as tempting as it might be. After all, truth is often stranger than fiction). I couldn’t get all the details right if I wanted to; my memory is not that good.

However, as I mentioned in a previous post about “Where” my stories take shape for the first time (in my head, or as they are spilled onto the page), I rely on a deep pool of past experiences, especially those that are emotionally charged, to bring to life whatever story I am currently telling.

Which still doesn’t answer the question- where do I get my ideas?

I have to say that I have never thought of myself as a creative person. Ideas, especially original ideas, have always seemed hard to come by. But I am beginning to think that the only thing that has ever limited my creativity has been my own lack of faith in it. Because not too long ago, I decided I would come up with an idea for a book. Do something different than I’d ever done. Go in a new direction. And you know what I did?

I thought about it. I thought about what kinds of books I enjoy reading so much that I can’t wait for the next one to come out? What books do I come back to again and again?

Guess what? I had an idea. I had such a good idea, that it brought a whole bunch of other ideas with it. And they aren’t bad. I don’t know exactly what happened, but somewhere I found my confidence, and now every time I reach for an idea, I find one. Or two, or three. It is so much fun.

You’ll see. But you’ll have to buy the book.