I get a lot of emails from readers asking how I choose stories and characters. I also get quite a few asking for stories for certain characters or suggesting plots or partners. All of these letters made me think about something that I just took for granted. They made this “go with the flow” writer analyze how she does her thing. I couldn’t answer those readers’ emails without picking through the process a little.
I wish the result of this analysis had been a clear and simple answer. It would have been nice to end up with a chart that I could use when I get stuck. Instead I had to acknowledge that there is no process at all.
The truth is that I am a very intuitive writer. Since I always thought of myself as very analytical person, this surprises me. Evidently I put aside that Madeline when I sit down to write, and instead I trust my gut more than my head.
On some other pages of this website I have described how sometimes I just know that a character will star in a later book. I love when that happens. I get high on that crystal clear moment when a secondary character walks on the scene and takes form so vividly that I am totally won over. It is all I can do not to stop writing the work in progress and start another book right away.
This happened with David in By Arrangement. It happened with Julian Hampton whose book is The Romantic. In my current series, it has happened with several characters, which is one reason I am enjoying this series so much. The eldest Rothwell brother, Christian—oh, yes, he needs a book and will get one. What I found interesting was that as I wrote The Rules of Seduction, two women arrived who also had this effect on me. Normally in the past it has always been men.
One was Phaedra Blair, the unconventional friend of Alexia. I began writing a scene and “snap”—there she was—Unusual. A bit mouthy, um, I mean outspoken. Totally at ease with who and what she was. Completely indifferent to anyone’s opinion of her. She was in many ways the direct opposite of so many woman of her historical period, who spent their waking hours worrying about social acceptance and conforming in behavior, appearance and aspirations.
Of course I needed to learn more about her. The only way to do that thoroughly was to write her book. Lessons of Desire is that book. (Release date: September 25, 2007)
She deepened for me as the book took form. The layers and nuances, the insecurities and questions, the sorrows and hurts—they became clear as she spoke in my head. Not so indifferent after all. Aware, very aware, of what she has given up in choosing to be who she is.
As she matches wits and wills with Elliot Rothwell, youngest of the brothers in this series, she has to question the person she has chosen to become. That engenders other questions. What is love worth? Does compromise destroy a belief? Can one love without also needing to possess? What do we owe our lovers, in terms of surrendering our pure freedom and giving them parts of ourselves?
Elliot ponders these questions too. Elliot, with his more traditional views, knows that falling in love changes everything. A celebrated historian and charming man about town, Elliot is no fusty, monkish scholar. He is as confident as Phaedra is, and as independent, as smart and as self-aware.
Desire crackles between these two from the moment they meet, fueled in part by their frank acknowledgment of how much they want each other. Lessons wait within that desire, about themselves as individuals and as a couple, and about the ways that deep passion contains the seeds of deep love.
Lessons of Desire is very much the story of these two characters’ journey toward love. It also has an intrigue and a mystery, as the lessons of their parents’s desires also affect their understanding of their own. There is action and humor too. I hope that you will give it a look.