Just about everyone I meet (except perhaps other authors) are fascinated about what I do when they ask ‘what do you do for a living’. When I reply ‘I’m an author’ their eyebrows rise. When I add ‘I’m a romance author’ I usually get the response, ‘oh, Fifty Shades of Grey’. When I point out I write historical romance it’s the classic, ‘ah, bodice rippers’.
Once I’ve dissuaded them that is not quite what I write, the next question is always, ‘how do you come up with your story ideas?’
That is a good question. It’s hard to explain to non-writers that most authors, or storytellers, write because the characters come calling and the only way to get them out of your head is to write their stories.
Characters can pop into my head at any time. They seem to come while I’m simply observing the world around me. It could be a movie that sparks a story idea and suddenly a character comes forward. Or I might read a newspaper article and think I wonder how this would have been treated in the early 1800’s, and wham a character arrives to tell me.
Another source are of course friends and family. Something they do, or say, sets me off again. For instance, a friend of mine is a recovering alcoholic. Twelve years sober and when she told me about her life before her sobriety, I thought about how there was no help for addiction in the early 1800’s. It wasn’t even recognized as a condition. Immediately following that thought Alexander Sylvester Bracken, Duke of Bedford announced his presence and asked for help. He was a recovering opium addict. So guess whose story I’m writing now – ADDICTED TO THE DUKE (releasing next March).
Sometimes my head is so crowded with characters, I have to write a brief outline of each story and promise them their time will come. I have a story ideas file and the characters sit quietly until it’s their turn. I have tried writing two books at once but then the stories start to combine, so I tell them it’s one story at a time. They keep urging me to write faster and I wish I could.
I’m never short of story ideas, just short of writing time. Characters are the key to any story idea and I’m really thankful that characters chose to pop by and say hello. After all it’s the characters that bring any story idea to life. It’s fine having an idea but if I can’t see and hear the characters the story would not be enriched.
Who are some of your memorable characters from books or movies you’ve seen?