I know how it begins. I'll start thinking about whose story I should tell next and a man will stand up in front of me. I do know a few things about him the moment I see him.
I know he's a Hansen, one of the many generations of the fictional family whose ancestral home is Arendal, Norway. He'll be typical of his Nordic race: very tall, well-conformed. Eyes some shade of blue or green. His hair color somewhere between light brown and pale blond. And he's strikingly handsome.
What I need to figure out next is when he is: what year is he inhabiting? And where is he? What continent is he on? What country ~ Scotland? America? Or at home in Norway?
Then he tells me his pain. He's a widower whose wife died birthing his son. Or he was dragged impossibly far away from home as a boy and he's desperate to get back to Norway and to Arendal. Or his father bypassed him and made his younger brother heir, just because he's deaf.
He's not looking for love. He's just trying to survive. Put one foot in front of the other. Do what must be done. Get through another day.
Then, I see her. She's beautiful though she may not know it or believe it. She's intelligent. She's got more strength than she realizes. And she has soul-searing pain as well. Betrayed or ruined by a husband she trusted. Caught in desperate circumstances she cannot control. Abandoned. Alone.
She's not looking for love either.
Somewhere his pain and her pain collide. When I figure out how, I have my plot. The impact will either destroy them, or save them. And sometimes, it takes more than one book to work it out. Layers of pain require layers of plots before the redemption of love completes its work.
My American widower is the hero in A Woman of Choice, A Prince of Norway, and A Matter of Principle. The boy yanked from home is stranded in Scotland; Loving the Norseman comes out in September. My disinherited and intense deaf Discreet Gentleman became a trilogy slated for 2012.
And in the one departure from my Hansen men, Loving the Knight's heroine is the Hansen. Who knew a woman would stand up that time? She'll be out in September as well.
Some authors start with a plot and find their characters afterwards. For me, it's characters first; and then I fall in love. Every time.
"Norway IS the new Scotland"