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Ghosts and romance

Happy Halloween. I hope it’s a fun and safe day for everyone.

Halloween always makes me think of a couple of ghost story romances I wrote back in 1996 for Harlequin Temptation. Titled A VALENTINE WISH and A WISH FOR LOVE, they were the stories of two ghosts, twin sister and brother, who were murdered in the 1920s and found love — and a second chance at life — in the present. This was a totally different type of story for me, and I know my editor was surprised when I told her about my idea. I still remember that call:

“Er, um, I have this idea for a new book.”

“Great. What’s it about?”

“Well, the heroine is, um, dead.”

“She’s … dead?”

“Yeah. And she has this twin brother who’s also dead. And who’ll be the hero of the following book.”

“So, er, Gina — have you hit your head lately?”

Okay, so maybe it didn’t go quite like that. My editors at Harlequin and Silhouette have always been wonderfully receptive to new ideas. But I think she was surprised, since I hadn’t written any woo-woo type stories before that.

From my conversations with other writers, I know that I’m not alone in being thrilled and surprised when a book is “easy” to write. Most books are hard-fought, every word a battle to get on the page. As “Red” Smith said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” But every once in a very long while, a story comes fully formed to our mind. The words flow and the characters come to life, seemingly directing their story on their own. This is what happened to me with those two books. I don’t know where the idea came from, but it was suddenly just there. Almost as if Anna and Ian — my two ghost twins — were whispering what to write in my ear. I’ve never written any two books more quickly or more easily, not before or since. It was … well, almost spooky.

I’ve heard many writers complain about characters who “took over” their books. Who behaved in ways the author never expected. Said things the author never intended for them to say. Secondary characters who were supposed to remain quietly in the background, and yet refused to be ignored, becoming more and more insistent until they almost overshadowed the present story, often demanding follow-up books of their own. Yes, I’ll admit it. This has happened to me. Often. No one said writers are quite … well, normal. As Stephen King has said, “Most fiction writers are schizophrenic. Which makes us crazy, I suppose.” He adds that we create these worlds and these people – and then we come to believe in them. (I have to admit, I’d rather live in the world I create than his. As much as I admire his ability to tell a great story, his imagination is decidedly twisted).

So now it’s Halloween again, and I’m writing a Christmas story. Which means that it’s time for me to leave the blog and go open a vein to begin my work day. So, again, happy Halloween everyone. May all your own projects come easy today.

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Award-winning, best-selling author of women's romance fiction.

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