I finished another book this week — an as-yet-untitled Harlequin Special Edition — and I’ve spent the past few days catching up on all the things that piled up while I was submerged in the all-encompassing phase of completing a story. Tasks such as dusting and vacuuming, laundry and grocery shopping were all pushed aside until after I typed “the end.” The pantry and freezer had become so empty I felt as though I were on an episode of “Chopped” every time I made dinner. “Hmm, what can I make with a can of black beans, a half-box of quinoa and a bag of frozen crawfish tails?” The pantry and freezer are now full again, house clean and laundry basket empty, and I’m preparing to dive in to the next story to start the process over again. Even after this many books, the sight of a computer screen with nothing but the words “Chapter One” displayed on it can still be intimidating.
It always takes a while for me to get “into” a new book. To get to know the characters — who they are, what they want, what holds them back from obtaining their goals. The writing is always painfully slow at first, a few pages a day if I’m lucky, then speeds up as I grow more comfortable with the story I want to tell. Inevitably at some point in every book I come to a screeching halt. I’ve been known to spend several days struggling with one scene, writing paragraphs — or worse, whole pages — only to delete them, struggling to type a few words an hour. Pacing, frowning, referring to my notes, trying to distract myself by listening to music or watching a movie and hoping that will recharge my imagination’s batteries, only to find that I’m still stuck when I reopen the file. Usually when this happens, I find that it’s either because the scene is out of time — something that should happen later in the story, if at all — or, quite often, that I’m simply trying to tell it from the wrong point of view.
Most of the books I write are category romances for Harlequin. The stories are tightly focused, centered around two people struggling with problems — either external or internal — and finding their life partner in the process. When asked why I enjoy writing romance, I almost always explain it’s because I believe that almost every reader can identify with that desire to find a soul mate. A safe place to call home. Sometimes these romances take place within the framework of a family drama or a mystery or a career crossroads, but always the main purpose of the story is the coming together of the two main characters, the hero and heroine. In my category books, I tend to stick with those two points-of-view in telling the story. Each scene is told through the eyes and emotions of either the heroine or hero, though I’ve occasionally included a secondary storyline with additional points-of-view (VALENTINE BABY comes immediately to mind, which included a romance for the hero’s mother). As I begin writing each scene, I decide what I want to accomplish in the scene — how it advances the story, what is revealed to the characters, how I hope the reader will respond. Whose point of view the scene is told through makes a big difference in all those objectives. Many times when I’ve struggled for days with a scene, I’ve tried simply rewriting it through the opposing point-of-view — and I’ve been amazed at what a difference it makes to the flow of the story.
Perhaps because I’ve been a storyteller since childhood, having wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with why people behave and believe the way they do. I can usually understand both sides of a heated argument or debate, especially when I know the background and life experiences of the opponents. I am rarely drawn into passionate political or social debates because I can usually make arguments for both sides. I loved my psychology and sociology classes in college. My husband earned a degree in psychology (we met in college when I was a journalism major/psych minor and he double majored in psychology and sociology) and one of our daughters is a psychiatrist, so a fascination with human behavior and what makes people “tick” seems to run in our family. I have a widely diverse group of friends of all races, religions, ethnicities, political parties, nationalities — and I love learning about all of them, seeing the world through their eyes. When I write, I ask myself, “Why would he/she do this? Why would he/she say this or want this? How can I make the reader care what happens to these people?” And very often in the books — as in real life — it all comes down to point of view.
For all my friends celebrating Easter or Passover or other holidays this week — much joy to you! Many of my friends are greeting the start of spring, while in the other hemisphere, my friends are moving into winter. Whatever season is beginning for you, may it be filled with love and with happiness.
THE RIGHT TWIN, available now from Harlequin Special Edition, in stores and for ereaders.
Coming in May, THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY. Click the Home tab above for details.
Click the “Books” tab above for links to purchase most of my earlier books for ereaders.
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