In pop music – rock/pop/indie/country/I don’t care as long as it’s not classical or jazz, and that’s only because I don’t think the same dynamics would apply (although I could be wrong). I was thinking – I’ve got this musician heroine who works as a touring and studio player, and she’s got certain views and habits and lifestyle issues and I figured maybe I should talk to somebody who actually lives this so I can make sure I’m writing her realistically. I mean, I don’t expect to get a lot of female musician readers (or, you know, any) but I’d still like to have a believable character in a believable setting.
It really bugs me when a romance features a heroine who works in a field I know something about — like, for instance, law — and she behaves in a way no sane, employable person in that field would act. A female prosecutor is not going to fall in love with a guy accused of murder and run off with him and if she does, she’ll wind up in prison, even if the guy ends up being cleared or acquitted. Corporate attorneys do not take pro bono criminal defense cases. And so on. Yes, there are sleazy, stupid lawyers. Yes, lawyers do get up to sexual hijinks so bizarre that if I put them in a book you’d never read anything by me again. Yes, attorneys fall in love with opposing counsel, and judges make passes at attorneys, and all that kind of stuff. But if a romance heroine is doing anything that in real life would involve jail or disbarment then I’m sorry, I can’t finish the book. At best the heroine is TSTL and at worst she’s deeply unethical and I can’t stand either type of character.
Wait where was I? Oh yeah – so I like for my characters and their backgrounds to be believable, even if we’re talking about a world with werewolves and brownies. Now that I’m writing a contemporary I’m even more concerned about getting my characters right. If a musician did happen to read my book, I want them laughing at the funny stuff, not at how poorly I’ve portrayed working musicians. [Insert caveat about how any romance novel is necessarily not terribly realistic, blah blah blah.]
So, seeing as how I don’t have the nerve to contact violinist Amanda Shires Isbell, who joined the Texas Playboys at fifteen and has been working ever since, just like my heroine – anybody know any female working musicians?
First of all, I love y’all. All of you who take the time to email and comment and tell me you liked my books, and those who email and comment to ask when the hell am I going to publish another one, and even those who email me to say “I’m done waiting for another book from you, so adios!” Because I can totally understand that position.
I was just thinking the other night how weird it is to write a book, and release it into the wild, and see the reaction it elicits from readers. (I should’ve been writing instead of pondering, but whatever.)
I wrote Kiss and Kin very deliberately, unlike Yours Mine and Howls, which I started writing first. I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing a romance novel, and I love paranormals, especially werewolf romances, so I figured I should start with a genre I know. The plot of YMAH came to me gradually – I’d had an idea for years about a young woman who sacrifices her life to save a werewolf boy, so I started from there. The process was organic.
I was struggling with some plot details in YMAH when I read Samhain Publishing’s open submissions call for shifter romance novellas to be included in an anthology. I thought maybe I should put Cade and Ally aside for a bit and try to bang something out. I already had over fifty thousand words of YMAH so I thought thirty thousand words (the maximum length Samhain was mandating for the shifter anthology) would feel like a piece of cake.
I came up with the plot of Kiss and Kin over a weekend and then I just started pounding out the words. It’s never easy to write a book — never, ever, ever — but KnK was the easiest time I’ve had of it yet. It just sort of fell out of my head.
But, see, YMAH was actually the second werewolf romance I started to write. The first one was set in Houston, and the hero was the Alpha of the Houston pack, and he was secretly in love with his assistant and she with him. But I never got past the first scene. I don’t know why. I just got stuck. But I really liked the characters and when I dumped Houston Howl (I don’t know if I’m going to keep that title), I promised myself to go back and give it another try in the future.
So when I decided to write a novella for the Samhain submission call, I decided to set it in Houston and to use the same world I’d started building for YMAH. And I had these two characters I really liked–the Houston Alpha and his assistant–and I couldn’t see them clearly, I couldn’t give them a story, but I wanted to use them so I put them in KnK because I liked romances where the hero and heroine both have friends. A book feels claustrophobic when the H&H don’t regularly interact with anyone but each other.
I submitted KnK to Samhain, sending a copy to my sister at the same time. I knew I had a possibly good book on my hands when she called me to gush about how much she loved it and didn’t want to put it down. My sister is not a gusher. My sister is not excitable. My sister is the Queen of It’s Okay, I Guess. And she loved my book, and she loved Taran–and she thought Nick and TJ were really fun.
Then I got back to YMAH.
So then Kiss and Kin came out, and reviewers and other readers kept telling me how much they loved Nick and TJ and was I going to a book for them? And 5.5 years later, I still hear from readers about them.
And I just think that’s so cool, and so weird, and so great. I mean, if I’d deliberately set out to write a couple of secondary characters who would engage readers’ interest as much as the main characters did, I probably would’ve failed. But I didn’t — I wrote them into KnK because I liked them and I couldn’t think of what else to do with them. The fact that readers took to them was accidental, unexpected, a wonderful surprise.
Now having written KnK, and Ready to Run, I can see Nick and TJ more clearly. I have a better grasp of who they are and what makes them tick. And the plot’s coming to me, when five years ago it wouldn’t.
Speaking of plots — do y’all think alligators would be scared of werewolves?
Goodbye and good riddance 2014, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Hello 2015, I have a good feeling about you!
I didn’t finish the rock star contemporary by the end of the year as I’d hoped. I was doing really well til I ran into the abdominal surgery in July. I’m not making excuses; I’m sure Nora Roberts would’ve pounded out 12K words a day while in the hospital, even with an NG tube up her nose. And I’m sure she’d keep pounding the wordcount after she got out, even while having extremely painful stomach spasms lasting days due to an excess of scar tissue.
I really wish I were more like Nora.
But. The rock star WIP is preceding and Nick and TJ’s plot is almost halfway done – which is all I need to start writing.
Have I ever explained the difference between plotters and pantsers? Pantsers just sit down and write – they don’t know what’s going to happen until they write it.
This horrifies me and freaks me out. It’s like driving your car through fields and forests instead of on an actual road. I have to drive on a road, and I have to have a general idea of where I’m going. I need a plan, a map. The map doesn’t have to go all the way to my final destination, and I can change my route a little as I go, but I have to have a general idea of what’s going to happen in the book before I can start driving.
One last writing metaphor: even if you’re only driving a couple miles a day, you’ll still eventually get where you’re going.
One of the ways I’m forcing myself to write steadily is by rewarding myself with some books I’m reading and loving. I always read more than one book at a time. Right now I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and the second book in Barbara Hambly’s James Asher series.
Gravity’s Rainbow is set in London at the end of WWII and features, among many other characters, a guy who gets a hard on right before a V-2 rocket hits, and whose many sexual trysts seem to predict where the rockets will land. This in no way begins to describe the plot; it’s such a dense and weird book that guides to it have been written. I’m trying not to use one – I’m an English major, I should be able to handle this.
Barbara Hambly is SUCH a good writer. Lush, lyrical narrative, interesting characters, and when she’s writing historicals, just enough period details (technology, grooming, cultural practices) to make it engrossing but not so much that it detracts from the story. Her James Asher series is set in Edwardian England. Asher is a retired English spy and a professor at Oxford; his wife Lydia is a doctor. After discovering that vampires exist, James and Lydia get sucked into their intrigues. The Asher books are normal novels, with a beginning, a middle and an end. This makes them a nice change of pace from a Thomas Pynchon novel.
Incidentally, another of Pynchon’s novels, Inherent Vice, is now a movie starring Joaquin Phoenix. I loved the book and I expect to love the movie.
There’s another author I love that you might too – Tom Holt writes some of the funniest books I’ve ever read. My favorite one is Barking, about a sad sack London attorney who is unwittingly, and unwillingly, turned into a werewolf. He’s written dozens of books and I’ve never found one that didn’t make me laugh out loud like an idiot.
Anyway. I can’t let myself read as much as I’d like or I’d never write. So I reward myself with a couple of chapters every time I’ve written three or four pages.
If you hang out on Twitter, I invite you to follow me – tell me you’re a reader, and I’ll follow back. (I don’t auto follow.) Same with Facebook – I love talking to readers. I’m very active on Twitter (I totally understand if you decide not to follow me, because I do tend to talk a lot.)
Here’s to all of us having a safe, prosperous, stable, happy 2015.
Just plotting right now.
Nick’s an asshole. No matter what I write, he still ends up being an asshole. TJ can totally handle it, but it’s gonna take a while for her to fix him. Also, I don’t know if I’ve written this out loud before, but I’ve decided to quit second guessing my plotting and just write what I want. If people think it’s too convoluted or whatever, they can give the book bad reviews – but it’s my book and I will write it my way.
Also – I was reading Kiss and Kin again recently – I needed to find the passage where TJ and Lark get drunk and talk about Lark and Taran’s relationship – and I ran across something about Nick that I had forgotten I wrote and it’s really gonna help me with the book.
I’m still working on the rock star WIP. I really want to skip ahead and write the first sex scene but I’m forcing myself to go sequentially. Once I get through the first sex scene I’m going to send it off to the second round of beta readers – I forget who y’all are, but I’ve saved your names in my mail so it’s all good.
Want to see what the hero looks like?
I will send a free copy of this book when it comes out to anyone who can tell me who this guy is.
In non-book related news, I turn 51 next Tuesday. That kind of sucks. But it’s better than the alternative.
No Sebastian Bach references. The 80s are sacred to me but I do have to allow for readers who are younger and older and, honestly, I think mentioning too many brands or bands from specific eras can date a book very quickly.
But still. The heroine has phenomenal hair.
Young Sebastian, of course. SO happy that happened because when the Samhain art department asks for ideas about what the hero and heroine look like, I’ll send them this and say “make her look girlier.”
NOTE TO THE YOUNGSTERS: He did not look girly. It was the 80s. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
(The H/H both have Amazing Hair. Everyone else in the book remarks on it.)
So I’m writing the rock star story but I’m also plotting Nick and TJ. (I am terrified. Have I told y’all I’m terrified? Because I am. Terrified.)
And I have a pretty good idea of the plot but there are things I’m thinking of that cause me to second guess myself — “Oh I can’t do this. That’s too much.” “Whoa. Too many characters.” “Really? It’s all going to be connected like that? Can I do that?”
And finally I thought – screw it. I have to write it the way I want to tell it. Everyone says that all the time, but you don’t really think about what it means til you get to a book that makes you question everything you’re thinking.
Just to be safe, though, I’m bombarding Vickie with plot notes.